Regular dispatches from AccountingWEB gadget devotees including executive peripherals editor Nigel Harris, community correspondent Rachael Power, community manager Henry Osadzinski, and Accountants Power Tools' Kevin Salter.
Christmas Gadget Countdown Day 5: Apps and software
To maintain the pretence that the annual countdown does really have a business angle I thought we should slip this category in.
Windows 8 dominates the software headlines at the moment, but you probably wouldn't call it a stocking filler.
In fact it probably won't be an issue at all for most people, since most users simply stick with the OS that came with their computer. That makes sense with Windows 8 since it has been designed around the latest hardware, most noteably touchscreens. So you've either got it, or you don't really need it!
However, the Windows 8 launch overshadowed the lower key unveiling of Microsoft Office 2013, a very different looking Office suite which very specifically points users towards the cloud.
For example, it comes initially with the online Skydrive set as the default save location rather than My Documents on the local drive, and the pricing structure is designed to make the Office 2013 plus Office 365 (the cloud version) bundle look very compelling. Does this signal a deliberate move away from desktop computing? Sadly it won't be available for Christmas, but it's one to look out for in 2013.
Smartphone apps were a previous Gadget Countdown winner, so I felt we should include them again this year but frankly you'll probably already have your favourites, or be completely disinterested. For the latter group, please try to suspend your cynicism this Christmas and try a few.
Twitter and Facebook barely work using a smartphone's Internet browser, but instal the relevant app (free) and you'll find it a completely different experience. In fact both these applications almost work better on a phone than they do on a computer! Dropbox and Skype also have smartphone-optimised app versions.
Likewise, the new Companies House app makes searching the company register a lot easier than trying to do it using my iPhone's browser.
Practical tools for anyone on the move, such as live traffic alerts, weather warnings from the Met Office, the excellent new BBC iPlayer radio app (not to mention the latest Screwfix catalogue app!) all make a smartphone functional, if not essential, these days.
However, my favourite apps at the moment are the location-based voucher apps such as O2 Priority Moments and Vouchercloud, both of which have saved me money while Christmas shopping – meaning more money to spend on other gadgets!