reviews

Dropbox for Business

DROPBOX

Founded in 2007 by two MIT students, this cloud storage and file-sharing service has become a household name to the tune of 100 million people and growing.*

Dropbox is a service you sign up for that creates a folder on your device(s). Anything you put into that folder locally then syncs globally wherever you have Dropbox installed. Magic.

You can also very simply share files from within your folders by right clicking and getting the direct link; better yet, you can share folders themselves. This is where Dropbox becomes seductive since you can share as conservatively or liberally as you desire. For example, I have a shared recipe folder with my mom and sister, a wedding planning folder with my fiancee, a work folder with my team, and an ever vacillating number of  folders with different sets of friends. 

But that's not all! Imagine that you're working with a team on a project. A very important project that has occupied 3 weeks worth of your time and resources. Imagine too that one of your coworkers' laptops takes a dive off the coffee table onto the floor, and that this laptop had the software on it being used to build the majority of your project. It would be extremely comforting if your file were saved painlessly in the cloud and you could pick right back up where you started. And if you've ever gone through the pain of misplacing a critical file, you know the value of being able to retrieve it quickly so as to get back to work.  

Resurrection, and other tricks

Macworld reminded me recently about Dropbox's staggering backup system. Not only is your most up to date file kept, all iterations of your files, who changed them, and where, are recorded on the site. Should it dawn on you that you want the version of your report from five days ago, or 14 saves ago, Dropbox has you covered. 

There are many other features for smartphone users like automatic photo uploading, App backups, mobile file management, and folder management. The most recent iOS update made sharing, posting, and moving files as easy as swiping the file name to reveal those options. Dropbox for iOS and Android  includes photo uploading so you can get photos painlessly stored where you want them, and can easily find them later before they get crowded out by hundreds more. There is also an increase in third-party apps building Dropbox integration, which adds ease and power to accessing and using your files anywhere.

 Photo credit flickr user rageross

Photo credit flickr user rageross

If you're in a position where you've been told you should "back up" your critical files and unsure what that means or where to begin, Dropbox would be a safe and powerful place to start. Even one folder with essential documents would save you from a lot of trouble should the worst happen to your device(s). Dropbox makes your necessary documents available to you from nearly any up-to-date device or web browser.

An initial free account comes with 2GB of storage, and is upgradable for different amounts and sizes of storage. You can also invite friends and participate in various promotions to earn extra space.

In short, Dropbox is a clever app that will quickly earn its place into your workflow. The best services are the ones that work without ceasing and need for continuous attention. Dropbox asks for little, and delivers a lot. 

The Crest Gastropub

Something that we like to see is a business that’s proud to wear its “Ohio heart” right on its sleeve.

Of course, there are many other things ignite our excitement for business and brands. We love creatively designed spaces. We love brands that want to inject something wonderful, something unique Central Ohio’s many wonderful, unique neighborhoods.  We love a company who’s passionate about what they do.  And we especially love good food.

The Crest, Clintonville’s latest hot spot, blends everything that Bold Hive loves into their gem of a gastro pub. From a bar whose wooden beams and posts hail from barns across Ohio to a beer selection whose extensive list includes dozens of Ohio-based brews, The Crest indeed wears its Ohio heart on its sleeve.

Beyond this Ohio pride, the owners have also taken pride in paying attention to those little details that make any good business and brand great. Each floor beam, for instance, is marked with The Crest’s signature logo. The herbs and vegetables served on their menu aren’t just local—they’re grown right in The Crest’s backyard. And the menu boasts everything from the traditional (including a truly exceptional mac and cheese) to the unique and delightful (including a goat cheese and honey appetizer that we are still talking about after one of our recent visits).

Moreover, any sense of trendiness that one might infer about The Crest is complemented with the warm and comfortable ambiance of the restaurant itself. This combination of the new and the old, the trendy and the cozy, is something we particularly love about The Crest. 

So whether you’re out past the city limits or right in the heart of Clintonville yourself, it’s worth taking a trip over to Indianola to check out what’s happening at The Crest. You’re likely to find a buzzing crowd, you’re very likely to enjoy a delicious meal or libation, and you’re certainly going to find a local business that has excited the team at Bold Hive. 

Side note and disclaimer: We're currently putting the finishing touches on a great new website for The Crest - Can't wait to share it with you all! 

@boldhive: Pick your dish from the new gastropub in Columbus - The Crest. Deconstructed Salad, Fried Goat Cheese Balls w/Honey, Burger & Fries or Cured Meat Board. #food

Forecast

Capture.JPG

FORECAST.IO

I am not a weather fanatic,* like some people. Having established that, I also have to plan around the weather for work projects, so whatever I can anticipate, I can alleviate. 

