From tuning up your brain to enabling on-the-fly sketches and annotations, these apps will help you do your job more effectively.
Improving job performance is a pretty broad realm, but we can all use a little help. You can think of it as boosting mental function or simply finding tools that will help you do a specific task a little faster or easier. Studies have shown that memory games can boost brain function, stave off dementia, or at least make you smarter in the short term. Whether they can be believed is up for argument, but it can't hurt. On the task-specific side, doing something more efficiently makes everyone's life a little better.
In this edition of Five Apps, we look at several new iOS apps that can help you boost your job performance. Some of them are brain-builders; others are task-specific. We selected these particular task-specific ones because you can use them in a variety of jobs.
Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.
1: Adobe Sketch
Adobe Sketch (Figure A) is the first of two products on this list from Adobe. This one is a free-form sketching app, and it comes with some nice features. You can import a photo from your iPad's memory (or camera) or you can tap into the Adobe Creative Cloud, where you may have images from your CC suite of products stored for easy sharing and drawing. Adobe Sketch comes with five pens, and it includes a full color palette. It also includes a ruler tool to help draw straight lines.
Adobe Sketch is a free product. However, the Creative Cloud features are limited by your account. A free account is available, but it restricts your storage and some other functionality. Having an app on your iPad to quickly sketch a drawing during a meeting can be the difference between getting a project approved or denied or making a deal or losing it.
In many ways, learning a language can help boost your brain function, just like learning nearly anything else. It has been said that learning a language gets more difficult the older you get, so having a useful tool for learning languages is essential. Babbel (Figure B) can be that tool. Simply start the app and click on a proficiency level to begin learning one of a dozen languages (other than your reference language) using game-like activities to help master words and phrases. The initial couple of levels are free; after that, you can subscribe and pay by the month.
Brainbean (Figure C) is a memory game app that offers four free games to boost your brain function. The first game, Letter List, asks you to come up with as many words as you can that start with a given letter. The second gives you an incomplete drawing and asks you to complete it using your imagination. The third is a word scramble, where you come up with as many four-letter words as you can from the given letter tiles. The final free game gives you six tiles containing pipe segments and asks you rearrange them to complete the pipelines terminating at the edges. So as you can see, these games trigger memory recall, imagination, and pattern recognition. There are four additional games for $0.99 each (or the whole set for $2.99): Remote Association, Pattern Tiles, Mosaic Drawing, and Block Builder.
4: Photoshop Mix
Another Adobe Creative Cloud product, Photoshop Mix (Figure D) is a simpler version of Adobe's flagship product. Within Photoshop Mix, you can do simple image editing tasks, such as image mixing, cut-outs, enhancing, effects, and crops. You can also harness the Creative Cloud to do some advanced image edits, including shake reduction and content-aware fills.
Like Adobe Sketch, this product can work with your local iPad images as well as those in Creative Cloud, but it also connects to Lightroom and Facebook. Also like Adobe Sketch, Photoshop Mix is a free product, but the Creative Cloud features are limited by your account. Being able to show and/or edit images on the fly can be very useful, and with the power this product brings, along with the Creative Cloud, your iPad can't do much better.
Skitch (Figure E) is another sketching app, but it is set up more for annotating than free-form drawing. You can tap into your local photos or camera, pull up an Apple Map for a specific area or address, or annotate a web page or PDF file quite easily. The blank drawing board limits you to the same annotation tools, so free form is not really doable. Unfortunately, the PDF markup feature is an additional $1.99. Skitch can also connect to Evernote Premium for $4.99. Otherwise, the app is completely free. Like Adobe Sketch, having an app that lets you draw and annotate in a meeting makes communication much easier.
What new iOS apps have helped you in your job? Share your ideas with everyone in the comments section below.