I bought my first PDA in the early 1990s. It was the Palm Pilot. While its features were somewhat limited, I found it to be invaluable to my practice. It offered me an on-the-spot means of finding a contact, checking my calendar, taking a note, or performing a quick conflict check. Over the past 20 years the PDA evolved into what we now refer to as the smartphone, which provides an all-in-one communication tool that also fits in the palm of your hand.
My most recent upgrade was to the BlackBerry Torch, which capitalizes on BlackBerry’s historical strength by including a keyboard, a proper touch screen, a GPS, and an upgraded five-megapixel camera (still and video). The Torch comes preloaded with a number of standard applications; however, the device isn’t limited to these apps only. There are a number of other useful ones that can be obtained online often for free or a very nominal cost.
Some of the apps I have found while surfing these sites which might be of particular use to those in the profession include the following:
• Beiks Bouvier’s Law Dictionary. This legal dictionary sells for about US$19.95.
• BigHand. This app allows you to record, edit, and (with the premium edition) send voice files or tasks to office-based support. The basic version of this app is free.
• BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express. This program allows you to wirelessly stay in sync with your e-mail, calendar, and more. This program works with Microsoft Exchange, Windows Small Business Server, and IBM Lotus Domino. It’s free.
• Black’s for BlackBerry. This puts the power of Black’s Law Dictionary at your fingertips. It costs approximately US$50.
• BuddyGuard. This app allows you to remotely access and control your BlackBerry using commands sent by SMS or e-mail messages. With BuddyGuard Free you can lock your BlackBerry or play a tone to help you find a misplaced device.
• Business Card Reader. This app allows you to import contact information from business cards directly into your BlackBerry contacts simply by taking a photo of the card. It sells for US$9.99.
• The Canadian Press Mobile. This app gives you the convenience of viewing, saving, sharing, and rating stories, photos and soon video, based on your choice of postal codes and topics. It sells for US$2.99.
• Canadian Business Search. This app allows you to speak your search for nearby businesses. It’s free.
• Canadian Mortgage Calculator. This app helps you estimate the biweekly or monthly payments for a mortgage. It sells for 99 cents.
• Canadian Yellow Pages Business Finder and Canada 411 People Finder. Now you can have Yellow Pages and the 411 People finder at your fingertips — for free.
• DataBackup Free beta. Allows you to backup your device data to the device SD Card. As the name suggests, it’s free.
• Documents to Go. Some of the latest versions of BlackBerry come with a free version of this program, which allows you to view and edit Microsoft Office formats. The premium version of this program costs nearly US$70 and includes a PDF viewer.
• Dragon for E-mail. This free program is an easy-to-use e-mail dictation application powered by Dragon NaturallySpeaking that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your e-mails by simply dictating directly within the BlackBerry e-mail.
• Facebook. Allows you to sync your device with your Facebook account. It’s free.
• Google TalkTM for BlackBerry smartphones allows you to chat in virtual real time with your instant messaging IM contacts when and where you want to not just when you’re in front of your computer. It has many of the same features you already use with Google Talk on your desktop. It’s free.
• Garmin Mobile. This app works with your device’s GPS and provides spoken turn-by-turn directions to millions of destinations. It also provides you with up-to-date weather information. There is a one-time purchase cost of $99.00 for the lifetime of your BlackBerry device.
• The Globe & Mail. Allows you to have access to the Globe. It’s free
• Google Maps. This free program offers much of what you get with the desktop version, including satellite views, turn by turn directions, and local business searching. It also adds a GPS enabled, location-based search component for use with your BlackBerry.
• MyFax. This free App lets you send and receive fax with your BlackBerry.
• Quick Pull. This free app offers the same functionality as pulling your battery to reset your device. It can also be scheduled to do so at pre-determined times.
• QR Code Scanner Pro. Turns your phone into a QR Code Scanner. It’s free
• Remote Print. This app allows you to wirelessly print from your device. It also lets you print from your device wirelessly to your PC. Cost is US$4.99.
• RDM+ Remote Desktop for Mobiles. This app allows you to remotely access your desktop via your BlackBerry. With this program, you do many of the things you would normally do sitting in front of your computer. It sells for US$39.99.
• SpeechExec for BlackBerry. This Philips app allows you to use your BlackBerry as a dictation device. Once your recording is finished, you transmit the dictation to your company’s dictation server via e-mail, FTP/S or HTTP/S. After transcription, the transcribed document can be sent back to your BlackBerry by e-mail. The last time I checked, this product wasn’t yet available for the Torch. As for pricing, that wasn’t readily available either. There is also a free version of this program but it does not allow you to transmit your dictation over the web but instead saves the dictation to the BlackBerry’s memory card for synchronization back at the office.
• Trafficnet — Traffic Canada. Get traffic updates including collisions, construction, road closures, events, traffic flow and volume information, border delays, and highway traffic cameras. It’s free.
• Twitter. Allows you to tweet right from your BlackBerry. It’s free.
• Vlingo. Allows you to you use voice recognition to control your device. It’s free.
• WeatherBug. This app lets you stay informed with live local weather, severe weather alerts, including in-depth forecasts, camera views, detailed radar maps, and international weather. It’s free.
• Wi Fi File Transfer. Transfer files directly between your BlackBerry and your PC or Mac on the same Wi-Fi Network. It sells for US$4.99.
Many of these applications can be downloaded from either BlackBerry’s official app store, BlackBerry’s App World, or crackberry.com. If you are looking for a particular app and it’s not there, keep checking. New apps are being added all the time.