NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If 2011 is anything like this year, competition in the Web-based office software market will reach a fever pitch. Not only are software heavies such as Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL) and Facebook crowding the market with small-business tools, dozens of smaller firms are plying their business efficiency products as well. Sites such as the Google (GOOG) Apps Marketplace now have more than 250 different applications a business can use to stay organized.
But therein lies the rub: With so many choices, many excellent business systems get overlooked. And many firms I deal with struggle to find which business software can work for them.
To give you the inside edge on the business apps that will be worth your time, here is my roundup of sleeper productivity software for the coming year.May it be a happy, healthy and profitable one. Apple iWork.com (Online service is free with $99 software)
Yes, Virginia, there really is a cool Apple product that does not get the media love it deserves. Case in point is the online version of Apple's iWork suite of office tools, branded as iWork.com. Keep in mind that the iWork tools Pages, Numbers and Keynote are nowhere near as robust as Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint when used on a PC. But the online versions of iWorks software is surprisingly handy. Also, iWorks.com supports PCs and Macs, making for darn seamless document collaboration. I found the comments features were excellent, and the iPad version of this software is probably the best office productivity tool for that device I know. For Mac users looking to get organized, iWork.com is about the finest holiday present you can give -- or get. Concur Breeze (One or two users are free; three or more users is $8 per month)
In business, it is not what you make, it is what you spend. And managing your spending is a whole lot easier with Redmond, Wash.-based Concur (CNQR). The online expense management system does a very nice job tracking what you and your firm spends in terms of cash, credit cards and bank checks. I liked the clean online layout, powerful reporting tools and seamless Google Apps and credit card integration. Of course, like most online expense tools, the code does not integrate well with complex enterprise expense reporting tools. That means that with your big corporate clients, chances are you will be filing those expenses by hand. Still, if you're considering making 2011 the year to get your expenses organized ahead of tax season, give Concur Breeze a try. eM Client (Basic tool is free, professional tool is a flat fee of $50 per user)
If you are finding Outlook's email and calendering tools are getting too expensive and complex, may I recommend eM Client? The application, free for basic users, specializes in supporting just about every email service on the planet -- and does it all easily. Simply go to the eM Client website, download the free software, enter some basic information and you are off and emailing. The design is also heavily reminiscent of Outlook, so users of that tool should be comfortable with eM Client. The bottom line: For little or no cost, eM Client offers a surprisingly nifty way to optimize your critical business emails for the coming year. It's a clever little tool. >To submit a news tip, email: email@example.com.
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