We all know that BlackBerry phones are touted as some of the best business devices out there. Many of the perks for corporate cogs are baked into the operating system, body design, and secure BES Exchange server. Many more come to the BlackBerry through third-party applications, many of which are now centrally accessed and distributed through the BlackBerry App World. Here are six favorites applications for busy, on-the-go professionals.
Creating and viewing common office documents is essential when you're working from the road. The free Documents To Go Standard Version has been preloaded on BlackBerry handsets running operating system 4.5 and higher (including Bold, Storm, and Tour). It serves as the native reader for Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Upgrade to the premium version and you'll be able to also edit and compose, format paragraphs and font, and view PDFs. Documents To Go has a yearly subscription rate of $49.99 and a $69.99 lifetime license.
and costs just $29.95 for viewing, editing, and even faxing.
We tried MyCaption on a tip. The e-mail dictation software, which has been on the market since August 2008, uses a combination of machine-based speech recognition and human transcription to create accurate e-mail on your behalf. With it, you can dictate e-mail, a memo, a task, or calendar item. E-mail messages cut off at the 3-minute mark. The content is then uploaded to MyCaption's secure, Amazon-hosted servers, where it's transcribed and routed. You'll need to create a MyCaption log-in to start using the software, and serious users should spend some time setting up an address book online--MyCaption can only automatically send messages to you, or to those you've included on MyCaption.com. The $9.99 App World download fee gets you 20 minutes of talk time, which works out to about 80 short messages, fewer the more you pontificate. There's also a subscription model for frequent users.
3, 2, 1...Contacts
If you often travel for work, you undoubtedly have better things to do than type new contacts into your BlackBerry address book. Gwabbit for BlackBerry ($9.95) scans the signature block on incoming e-mails and tries to match what it finds there with contacts you already have. If the contact is new, Gwabbit can create a record populated with the contact's name, number, and e-mail address. It takes a few seconds to process, but saves networking professionals substantial time.
Your e-mail is an inconvenient place to store your itinerary, and your calendar is too hard to read. With a little online prep, WorldMate Live makes a fine travel secretary. The download is free, and so are the basics: local and world time and weather, your travel itinerary, and a currency converter, for a start. The premium version adds on a travel directory, flight schedules, and real-time flight updates. Upgrading costs about $12 a month or $100 a year and also confers greater customer support. Watch this First Look video to see it in action.
When it comes time to tally those expenses and e-mail them back to the office, you've got a few choices. The old-school ExpenseManager by Total Wireless Solutions ($12.99) is simpler to use than Exgis Expense Tracker ($4.99), which is much less pricey for a similar manager. We liked that ExpenseManager kept a running total of expenses and that its .CSV file exports converted more accurately to Excel spreadsheets than did the Exgis program, which garbled the dates in our tests. However, the Exgis products are more cheaply priced--about $5 each for the expense, mileage, or time tracker, $10 for an app that bundles two tools, and $15 for the trio, which also includes tabs for managing clients and naming products.
Read your voice mail
When time is scarce, slogging through your voice mail messages is a terrible way to conserve what's left. Visual voice mail is a much more effective route. The free YouMail Visual Voicemail Plus treats voice mail like e-mail, listing callers and messages so you can play them back achronologically, jumping to the message from your boss and skipping the social calls for now. CallWave, and YouMail's premium transcription service, take it a notch higher, transcribing incoming voice mail messages into text so you can quickly read messages, say during a meeting. In addition to managing messages from the phone, each service also offers an Internet dashboard that lets you read or play back messages online. CallWave starts at $15 per month for its transcription service. YouMail ranges from $4 to $7 per month.
If your company hasn't sprung for a rental car outfitted with GPS, a navigation tool like the free Gokivo Navigator (free for now; for U.S., Canada, and Western Europe) can come in handy. Easy to use, Gokivo's robotic voice helps direct you to an address, airport, movie theater, and so on. The GPS won't always give you a perfect fix, but it quickly recalculates the route if you're off-course. For (written) walking directions, Google Maps will still be your best bet.
Do you have a favorite BlackBerry business app that wasn't included in this roundup? Share it in the comments.
Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.