Category Archives: Internet

More truly awful movies you shouldn’t be streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime

It’s finally happened. Amazon and Netflix’s algorithms have caught up with my bad movie watching and now they are delivering dross to me on a daily basis. When I first started writing Not On My Watch, I had to dive deep into both services to unearth the terrors within. I saw myself as as one of those mystical freedivers who swim to the bottom of an azure ocean to find that big ol’ oyster shell that contains a majestic pearl.

The difference being that I am no beautiful freediver but a mere failed film journalist sitting in my pants late at night, the seedy belly of streaming services my azure ocean, the crud of the movie crop my pathetic pearl.

Now these awful movies are served to me wearing a frayed bow. My Netflix and Amazon homescreens are covered in curated crap. I have to now explain to my wife quite why such classics as Milfs Vs Zombies, Strip Club Massacre and Werewolf Bitches from Outer Space are now in my ‘recommended for you’ section. Joy of joys.

I’m in too deep, folks, there’s no way out so I may as well continue offering up you lovely bunch of Not On My Watchers the very worst movies on Amazon Prime and Netflix you can view with your own eyes.

A word of warning: this is my life now, but you can still get out while the going’s good. I cannot. I am a trader of the terrible, a hawker of the horrible, a vender of the vile. And, with that, on the menu this week are vampiric samurais, abysmal animated animal antics and the worst parody movie you will ever see – so much so I’m convinced it’s a parody of parody movies, made with the sole intention of making all other parody movies, even Meet The Spartans, look like Oscar contenders. Enjoy. Endure. Adieu.

Shira The Vampire Samurai

The Premise: Shira is part vampire, part samurai, all sass. She’s meant to be the future leader/mother of day walking vampires but some idiot named Kristoff is hell-bent on making sure that never happens.

Shira The Vampire Samurai begins at a frenetic pace. There’s a lot of running, everyone is running, so much running and drumming, drumming and running. Then, once the cameraman gets everything into focus – it takes a while – it’s revealed that it’s ninjas and samurais that are running, chasing each other. At this point I’m hooked. Ninjas! Samurais! I’ve got this movie all wrong, it’s not a B- movie but a portentous overview of the class system of feudal Japan in 1100AD, where the ninjas are the kick-ass lower class and the samurai are militia of a better stock.

How wrong I was. The title sequence kicks in and lasts so long I thought the tape was stuck, then remembered we don’t use tape anymore but ones and noughts, and everything falls apart. You see there are two things Shira is: a vampire and a samurai. And one thing she is not: an actress. As well as sucking blood, she sucks the life out of this entire movie. And the plot doesn’t help either. Instead of staying in historic Japan, things shift to the modern world where Shira tries out as a stripper, has sex with a man with flesh-coloured balloons for arms (they maybe muscles, if they are they’re weird muscles) and meets Kristoff who makes whiny noises when he fights. And that concludes how to make a movie with samurai, ninjas and vampires, well, suck.

Best watched when: you’re a vampire, have been alive for centuries and watched and read everything the world has to offer. Only then should you buy a Prime subscription and take this one for a spin.

Crying Wolf

The Premise: A sleepy village in England has a terrible secret: it’s filled with werewolves… and people who think they are filmmakers but are definitely not.

Crying Wolf begins with two middle-aged people dropping double entendres aplenty in an antique shop about a book. They manage to equate buying a book to sex, with classic lines such as (said in hushed sexy tones): “I love her for her prose” and “I buy second hand versions of her books because the new ones are wrapped in plastic to protect their posterity”. Hubba hubba.

We then get a homage to a James Bond credit sequences of old, where silhouettes of ladies dance to a tuneless theme. But this time the silhouettes contain piles of offal and blood. Beautiful. And just like a James Bond movie, the cast eventually say the name of the movie, or at least a version of it, with the fantastic line: “Being a serial prankster, no one listened to him. Andy had cried wolf once too often.”

That is the extent of fun you will have with Crying Wolf, a horror comedy so insipid that its real frights will make you laugh and its jokes will scare you off. Wait, that means it’s actually doing its job as a horror comedy… now I don’t know whether to love it or hate it.

I’m so confused.

Best watched when: you’re the director and you have to watch the rushes as you are making the film.

Stan Helsing

The Premise: A video guy gets lost delivering movies and subsequently turns into a monster hunter.

This film offends me on many levels. I grew up with all the horror characters Stan Helsing parodies. Freddy was my friend at secondary school, Jason and his machete saw me through college and Chucky was the doll I cuddled at night. So, seeing these horror icons in a movie as bad as Stan Helsing is just plain wrong. The film tries to lampoon the horror genre, seemingly forgetting Scary Movie did the same thing seven years previous, but it backfires so badly that it ends up being more of a mess than what happens to your average non-virgin teenager visiting Camp Crystal Lake.

It’s not a movie, it’s a set of skits stuck together by a gunk of toilet humour and sex jokes. Stan Helsing is seemingly void of actors and a script. It’s as if the camera crew turned up and just demanded random people did something in front of the camera, while someone dressed as Leatherface mucks around in the background with a leaf blower and Chucky pretends to give someone head.

To put it into context: this movie is worse than Jason X.

Best watched when: you have just been slaughtered by Freddy’s knife glove.

Pegasus Vs Chimera

The Premise: Pegasus has a fight with a chimera, hilarity ensues.

For the most part of Pegasus Vs Chimera,Pegasus is just a white horse. The filmmakers don’t even mask the fact that they are just filming a white horse do horse things, such as canter and trot and neigh a bit. Then there is one glorious moment when Pegasus takes to the skies and develops wings, scribbled on wings. Harryhausen stop-motion this is not – it’s a scene that’s been animated by someone who has never seen a horse before, but had one described to them a few years ago by the medium of mime. It’s mesmerising to watch.

When Pegasus does eventually fights the CG Chimera, it’s a scene packed with so much slow-mo, if they took it out the whole film would be 20 minutes long. And that’s what cemented this movie for me as being the greatest telling ever of this Greek myth.

Best watched when: you want to understand the Greek myth of Pegasus, but need it told through the medium of the scribblings of a 10-month old baby.

Marc Chacksfield is a former film journalist (and TechRadar’s global managing editor) who is already regretting agreeing to watch terrible movies for the sake of his column Not On My Watch.

      

How to download HD videos from YouTube and Vimeo

According to YouTube, it’s currently serving up more than 5 billion video views every day and the average viewing session is 40 minutes. That’s a lot of skateboarding cats, but it’s also a lot of data to download. If you’re on a capped mobile data plan, have a sketchy internet connection or will be travelling in places where getting online isn’t likely, that’s a problem.

A stream is only as good as your internet connection, and if that connection is slow, patchy or congested then you’ll spend more time buffering and uttering expletives than you will get to spend actually watching anything.

In many cases even good internet connections don’t deliver full quality all the time. That’s because video sites use a technology called adaptive streaming, which automatically adjusts the video bitrate according to network conditions. You might find that if you live in a busy street the quality of your video streaming drops considerably at peak times. That’s because everybody’s going online at the same time, causing the electronic equivalent of rush hour traffic.

The good news is that there’s a solution. Instead of streaming videos every time you want to watch them, why not download them once and view the download instead?

Is downloading YouTube or Vimeo videos legal?

The short answer is ‘uhhhh…’ and the longer answer is ‘maybe’. If it’s a publicly available video and you’re downloading it purely for personal use then you probably won’t end up wearing an orange jumpsuit and making weapons out of toothbrushes.

However, unauthorized downloading is very much against YouTube’s terms of service, which state clearly that downloads are only permitted if YouTube itself offers them via a download link.

Vimeo is a bit less clear in its terms, conditions and guidelines, noting that while it respects content owners’ rights to choose whether or not to offer downloads of their videos it’s up to them to pursue any piracy.

It’s worth asking what you want to do with the video you’re planning to download. Are you downloading it so that you can share it with others on a peer to peer network? Don’t do that, because it’s illegal: you’re actively distributing other people’s content without permission, and that’s against the law pretty much everywhere. If you want to spread the word about a video it’s much easier – and actively encouraged by YouTube and Vimeo – to do it legally and use the site’s built-in share buttons, which you can use to email or embed videos or to share them on your favourite social networks.

Ultimately unauthorized downloading is something you do at your own risk: if you do it a lot, Google may kill your account or your ISP may impose restrictions.

HD video formats and quality

YouTube used to deliver video in Flash, which was a real pain: downloaded .FLV files didn’t play nice with the most common media players. Now, though, it produces video content in a range of formats and resolutions, and that makes it easy for third party apps to offer a range of download options.

In most cases the best video quality you’ll find on YouTube is 1080p, which is 1920 x 1080 resolution. That’s full HD. Next best is 720p (1280 x 720), which is the lowest resolution that can call itself HD. Many videos are in much lower resolutions, especially if they’re quite old.

