With Microsoft at the helm, there’s one area where you can be sure that Windows Phone 7 is going to do well and that’s productivity. After games, it’s one of the bigger areas on the burgeoning Marketplace. Naturally, with business people in mind, there’s many a developer out there looking to make a quick buck out of the things you might need, while the truth is that there’s probably a few free versions of much the same thing.
So, if you want to avoid the WP7 flops and get the software that’s really going to make a difference, then these are the best productivity apps on Windows Phone 7 and the ones to have on your mobile.
Adobe Reader (free)
Okay, so it’s not the world’s sexiest app, but it is an essential and who cares so long as it’s free anyway? There’s no on board software for Windows Phone 7 to read PDFs and, in fact, the minute you try to open one, the OS will send you to install this app on the Marketplace. You can wait for the prompt or you can do it the day you buy your Windows Phone, but either way you need Abode Reader. The app itself opens the files pretty quickly and offers you basically zero options, but all you need you can do - i.e. pinch and zoom your way around a document. Adobe Reader works in both landscape and portrait with the pages scrolling down. It takes a second or two to render each one but it all works fine. A must.
There are not a whole lot of remote access applications for Windows Phone 7 at the moment. In fact, there are next to none. Fortunately though, HomePipe is here to save the day. It’s a service that’s been running for quite some time now on other platforms and it allows you to access all the contents of a selected folder on your computer's desktop from anywhere you are. That anywhere can include another computer somewhere else on the Internet, all sorts of other devices over your home network and now, with an app, over mobile broadband and on your mobile phone. So, practically speaking, you can look at your photos, watch videos and stream music, while out and about, that’s sitting on your machine at home. It’s a little on the clunky side and the HomePipe network was busy a bit too often in our trials but it certainly works, and in the land of the blind, the one eyed man still wants his music streamed while he’s waiting at the bus stop.
The name’s a bit of a giveaway in this one, but what you need to know is that this app will turn one language to another language either through the user inputting the text with the keyboard or by actually taking a picture of it. Now, it won’t work for a whole page of copy but it’ll certainly do for road signs, foreign restaurant menus and other suitably large and obvious phrases. Translate then works by sending off your image to an OCR service before bringing you back the copy to decode. Now, this is all very good but with a few key limitations which, fortunately, are fixable. The first is that the app is free, but you only get 20 translations per month. Not very much. The second issue is that, at present, it only understands English, French, Spanish, Italian and German but doubtless more will come with further updates. The real elephant in the room, though, is that because the service requires data and, by its nature, you’ll need to use it abroad, you’re going to have to rely on Wi-Fi as 3G is going to cost you an arm and a leg when roaming.
Of course, the best productivity app of them all is the one that you’ll find pre-loaded on all Windows Phone 7 devices. You can get versions of Office documents on all sorts of mobile platforms, but you simply haven’t experienced it until you’ve seen it on WP7. The app allows you to create Word and Excel documents and view and edit Powerpoint. At the same time there’s also the OneNote section where you can make lists of all sorts and stick them all on a post-it style board to collect and view later. Office on WP7 gives you SharePoint access as well, meaning that you can get hold of documents housed on the SharePoint server provided you have the URL. You can view them and edit them. All of your docs can then be sent one touch via email to wherever you like, but the nicest thing about all of it is that the GUI is so good, it almost feels like you’re not actually working.
This is perhaps the most bizarre app we’ve ever come across on Pocket-lint and is so crazy that it might just work. It’s a role-playing game come task list application that is basically a way of conning yourself into doing those things that you really don’t want to do. The way it works is that you start off as a Commoner at Level 1 with a character sheet with hit points and magic points and everything, and 1000 xp to gain before you level. You then write your list of tasks, which in itself gives you a small amount of experience, but the real bonus comes once you start the clock on your to dos to indicate that you’re on the job. The longer the task takes before you press stop, the more xp it's worth to you. In other words, tricky things that take a while make you level quicker. Naturally, the system is wide open to all sorts of cheating but, with a bit of discipline, this might just be the game that real life has been waiting for.
Tool Box (free - LG exclusive)
You can download all sorts of junk world clocks, spirit levels and unit converters for the odd quid here and there if you really must, but you’ll already have them in one place on your handset in one of the best productivity apps you’ll find on any mobile platform. Tool box has all three of the functions above as well as a random number generator, a flashlight, a percentage calculator for sales, a date calculator and a world holidays calendar. What’s more, each of them is excellent and all really well put together both graphically and for ease of use. In fact, the only thing it doesn’t have is...
...a currency converter. Currency7 isn’t a world beater as far as these apps go, but it’s got a couple of very good things going for it. First is that it’s free and the second is that there aren’t actually many of them available on WP7. The way it works is that you choose the currency of the location you’re in from a list of around 64 - including the Eurozone and places as far flung as Zambia and Fiji - and then however many others you'd like to convert to when you put in your figure. The currencies can be refreshed from the Internet whenever you decide you want to check up and you can even tweet the answers when you’re done. We haven’t figured out why you’d want all your followers to know that 1 Euro is £0.845 and AUS$1.374, but there you go.
Sound Recorder (£0.79)
Every mobile platform needs a decent voice recorder app and for WP7, Sound Recorder is it. It’s slightly frustrating that it costs you money, especially when there are other similar apps on the Marketplace for free, but the trouble is that it’s the only one that allows you to fully manipulate playback so that you can scan about to find the bit you’re after; that’s vital if you’re using it for dictation. As it happens, you can also change the speed of playback and even go in reverse for some really unusual sounds. Naturally, you can file each one however you wish and there’s also a needle to show you if the mic is peaking. If you want something free, go with Rapid Recorder. If you want something good, then it’s Sound Recorder all the way.
StopWatch Pro (free)
Whether it’s for soft boiling eggs or setting records on how quickly you can make it down to the shops and back, that fact remains that, one day, everyone needs a stop watch app on their phone. Again, it’s possible to spend cash on some fancy GUIed up ones, but the smart move is to keep your pennies and go with StopWatch Pro. As it happens, it has a timer - complete with alarm - as well as the stop watch function, and both will display in gloriously retro digital red LED down to hundredths of a second. It’ll even do lap times as well just in case you’re actually doing some athletics.
Paying £0.79 for an app that nearly exists as a default on your handset does grate a little but, first, it’s not even a quid and, second, TouchCall is actually something you will use. It’s a simple concept. You assign six favourite numbers to six different colours on the app’s page and, when you hit one of them, it dials. So, the best thing to do is then pin this app to your start page and suddenly you’ve got quick access dialling. The Recent section of the People panel nearly does the job, but not quite as well as TouchCall does.
Which do you think are the best productivity apps on Windows Phone 7? Which have we missed? Let us know in the comments.