Five Great Free Business Apps for Google Chrome

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Google's Chrome Web Store might only have been up and running for a few weeks, but it already hosts a stock of high-quality add-in apps.

Listed below are five free of charge productivity and business apps that caught our eye and are well worth investigating.

The Web Store introduces Chrome users to cloud working and, as such, most of the apps show the trend towards built-in intelligence that's common to many cloud applications. A notepad application offered in the Web Store is very unlikely to simply let you write memos, for example. It will probably integrate web searches or allow you to share your notes on Facebook and Twitter. Gathering data and interconnectivity is where the power of the cloud lies.

To visit the Web Store from within Chrome, click the link on the New Tab page and then click the Web Store icon under the Apps heading. If you don't see one, click here to go straight to the store. You'll need the latest version of Chrome, of course, because the Web Store has only just been added-in.

Needless to say, if you're lucky enough to have a CR-48 laptop, these apps will work fine for you too.

1. Rainmaker

Describing itself as an app that supercharges contacts, Rainmaker is able to automagically pull information about people in your Gmail address book from the web, Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook. This information includes mugshots, addresses, phone numbers, and Internet details. Some of it is publically available data and some you have access to because you friended the individual on Facebook, for example.

The process of seeking-out information is referred to as "raining on", and each time it's used a raindrop is spent. You get 10 of these free of charge when you sign-up, so can dig the dirt on 10 contacts, but you can buy more via various monthly subscriptions for as little as $9 per month.

All the data sought-out by Rainmaker is automatically imported into Google Contacts, which can be accessed from within Gmail by clicking the Contacts link above the Chat box. Rainmaker works with Google Apps for Domains too.

2. Springpad

The best way to describe Springpad is as a supercharged notebook and To Do list maker. Because it's a cloud application, your data can be accessed from anywhere in the world, and the app is built around HTML5 so will work on the majority of modern browsers, phones and smartpads too (although iOS and Android apps are available too).

Notes can contain text, or you can also build a note around a web search. For example, enter the name of a favorite recipe and you can look through the list of results and create a note from one that looks interesting. You can then add your own details below. Springpad is clever enough to realize what you're doing, so will add an "I want to cook this" field at the top, which you can change to "I've cooked this" once you've made the recipe! It'll also recognize things like movies, books, products, and more.

To Do lists are simple but effective, and you can set alerts to appear on due dates. All notes can be tagged for easy searching, and shared online with others.

Springpad is free of charge, although a small advertisement appears at the bottom left of the browser window.

3. Simplebooklet

Despite its title, Simplebooklet is actually an online presentations tool. It fills a blindingly obvious gap in the market: creating presentations that can be viewed within a browser, and accessed via a simple URL that you share with others. Forget about paper or projectors. Why not use the browser as the medium?

Simplebooklet is extremely easy to use, with bright colorful icons, drag and drop, and not a hint of technical language anywhere. Like any presentations tool it's based around individual pages/slides, to which you can add images, text, files, video, music, webpages (as screenshots), and even your own HTML code. Once the presentation is finished, it can be published via the major social networking tools (Twitter, Facebook etc.) and you can even embed it within your own website via an iFrame, for which the code is automatically generated.

Simplebooklet is free for up to 20MB of content, and allowing the creation of unlimited booklets, with various yearly plans starting at $10 for more storage space.

4. World Time Planner

Working across different timezones can be a pain, and if you frequently travel to other countries scheduling meetings can become a mind-melting exercise. World Time Planner is a simple app that lets you click and drag a slider to see what the time will be in various cities over the next 24 hours. Daytime and nighttime symbols appear alongside each city to indicate at a glance when the working day starts and finishes. Never before has it been so easy to schedule a breakfast meeting in Singapore while you're sitting in your Boston office.

World Time Planner is entirely free of charge and, unlike some of the apps listed here, works if the computer is offline too.

5. Read Later Fast

Falling under the "devastatingly useful but simple" category, Read Later Fast does exactly what its name suggests: one the app is installed, if you visit a page in Chrome that you want to save to read later, just right click in a blank spot and select the Read Later link in the menu.

The page will then be added to the Read Later Fast inbox, where it can be read even if the computer is offlne--ideal if your laptop has spotty connectivity, or you're about to jump on a plane for a long journey.

Read Later Fast can also be used to archive pages, which has a whole range of uses, especially bearing in mind pages tend to disappear remarkably quickly on the modern Internet.

One particularly nice feature is the Text View button, which intelligently presents only the core body text and images from the stored web page, stripping out everything else, such as advertising sidebars.

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