YouTube has supported 4K video since 2010, but it has very specific requirements: if your browser doesn’t support the VP9 codec, YouTube won’t give you 4K video. On Vimeo you’ll find some videos in 2K resolution, which is twice Full HD (2048 x 1080), but most download services and apps don’t go beyond Full HD.

For most downloaders the best format to use is MP4, which works on pretty much anything, but the quality you get depends on the quality of the original upload. For example, as we write this we’re watching a Linkin Park video; its maximum quality is 360p because that’s the resolution it was uploaded at. Avoid formats such as 3GP/3GPP unless you’re downloading for use on a fairly old phone: 3GP files are tiny because they were designed for 3G mobile phones, and they look pretty rotten on more modern devices.

Unless you’re on an unlimited data plan, don’t download on a mobile data connection: you’ll hit the cap in no time and out-of-plan mobile data is frighteningly expensive. Wait until you’ve found a decent Wi-Fi connection and do your downloading over that.

Can you download video without sound, or sound without video?

Yes. Many downloaders such as Save It Offline enable you to download video-only or audio-only. As with normal downloads, the available quality depends on the original upload. Don’t expect to get high-res audio from a 360p video.

If you’re wondering why anybody would want an audio-free video, it’s handy if you want to use video clips in a documentary or presentation that already has audio in it, or if you’re making a mashup of multiple sources, or if you’re intending to use your own audio in place of the original. And audio-only clips are useful because for many people YouTube is their number one source of new music: why download the video bit if you want to listen, not watch?

What you need to know about YouTube video downloaders

The big problem with doing something on the internet you probably shouldn’t be doing is that the people who make the relevant software often do things they probably shouldn’t be doing either. Many YouTube video downloaders are perfectly well behaved, but even the best apps can suddenly develop issues. The key ones are privacy and unwanted software, or even malicious software.

An app that looks brilliant today may end up with an installer stuffed with unwanted software tomorrow; an online service that respects your privacy this week may change its mind or its advertising provider the next. If you work on the assumption that the site is tracking you or that the app installer is going to add eleventy billion toolbars to your web browser you’ll be pleasantly surprised if the worst doesn’t actually happen. It goes without saying that you should make sure your security software is up to date and that you’re wearing clean underwear before installing any unfamiliar app. Ad-blockers can help with the online services too, which is poetic justice when you think about it: you’re preventing them from making money from other people’s content. You’re practically a saint!

How to download HD videos from YouTube or Vimeo

Let’s assume you have the permission of the copyright holder to download a video. How do you do it?

1. Find some HD video

We’ll stick with YouTube for the time being, because it’s increasingly packed with HD video. If you’re not sure whether something is HD or not, click on the Settings icon – the gear shape in the bottom right hand corner of the video – and you’ll see an option labelled Quality. Many videos default to Auto 360p but if you click on that you’ll see the other available options, which in this case include 720p HD and 1080p Full HD.

Not everything labelled HD is actually HD. Sometimes that’s because people don’t know what they’re doing, so they’ll export a 360p clip at 1080p resolution, and sometimes it’s because people are trying to game the system by making promises they can’t keep.

2. Copy and paste the link

Once you’ve found your video, paste the link into your downloader. In this case we’re using 4K Video Downloader, which is available for both PC and Mac, and which automatically grabs the copied link when you click on the Paste Link button. When you enter the link you’ll be given a range of options for downloading. We want the 1080p version, so that’s what we’ll choose.

It’s worth noting that some downloaders don’t offer 1080p, others only do if you pay for a Pro version, and still others won’t download videos that have a musical soundtrack – presumably because of copyright fears.

3. Make a cup of tea

Downloading takes time, especially when it’s HD: a few minutes of HD video will take up around a gigabyte of space.

4K Video Downloader has the ability to download multiple streams simultaneously to improve download speeds, but ultimately it’s a lottery: some downloads come down the tubes at high speed, others not so much. On our super-speedy fibre connection, one of our YouTube downloads crawled at 584kbps.

4. Find your download

In most cases, you can watch your downloaded video by double-clicking on it from within the app. 4K Video Downloader creates own folder inside Movies and puts the downloads in there, ready for you to preview, play or import into your favourite video app.

You’ll see in our screenshot that the colours are a little overcooked and the rocks in the foreground a bit smeary, but that’s in the original video. What you get is only as good as what YouTube was given in the first place.

      

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4: what we want to see

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a genuine iPad Pro alternative, and one of the best Android slates around. It has similar productivity potential to Apple’s slates, but with a stylus bundled in, saving you some money, and with a Super AMOLED screen.

This is impressive stuff, but the Tab S3 isn’t without faults, so we’ve come up with a list of things we’d like to see improved for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4.

We’ll also use this article to collect all the news and rumors about the Galaxy Tab S4 as they come in. Samsung’s next slate is little more than a whisper so far, but we’re sure to start hearing things soon, and in the meantime we’ve got some theories of our own about when it might land and what it might offer.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Samsung’s next flagship tablet
  • When is it out? Probably 2018
  • What will it cost? Likely at least $599/£599 (around AU$780)

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 release date and price

Samsung hasn’t been giving its flagship slate range yearly upgrades, with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 hitting stores in September 2015, but the Galaxy Tab S3 not landing until March 2017.

So there was around 18 months between them. If Samsung keeps that up then we won’t see the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 until roughly September 2018. But whether early or late in the year we’d expect to see a new model sometime in 2018.

Pricing will probably be in line with the Tab S3’s, if not higher. That slate launched for $599/£599 (around AU$780), and for that money you also got a stylus, but the keyboard costs extra.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 news and rumors

There’s nothing to see here yet, but there are a few things we can take an educated guess at. The screen is sure to be Super AMOLED again for a start, since most Samsung displays use that tech.

It will probably also support HDR content, since the Tab S3 does and it’s unlikely that Samsung would remove a major feature.

The size will probably stay at 9.7 inches, though since the range seems to be designed directly as a competitor to the iPad it might get larger, given that the iPad Pro range is offered in 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch sizes.

You can also expect a powerful but possibly not cutting-edge chipset based on past form, so perhaps the Snapdragon 835, which is found in US models of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and is top of the range right now but won’t be by the time the Tab S4 launches.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4: what we want to see

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is one of the best tablets money can buy, but it’s still a long way from perfect. Here’s how the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 can get closer.

1. Better multitasking

As much as Samsung might want you to ditch your laptop and just use the Galaxy Tab S3, it’s not quite up to the task, and that’s largely down to clunky multitasking.

There’s no proper dock for easy app switching, the recent apps menu is a slow alternative, and the screen is arguably a bit cramped if you want to have two apps running side by side.

Improvements to all these things for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 would be great to see, and may be necessary if it wants to compete with the iPad Pro range, as that offers larger slates and iOS 11 is set to boost their multitasking skills well beyond what the Tab S3 can manage.

2. A cheaper keyboard

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is designed in part as a productivity device like the iPad Pro, and like Apple’s slate you need an expensive keyboard accessory to get the most out of it.

In Samsung’s case, the official keyboard launched for $129/£119 (around AU$170), which is almost as much as some Chromebooks cost. For the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 we want to see the keyboard bundled with the slate, or at the very least offered for a lot less money.

3. Keyboard tweaks

Speaking of the keyboard, there’s room for improvement in its design too. There are no function keys and no home button for example.

It could also do with stronger magnets, and the flap should be magnetic, both to keep it shut and to turn off the screen when closed. These should be easy fixes for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4’s keyboard.

4. Water resistance

Samsung’s flagship phones have offered water resistance in recent years, but its flagship tablets still don’t, and that’s a shame.

We’d bet any number of people want to use their tablet by the pool, in the bath or while cooking, and a lack of water resistance could put them off – or lead to a very expensive accident, so we want the Tab S4 to be built for all occasions and environments.

5. A 4K display

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 has a great screen. It’s a good size at 9.7 inches, it uses Super AMOLED and it supports HDR. But it’s not 4K.

It’s fairly sharp at 1536 x 2048, but if the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 has a 4K resolution, while still packing in all the same tech as the S3’s and the same speaker setup, it could be the ultimate tablet for media.

6. Flagship power

While the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 isn’t exactly lacking power, its Snapdragon 820 chipset is a generation behind the Samsung Galaxy S8’s Snapdragon 835 one, despite launching around the same time.

So for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 we want a cutting-edge chipset, plenty of RAM and performance that can rival the iPad Pro 3 (or whatever Apple’s latest slate is at the time).

7. More storage

Invest in a hefty microSD card and you’ll have plenty of space to play with on the Galaxy Tab S3, but it only comes with 32GB of storage built-in, which is a paltry amount for a high-end tablet, since you’re likely to want to fill it up with games, apps and videos.

The iPad Pro 10.5 for comparison starts at 64GB and goes all the way up to 512GB. Granted, there’s no microSD card slot in Apple’s slate, but opt for the largest size and you’ll have far more room than even the biggest supported card (256GB) allows on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3.

