8 essential

If you’re a small business, startup or even a freelancer, one of the first things you’ll realize you need are ways to organize your day and help you stay on top of your contacts, projects, and tasks. Many business owners also tend to manage their own accounting processes, and so, handling invoices, time tracking, billing, etc., can be a pain if you don’t have the proper small business tools or know where to look for them. That’s where BestVendor comes in.

BestVendor is a community of people who are passionate about some of the tools they use to conduct their day-to-day business routines. It’s like Yelp but for apps. It’s free to join and you can quickly find what you’re looking for through categories or objective-based searches. Perhaps the most popular feature of BestVendor are lists. These are collections of apps created and curated by community members. They’re grouped in ways that focus on a particular workflow, industry, or objective.

Here are the top 8 essential productivity apps found on BestVendor:

Google Apps for Business

  • Category: Collaboration
  • Platform: Web app
  • Cost: Starts at $5/user/month
  • Website: http://www.google.com/apps/index1.html

Okay, so this isn’t really just an app. It’s a suite of apps. Still, it tops the list because, well, it’s dead simple to use and there’s nothing to install (note: you can optionally install the Google Drive app for accessing files offline). While the individual apps themselves are not nearly as robust as a desktop solution, they get the job done and it’s seamless with Gmail for sharing with just about anyone. If you get your team on board, collaboration is especially efficient because you don’t have to worry about doing any installation, upgrades or backups. Everything is cloud-based and so all you have to focus on your work, not maintaining software. And because it’s web-based, you can access Google Apps from any computer with a browser and an Internet connection.


  • Category: Note taking
  • Platform: iOS, Android, Windows 8, Windows Desktop, Web
  • Cost: Free and Premium plans available
  • Website: http://evernote.com/

Ever think of a great idea at the most random moment or place where you can’t easily write something down or type on your computer? You think you’ll remember later when you’re not busy with what you’re currently doing, but then you forget. It happens. Well, that’s where Evernote comes in. With Evernote, you can capture anything you want to remember for later. You can even share it with others for collaborating and spitballing. Best feature? If you use their smartphone apps, with a tap of a button, just record your thoughts using your voice—no typing!


  • Category: Project management
  • Platform: iPhone, Windows 8, Web
  • Cost: Free forever
  • Website: https://trello.com/tour

Trello, hands down, is the dead simplest task management system that organizes projects around boards. In one glance, you can see what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process. Its drag-n-drop interface makes changes painless. You can make boards public, semi-private or completely private and have as many as you like.


  • Category: Planning
  • Platform: Mobile Web app, Web, iPhone
  • Cost: Free and premium plans available
  • Website: https://www.cueup.com/

Some of the apps I’ve mentioned can be linked to another app called, Cue, which turns the accounts you depend on, like email, contacts and calendar, into an intelligent snapshot of your day. Keep up with work, life, and the daily events you care about. Cue surfaces the right details at the right time, so you’ll always be one step ahead. It also acts as a search engine for your life. With just a few search terms, you can quickly find an email, file, contact, articles, events and status updates on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.


  • Category: File storage
  • Platform: Blackberry, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, Mac, PC, Web app
  • Cost: Free and paid plans available
  • Website: http://dropbox.com/

Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. This means that any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website. Dropbox also makes it super easy to share with others, too. So even if you’re computer stops working, relax, you’re files are safely stored in Dropbox.


  • Category: Contact management
  • Platform: Yahoo! Mail, Gmail/Outlook plugins, Android, iPhone, iCloud
  • Cost: Free
  • Website: http://xobni.com/

Using all your emails from Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Outlook for Windows, Smartr creates your automatic address book. It's also integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn - so you're always up to date. The search feature is very responsive using auto suggest capabilities to bubble up the right contact you’re looking for effortlessly. Once you select a contact, Smartr even gives you a timeline of your communication with that person including messages, who introduced you, how many times you’ve made contact, and a list of contacts you may have in common.


  • Category: Bookmarking
  • Platform: Web, Mac, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire
  • Cost: Free
  • Website: http://getpocket.com/

Kind of like Evernote, Pocket lets you save articles and videos for viewing later even without an Internet connection. In fact, Pocket works with Evernote! You can selectively and easily clip articles and web pages you've captured using Pocket to your Evernote account, where you can access whenever you need it, from any computer or device where you have Evernote installed.


  • Category: Time tracking
  • Platform: Web, Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android
  • Cost: Free (for teams up to 5), $5/user/month
  • Website: http://toggl.com/

Dubbed as being “insanely simple time tracking” and a timesheet killer, Toggle makes keeping track of your time lean and mean. Just enter what you’re working on and click a button to start time tracking. You can go back and add tags to better organize your time spent working on tasks. It has an API that integrates with some of today’s leading names in accounting software like QuickBooks and FreshBooks.

Tell me what should be included in this list in the comments! What apps do you think are essential to boosting your productivity?

BONUS: I've created a list on BestVendor that features all of these apps in one easy-to-find location. Check it out!