Remember 15 years ago when you got a new desktop computer for your kitchen and bath firm? It was state-of-the-art and as fast as a cheetah. You could run a program like Quickbooks and be on the Internet at the same time.
Over the years, the power and refinement in desktop computers has been amazing. That cheetah of a machine you once had has now been relegated to a doorstop, and your new machine is a laser-guided cheetah with a jetpack attached, wearing cool sunglasses.
Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are also changing the way kitchen and bath designers work. Before smartphones, designers would do a lot of data collection in the field: Things like field measurements, customer information and pictures were things we did with pen, paper and a digital camera.
Likewise, whatever spec books, portfolios and brochures we wanted to bring with us had to fit in our bags.
This is where apps come in. As a kitchen and bath designer and proud geek, I use a ton of apps to get my job done. The more I can do on my smartphone or tablet to keep myself light and efficient, the more productive I am. This month, I’ll share a few of what I consider to be the best apps out there.
Goodreader for iPad
When I first got my iPad, after an intense Angry Birds session, I started thinking of ways I could use it at work. It has a 10" screen and weighs less than two pounds, so I thought, “If I could put my spec books in here, this would save me from having to haul them all over the place.” I have several shelves of spec books and binders, not to mention the large library of shared spec books that most places have in their showrooms. A lot of printed books come in PDF format, too.
I started going on manufacturer Web sites and found that many of my vendors had their spec books as PDFs. I downloaded as many as I could. After that, I started combing the App Store for the perfect PDF reader. After testing nearly 20 apps, I decided that Goodreader was the best.
What this app allows you to do is put all of your PDFs in one place. You can organize them into folders. You can write notes on them, email them, print them and even sign contracts right on the screen. Currently, I am up to 50 spec books. It’s a very rare occasion that I actually have to use a paper spec book anymore. There’s even a way that you can have multiple iPads synchronized to the same list of PDF files, so that everyone in your dealership can stay up to date. This one app alone has made the iPad an integral part of my workday.
If I had the power to hand out an award for the best app in the entire world, I’d give it to Evernote. This is the single best app I have ever used. Evernote works on any computer, any smartphone and any tablet. It’s a centralized place that you can store notes, pictures, voice memos, Web sites and files. You name it, you can “Evernote it.”
Let’s say you’re working on a project for a client and you’re researching some Web sites. As you find Web sites, you can clip them into a notebook in Evernote. I usually make notebooks for each job or client. After you’ve clipped a few Web sites, you leave your computer and head out to the showroom for some design inspiration, and you spot a nice piece of hardware that you think your client would like. Just pull out your smartphone, fire up Evernote, and snap a picture. You can drop that picture right into that notebook you created for that project.
Days later, you head to the site and start taking pictures, which you can save right to that same notebook. You can even share that notebook with others. This can be great for collaborating on a project. No matter what device you use, everything is automatically synced to every device.
I’m not the best at remembering to save receipts. Evernote has solved that for me. Whenever I get a receipt, I just snap a picture of it with my phone, and put it in my Evernote folder called “receipts.” Evernote remembers when, and where, I took pictures of my receipts, so I can actually look on a map to see where I got the receipt! This is great for remembering why you got gas out in the middle of nowhere last year…