So we want more storage in the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4. The Samsung Galaxy S8 has 64GB, so that should be the minimum, but as the S4 will be newer and bigger we ideally want even more than that.

      

The best free HD YouTube downloader 2017

HD YouTube videos are on tap whenever you have an internet connection available, but there are plenty of occasions – such as when travelling – when you’ll be forced to go offline. Thankfully, with a little forward planning and the right software, you can download any videos you are interested in so you can watch them offline.

There are all manner of tools available for downloading videos from YouTube, but here we are interested in those programs that let you download the very best quality.

As well as HD video downloaders, this roundup also includes software that can download 360-degree videos from YouTube.

Of course, it’s not just the potential for offline viewing that makes these downloaders interesting. If you are battling with a slow connection, you’re probably sick of either enduring video buffering or putting up with lower quality videos. These HD YouTube downloaders could be just what you need.

Before we get started, bear in mind that you should only download videos from YouTube if you have permission from the copyright holder. Unauthorized downloading is against YouTube’s terms of service.

1. 4K Video Downloader

The fastest, most convenient way to download HD videos from YouTube

As the name suggests, 4K Video Downloader can be used to download videos from YouTube at up to 4K quality. There are no restrictions on download speed, so you can completely max out your connection, and you can choose between saving in MKV, MP3 or 3GP formats.

Should a video have embedded subtitles, these can be downloaded as well, and there’s even support for 3D and 360-degree videos. In fact, you’re not even limited to just YouTube – sites such as Vimeo and Daily Motion are also supported, and there are versions of 4K Video Downloader available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

If your needs are a little greater, you might want to consider upgrading to the paid-for version of the program. This enables you to download playlist with subtitles and more than 25 videos, or download entire channels. But for most people, the free version of the software will be just fine, and the limitations are very minor in the grand scheme of things.

Download here: 4K Video Downloader

2. aTube Catcher

Make downloading HD YouTube videos effortless, with bonus file conversion

aTube Catcher isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but what it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in functionality and ease of use.

This is much more than just a video downloader; it also offers the option of converting videos between formats, burning video CDs and DVDs, capturing local video, resizing videos, and batch processing.

But what we’re interested in here is the program’s ability to download HD content from YouTube – and aTube Catcher does this very well.

Paste in a URL, then use a drop-down menu to choose the format you would like to save the video in. If you’re interested in the high definition version, just leave the ‘No Conversion (Only get original file)’ option selected before hitting Download. You can then choose the precise quality you want.

As well as YouTube, aTube Catcher supports a wide range of other streaming video sites, making it well worth a try.

Review and where to download: aTube Catcher

3. WinX Free YouTube Downloader

An HD video downloader that supports several popular hosting sites – not just YouTube, and offers a great choice of download formats

With one of the most impressive and pleasing interface of the bunch, WinX Free YouTube Downloader is an immediate joy to use. You’re not limited to just downloading from YouTube, but this is undoubtedly the primary focus of the program, and it makes light work of quickly grabbing high quality videos from a number of sites.

Videos can be saved in formats appropriate for different tasks and devices, including FLV, WebM or MP4, and the ability to queue up a series of videos to download in a batch is a boon if you want to grab a large collection overnight.

There’s a built-in video player so you can watch or preview online videos, and you can even grab screenshots while you watch.

With everything being not only quick to complete, but also incredibly well-designed, WinX Free YouTube Downloader is a serious contender for the best YouTube downloader out there.

Download here: WinX Free YouTube Downloader

4. Free YouTube Download

A simple, but effective way to grab HD YouTube videos, but bear in mind that downloaded clips will be watermarked and speed limits apply

Free YouTube Download, from DVDVideoSoft, is another incredibly simple HD YouTube downloader, but it still gets the job done – this time with no unwanted extras or other messing about.

Having found a YouTube video you want to download, copy the URL, fire up the program and hit the Paste button. Click the video quality that has been automatically selected for you, and you can then choose the quality you’d prefer – all the way up to 8K UHD if you want.

There are a few things missing that you can only do if you upgrade from the free version of the program to the Premium edition. Upgrading not only eliminates the download speed limit, but also gets rid of the video watermark that appears on downloads.

There’s also playlist support if you’re willing to pay, but for most people – if they’re happy to put up with a watermark – will be perfectly catered for by the free version of the program.

Review and where to download: Free YouTube Download

5. 5KPlayer

The HD YouTube downloader you need when 4K just isn’t enough

Seemingly looking to one-up 4K Video Downloader comes 5KPlayer – and things look impressive right from the moment you launch the installer. This is a highly polished program, available for Windows and macOS, that talks the talk and walks the walk. In order to unlock a few features – such as support for more sites and the ability to use AirPlay – you’ll need to register the software, but this is free and involves nothing more than handing over your email address.

The dark and slightly gloomy interface is easy to get around, and there are plenty of on-screen tips to help you get started if things are not immediately obvious. Once you’ve pasted the URL of a video, you can download it at maximum quality if you want, or opt for a space-saving resolution instead. The extra features – such as AirPlay streaming, a radio and video player, etc – are nice touches, but the ease of downloading videos is the real kicker.

Download here: 5KPlayer

      

The best free office software 2017

Divider

When you think of office software, Microsoft Office is probably the first one that springs to mind. This is hardly surprising as so many computers come with a copy of it pre-installed, but the bad news is that in many cases it is just a free trial and you’ll need to fork out for an Office 365 subscription to continue using it.

Few people can get by without a word processor, spreadsheet app, presentation tool or even all three, but what if you don’t fancy the idea of coughing up for your office software?

Thankfully, there’s now a superb selection of free office software available, and here we’ve rounded up the very best you can download today. The quality of these apps is truly impressive; you’ll never pay for office software again!

1. WPS Office Free

Well crafted, powerful and flexible, WPS Office is the best free office software

WPS Office Free may not be the most famous free office software, but after a recent overhaul we believe it’s the best.

In terms of looks (not that we’re entirely shallow, you understand), WPS Office Free is second to none. If you’ve used any recent version of Microsoft Office, you will feel immediately at home.

At its heart are the three main tools for words, presentations and spreadsheets (hence the name). WPS Office Free also offers some beautiful extra touches, particularly concerning PDFs. Not only is it possible to save documents created in WPS Office as PDFs, you can also convert from PDF to Word. Compatibility is a major feature of the suite, with each of the component program able to save in native Office formats, and the suite is available not only for Windows but also Linux and Android

There are lots of templates available to help you to get started with document creation, and just about the only annoyance with the suite are occasional ads for the premium version of the program. WPS Office Personal and Home adds tools for splitting and merging PDFs, and provides quick email support, but the free edition of the suite is brilliant and will be more than enough for most users.

Review and where to download: WPS Office Free

2. LibreOffice

A comprehensive free office suite with support for cloud storage services

If the LibreOffice software suite looks more than a little familiar, that’s because it’s virtually identical to Apache OpenOffice (below). In many ways it OpenOffice on steroids: it uses the same basic codebase, but it benefits from faster development and more frequent update. If getting bugs squashed and new features added is high on your priority list, LibreOffice should be near the top of your list.

Like OpenOffice, this free office suite has something of a retro look (but not quite to the same extent) and comprises more programs than you’d normally expect to find in an office suite – Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math, and Base.

Anyone who has shifted their life to the cloud will appreciate the support for cloud services such as Google Drive which can be accessed through the Remote Files feature, and there are scores of extensions available to add new capabilities to the suite. A highly recommended piece of software that puts Microsoft Office to the test.

Review and where to download: LibreOffice

Download OpenOffice free

3. Apache OpenOffice

This well established suite is a solid choice, with six programs rolled into one

Apache OpenOffice goes further than many other free office software suites by providing more than just the three main tools you would expect to find – in fact, there are no fewer than six programs: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base.

As an open source free office suite, Apache OpenOffice receives frequent updates, and in this regard it trumps Microsoft Office. It’s not only free of charge. It can, unlike some free software, be used for business as well as personal use.

The interface does look a little dated, so if using software that bears more than a passing resemblance to something from the 90s, Apache OpenOffice may not be for you. But, of course, looks are not everything.

What’s particularly impressive is the inclusion of a database in addition to a drawing tool and even a formula creation program – just about every possibility is covered by this impressive suite.

Review and where to download: Apache OpenOffice

Download WPS Office free

4. SoftMaker FreeOffice

A great-looking free office suite with ebook creation as a welcome extra

While SoftMaker FreeOffice is available completely free of charge, you do have to jump through the hoop of requesting a product key in order to download the office software.

When you’re up and running you’ll find that SoftMaker FreeOffice includes the more familiar three office programs – PlanMaker is the spreadsheet, TextMaker the word processor, and Presentations is the slideshow tool.

