Venture, www.mypointnow.com, is a basic mobile app that can provide smaller contractors, including those new to using tablets and smartphones for work, with assistance in a range of daily business tasks.
The core of the app is the Customer Center, which includes all contact information for each customer, the ability to place a call from a mobile phone directly from the app, and mapping capability to easily locate each customer.
Navigating the app is straightforward. Jobs shows all open work orders; History maintains full transactional records for each customer, including site visits, work orders, or payments; Notes holds all comments entered; and Units shows all existing equipment onsite the company is servicing and the full service history.
The actions menu is where users set up or record customer transactions and is where the user can write a note, create a task, prepare a quote, work order or invoice, scan the bar code of a new equipment installation, or schedule an appointment.
The timecard feature keeps track of employees’ daily hours and reports them for payroll purposes. The app, which is fully integrated with QuickBooks Online, also offers mileage and expense tracking for every vehicle in a fleet. Also available at www.mypointnow.com: a desktop version of Venture which will run on iPads and mobile Android devices as well as on desktops and laptops.
Protective, keyboard cases for tablets
Given the convenience tablets and apps configured especially for them and the increasing popularity of cloud computing, many contractors might benefit from pairing a Bluetooth keyboard with their tablet. The easiest way to do that is to use a protective/carrying case that incorporates a Bluetooth keyboard right into it, making it easy for users to take meeting notes, maintain daily logs, create contracts, change orders, or purchase orders, generate RFIs, or work off punchlists on a full screen rather than having to use a space-consuming onscreen keyboard. There are other considerations to take into account, as well, including:
- Hard or soft case: Neoprene provides water-resistant, lightweight, soft cushioning. Hard shell cases are often made from lightweight airplane-grade aluminum or hard plastic and may include a soft interior lining.
- Level of protection against bumps, drops and splashes.
- Flexibility in the viewing angle and working position (a four-position stand offers more chance of “just right” than a two-postion stand).
- Openings that provide full access to ports, buttons, front and rear cameras, and microphone.
Among the fuller-featured keyboard cases on the market for, for example, the new iPad Air (with manufacturers generally offering similar cases for other tablets).
Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio, www.logitech.com, features a thin, lightweight solid membrane-style standard Bluetooth keyboard with full-size wipe-clean keys. The case, which offers two-sided protection of the tablet, is made from water repellant, spill resistant materials that protect the front and back of the iPad from bumps and spills, and features plastic clips on the top edges into which the iPad snaps.
There are two horizontal set-up options – almost upright for typing and almost flat for browsing. When positioning for upright use, the built-in invisible magnetic strip close to the bottom edge pulls the iPad into position and the keyboard automatically turns on and connects through Bluetooth. The keyboard offers iOS shortcut keys for copy, paste, undo and more. There’s a circular hole opening on the back for the camera, though no opening for the rear microphone. The case is easiest to use on a hard flat surface. According to Logitech, a fully charged battery should last for three months of two hours use a day (180 hours per charge). It weighs 0.9 pounds and is 0.7” thick. It is available in three color schemes, carbon black, mars red orange, and urban grey.
Also offering dual-sided protection, the Belkin QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air, www.belkin.com, is made of aircraft-grade aluminum alloy for the keyboard and plastic for the part that holds the tablet in place at the four corners. The case offers three viewing angles. The keyboard has iPad-specific shortcut keys. Three very strong neodymium magnets keep the tablet stable even on an uneven surface. The keyboard can fold flat out of the way tucked behind the iPad (with keyboard automatically turned off) for handheld tablet mode. The case, closed, is .75” thick and comes with a micro-USB charging cable. The battery offers 264 hours of active battery life and 4,300 hours of standby.
Zagg Folio Keyboard for iPad Air, www.zagg.com, taking advantage of a pivoting hinge, enables 135 degrees of viewing angle, like a laptop does. The keyboard, which integrates numerous special function keys, features optional backlighting of keys in seven different colors at three light levels. Magnetic closure activates the iPad sleep function. The case, which weighs 18.87 oz. and is just under 0.7” deep, has a textured, sure-grip finish, offers full body protection while still providing access to all buttons, ports and camera. It functions with the convenience of a notebook enabling users to keyboard while holding the case open and walking the job. The battery lasts up to three months of two hour-a-day use.
Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at [email protected]