Enter Forecast by Darksky. First, it is a universal app for iOS and Android, for both phones and tablets. It is easily installed by pointing your mobile browser here, then *installing* the app (for free) by adding a link to your device's homescreen. If you're not familiar with "web apps" then you can read a bit more about how if built right, they compete with any native app. 

Once you've got Forecast installed on your homescreen you'll find that it launches quickly to an overview of information: current temperature, icon showing the current weather overview, a sentence painting the next hour and 24 hours, and a 24–hour scrollable precipitation ticker. Though that sounds dense, the design is clean with plenty of whitespace and many tappable items that reveal more detailed information. 

Most of the time a quick glance at the main page's ticker is enough to prepare me for the day to come. If I want more information I can click on the Map button in the upper right and open a gorgeous precipitation map with a Local, Regional, and Global breakdown. The timeline can scroll several hours to the past, and an hour into the future.

Forecast's features are constructed extremely well and are easy to navigate. A real strength of the app is in the iconography, temperature range bubbles, and precipitation map (ie, radar). One can quickly glance at these and absorb the information easily, from the overview to the granular minute-by-minute ticker. I am reminded of a former professor who instructed us to *show* our readers the story rather than *tell* them. Forecast very much *shows* you the weather as if you were standing outside in it.

All design and usability aside, the question of reliability must enter any serious user's mind. Especially if you're basing a scheduling decision on the reliability of data presented. Forecast is backed by Dark Sky's rigorous data set. The "hyperlocal precipitation forecasting system" is unique among their offerings and worth the installation just to experience once. Forecast goes toe to toe with any other app for its easy access, user experience, and comprehensive data. 

Follow the links to install it on your device for free, and take it for a test drive. The day it saves you from getting caught in one of these spring downpours, you'll be glad you did. 

*My non-fanatic status has changed quite a bit since installing Forecast and reading about the rigor with which Dark Sky has built their services. 

Photo credit Vince Alongi

 

KAYAK

KAYAK
kayak.com 

If your business or life requires that you travel, consider Kayak's mobile app (iOS, Android, Windows, Kindle Fire). It is a well built app which is clearly assembled by a team of individuals who are themselves travelers and have thought through their own needs and preferences. Testing the app was a pleasure and a pain as I kept fidgeting with the features and grew sad that I was not, in fact, planning any upcoming trips. Kayak Pro* is truly an all-in-one travel tool that I wish I'd had back in college when I was trotting the globe. It provides Hotel, Flight, and rental Car search features as well as a host of smart tools to ease the pain of passage.

One thing that I was initially impressed by when I first used Kayak and again recently when opening the app, is the cleanness of the design. It is not cumbersome to navigate, nor do the search results overwhelm with information like so many travel comparison services. The buttons for choosing dates, times, and locations are clearly marked and sized so that you don't have to strain to select them. The filter feature is also very well done, which also invites use, rather than scaring you away with difficulty. When Kayak is out searching for your needs, there is an orange progress bar that grows toward 100%, lest you grow despairing.

Kayak makes searching for Hotels, Flights, and Cars comprehensive, and accessible. But that's not all! Each of those features get sliced many ways. If you're looking for a quick fix, Cars and Hotels both offer quick search features per your location, and they return instant results. If you want to fly in a particular month but are concerned with the price, the Buzz feature will show you a chart of the Average and Absolute best prices a month at a time. (You really need to see it). There is an Airline phone Directory should you want to call an airline for any reason, and a Fees breakdown for excess baggage, pets, meals, and minors. They include the ubiquitous Flight Tracker, and an Airport Information section.*

Kayak's toolkit is strong. A great looking and easy to use Packing List feature sets you up whether your outing falls as General, Business, Romantic, or Family. Their team has come up with a few things you should keep in mind. If your trip takes you abroad, a Currency Converter is built in to the app as well. There are also Price Alerts and My Trips features that I was unable to test sufficiently due to my current grounded state of travel (have I mentioned that?)

All considered, the mobile offering from Kayak will be a great tool for you whether you're familiar with the site or not. The additional features that have been smartly implemented make it easy to suggest as a nearly all-in-one tool for both getting you to, and getting you through your next adventure. I hope that I too get to use it in the field soon.

*The free app has occasional ads and excludes Airport Information. Powered by GateGuru, which is a pretty fantastic addition for $1, especially when you've got a layover and time to kill. 