Things are great aesthetically, and there are some very neat touches such as the ability to not only save documents as PDFs, but also to export them as ebooks in ePub format.

In addition to the traditional, installable version of the software for Windows and Linux, there’s also a portable version available ready to pop onto a USB drive and move from computer to computer – and mobile users have an Android app too. Highly, highly recommended.

Review and where to download: SoftMaker FreeOffice

5. SSuite Office Premium HD+

A free suite with cross-platform support and a well curated selection of tools

Despite being billed as optimized for high definition displays, SSuite Office Premium HD+ looks a little unappealing. But if you can turn a blind eye to its less than perfect looks, you have a capable office suite on your hands .

If you happen to work with more than one operating system, there’s the added advantage that SSuite Office Premium HD+ is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. All three are pretty much identical, so you can flit between them easily.

The developer of this free office software suite has recognized that what most people are interested in is a word processor and a spreadsheet, so gone is the presentation tool you never use!

Plenty of other things have been wheeled in to fill the gap, including an image editor, video conferencing tool, a calendar and personal information manager, a web browser and even an envelope printer. All of the tools are pretty basic, and SSuite Office Premium HD+ isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s still worth taking a look if you’re after something a little different.

Download here: SSuite Office Premium HD+

What makes great free office software?

When you’re choosing a free office suite, one of the most important factors to consider is file compatibility. You’re likely to be sharing files with people using other tools – both free and paid – so you need programs that are compatible with as many formats as possible, including the most recent Microsoft Office file types.

It’s also important to think about the office software you use now, and how long it will take to adapt to a new interface. The idea of learning a new system might not bother you, but changing from ribbon-based Microsoft Office apps to a menu-heavy design might seem like a step backwards, and cause you to waste valuable time tracking down essential tools.

      

Top 5 best data visualisation tools of 2017

Data is an invaluable resource, but managing it is a tricky task for many businesses. Some larger companies have teams in place to conduct data analysis, but not every every firm has the means and money to do this – that’s where data visualisation tools become extremely useful.

With the right infrastructure in place, it’s possible to use big data to streamline business operations, improve internal efficiencies and perhaps most important of all, better understand your customers.

Data visualisation software is an excellent way to manage, present and make sense of complex business data. There are a ton of great tools out there that’ll help you prepare, analyse and visualise it all – and they’re suited for a variety of industries and uses. On this page, we’ve rounded up five of the best for your business.

Sisense is a really good option if you’re looking to identify data sources and integrate them into all your business operations. It’ll let you prepare, analyse and visualise every bit of data your company generates. This is an end-to-end solution and can maintain growing datasets coming from a variety of areas of your business.

Data is brought to life through a series of interactive dashboards built into the system. With these, you can explore data from almost any angle and granularity – letting you gather valuable insights quickly. The unique thing about this software is that it’s highly flexible, allowing you to beef it up with third-party plugins, and add customisations through JavaScript APIs.

Like the previous product Sisense, Adaptive Discovery provides you with a number of dashboards to keep on top of all the data your company creates. It offers a variety of data visualisation techniques, including waterfall, funnel, dial, histogram, radar and charts.

The system also comes with advanced intelligence built in, capable of delivering analysis based on your company forecast and budget. This is handy if you want to avoid having to work out complex equations and formulas yourself – just let the software handle everything.

There’s a big emphasis on reporting too. Not only does the software provide you with a complete overview of your data and finances, but it also gives you exception and variance reporting, period-on-period averages, linear regressions, trends and control charts.

As a business owner or professional, you probably find yourself creating presentations containing various visual elements for important meetings, or maybe just personal reference. And while you can create graphs and tables within software like Microsoft Office, there are tools made specifically for this purpose.

Visme is a good example. It lets you turn your business content and data into engaging presentations, infographics, charts, widgets and videos. And what’s great is that if you’re not happy with a stock template, you have the option to edit it to your tastes and needs.

There are a ton of templates available, catering for areas such as business, health, education, science, marketing and non-profit. You also have the ability to make your graphics interactive by adding buttons and links, and they can be turned into files and published online. Furthermore, there’s the option to work individually or as a team with the software, too.

If there’s one area that creates a lot of data within businesses, it’s marketing. Digital marketing campaigns are all about spotting customer trends, and without the right software, you can easily end up missing out on big opportunities.

TapClicks aims to change this. It’s a digital marketing and analytics platform targeted mainly at media companies, digital agencies and enterprises. The software offers a central, unified dashboard where you can keep up-to-date with all your marketing data. You also get access to a library full of pre-made visualisations and widgets, so you can tweak the system to suit your needs better.

Data is useless if you can’t do anything with it. Using TapClicks, you can export to email, Word, Excel and PDF to share with colleagues and engage in further analysis. There are some useful integrations too; you have the ability to transfer data from popular cloud services such as Google Drive and Dropbox.

Most data visualisation services offer dashboards, and that’s also the case with Grow. They’ve been built to combine data from hundreds of sources, including databases, spreadsheets and SaaS applications.

It’s possible to implement dashboards for every department or team in your organisation, and use the information gleaned to implement new team objectives and strategic aims. Grow is a good option for bigger companies with a number of teams or departments, and rather handily you can try out a free demo before making the final decision to buy.

      

The 50 best productivity apps for mobile devices in 2017

With the advances made in mobile technology over the last few years and greater reliance on remote working, many businesses use mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to help them in managing their operations. Generally speaking, the days of relying on a PC to do everything are over – you can do it all from apps on your iPhone, iPad or Android.

When you’re running about in meetings all day, have hundreds of emails to read, and must meet tight deadlines, the attraction of mobile is undeniable. Apps, in particular, are changing the way we live and work in so many different ways.

And if you download the right apps to fit your business needs, then you can easily improve productivity. There’s an app for almost every task and area, from accounting to product management. In this article, we’ve highlighted the very best business productivity apps – and in some cases web-based tools which you can use on your mobile – that are currently available.

Image Credit: ymgerman/iStock

There are a ton of web conferencing and collaboration apps out there, but they aren’t always mobile-friendly. Enter Join.me, an online meeting tool that’s easy to set up and can be used from any device – there’s a web version which means you don’t have to download anything if you don’t want to. It provides free screen sharing and unlimited videoconferencing. There’s a handy whiteboard feature as well, letting everyone contribute ideas virtually. The app is available on iPhone, iPad and Android.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

When you have so many things to do and not enough time to play with, you can easily become overwhelmed and fall behind. Gyst is the app that wants you to stay organised and get more done. It consolidates texts, contacts, calendars and to-do lists into one place. Because of this, you don’t need to keep dipping into different apps and it will help you stay on top of things. You can also use the software to prioritise text messages, schedule meetings and communicate with your colleagues.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Basecamp is a veteran piece of project management software in the business world, having been around for over a decade. Features include the ability to keep and track client feedback, chat with your colleagues, set up work-related reminders, praise co-workers and give them tasks to complete, and share documents. Like Gyst, you’re also able to create to-do lists, although you can easily pre-order them based on their priority and relevance.

An internal message board plays a big role in the app too. With it, you can post announcements, proposals and ideas. You can sign up and get 30 days’ use for free, but beyond that you’ll have to pay – and it isn’t cheap.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: rom $99 (around £75) per month

Diary clashes are annoying but pretty common in the business world. This is where Doodle comes into the picture. It’s an app that helps you streamline meetings and stay productive. How does it work? You sign in, set up an event and suggest times to your colleagues. They then choose the times that work for them, and the app tries to find the best slot for everyone. What’s great is that your colleagues don’t even need to be signed up to the app in order to participate.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Trello is another great app worth checking out if you have a busy life with your work or business commitments. Aimed at helping you to get things done and stay organised, the app lets you create boards for all the projects you’re working on. You can work on these individually or add colleagues so they’re kept up-to-date with the tasks they’re undertaking. As well as this, you’re able to add to-do lists on boards, assign tasks, comment on items, upload files and videos, and attach files. It’s free to use, although you have the option to upgrade for added functionality.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

You could spend a good deal of cash on a package like Microsoft Office, or you could stick with Google Drive and pay nothing. Drive offers you a full suite of word processing, database and presentation applications. The great thing about them is that they’re cloud-based, so you can work on documents and files from any device – be it a laptop, smartphone or tablet. Everything is saved as you left it, and you have the option to view revisions.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

The market for communication apps is quite fragmented, but when it comes to keeping up-to-date with your colleagues and in-work teams, Slack is a no-brainer. It offers real-time messaging, and you can share files in one-to-one and group conversations. The app is known for its powerful search and archiving functionalities, so you’ll always be able to find past files and conversations easily.

And there are also integrations with apps and services such as Dropbox, Asana, Google Drive, Twitter, Zendesk and more. Slack syncs across all devices, from smartphones to computers, and it’s free with certain limitations (which you can rid yourself of if you upgrade to a paid subscription).

