Specialty Android apps for business users

An Android smartphone can do a lot more than play games and surf the Web. InfoWorld presents the apps that serious Fandroids should know about

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Mind-mapping and whiteboarding
Need to do some mind-mapping on the go? Check out Kinesthetic's €2 Thinking Space Pro. The app gives you everything you need to create visual maps for your thoughts and plans. It integrates with several desktop-based mind-mapping programs, including Freemind, Xmind, and MindManager. Plus, it lets you embed live hyperlinks in your maps and create both folders and tags; there's also a free, ad-supported version.

When it comes to whiteboarding, the aptly named Whiteboard app from Matt M is as simple as it gets. The free utility gives you a blank surface on which you can sketch out ideas, using your finger as the marker. Whiteboard includes a home screen widget and several options for customization.

For a collaborative whiteboarding experience, grab Group Technologies' Groupboard. The free version of the app allows you to share your whiteboarding space with up to five other users, who can be connected via the Android app, its iOS counterpart, or the Groupboard.com website. To share with more than 5 users, Group Technologies offers a 15-user license for $10 a month and a 50-user license for $20 a month.

Thanks to Android's tight integration with Google Voice, on-the-go conference calls are a cinch. Just set up a free Google Voice account and download the free Google Voice app to your smartphone. Then, whenever you need to initiate a conference call, ask the call participants to dial in to your Google Voice number. As each new call comes in, the system will give you an option to conference it with the other calls. (Note: The Call Screening option in your Google Voice settings needs to be enabled for this conferencing option to work.)

You can join Web-based conferences held via Cisco WebEx or Fuze Meeting by downloading the official app for either service. Both apps are free, though you'll need to have an account with the service to use its application.

File management and printing
Unlike iOS, Android makes it possible to use your smartphone as a hard drive and freely browse its file system. You can always connect your smartphone to your PC via a USB cable to do this from your desktop, but for mobile-based file management, you'll need an app like Metago's $4 Astro Pro. Astro Pro lets you navigate through your smartphone's internal and external storage, moving, copying, and sharing files with a couple of quick taps. (There's also a free, ad-supported version.)

Google's free Google Cloud Print tool lets you connect your office printer to the cloud using your networked PC as a waystation, then wirelessly print emails and documents straight from your smartphone. Cloud Print works only with Windows-based PCs, though Google says Mac and Linux support will become available.

Cloud storage and FTP
For cloud-based storage and easy PC-to-smartphone (and smartphone-to-PC) file transfers, try Dropbox or Box.net. Both give you a free account for storing your stuff -- Dropbox offers 2GB of storage for free, while Box.net provides 5GB -- and both include a simple Android app that lets you access stored files from your smartphone. Each app provides the ability to upload and download files throughout the operating system. You can configure uploaded files to be private or shared with selected users.

Lysesoft's AndFTP is a free app for making FTP connections from your Android smartphone. It provides all the basic FTP functions: uploading, downloading, opening files, renaming files, changing permissions, and so on.

To turn your smartphone itself into a functioning FTP server, install Dave Revell's SwiFTP FTP Server. The free utility assigns you a working URL that can be reached over Wi-Fi from any PC-based FTP client, allowing you to wirelessly access your smartphone's file system to manage and transfer files. But note that Revell, a graduate student, says he can't afford to keep the SwiFTP servers running and is looking for someone to take over both the servers and the app's code.

Prefer a more graphical interface? Check out NextApp's $3 WebSharing File/Media Sync. The program provides you with a URL that, when typed into your PC's browser, brings up a Windows-like visual directory of your smartphone's storage. You can transfer files individually or in bulk, stream music from your smartphone to your computer, and view and play stored photos and videos. There's also a free version that includes only the basic file-transferring functionality.

Remote access
Both SoftwareForMe's $10 PhoneMyPC and LogMeIn's $30 LogMeIn Ignition provide full remote access to a PC from your Android smartphone, allowing you to control your computer, run programs, and manipulate files as if you were sitting in front of your monitor.

If you're using Citrix-enabled servers, look for Citrix Systems' free Citrix Receiver application. It lets you sign in to your system from your smartphone and access all of your programs and documents.

For remote monitoring of server status, try bSoft's bMonitor Server Monitor or Sebastian Serafin's Server Monitor. Both are free.

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