21 Chrome Web Apps for Business
The Chrome browser is rapidly gaining fans and developers are responding by creating apps that will help keep you productive in Google's browser. Add these 21 apps to a Chromebook, and you'll have great tools for working anywhere.
Some of these apps, like Citrix Receiver, will run only on a Chromebook. Most, however, will run in the Chrome browser on any OS, and some are just links to a Web page.
Google Chromebooks, by the way, keep gaining features that make them more appealing as thin clients in a business setting. The latest update to the Chrome OS brought VPN and secure Wi-Fi support (802.1X), in addition to speed boosts. As more and more companies offer Web versions of popular desktop software, an Internet-only laptop like the Chromebook becomes a viable solution for a mobile workforce.
With the release of the Citrix Receiver Tech Preview, Chromebooks now have access to Windows applications--if, that is, your company is set up with Citrix (it will host the applications) and has Citrix Receiver for Chrome OS infrastructure, and you have a mycitrix login and the URL from your company's help desk.
Sure, that sounds like a lot of hoops to jump through, but the advantage is that the Windows programs are all centrally hosted, and the Chromebook remains a thin-client-like terminal for accessing these programs. This helps keeps sensitive data on the servers, not on each device.
A direct link to Google Docs for your Chromebook; what more do you need? Google Docs provides real-time collaboration and access from almost anywhere. Google Docs is available for free to consumers, and is also available as part of Google Apps for Business, which runs $5 per user per month or $50 per user annually.
If you're looking for something a little beefier in the way of document storage, collaboration, and management in a more unified presentation, Zoho is a great alternative suite. Since it combines integration with both Google Docs and Microsoft SharePoint, Zoho sits in the middle. It also provides more flexibility in sharing, allowing you to share documents to any email address and letting collaborators sign in via Zoho, Facebook, Google, or Yahoo. Zoho is free for personal use, and business pricing comes in a variety of options starting at $3 per user per month for its Docs alone.
SlideRocket is a powerful presentation tool and PowerPoint alternative with great collaboration options. Rich presentations can include audio and video from your library or YouTube. You can conduct HD Web meetings and share your presentations in real time, and they will look the same no matter what OS your clients are using for viewing. Even HTML5 viewers for iPad and iPhone are available. The presentations can be shared via a link, or embedded in a Web page or blog.
The Lite version is free, and the Pro version is $24 per user per month.
One theme I noticed continually popping up on Chromebook user forums was that developers were looking for an integrated development environment (IDE) they could work with from the cloud. With an average rating of 4.81 stars from 70 reviewers on the Chrome Web store, CloudIDE (free) gets the job done well. CloudIDE's multiwindow, extensible editor supports several file types, tons of languages, and source control via Git; in addition, you can deploy your software directly within a Platform as a Service (PaaS) environment.
If your business deals in physical goods, Brightpearl will track them for you. You can manage customers, sales, inventory, suppliers, quotes and orders, and purchasing. Brightpearl is also built to scale up gracefully when things really take off. It has built-in bookkeeping tools, plus tools for businesses that deal in time and services.
Beware of the 'Free' label on the Chrome Web store--that's just a 30-day trial. Subscriptions start at $30 per month per seat and can go as high as $255 per month if you want to use BrightPearl's online store and point-of-sale systems. But it's still less expensive than hiring an office manager.
Less Annoying CRM
Yes, that’s really the name of it. If you're just looking for a simple CRM tool to access from your Chromebook or the cloud, Less Annoying CRM might be just the thing. You can give it a try for 30 days; then at $10 per user per month, it's an affordable option to keep. The simple and clearly laid out options make this a great entry tool for small businesses just growing into the need for something more than an address book for contact relationship management.
Trying to round up a bunch of people for a meeting can be a pain. The ScheduleOnce meeting scheduler (free) integrates with Google Calendar and other Google Apps to prevent double-booking and to allow you to drop meetings directly into calendars. It also features a front-end appointment scheduler so clients can book time with you online. Launched in July, the app is relatively new on the market, but the developers are taking feedback from users and continuing work on their product.
Remember The Milk
Popular task management software Remember The Milk offers a "Web app" in the sense that it provides a quick link to its website. RTM provides robust task management with strong organizational and collaboration offerings. Offline access used to be available through Google Gears, but with that gone, you'll have to wait for the HTML5 rollout for offline access. But the whole point of your Chromebook is that you should be able to be online all the time anyway.