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Peakon is a web platform with an iOS app dedicated to maximising productivity within companies. It provides automated employee feedback and measures engagement to help firms create happier, more sustainable working environments. Sounds good, right? But you’re probably wondering how it actually works.

That’s pretty simple to explain. Peakon constantly asks you questions to build a coherent, realistic analysis of how you’re feeling at your company. While you have to pay for a basic subscription, you can have a free 30-day trial to test the service out (no credit card details needed).

Platforms: iOS

Price: From £2.60 ($3.50) per user per month

Omnifocus claims to be a PC-grade, in-depth task management solution that you can use on your iPhone or iPad. While it costs £30 (a 14-day trial is available), the app offers flexible viewing options, location awareness and on-the-fly task entry features to help you get through a busy day. You can assign tasks based on location, people and energy level to accomplish jobs. Every task or piece of work you add to the app shows up in the iPhone’s Notification Center, so you don’t have to worry about missing deadlines.

Platforms: iOS

Price: $39.99 (around £30)

If you feel unmotivated, stressed or unwell, it’s likely your work will suffer. And in an ideal world, that’s something you’d like to avoid. Fortunately, online platform Nudjed is on a mission to boost employee health. It collects data across key areas of health to help employers build a picture of how their staff are feeling. Using this information, they can then step in and develop work-based health programmes so all employees are happy and thriving. The company was set up in 2013 by Welsh designer and entrepreneur Warren Fauvel.

Platforms: Web only

Price: Varies

Scoro is a worthy end-to-end work management solution. Available on the web or iOS devices, it allows professionals and businesses to control their entire workflow from one place. The tool also aims to streamline work and eliminate unnecessary processes that may affect productivity. Scoro’s features include calendars, task and project management, quoting and billing, enterprise-level reporting and a real-time dashboard. While it costs to subscribe to Scoro, there is a free 14-day trial available.

Platforms: iOS

Price: From £15 ($22)

A simple pen and paper is always a great way to stay productive, and this aptly named app digitises the process. With Pen and Paper you can create handwritten notes and documents on your trusty smartphone or tablet. You draw with your finger or a stylus, and can doodle away if you wish and easily pull off tricks like resizing, adding text boxes or creating diagrams. The app works with Dropbox too, so you can import and annotate PDF documents and other files.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: £2.99 ($2.99)

If you deal with a ton of social media feeds at work, then you ought to have a look at Buffer. It’s one of the best tools you can get for scheduling posts on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The platform is easy to use, too. You simply link your company accounts to one email, and you’ll be able to push out tweets and status updates in a matter of seconds. There are apps for iOS and Android, although you can use Buffer on the web too. An individual account with one social profile is free, but if you have multiple profiles or team members who want to use the service, you’ll need to pay for a subscription (from $10 a month).

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Evernote has been around for a good few years and is one of the safest bets when it comes to using apps to boost productivity. It offers a variety of note-taking tools so you can change the way you work on and organise your personal and professional projects. You can write, analyse and store ideas in the form of notes, notebooks, checklists and to-do lists. Notes can be taken in a plethora of formats, including text, sketches, photos, audio, web clippings, PDFs and more.

The app syncs across all your devices, so you never have to worry about losing your precious notes and documents. It’s free to use, although there’s the option to upgrade to a pro version with more features.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

When it comes to working on projects with a large team, things can get pretty hectic. Allocating tasks ends up taking forever, and soon everyone’s confused. The solution? DropTask. It offers a vibrant, colourful interface that delivers an enjoyable but effective task management experience.

The main feature here is a customisable workflow board, where team members can allocate tasks and check what they’re expected to do. You can invite up to five colleagues to work on tasks in real-time, and you can assign items under multiple categories. Like many of the other apps listed in this article, DropTask is cloud-based and syncs across devices.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

It’s easy to fall behind when you have so much work to do, and it doesn’t help when there are so many distractions to deal with. If you suffer with these sort of issues, Be Focused Pro could help you. This iOS app lets you focus on your work and get things done by splitting individual tasks into intervals, separated by small breaks. This, the creators claim, will help you retain motivation while you work. As well as being able to create and configure tasks, you can also track your progress throughout the week, month or year.

Platforms: iOS

Price: £4.99 ($4.99)

One of the banes of running a business is having to deal with time and expense sheets. Unless you’re willing to shell out for an accountant, this is something you’re going to have to tackle yourself. But Harvest makes the task a lot simpler. The app is a way for you to track time, log expenses and manage invoices on-the-go.

You can use the app to send invoices to clients and track when they’ve paid, add, view and edit time entries, take photos of receipts and upload them, monitor mileage, and much more besides. There is a basic free plan but it restricts the number of clients and projects available, so you’ll need to fork out for a paid subscription ($12 per user per month) if you want to unlock those limits.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Are you a business owner? Then you’ll understand the importance of knowing how your employees are feeling. After all, if they’re not happy at your firm, then the chances are they’re going to underperform – or go elsewhere. TinyPulse is an app that lets you get to know your staff, giving you the ability to set them questions and analyse their feedback. Using this data, you can then make changes if they’re needed.

You can also share virtual suggestions with your team, ensuring they’re always included in strategic decision-making. And hopefully the result of all this will be a happier, more democratic working environment. You can get a free trial to test the system out, although you’ll need to contact the company for details of pricing plans when it comes to the full service.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Varies

Bria is a business-grade communication app available on iOS and Android. It creates a SIP-based softphone client using Wi-Fi or a cellular data network that can make and receive calls over the net. The service uses the phone’s existing contact list and has been designed to facilitate easy, effective communication management. There’s an intuitive interface that accommodates multiple calls, and functionality includes the ability to swap, merge and split calls, plus you can perform attended and unattended transfers. You needn’t worry about security either, as it boasts built-in audio encryption.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: £7.99 ($7.99)

There’s certainly no shortage of to-do list apps out there, but equally there’s no denying that Wunderlist is one of the best. The app allows you to create as many task lists as you want and share them with your colleagues. They sync across devices, so you’ll always have them to hand. Note that the app is free, but there’s a pro version that’ll cost you a few quid a year. You can delegate tasks, set deadlines, add notes, create reminders and split items into sub-tasks – and the interface is easy-to-use, and looks good, too.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

When you have an incredibly busy home and work life, it’s easy to come across great articles or videos online but not have the time to enjoy them. Pocket lets you save items like videos, articles and e-books so you can access them when you have a spare few minutes at some point in the future. It’s a great way to stay organised too. Depending on the version you have, you can create tags to keep everything neat and tidy, or listen to articles with text-to-speech. There’s unlimited storage on offer as well.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

As they say, time is money, and you can easily waste both by spending most of the day staring at social media feeds and watching videos on Facebook. RescueTime aims to get you to change your ways and avoid bad working habits. It analyses the apps and websites you view the most, and breaks them down into a list so that you know where your time is going. The idea is you can then use this information to set productivity goals. The app is free, but the pro version lets you go a step further by blocking specific sites and setting up notifications.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Toggl is similar to RescueTime in that it wants to help you better utilise your time at work and stay productive. It lets you track multiple projects and clients to build a picture of your daily activities. With this information, you can then view graphs and timesheets, which is extremely handy if you work on a ‘per hour’ basis. All members of a team can use the app and split items into different categories to avoid confusion. The basic plan is free and caters for teams of five members or fewer, but if you need more than this, you’ll have to pay a subscription from $9 a month for the pro version or better.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Asana is another well-known business app. If you’re not using it already, then you probably should be. It’s like Trello (which we’ve already mentioned) and will help you stay on top of things in general, but it’s a lot more text-centric. You can set up tasks, to-do lists, reminders and requests about pretty much anything, and you can comment on items and send images within the app. There’s functionality that lets you track progress, too, and you’re able to communicate with staff directly.

Asana works across multiple devices, including smartphones, tablets and computers. It’s free for teams of up to 15 members, but beyond that you’ll need to stump up for a premium subscription.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

If you like the idea of having a communications app like Slack but need something a little cheaper when it comes to paid-for options, you’ll want to have a look at HipChat. It may not be as complex or well-known as Slack, but HipChat boasts a free service for unlimited users which offers group chat and file sharing. Upgrade to HipChat Plus for a couple of dollars a month, and you also get group video chat, screen sharing, and unlimited file sharing and storage.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps available, although it’s not just for personal use. It’s also a handy communication tool for businesses, allowing you to communicate with colleagues in real-time. Using your Wi-Fi connection, it lets you send and receive text messages, calls, images, photos, videos and voice messages for free. You can also set up and participate in group chats, which is handy for team meetings and delegating tasks.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Freelancers are always looking for more work – and when it comes to that quest, Konsus could be a big help. It’s an on-demand freelancer platform based within the Slack app (which we covered in a previous slide). The app assigns projects to top-talent sole traders based on their skills and availability. For example, a user could request edits to a PowerPoint presentation or Word document, expecting to get it back by the next morning. There’s a team of project managers too, responsible for vetting freelancers and ensuring projects are completed to the brief.

