Mobility

Five handy PC apps for road warriors

Your trips will go more smoothly if you take advantage of a few specialized tools for travelers.

I travel almost constantly, so I'm always on the lookout for applications that make life on the road easier. Here are five PC applications I've found useful that may help you when you travel.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: NeatReceipts

One of the chores that go hand in hand with business travel is expense reporting. Whether you need to file an expense report for the sake of reimbursement or you need to save receipts for tax time, managing travel receipts can be surprisingly difficult.

NeatReceipts (Figure A) solves this problem by allowing you to scan receipts into a proprietary database using a portable scanner. The software is designed to allow for the scanning of receipts, business cards, and documents. When you scan an item, NeatReceipts uses OCR to extract information from it and saves that information in a searchable format alongside an image of the item you scanned. NeatReceipts can also create PDF files of scanned items.

Figure A

NeatReceipts

NeatReceipts

Having used the current version of the software on a regular basis during my own travels, I've found only one bug that was problematic. Multi-page documents or receipts must be scanned as individual pages and then combined, but the combine function tends to place the pages in a random order. It can be challenging to get the pages lined up in the proper order.

2: Streets & Trips

Another application I use constantly when I travel is Microsoft Streets & Trips (Figure B). Streets & Trips is a mapping software suite that can be invaluable for trip planning. It can provide you with directions to a destination and includes a database of countless points of interest. You can also use it in conjunction with a GPS receiver to receive real-time turn-by-turn guidance.

Figure B

Streets & Trips

I will be the first to admit that most cell phones do a lot of the same things that Streets & Trips does. But when I am planning a trip, I prefer to view the information I need on a full-size computer monitor rather than trying to work through the process on my cell phone.

3: Skype

Cell phones often work well for staying in touch on short trips, but for longer trips, video conferencing can make the road a little bit less lonely. That's where Skype (Figure C) comes in. There are several Skype rate plans to choose from, but even the free plan allows for one-to-one voice and/or video calls between Skype users. The paid Skype plans offer additional services, such as the ability to place a call to a telephone, SMS messaging, group conferencing, and even the ability to call your Facebook friends.

Figure C

Skype

4: Flight4all

Anyone who has done much traveling within Europe knows that airfare between European destinations can be expensive. Flight4all (Figure D) is an application that checks the rates of all the discount airlines that operate within Europe.

Figure D

Flight4all

The utility includes a wizard that steps you through the process of selecting a departure and arrival airport and a set of travel dates. But if you prefer, you can use the planner instead. You can base your search on the number of days you want to be gone, the days of the week you want to travel on, or on a set of firm travel dates.

5: Hotspot Selector

Nobody wants to be without Internet access when they're traveling, but sometimes it can be tough to find wireless hotspots if you are in an unfamiliar place. Hotspot Selector (Figure E) is a utility that allows laptop users to search for wireless hotspots anywhere in the world. The software offers a basic search interface that lets you search for hotspots by site name, street name, town, postal code, or country. An advanced search interface lets you do a search based on things like connection types, operators, and distance.

Figure E

Hotspot Selector

Additional reading

About

Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.

2 comments
ScaryMonster
ScaryMonster

To each their own, but in my preference in order of priority: 1. Worldmate is essential. If you haven't tried it, you have got to. 2. MyAssist is excellent. Like having a personal assistant. Exceptionally useful when you can't find a hotspot or if data charges or prohibitive. 3. Google Maps/Navigation -- the nav is better than the ones I have seen in most cars (includes voice instructions) 4. Skype 5. Neat Reciepts

maj37
maj37

I guess you are assuming you don't have any wi-fi access when you try to do your maps otherwise why would you prefer an installed application to a web mapping site. Unless of course the software if free and you don't have to try to look around the ads.