Expanding your app-titude

A monthly look at mobile apps that can make the CPA’s job and life better.
By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

SCANBIZCARDS TAKES BUSINESS CARDS TO NEW LEVEL

When I return to the office after traveling, I usually gather all the business cards I've collected at the conference or meeting and carefully stack them, along with cards from the previous meeting(s), in a pile to "deal with later." Well, later, for me anyway, arrived in an app called ScanBizCards. The next-to-magic app turns all that impossible-to-access analog data on business cards into valuable digital information—in the form of actual contacts in my email system.

Simply open the app and take a picture of a business card. ScanBizCards then provides a scanning process graphic imitating a scanner in action. The app recognizes the text on the card and populates the name, title, company name, email address, phone, and other relevant information. In my experience, it's startlingly accurate, but it does allow adjustments and the ability to reassign, edit, or delete the various fields.

ScanBizCards really shines in what happens from here on out. It's built to make "contacts" easy, and it does. After adding the contact, it semiautomates sending the new contact an email. I use this feature to send my vCard to the newly added contact. That way, if new contacts don't happen to have ScanBizCards, they'll at least have my contact information in their system and not just my business card in a pile on their desks. The app also automates a LinkedIn connection, if desired.

It's quick, easy, accurate, and cheap, and you'll get to experience a strange new sensation upon throwing the original business card in the recycling bin. Personally, I like the feeling!


AVOID TRAVEL STUMBLES WITH TRIPIT

We all end up traveling for business—some of us a lot, and others less frequently. It's a pain all around, but TripIt is an app that I guarantee will make your travels easier. The product was purchased several years ago by Concur, which was recently acquired by SAP, so the app developer has resources and, hopefully, will continue to grow and improve the offering.

TripIt is automated travel management. It requires little or no data input as it gathers all the information from confirmations that you email to the app. As an example, when I receive a ticket confirmation from the airlines, or a hotel or rental car confirmation, I just forward it to TripIt. The system recognizes the email address it was sent from (mine) and pulls all the pertinent information from the document. It organizes everything into separate trips and formats the trips by day and time. Because the company works closely with so many travel-related businesses, the app knows exactly what to look for. I've found the auto-import feature works nearly 100% of the time. But you also have the option of manually adding trip components such as "My brother-in-law will pick me up at the airport, we'll have dinner, and then he'll drop me at my hotel." I've built a set of "rules" for Outlook so my confirmations from Delta Air Lines, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and National Car Rental (the ones I use regularly) are automatically forwarded to TripIt. The result is true zero entry. I grant view-only access to my TripIt dashboard to my wife and my admin so everyone knows who's where and when.

If you travel often, you need TripIt. If you travel only occasionally, you want TripIt. It's free, and the Pro version adds features such as flight monitoring, etc.

  • Website: tripit.com
  • Cost: Free; Pro version, $49 per year
  • Operating Systems: iOS; Android


DEEPEN BUSINESS CONNECTIONS WITH LINKEDIN CONNECTED

Recently launched, this app replaces the old LinkedIn Contacts app and appears to be LinkedIn's attempt at changing how you connect with professionals in your network.

Nicely designed, it is card-based, and each card has a picture of your contact, details of upcoming events (meetings, birthdays, work anniversaries, etc.), and a button for an action (congratulate, connect, etc.) below. You can sort through the day's events by swiping sideways and tapping any card to quickly check a person's background.

LinkedIn Connected might appeal to those who do all their networking on LinkedIn, but if your contacts don't often update their LinkedIn profiles, then this feature might not be so useful. All of the updates I received were of my contacts joining a new company or having a birthday. Along with viewing others' profiles and maintaining yours, the new app adds a "Keep in touch" button, which allows you to quickly add and send a note to anyone on your contact list.

The app still needs some work—the navigation can be tedious in places—but it's a good start. Try it. The price is right, and you can never send too many "Congratulations" or "Happy Birthday" notes.

  • Website: linkedin.com
  • Cost: Free
  • Operating Systems: iOS; Android

Greg LaFollette (greg.lafollette@hq.cpa.com) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA.

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