Platforms: Slack Add-on

Price: Depends on project

Unless you’re the next Einstein or have loads of research time on your hands, it can be pretty impossible to work out the most complex equations. This is where Wolfram Alpha can help – using a vast collection of algorithms and data, it can produce answers and generate reports for almost any question, not just limited to maths but covering a whole range of topics. The app isn’t free, though, and it’ll set you back £2.99. You also have the option to pay a monthly fee and get added capabilities, should you need them.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: £2.99 ($2.99)

It’s always a good idea to have a PDF reader at your disposal, and Adobe is arguably the best out there. The Adobe Acrobat Reader app, which you can get on both Android and iOS for free, lets you edit and add comments to PDFs. If you have an Adobe account, you can benefit from even more features. For instance, you can convert PDFs into various different formats and store them in the cloud. There’s the option of connecting the app to Dropbox too, and if you have an iPad Pro, you can use the Apple Pencil to annotate documents.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Not all businesses and sole traders have the funds to splash out on accountants, although keeping everything tracked and in order is essential. Wave, a free web-based accountancy platform complete with mobile apps, has been designed for small businesses, individuals and contractors. Using it, you can track your expenses, send and manage invoices, scan receipts, get expert accounting reports and more – and it doesn’t even cost a penny. There are various apps available for different functions on iOS (and one Android app – Receipts by Wave), although note that you can’t get the Payroll app outside of the US or Canada.

Platforms: iOS

Price: Free

LinkedIn is like Marmite – you either love or hate it. However, if you’re a business owner or professional, it’s worth creating an account on the platform. Widely accepted as the world’s leading social media site for pros, it lets you connect with colleagues, clients and other relevant contacts. What’s more, it’s a great way to show off your CV and to hunt for employment prospects. LinkedIn has a website, of course, alongside mobile apps for Android and iOS.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

If you have a hundred things to do at once, then effective time management is a must. Here’s one suggestion for a good app to help you out in this cause: Clear Timer. It’s a free timer and stopwatch solution to get you through the day. You can create as many custom timers as you want running simultaneously, which is handy if you have a stack of deadlines to meet on the same day. It sports an easy-to-use interface, a variety of sounds and skins, and timers you can start, pause and reset individually.

Platforms: iOS

Price: Free

While cloud-oriented services like Google Docs are disrupting the business world, it’s hard not to give credit to stalwart Microsoft Office. The package of office essentials has been a gold standard for years. But you can now get popular programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint as mobile apps, letting you view and edit documents on a mobile device.

Platforms: Android, iOS and Windows Mobile

Price: Free (if you already have a Windows subscription already)

Sometimes it’s nice to have everything in one place. And, in terms of productivity tools, WPS Office offers just that. It’s an all-in-one app where you can create slideshows, presentations and documents. A number of well-known file formats are supported, including those from Microsoft Office. And you can get cloud support from services such as Google Drive and Dropbox.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

You’ve likely heard of MailChimp before (probably sponsoring a podcast), and if it’s something you’ve not tried yet, then you really should. It’s one of the best ways to manage complex mailing lists and create email campaigns, all for free. You can get the service on desktop, as well as mobile apps. With the Android and iOS apps, you’re able to manage your lists, add new subscribers, send campaigns you’ve drafted up on your computer, and view your reports. The service is free for up to 2,000 or fewer subscribers and 12,000 emails per month – any more than that and you’ll need to upgrade to a paid-for account.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Gmail is one of the most popular and advanced webmail services out there, and the mobile apps are great. Whether linked up to a Gmail account or a business one, you benefit from an easy-to-use app with loads of features. You can use up to five accounts at the same time, get search predictions, read emails with threaded conversations, respond to Google Calendar invites within the app, and send attachments.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

The chances are that you have several email accounts across different platforms, perhaps for a mixture of personal and business uses. If this is the case, you’ll want to download an email client so all your messages are in one place. Newton, formerly known as CloudMagic, is one to consider. Available for Android and iOS smartphones, smartwatches and tablets, it offers a variety of useful features. These include snooze, send later and undo send. The app works with Gmail, Exchange, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, iCloud, Google Apps, Office 365 and IMAP accounts. If you want to try the service out, there is a 14-day trial available.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: $49.99 (around £39.99) per year

Nowadays, with increased cybersecurity risks, it’s crucial that you use strong passwords for your personal and business accounts. But it can be a challenge creating and keeping track of multiple different passwords, particularly if they’re convoluted and obscure affairs (i.e. strong). LastPass generates secure passwords suitable for business uses and stores them at the same time, all within one app. It also boasts browser functionality, letting you fill in forms and login details automatically without having to go through a separate service like those provided in Safari or Chrome.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Getting your finances in order is probably one of the most important considerations when it comes to running a business, for obvious reasons. Expensify makes expense management easier. It captures your receipts, tracks your mileage and other outgoings, and creates complex financial reports. There’s also a function that, if you’re working in a financial department, lets you easily submit reports to your boss. The free account has certain limits – a maximum of 10 free SmartScans per month, for example – and if you want to go beyond that, then you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan from $5 a month.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

If you work in a big city and don’t have access to your own car, you no doubt use the bus, tube, or hire a taxi. But Uber will help you save time and money. The app allows you to organise an affordable ride within a few minutes, without having to make reservations or wait in a taxi line. Uber is already available in dozens of UK and US cities.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Do you own an Apple device? Then Apple Pay is a worthy business essential which makes paying for things much easier thanks to NFC technology. And with biometric login using the fingerprint scanner, you know you’re the only person who can make payments with the service. Most major banks support Apple Pay, as well as merchants. Apple has also formed partnerships with the likes of Visa, MasterCard and Amex.

Platforms: iOS

Price: Free

Genius Scan offers a handy facility that lets you create quality PDF documents by taking a photo. Free to download and use, you can generate your own PDFs through your phone’s camera. There are a plethora of options and settings to help you get the best results, including lighting and camera position. You can send your creations via SMS, email or a messaging app, and export them to services like Google Drive, Dropbox or Evernote.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

If you’re working in an international role and are constantly traveling, then you likely come into contact with a load of different languages. Duolingo will help you learn them, which should hopefully impress your overseas contacts. Taking a flashcard approach, it covers languages like Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Irish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish and English. And you can do all this for free.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Many businesspeople have to book meetings abroad regularly, and travelling isn’t cheap. But Hopper tries to take some of the financial sting out of making trips aboard, by analysing billions of flights on a daily basis to predict how prices will change, advising you whether to buy or wait a bit. The app constantly monitors the best deals and notifies the user when they should book a trip. You could save up to 40% on your next plane ticket.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

In order to maintain a productive lifestyle, you need to stay healthy, which can be achieved by getting lots of exercise and eating good food. MyFitnessPal helps you get in shape while you battle it out with a busy working and home life. It’s one of the world’s most advanced calorie and dieting apps, with a database of over 5,000,000 foods. To check an item of food or drink, you just scan it using your phone’s camera, and information is pulled from the database. It also hooks up with devices and services such as Fitbit, Apple Health, Jawbone Up, Runkeeper, MapMyFitness and Strava.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Google Chrome has been the world’s most popular web browser for a good while, so it makes a lot of sense to have it on your Android or iOS device. The mobile app is fast, easy-to-use and full of features. For starters, it syncs across all your devices, saving your web searches and bookmarks. And you can make searches using your voice, open as many tabs as you want, use Incognito mode to surf the web without your browsing history being recorded, and read web pages in any language.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Unless you’re a maths whiz, understanding and working out the most complex equations or sums can be an unpleasant experience. PhotoMath is a life-saver, letting you solve problems and produce answers just by taking a photo – it does all the hard work for you, and even shows its working step-by-step. Of course, it’s a bit of a cheat, but it’s a handy one. You now have a way to divide restaurant bills without having to work a calculator or fry your brain.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

If you’re looking for a reliable cloud storage service, Dropbox has got your back. It lets you store and send photos, docs, videos and other files from any device. You can view your files even when you’re offline, and they’re always synced to all your different devices. There’s also the ability to create and edit Microsoft Office documents from your smartphone or tablet. The app is free, although you can get in-app purchases to boost the amount of storage, for example to 1TB (or even unlimited!) should you need plenty of space.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

You can’t really beat Skype if you’re looking for a videoconferencing tool – and it’s available on both Android and iOS tablets. The app is completely free and provides you with message, voice and video call capabilities. It’s perfect for business meetings because you can add up to 25 people to group calls. As well as this, you’re able to share photos, video messages, your location and emojis within chats. There’s even an app for the Apple Watch, letting you stay up-to-date with everyone while carrying as little as possible on your person.

