Top 10 Tools for a Mobile Office - Page 2

By James A. Martin | Posted June 01, 2010

5. A Portable NeatReceipts USB Scanner

The Neat company's product line is beautifully simple. The company makes scanners and the accompanying software; that's it. The $200 NeatReceipts product includes a portable scanner and digital document organization software (compatible with Windows or Mac computers). The scanners are thin and light (weight: 10.6 ounces); offer OCR; and can handle receipts, business cards and documents. They're USB powered, too, so you won't have to pack a charger.

6. A Portable HP or PlanOn Printer

If you're staying somewhere for an extended period, you'll probably need the ability to print. The most convenient option is a portable printer. At 4.5 pounds, HP's Officejet H470 Mobile Printer (currently $200 with a $50 rebate) is hefty for travel if you're flying but not so bad if you're going by car. And this low-end model doesn't come with a battery. But it's compact, and you can use regular paper and inkjet cartridges. HP sells two similar portable printer models to business customers as well, which do include a battery and other features.

Those looking for an extremely portable printer should consider the PlanOn PrintStik line ($200 to $350, depending upon the model). The printers measure only 1 in. by 2 in. by 11 in. and weigh 16 ounces. But as Gerry Blackwell points out in his article "Top Ten Mobile Tools for Small Business", the PrintStik uses a thermal printing process, which requires special paper. Printing is slow, and the output is "far from presentation quality," Blackwell writes.

7. Online Printing Via PrinterOn

If you have only occasional printing needs while you're away, you might give PrinterOn a try. The Web-based printing service lets you send print jobs from a smartphone, laptop or any application to a variety of locations, such as hotel business centers. Prices start around 10 cents per page (black and white) and go up to 40 cents per page (color).

8. A Free eFax Account

Incredible though it may seem, some people still send faxes. And the best way to receive them is as email attachments, which you can do with a free eFax account. The freebie account, which eFax does its best to hide on its website, is fairly limited, not surprisingly. You aren't likely to get a dedicated fax number in your own area code, for instance. Still, if you just have an occasional need to receive faxes while you're on the go, or even when you aren't, a free eFax account might be all you need.

9. A Portable Keyboard and Mouse

Yes, I know. Your laptop or netbook already has a keyboard and input device. But if you plan to use your portable computer for hours at a time, you need a better ergonomic setup. (Sleeping on a bed of nails would be more comfortable than typing on a netbook all day.)

For sheer portability, Apple's sleek, compact sliver of aluminum Wireless Keyboard ($69) is ideal for travel and connects wirelessly to Macs via Bluetooth. (Sorry, it's not Windows compatible.) Logitech's stylish diNovo Edge keyboard for Windows computers (about $160 or more online) includes its own built-in navigation controls so you can forgo an external mouse, and it connects via Bluetooth. It's also rechargeable, freeing you from having to hunt for replacement batteries.

As for an external mouse, you could pack the one you use in your office. Or pick up Microsoft's USB Compact Optical Mouse 500, which is only $13 on Amazon.

10. A Checkpoint Friendly Laptop Bag

Having to remove your laptop from its bag to run the TSA gauntlet at airports can slow you down, particularly if you travel alot. A number of laptop bag makers offer checkpoint friendly versions. One that we've used and recommend is Tom Bihn's Checkpoint Flyer. At $220, it's pricey, but it's durable and thoughtfully designed.

James A. Martin is the co-author ofGetting Organized in the Google Era. He writes about SEO and helps businesses optimize their sites for search engines.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!



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