Find out what our business travel editor has been downloading to make life easier on the road
It’s always an eye-opener to take a look at someone else’s laptop and see what they have been downloading. And I don’t just mean those dodgy video clips either. What I am talking about is the software and browser add-ons they use to make their life more productive on more interesting on the road. This is what I have on mine.
If you are constantly changing where you work – at the office, on your home PC, on your laptop or on your smartphone – making sure you are working on the latest version of a document is essential. This free beta from Microsoft (yes I did say free) lets you synchronise folders across the internet. You download a piece of software to each device that you want to be part of your mesh and then choose which folders you want to synchronise. You can then access the latest version of the files in those folders from all of the devices. You can even use Live Mesh to access the desktops of your other devices remotely, giving you access to both files and programs while you are no the road. There’s a 5GB limit on files but it is free after all.
Getting access to the web and your email wirelessly is a must-have for the business traveller. At long last, there is real competition among the companies offering international roaming on wi-fi hotspots. Until recently I used Boingo but the recent slump of the pound against the dollar have made its Boingo Global service uncompetitive for UK users. BT’s recently launched Global monthly subscription service is good but you have to sign up for 12 months. For my money, the best is Trustive’s €33 euro monthly deal, which give access to 65,000 hotspots worldwide, including those operated by The Cloud in the UK. There are versions of its MyHospotter client for Windows XP, Vista, the Macbook and the iPhone.
If you are one of the enlightened people who has ditched Internet Explorer for Mozilla’s Firefox, you’ll know all about the cool add-ons that are available. My own favourite is Foxmarks, which lets you synchronise your bookmarks and optionally your website passwords between all of the computers you use. It means that whenever you find a cool site, you can bookmark it in the knowledge that it’s not going to be lost when you move computers.
Skype has been delighting astute business travellers for the past five years, allowing them to make phone calls and, more recently, video calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world free of charge. Version 4 of the software makes calls clearer and video better. Most laptops these days have a built in webcam so why not use it to speak to the partner and kids you are missing while out on the road. On top of that, the SkypeOut and SkypeIn features let you make and receive calls to standard phones at bargain rates.
With the latest version of Microsoft Office costing more than £300 (unless you are a “student” ;)), it’s nice to know that there is a credit crunch option out there. OpenOffice, a free open-source office suite, has been around for a couple of decades and is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to its widespread rival. The suite contains five software packages: Writer for word processing, Calc spreadsheets, Impress for presentations, Draw for graphics and Base for database work. All five work together extremely well and offer a range of powerful features that you would normally have to pay for.
Google’s 3D atlas on your PC is one of the best fun things to play with in a spare hour or two between meetings. You can use it to take a birds-eye look at your own house or office but also zoom around the virtual globe and find interesting sights – mysterious buildings in the middle of deserts, bombers overflying residential areas and so on. If you get bored of Earth, there’s the the planet Mars and the rest of the Universe to explore from the same software too. But where Google Earth really comes into its own for business travellers is when you download overlays, such as fboweb’s 3D real-time flight tracking which lets you see where a chosen flight is at the moment and the path it has taken. Cool stuff.