The Golden Age of Apps
Today’s guest blog post is written by Allison Klein, Platform Innovation Specialist, Patron Technology.
Your first introduction to the idea of an “app store” probably came via your smart phone. You likely visited the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and downloaded an app that a friend said they couldn’t live without, or you read about on a blog like Techcrunch because you wanted to boost your productivity. Or you wanted to find some new ways to entertain yourself and never thought much about the fact that you were actually taking part in a wider software platform.
Even though I was somewhat late to the smartphone game compared to many of my peers, I can’t imagine my life without one, nor without many of my favorite apps. And for the last four years or so, shopping around for apps has been a major part of my actual job, in my role as Platform Innovation Specialist on the PatronManager Product Development team. I keep tabs on the Salesforce Appexchange (http://appexchange.salesforce.com/), and evaluate whether or not the apps that are a part of that ever-growing marketplace of business apps are a good fit for our PatronManager clients. I do this by trying the apps out and imagining how they can make everyday tasks faster or easier or even more fun to do.
Over the years I have found a lot of excellent apps on the Appexchange, but more and more I have been looking beyond it — as vast as it is — because it’s not just the big software companies like Apple, Google, or Salesforce who have app stores and the development platforms that support them. I’ve noticed that even my apps have apps these days — whether it’s their own marketplace of add-on products or the ability to connect to other apps via a third-party integration tool like Zapier (https://zapier.com/) or IFTTT (https://ifttt.com/discover).
Here are some of my favorite app discoveries of late:
Trello — (https://trello.com/)
I’ve been using Trello to keep tabs of some of my work-related projects for a few years. I always admired it’s simplicity because who has time to learn how to use a tool that’s managing their always-too-long to-do list? But recently I’ve become even more of a fan when I learned that even the basic, free version of the app supports what Trello calls Power-ups. Adding a Power-Up up to your Trello board means you can you link your Trello cards to Salesforce or Google Docs or Dropbox, or, my personal favorite, view your Trello cards with due dates on a calendar without having to do any extra work.
Handwrytten — (https://www.handwrytten.com)
There’s nothing like receiving a handwritten card… even when the hand that writes it is a robotic one! Handwrytten lets organizations send out lovely greeting cards to their patrons at the holidays or for birthdays or other occasions and the best part is that instead of impersonally printed messages, you can select a handwriting style and a robot will write out the card and envelope for you. (And if you’re a PatronManager user, Handwrytten has a Salesforce integration so you can see who you’ve sent cards to write inside of your CRM system.)
Formstack — (https://www.formstack.com/)
Formstack has become my go-to recommendation for organizations that need to collect information online and want something a bit more sophisticated than a Google form. Our own PatronManager Custom App Workshop team also works extensively with Formstack to build out unique custom fee-based PatronManager add-ons that have a public-facing component.
Formstack makes it easy to build attractive forms, whether you need to collect event registration information, audition sign-ups, job applications or patron surveys. The tool has some excellent security features if you’re collecting sensitive information, which is something everyone has on their minds these days. It also happens to have over 40 integration options. I’m most intimately knowledgeable about their Salesforce integration of course — which is one of the most robust, flexible and reliable ones that I’ve seen — but I also can recommend their payment processor options, as well as the Google Calendar integration.
Google Hangouts iphone App — (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hangouts/id643496868?mt=8)
I don’t actually like using Google Hangouts on my desktop computer — I prefer the old-school G-Chat interface when I need to send a friend or colleague a quick message while I’m at my desk. But recently a friend was traveling abroad and asked me if I would consider using the Google Hangouts app to keep in touch since it was a free and easy way for us to communicate over wifi. I’m really surprised by how much I like it — especially because if I am having a conversation over G-Chat at my desk and I need to step away without abruptly ending the conversation, this app lets me take it on the go! I’m looking forward to exploring this one more in the new year!
Though it may sound corny, it seems as though we’re living in a golden age of apps! This is pretty exciting to me both as a software professional and consumer because it means that there are so many developers out there who are working on the platforms that I use every day to solve my (and your) problems and make our lives better through technology.