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10 Great Small Business Apps for the iPad

by Kevin Ackerman, Staples® Contributing Writer

With more than 500,000 made-for-iPad programs available in the Apple App Store, finding great small business software can be a challenge. These 10 apps not only turn the popular tablet computer into a remarkable business tool, but they’ve also transformed some small businesses into big successes.

Don’t believe us? Download them and see for yourself.

For Making the Sale

Square: Angela Bauter of Milwaukee, Wisconsin–based design firm Save the Date Originals, primarily uses her iPad to show potential customers her portfolio. But Square is her secret weapon for closing the sale. “If a customer wants to place an order or deposit right away, I can easily take their payment via the Square app,” she says. The app comes with a credit card–reading dongle that plugs into the iPad’s headphone jack. But businesses looking for a more stationary solution may prefer the Square Stand, which turns a Square-equipped iPad into a stylish checkout station.

ShopKeep POSWhen customers place their orders at Portland, OR’s Rain or Shine Coffee House, the baristas process their sales through ShopKeep POS. A point-of-sale app that does everything from ringing in orders to managing inventory and tracking employee hours, the software even works with a cash drawer and receipt printer when paired with the ShopKeep POS iPad Cash Register. ”It hardly takes up any counter space, and we like how easy it is to use and how quickly we are able to train our staff,” says co-owner Molly Boyl.

Perka: Right next to Rain or Shine’s ShopKeep iPad, an iPod Touch runs Perka, a customer loyalty app that lets coffee shop customers earn free beverages and baked goods. “Our customers like that they don't have to keep track of a paper punch card,” says Boyl. And with hundreds of participating businesses nationwide, the customizable rewards program also alerts customers to other nearby Perka deals.

For Getting Organized

QuickBooksA favorite of many businesses, QuickBooks has long helped to organize operations both large and small. Now, with the free iPad interface, users can pull up customer information, send invoices, accept electronic signatures, track expenses and more, all with the convenience of an iPad.

TripIt: A crucial tool for regular business travelers, this app keeps reservation and transportation information organized and accessible. An itinerary for the post-printed paper era, TripIt works by having users email their travel, hotel, car rental and other confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com. The service, recognizing the user’s email address, pulls all the information together, storing it in a central location that’s accessible by the iPad app.

Dropbox: Giving users a central spot on the Web to store their files, this popular cloud-based service helps more than 4 million businesses to stay in sync across users, locations and devices. “‘God bless Dropbox’ is basically all I can say,” says Linda Hoopes, president of Atlanta-based Resilience Alliance, a consultancy that helps organizations and individuals learn to thrive in turbulent times. “Most of the apps I pick, I pick because they have an interface with Dropbox.” In other words, all the audio files she records, documents she creates and data that she generates on her iPad sync with and are backed up by Dropbox. And files she uploads to the service (including from her PC) can be accessed through the Dropbox iPad app wherever she has an Internet connection, too.

For Documenting Everything

Scanner Pro: With the iPad’s big screen and excellent cameras, scanning documents is a natural fit. Hoopes uses Scanner Pro to keep track of important documents, such as receipts while traveling, handwritten notes, contracts and more. “You just put the document down and take a picture,” she says of the app’s simple interface, which converts the images into PDFs. And ScannerPro syncs with Dropbox, so you can save the document seamlessly and access it wherever you need it.

GoFormz: At the dentist, sometimes the only thing more painful than a root canal is processing paperwork. Las Vegas–based Dee for Dentist uses iPads to eliminate paper, and the process starts by converting all their forms from PDFs to touch-based applications using GoFormz. “Completed documents are transferred to our PCs (we use this with the Box app) and then filled out by each patient using our practice management software,” says office manager Michael Cruz. “The process is extremely efficient and easy to use.”

Microsoft Office Mobile: For years, Microsoft Office has been the gold standard for document creation on PCs, whether it was in Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Now the software suite is available as three different (free) apps for the iPad, allowing users to easily work with the commonly used desktop files. Creating and editing files is a breeze, as is saving them to OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service.

Notability: According to Michael Bremmer, CEO of Moreno Valley, CA–based Telecomquotes.com, Notability is so valuable to his business that one iPad running the app helped his company make $100,000 in profit in a year. “Our business requires intense listening to multiple problems, copious note taking and quite often, drawing diagrams on the fly to illustrate a point,” he says. Notability performs all those tasks, and can also record audio conversations. Then the information he uploads can automatically be saved via Dropbox so it can be shared with his entire team. Compared with how the company worked pre-iPad, the app has revolutionized the company’s note taking.

With hundreds of thousands of other apps in the Apple App Store, there are countless more business programs that can streamline your workflow and integrate the iPad into your everyday operations.

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