Photo credit flickr user armadilo60

Voxer

voxer.com 

A critical feature of any successful team is communication. The speed and efficiency with which team members can communicate with one another is tantamount to operations being executed efficiently. Several years ago there were cellular phone companies that touted "Push to Talk" (PTT) as alternative means of communication to phone calls. This feature was popular in the contracting world, and popular elsewhere wherever teams were separated by geographical distance or requiring snappy communication.

Fast forward to an age where smart phone subscribers are approaching half of the general market, and it is even more likely that your team is spread out, and in even greater need of efficient communication. Enter Voxer, the impressive and powerful PTT app for your iOS or Android powered device.

Without belaboring the point, Voxer is a well-designed and tough app that has been working dependably for my team and our clients for the past half year. I also have friends I can dial up both domestically and abroad, as it works wherever a subscriber has a data connection.* If you have ever used a walkie-talkie or a recording device of almost any kind, then you will have your recorded soliloquies soaring over sound waves in under 5 minutes (ie, mastering Voxer will be a no-brainer).

The real genius of Voxer's version of PTT is that for the receiver, they are not at the beck and call of anyone who might want to ring them regardless of the time of day nor their availability. If I Vox Jim but his phone is off or being used for something else, he'll simply get a notification like he would with any other app. When he chooses to respond he will see a queue of conversations and the unheard messages (voice, text, or photo) for him to review. What's more, if Jim and I are engaging in more quick responses and both have the app open, we can live-stream the messages from each other as they are being recorded. In either case the app works solidly and is limited solely by the strength of data connections at any given time.

Another powerful evolution beyond former PTT platforms is Voxer's Group Chat feature. From what I have tested, there is almost no limit to the amount of people I can add to one chat. I can send one message easily to multiple people without the hassle of dialing a number, waiting for pick-up, engaging in greetings, and then finally delivering a message. Voxer cuts through all of that wasted time with its succinct approach. When I can work with multiple teammates in different places, the reduction of redundancy is absolutely felt.

Lastly, Voxer has a share menu with which I can port out my "Notes to Self" to one of my social media platforms, email, or text message, should I want to relay a message or reminder to someone for listening later.

If you've tried PTT in the past and have been waiting for a better offering, Voxer will astound you. If you are regularly communicating with teammates, whether near or far from you, it saves precious time that is otherwise lost to ringtones, voicemails, and callbacks. Try Voxer today and let us know what you think!

At the very, very low price of Free, and available on both the iOS and Android app stores, you truly have nothing to lose.

*Be mindful of your cellular data plan as Voxer will use that connection for its messaging. 

PlainText

Last time we discussed the relevance of focus to business success, and a time-based reminders app which adds to that discipline. As I thought about how to follow up from Due App, I looked again to my first smartphone homescreen to consider what other tools held similar influence over my workflow.

Today I will talk about PlainText, a Dropbox* based note-taking app I've had on my homescreen for nearly two years. By having an app back up to a solid cloud-based service like Dropbox, one can focus on taking and accessing notes securely. The .txt files are accessible from nearly every document editing program, so editing from your desktop becomes incredibly convenient. As with all important data, backing up notes you have created is always a good idea. 

Amongst the many note taking apps in the AppStore, PlainText rests confidently at the minimalist end of the spectrum. Black text on a white background is the chief signpost delineating one folder or file from another. The title at the top indicates what folder or file you're viewing. From each page you have 4 options: Settings, Search, Add folder, or Add a new file. That's it. Tapping a folder title gives you the options of Rename, Sync all, and Sync this folder. When the title of a file is tapped, a drop-down menu gives you options to Print, Email, Rename, Show word count, or Sync. A more straightforward and fool-proof note taking app would be difficult to imagine.

If you are already an iOS user, you will be familiar with the native Notes app and may wonder why a change to another service would make sense. I find that a major feature of PlainText is the ability to create subfolders. For me separating "Work" from "Personal" and other subcategories makes my large pile of random notes much easier to sift through and sort logically. By opening the Dropbox folder on my desktop I can also rename or move folders and files easily for further sorting. It is this sorting functionality, along with an always-on backup system that makes me trust the app to keep the thoughts I'm recording in it.

PlainText is a free download for iOS from the AppStore but does have ads which can be removed for $1.99. A free download is hard to pass up, and once you take PlainText for a spin you may come to find that the trust you can place in it will free you up to write away and have your notes organized and accessible like never before. 

*Dropbox is a fantastic cloud storage solution that I can't recommend highly enough. It creates a "magic" folder on your computer or smartphone that shares any file inserted automatically to the cloud. Its sharing capabilities are endless and thus it is great for teams or organizations that need a secure place to share files.