Have you ever wondered what the difference is between an app and a program?  Technically, not much. Many people use the terms interchangeably, however, there is a slight difference. 

A program is a set of instructions that are executed on a computer.  An app, short for application, is a program or collection of programs that has a user interface.  So, all apps are programs, but not all programs are apps.  

One app most people are familiar with is Microsoft Office.  Whether you use the cloud version or the installed version, it is a collection of programs that work together with a user interface, making it an app. 

The real difference though, is marketing. "App" is a much more friendly word.  It usually has a cute icon that isn't at all intimidating. In previous years, the average person was intimidated by software programs and only tech-savvy people felt comfortable installing and setting them up.  With the advent of smartphones, however, everyone has become familiar with apps, and they are very comfortable installing and uninstalling them. In fact, they install and uninstall them in huge numbers.

So what are my favorite apps? Here are five I’ve found useful.

Evernote:  I haven't found anything better for organizing my business and my life. Plus, it's free!  I love the audio notes and check lists.  I can share these with people in the office and create tasks and track projects through to completion.  I have a notebook stack that contains a notebook for each project and each notebook can be shared with the people working on that project, and files and notes can be added.  Everything is neat and orderly.  There is a paid version with more features designed specifically for businesses, too.

CardMunch:  I am terrible about keeping up my contacts lists, and this is a lifesaver.  Just take a picture of any business card and in a few minutes, you have a perfectly formatted contact.  I love it! (Now part of Evernote)

Hootsuite:  You can track all your social media in one spot. 

Expensify:  If you travel, this is perfect for tracking expenses.

Ripl:  Using Ripl, you can take your individual photos and turn them into short videos for posting.  

One question I'm frequently asked is, "Which is better, a cloud application or an installed one?"  Cloud applications, or web-based applications, amount to software as a service.  You don't install them, you just pay a monthly fee for a login, and you use them online. 

You’ll experience several pros and cons in using cloud applications. Among the pros are: 

• You never have to update them, because they are always up to date. 

• You can use them anywhere (home or work or play). 

• You can use them on Macs and PCs, smartphones and tablets. 

• They are usually much more affordable, because you pay a monthly fee rather than a large up-front payment. • Automatic backup. 

There are some cons as well in using cloud applications: 

• Some online versions are not as flexible, or customizable as installed versions. 

• If you stop paying, you can't use the software, or open your files. 

• You must have internet access.  If you don't have an internet connection, you can't use the software.  

I have some favorite cloud apps that I use in my work. Here are three. 

QuickBooks Online:  I love that I can access my accounts in real time, from home or office or even on the go.  I can invoice, receive payments, send receipts, and make notes on a client right on my phone.

Dropbox / Google Drive:  We use these regularly for sharing files. It’s much easier than emailing them, and you can keep it all organized with folders.

Google Docs:  Some of our clients don't have access to Microsoft Office, so Google Docs is a great way for them to share information with us.

Are there ever times I prefer the installed versions?  Yes!  Two examples are Office and PhotoShop.  

In my business, I almost always have an internet connection; however, if I don't, I don't want to be completely prevented from doing any work at all.  Also, the installed versions are highly customizable and I can configure them exactly the way I want them. 

Computers and the internet are so much a part of daily life, I encourage clients to try new things and explore the possibilities. There are many new, more efficient ways to do old things.  So, go forth and organize your life and your business.

Stephanie Nugent is the President of CyberSpyder Marketing Service, a local web design and internet marketing firm. In 2000, she had a dream: to use her talents to help small and medium-sized businesses claim their place on the world wide web. She and her team work hard to do just that for over 200 local businesses.

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