If you're looking for an alternative to Quickbooks that you can run from the cloud, Wave Accounting will manage your invoicing and business finances for free. Wave Accounting also integrates with the FreshBooks online billing service for accepting payments. With its collaboration options, you can invite your accountant, bookkeeper, and advisors to work with you. You can create invoices in many currencies and add taxes, and then track it all with accountant-friendly reports.
If you’re looking to track where money is going in your business, check out inDinero, which is free at the Chrome app store. It will import data from multiple financial institutions, including PayPal and most major banks. From there, easy reports can help you to budget better and track the money going through your business. InDinero is sort of like Mint.com, but for small businesses.
Like a spreadsheet on steroids, project management tool Smartsheet (free for 30 days, then $16 per month) lives online and comes with a Chrome app. Smartsheet integrates with Google Apps using a Google account sign-in, syncs with Google calendars, and can hold Google documents as attachments. If your project is smaller (5 seats), you can use the alternative Gravity for free.
For a more robust management solution for larger endeavors, check out the pricier LiquidPlanner ($24 per seat per month). Its analysis and trend reporting, integrated timesheets and project portals, drag-and-drop scheduling, and email and calendar integration--all make managing larger teams on more projects easier. Liquid Planner also offers file sharing and social-media-style comment streams with @ replies, change notifications, and "watched" items for easy collaboration with a familiar work flow.
If you need content management as well as project management, Huddle might be the app for you. After a 14-day free trial, paid plans start at $15 per user per month. Besides project management, Huddle includes document sharing, whiteboards and collaborative discussions, and even phone and Web conferencing. Mobile apps are available for BlackBerry, iPhone, and iPad, but (so far) no Android option.
Like an online digital whiteboard, Conceptboard gives you and your collaborators a big blank space to add all kinds of content. You can upload concepts, drafts, documents (including Microsoft Office documents), and screenshots. Your team can then make comments and add scribbles, highlights, and underlines. The Basic plan is free, but if you bump up to the Professional version ($8 per user per month), you get features for task management, coworker management, SSL encryption, and custom branding.
A "visual collaboration tool," as LucidChart calls itself, this service goes way beyond just mind maps. Cost and capabilities depend on the plan chosen. A free version allows two collaborators to work on limited charts. For $5 per month, you can have five collaborators. Higher plans ($10 per month and up) allow exporting to Microsoft Visio, and you can create flowcharts, network diagrams, wireframes, mockups, business process models, org charts, and more, all with real-time collaboration. Changes are synced and merged instantly with powerful version control and revision history.
Evernote is a rich note-taking service with good organizational tools, including nested notebooks and tagging. You can clip Web pages and attach several types of files. The Chrome app is really just a link to the Web version of Evernote, but the Web version's interface is very close to what you see in the desktop version on Windows. Be sure to add the Web-clipper extension. Evernote is free, but for $5 per month you can go Premium, getting more sharing and file attachment options. Evernote also has app options for most mobile platforms and a full-featured desktop client for Windows and Mac.
Like Evernote, Springpad offers rich note-taking tools (and it too is free), but it organizes notes by types--notes and tasks, bookmarks, recipes, books, movies, restaurants, and many others. You can share notes to Twitter or Facebook, as well. Springpad also offers a Chrome Web-clipper extension and mobile versions. The Chrome app even has offline support.
For a super-simple note-taking extension, Scratchpad (free) lives in a little pop-out window. This way, you can take notes while browsing. And Scratchpad notes will optionally sync back to your Google Docs account. Scratchpad supports some basic text editing, basic formatting such as bold, italic, or underline, and bullet points. You can even take notes offline.
HootSuite's social media tools are available to Chrome users as a Web app. You can schedule and publish to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, WordPress, and elsewhere. The social media dashboard also allows you to monitor real-time search, track results, monitor conversations, and track other statistics. HootSuite is available for free, but it also offers strong collaboration and team tools in Pro and Enterprise versions starting at $6 per month.
Since you can't store data locally on a Chromebook, you'll need a good cloud storage solution. Besides 5GB of free storage, Box.net offers strong sharing and collaboration tools, in addition to mobile apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, and Blackberry devices. With the free plan, files are limited in size to 25MB. For $15/user per month, businesses can get more storage and enhanced collaboration tools.