Christmas Gadget Countdown Day 5: Apps and software

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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!

About Nigel Harris

Nigel Harris

I'm a partner with Burton Sweet, chartered accountants & business advisers, and run the Shepton Mallet office down in beautiful Somerset. Despite the name, Shepton Mallet is actually the home of Glastonbury Festival! I trained in audit and corporate tax with Grant Thornton and came to my current position in 1991 via small local practices and a stint with a training consortium.

I have the distinction of being one of the original members of the AccountingWEB editorial team, having been a freelance writer here for a year or so before John Stockdyk joined!



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11th Dec 2012 11:35

Companies House app is even better than the website, in my opinion - clearer, more concise, information right at your fingertips. 

For photography Kitcam or Instagram are two good apps, for running Map my Run, which tracks your run route and your pace is a useful tool, for social news Flipboard is my favourite but for hardcore news, I love the BBC or Telegraph apps.

Others of note include Freshbooks, Viber for free calls, WhatsApp for free texts, calls and photo-sharing, Dropbox and Tweetdeck. 

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