Platforms: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Creating a mind map is a great way to remember and bring your ideas to life, which is an important part of keeping productive. MindNode is an iOS app built for that exact purpose. Get the app up and running, and you and your colleagues will be able to jot down ideas in no time. You can make the canvas larger, so there’s always room for more doodles, and you can also add photos into the mix. Once finished, you can export your creations or save them for next time.

Platforms: iOS

Price: $9.99

      

Download of the day – Beacon

Beacon is a relaxing ‘endless runner’ game designed to help you wind down after a long day.

A white ball runs around a rotating, color-shifting möbius strip, and you can tap the space bar to make it jump. Each jump leaves a block on the strip, which you can pick up on your next lap for a speed boost.

If you accidentally run into the block rather than hopping onto or over it, you’ll be slowed down again. There’s no score or fail state to worry about though – just keep moving and jumping, and enjoy the relaxing music.

To start playing, download and extract the ZIP archive, then run the file Beacon.exe.

Download here: Beacon

Download of the Day is our pick of the best free software around – whether it’s useful, fun, or just plain silly. If you have any recommendations, please send them to downloads@techradar.com.

      

Top 8 best portable laptop battery chargers and power banks in 2017

There’s nothing worse than having your laptop run out of battery and you’re far away from a power socket. Thankfully,a new generation of portable laptop charger battery packs means that you won’t be stuck without your trusty laptop anymore.

They can even replace your original laptop charger altogether, providing you with an uninterruptible power supply wherever you happen to be.

In this article we’ve lined up the best of the bunch, highlighting the top portable laptop battery chargers and power banks you should consider purchasing.

Backed by a two-year warranty, this emergency battery for your laptop comes with 10 connectors to cover most of the notebooks on the market. With a 23Ah/85Wh capacity and a maximum power output of 90W (20V, 4.5A), it tips the scale at just under 560g which makes this device great when travelling by plane. The marketing blurb even mentions ‘anti-explosion’ batteries.

As expected, there are no USB Type-C connectors and you will need to carry its very own 40W (20V, 2A) power supply unit – with a proprietary connector – to charge it on the go.

Advances in computer component technology mean that newer laptops now need less juice to work. This is particularly true for high-end models like the latest Apple MacBook, HP Elite x2 1012 G1, the Huawei MateBook or Dell’s popular XPS 13 family.

The common point for all of them is the fact that they have a USB Type-C connector. RAVPower can deliver up to 30W (20V, 1.5A) of power which should be enough for the target products. You can recharge it using a 30W wall charger that can also be used to power compatible laptops – very handy indeed.

Here’s the perfect example of a vendor that went the extra mile to make sure that its product matches the expectations of the audience. The MaxOak has all the hallmarks of an Apple device – without bearing the logo – but with the matching brushed aluminium finish.

It has the second-highest capacity of all the battery chargers on this list, but these beefy reserves come with a big disadvantage – it has such a large capacity that at least one airline has banned it, so bear that in mind if you plan to use this peripheral to satisfy your long haul travels. It is relatively heavy at almost 1kg and will cater for most recent Apple laptops (MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and MacBook) but nothing else.

This is the only charger in this list that targets Microsoft’s popular Surface range by offering the appropriate DC output voltage (12V and 15V). It comes with a generous five ports, four of which allow you to charge other 5V devices (that includes anything from other power banks to tablets and smartphones).

Of particular interest is the support for fast-charging courtesy of Qualcomm’s Qi technology. You will be able to charge the new MacBook as well, but no traditional laptops that rely on a 19V DC output. Just be aware that its capacity, 35Ah, may get it banned on some airlines, just like the MaxOak devices above and below.

The K2 is the world’s second highest mountain and it is fitting – to some extent – that MaxOak named this battery after that lofty peak. After all, at 50Ah, this is the biggest battery on our list and one that is also the heaviest of the lot. It supports laptops up to 60W (3A, 20V) as well as fast-charging.

Note that it takes up to eight hours to charge the battery and that can only be achieved via a proprietary charger. Sadly, it doesn’t carry a USB Type-C connector – which makes it useless for newer laptops – and you won’t be able to lug it around on the plane (as with the previous two peripherals, the massive capacity here may mean it’s banned on some flights).

Sandberg’s Powerbank is neither the cheapest nor the most powerful around. However, it does come with a couple of features that make it a rather enticing option. It outputs to a number of voltages (12V, 16V, 19V and 20V), automatically choosing the right one depending on the device which is connected.

There are also two USB ports and these are obviously hardwired to output 5V on both. You get 12 different charge tips but sadly none would fit our Dell XPS 13, and they won’t be useful for USB Type-C models like the XPS 13 from 2016.

There are a couple of things that differentiate this from most of its rivals: it uses a brushed, premium aluminium finish, with bright blue LED status lights that clearly indicate the amount of juice left (or how close the battery is to being charged).

If you are looking for a versatile laptop charger, then do consider this RavPower offering. It is by far the most expensive model on our list, but this Reddot award winner carries a feature that no one has replicated till now. It has an AC output that can deliver up to 100W of power – yes, this could even power a TV if needed.

Note that you will probably need an adaptor (there’s one bundled) because the power bank can only accommodate two-prong plugs. You will be able to take it on a commercial flight, but you will not be able to recharge it via USB.

Dell sells the Power Companion with various battery capacities. It is more compact than the RAVPower models, and the unit looks like a Dell power brick that charges your laptop. When you’re at your desk, you can daisy-chain to recharge the Power Companion and your Dell laptop by connecting your Dell charging brick to the Power Companion, and then connecting it to your notebook.

Dell’s Power Companion is a far sleeker battery pack if your office relies on Dell Inspiron, Latitude, XPS or Venue laptops and tablets, with the added benefit that it has extra USB ports should you need them.

      

The best iPad Pro cases for your Apple tablet

It’s been over a year since Apple launched the iPad Pro 9.7, complementing its even-older plus-sized 12.9-inch model with a more on-the-move friendly sibling that doesn’t compromise on power.

Both of these slates are still powerfully popular, and the larger one has even been refreshed with the new iPad Pro 12.9 (2017), which handily fits the same cases as the original iPad Pro 12.9.

With that in mind we’ve created this list of the best cases – with and without keyboards – for your 9.7-inch or 12.9-inch pro-grade Apple slate.

You’ll find cases of all different styles and fit for all different budgets, most of which are available for both size iPads. The one thing they all have in common is that they’re all great.

Note: we’ve ranked these from cheapest to most expensive according to prices at time of writing. We also plan to have a selection of iPad Pro 10.5 cases enter this list in the coming weeks.

If the decision to go iPad Pro left you shorn of a few quid too many, then this tan PU leather case from Mofred is a no-brainer purchase. Its dark matt outer finish looks and feels a lot more expensive than it is, as does the tan inner microfibre lining inside.

The case neatly flips into a portrait or landscape stand with three grades of angle and the magnetic strip sleeps/wakes your iPad Pro on closing/opening. A pouch on the outside is just big enough for a few key A4 documents; Mofred even tucked in a screen protector to boot.

Overall this case is a great way to keep your premium device safe from everyday knocks and bumps without coughing up a lot more cash for the convenience.

There’s something about Incipio’s Octane Pure case that just feels fun. It has a rubbery impact-absorbing TPU bumper that’s well-molded around the ports and buttons, and it runs around a transparent plastic shell that shows off the rear of your tablet.

The flip-over cover has a suede microfiber lining that does its bit to shield the screen, and it also folds up as a dual-angle kickstand for media viewing and typing.

With a vegan leather cover suitable for those fond of our four-legged friends, the case comes in black as well as crazy blue, pink and purple candy colors.

The magnetic lock on this slim case is probably the strongest we’ve come across and handily puts the iPad Pro to sleep at a close, as all Smart Covers should. The variable-angle stand is a bit flimsy if you tend to jab your device’s screen, but users with a light touch should find it adequate.

VRS Design calls it a ‘leather case’ but it’s actually lined in PU leather, which is a split leather backing covered with a layer of polyurethane.

Whether or not that’s a minus is down to personal preference – we haven’t had it long enough to cast judgement on its durability in the long term. Otherwise the case feels soft, it’s good-looking and offers easy access to ports and buttons.

Another case that lets you show the world you’ve got great tablet taste, even if you’ve plumped for the rose gold tablet, Speck’s SmartShell Plus lets you make the most of the iPad’s looks as well as its core grunt and solid combination of work and play-friendly abilities.

Showing off your iPad’s color while keeping it safe from everyday knocks and scratches, the transparent rear sports cut-outs in all the right places, with openings for Lightning connector, speaker and camera, volume buttons, plus a gap along the side that lets you pair the case with Apple’s own Smart Keyboard.

Reinforced edges and corners keep everything safe from drops without adding unwanted bulk to your pleasingly slimline slate.

There are iPad Pro 9.7 cases, and then there is this, a bag specifically designed for your tablet. A luxurious one at that, having been crafted from genuine leather.

It has a wallet-size pocket on the outside and a classy case for your Apple Pencil, while the soft sleeve has all the right cut-outs, the sleep/wake smart function works as advertised, and the case folds over for ideal typing and viewing angles.

The inner pockets mean it’s not the slimmest case by any stretch, but it’s elegant while also providing fine protection. The shoulder strap is a welcome touch for those regularly on the move, whilst a variety of fun colors will appease those tired of the classic brown leather look.

We’ve seen Pipetto’s Origami case for a number of iOS device models and its design never fails to impress. This version for the Pro user comes in a variety of stylish colours (the royal blue is particularly striking) and feels unique, thanks to Pipetto’s use of soft PU for the outer shell and a furry suedette lining making things snuggly inside.

It’s not unlike Apple’s own Smart Cover for the iPad Pro, and even turns the device on/off when opened/closed; the difference is that the Origami has a rear flap that folds into four stand modes all of which offer an alternative viewing angle depending on your needs (typing, viewing etc). We like.

If you’ve owned a Gumdrop case before then this should be familiar territory. The Hideaway boasts the company’s classic impact resistant dual-layer silicone/polycarbonate design with reinforced corrugated rubber bumpers around the edges of the screen for uber-protection.

There’s also a built-in kickstand on the back that adjusts to viewing or typing modes.

What won’t be so familiar perhaps is the neat Apple Pencil ‘pocket’ that sits lengthways at one corner and has two holes, one to stand up the input device when you’re busy typing and another for sliding it in parallel to the case when you’re on the move. Super handy!

It’s fine to show off your inner nerd, and we don’t just mean with a fun background on your super slate. This R2-D2-inspired Casetify offering is ideal for any hardened Star Wars fan.

It’s about more than mere fun factor though. The Saffiano leather body offers a durable protective coating that’s as hardwearing as it is easy on the eye, while a reinforced plastic inlay gently hugs your tablet and keeps it safe from drops.

It’s versatile too, with four different stand positions letting you optimize your tablet’s position to your current needs, be that typing, movie watching or a nice session with your Pencil in hand.

The iPad Pro is a simply stunning bit of kit. As much as you want to protect it from the rigors of daily life then, it feels a shame to hamper its good looks by wrapping it in a mass of plastic, rubber or leather. The OtterBox Statement helps keep your prized tech possession safe and secure without cramping its sleek lines.

While the case’s slimline body is finished with black, blue or maroon genuine-leather accents, the clear polycarbonate rear panel keeps your tablet’s effortless elegance on display.

That’s not all, reinforced rubber corners help boost the case’s drop-protection credentials, while a slightly lipped front keeps that stunning, Pencil-friendly screen safe from face-down fumbles.

Waterfield’s zippered Travel Express Case is a stowaway’s dream: it can store a charging cable with plug attached, an Apple Pencil, and even a Smart Keyboard alongside your iPad Pro, all with room to spare for earbuds etc. You don’t have to worry about damaging your gear either, as soft-lined pockets keep each item safely separated.

The waxed bag is beautifully made, and with a self-locking zipper to keep things inside and an optional strap available, it’s a great solution if you’re often on the move. Sure, it’s weighty when full, but the excellent design and fit keeps bulk to a bare minimum.

If you often struggle to angle your iPad’s screen using the fixed positions of typical stand cases then Logitech has the ideal solution.

Inside the rear of this hard case is a smooth-glide hinge with a 60-degree range that sits dead centre of your iPad: just snap your device into the top fixture and bring the screen down to the desired angle and it stays put, even against the poke of heavy-handed tappers.

The hard rubberised fabric on the outside of the case feels plenty protective, with decent-sized slots for button access. It even has Smart Cover smarts, so the screen sleeps and wakes when you open/close it.

Traditional bookbindery finds another home in this handcrafted case, which features an elastic loop that holds an Apple Pencil securely when not in use. A sturdy plastic tray inside keeps your iPad in place and protects the edges when closed without hindering access to ports and buttons.

The case is described as multi-angle, but the stand can’t quite take the weight of an iPad Pro and tends to slide down into the default position (which is fine in itself). All in all, it’s a heavy old thing, but offers solid defence for your Apple device.

As much as you’d like to keep your iPad Pro’s sleek lines and metal body on show for the world to see, sometimes hardcore device-saving protection needs to come before style.

That doesn’t mean you have to completely do away with easy-on-the-eye appeal though. Griffin’s all-terrain Survivor case offers plenty of protection while letting you custom color the case to your tastes.

Despite boasting a relatively slim profile, this hardy add-on offers protection from drops up to 6.6 feet, making it ideal for the ultra-clumsy or those using their tablets in unforgiving environments. The defenses continue inside, too, with a foam-lined polycarbonate frame that’s shatter-resistant and encased in silicone.

A Touch ID-friendly built-in screen protector and plugs for all the ports finish the look, while ensuring dirt, sand and rain have no easy route in. What’s more, an included clip-on stand for hands-free use makes your iPad Pro ready for whatever nature, or you, can throw at it.

The iPad Pro is a professional bit of kit, so it’s time to treat it as such. Knomo’s Full Wrap Folio case doesn’t just give the device a business-ready full-grain leather makeover, it also boasts a couple of business card holder slots on the inside cover.

This isn’t a case just for on-the-move estate agents though. While a smooth internal microfiber lining will help prevent your tablet’s screen succumbing to scuffs and scratches, the case’s folding, lipped design means it can double as a stand.

This is perfect whether you’re looking to enjoy a relaxing video viewing session or pair your tablet with a separate Bluetooth keyboard for quicker typing.

Available in black, gold and rose gold, as a helpful finishing touch every Knomo case comes with a unique identifying code too, so, once registered, if you ever misplace your prized possession those honest folks who stumble across it can easily get it back to you. Aren’t people nice.

This is more of a sleeve than a case, so it protects your iPad Pro when you’re not using it. With that out of the way, know this: Joli design is a thing to behold. The full grain waxed leather of this made-to-order product feels and smells delightful, and twinned with the wool inner lining really looks the part.

The fit feels tight at first, but after a bit of use we found the sleeve relaxed just a little and sliding an iPad Pro in and out soon required less force. The impeccable stitching kept the device more than secure though, so we can’t fault it. It might not be cheap, but it’s the loveliest handcrafted case we’ve seen.

This slender case is cloaked in a traditional bookbinding material called Buckram, which makes a satisfying crack like the well-worn spine of an archive journal when you fold it over into the stand position.

Two sturdy ridges in the opposing soft-grip liner offer two comfy viewing angles, while the clean-release 3M adhesive holds in your iPad Pro nice and securely.

The on/off magnetic smart cover is kept closed with a Moleskine band and does a fair job of protecting the device’s edges. The outward indent of the fold is prone to wear but ends up adding to the overall vintage library book feel. A fine case indeed.

Moleskine is an iconic brand famed for making luxurious paper pads that truly stand the test of time and travel. While your iPad might have replaced those traditional paper innards, this luxurious iPad Pro case means you can still benefit from the same combination of style and hardiness.

Offering uncompromising daily protection, the black polyurethane case is finished with a soft microfiber inlay to keep your slate’s screen and sleek metal lines safe from scuffs and scratches.

Beyond ticking all the right knock and drop saving boxes, this case is about more than being a sophisticated, easy on the eye option.

As well as featuring Moleskine’s signature elastic band closing mechanism, the case doubles as a handy tablet stand and even comes with an inbuilt loop to keep your Apple Pencil from disappearing when not in use.

While Apple’s official keyboard case is impressive, it’s not perfect. Not only will its price tag give your already depleted wallet another sizeable kick in the bits, but there’s nowhere to store your Apple Pencil when not in use. Don’t worry though, that’s where Logitech’s effort comes in.

Utilizing the iPad’s Smart Connector, this keyboard case boasts backlit keys for improved after dark typing, while a special Pencil loop will keep your additional iPad accessory safe and secure.

More than just a rapid response email enabler, the case, which comes in black, blue or red, offers hearty tablet protection, both front and back, and will auto wake your iPad when opened.

While it won’t drain your tablet’s battery, only drawing power when placed in a typing position, keys assigned specifically to utilize a number of key iOS features have been slotted in, bonus.

When it comes to iPad protection, Apple, having designed the slate itself, has a solid starting point for keeping it safe. While its Smart Cover is a classic and the rear-protecting Silicone Case the best for protecting against bumps, it’s the official Smart Keyboard case that’s arguably Apple’s best iPad Pro accessory.

As well as protecting the screen from scratches when chucked in your bag, the case fits in its own physical QWERTY keyboard, transforming your powerful tablet into a true laptop replacement.

The keyboard-enhanced case isn’t just about being able to knock out email replies or last-minute work documents in double-quick fashion either. When work’s done, it can transform into a tablet stand, letting you enjoy a hands-free Netflix binge.