Spreadsheets are powerful tools, ones that used to require installing a full Office suite on your computer. Today, they're a commodity, with free spreadsheet tools on almost every platform.
The original spreadsheet app that most of us started out with—Excel—is still one of the best, though. It includes more functions and tools than most other spreadsheet apps, and its wide range of add-ons make it an incredibly powerful tool.
And now, it's free too. Excel Online is slimmed down version of Excel that runs in your browser, yet still includes the core features you need to crunch numbers. It supports 468 functions—all but 3 of the functions included in Excel 2016 for Windows—along with charts, formatting tools, and more. And, with add-ons, you can even add extra features to make it closer to desktop Excel.
If you've never used Excel before, or just are curious about what the web app version offers, here's the guide to Excel Online you need. It walks you through every feature included, so you can make spreadsheets, surveys, reports, and more right from your browser for the low price of free.
Perhaps it sounds silly, but one of the (many) reasons I switched to the Mac was that Preview is such a great PDF reader and editor. It lets you rearrange pages, merge PDF files, add annotations, and even sign them with your real signature. What more could you want?
Well, real editing for one. Annotations only get you so far—if things really need changed, you'll still need a real PDF editor like Adobe Acrobat.
No problem. I had a copy of Adobe CS5 from university, later upgraded to CS6. The included copy of Acrobat did what I needed.
I didn't have the most extensive PDF editor needs. For the most part, all I needed to do was:
Create PDFs, something built into every Mac app.
Merge PDFs, especially to add a new cover. Preview does that perfectly.
Add links to a PDF, especially to images in a PDF, to make them work like online buttons so you could have a button image and readers could click it in the PDF to open the link. That needed Acrobat or another PDF editor.
Reducing the size of a PDF, since many apps make quite oversized PDF files. Acrobat actually does quite a good job at shrinking those down.
Occasionally editing the actual text in the PDF—which again required a full editor.
Acrobat did the job, but it never made it fun. Even though Photoshop CS6 included retina graphics, Acrobat X never got the update which means your PDFs and the toolbars in Acrobat itself look pixelated on modern Macs. Yes, you could upgrade to Acrobat Pro DC, but it costs either $14.99/month or requires a full $49.99/month Adobe CC subscription. That's far more than someone who needs occasionally edit text and add links to PDF documents should need to spend.
So, I kept using my Acrobat X. It worked. I'd open a PDF, tap the Tools button to open the sidebar, then select Link. That'd turn my cursor into crosshairs that could select anywhere on the page—and then would open a dialog where I could choose the link style and click Next to actually paste in the link. Adding a link took 5 clicks, at least, and adding the next link would still take at least 2 more clicks.
Last year, Readdle software brought their PDF Expert app to the Mac after years of it being popular on iPad. The first version was basic—it was only a PDF reader with annotation features, something Preview already does well. Yes, it was faster ... but I didn't use PDFs enough to make the switch.
This year's version 2 of PDF Expert, though, changes that. It's still a fast PDF reader, one with tabs to keep multiple documents open at once, a Page Thumbnails view that lets you quickly scroll through the whole PDF document at once (similar to the new Kindle Pageflip view), and annotation features to markup PDFs, add text and notes, and sign documents right from your Mac's trackpad.
Along with that, version 2 includes editing features. Not every editing feature Acrobat includes, mind you, but enough to cover exactly what I'd need from a PDF editor.
Just tap the Edit button on the top right, and toolbar will show 4 tools: Text, Image, Link, and Redact.
Redact is the simplest; you can select text in a PDF to add a FBI-style black redaction or simply delete the text entirely. It works with find-and-replace to redact all mentions of the text you want, too.
Link does what you expect: let you add links to a PDF. Your mouse will turn to a text selection cursor or crosshairs when hovering over an image, and you can add a link—to a website or to any part of the PDF—to any text or section of an image.
Image lets you add images or edit existing ones in a PDF. You can replace an existing image, export it, edit it in another app (and have the changes saved back to this PDF), or rotate and crop it right inside the document.
Text lets you either add a new text section—something you could already do with the annotation tools—or select and edit existing text inside a PDF. You can select the typeface, style, size, alignment, and color of the text—which will match the PDF's existing style by default. If your PDF includes a typeface your computer doesn't have installed, though, the edited text block will use Times New Roman instead of that font if you added any extra characters (Acrobat, on the other hand, simply doesn't let you edit the text if you don't have the font installed).
Outline is a bonus feature not included in the menu. Just right-click on any section of your PDF, and select Add Outline Item to fill out your PDF's outline and make it easy for readers to jump to the section they want.
The link tool does exactly what I needed—and in only 3 clicks, without any annoying popover dialogs. Best of all, PDF Expert remembers what tool you were using last, and opens it automatically when you re-open the app. That makes it even quicker to add the links to a PDF.
And, it's fast. Even with a handful of PDFs open, it quickly renders thumbnails and displays everything with the crispness you'd expect from a modern retina app. It somehow feels a bit more like Preview would if Apple redesigned it today.
PDF Expert doesn't include every possible PDF editing feature. Perhaps the most glaring omissions today are a lack of OCR features to recognize text in scanned PDF documents (something the team has mentioned on Twitter they'd like to add) and tools to shrink a PDF's file size (a reason I'll need to keep Acrobat around for the time being). It also cannot make PDFs.
If you need a tool for that, PDFpen Pro at $129.99 is PDF Expert's closest competitor. It's a native Mac app from the team that makes Text Expander, and includes all of those features including a tool to make PDF forms in its Pro version (or, you can pay $74.99 for a tool closer to PDF Expert, with the addition of OCR features).
But for basic edits—and especially for viewing and annotating PDFs—PDF Expert for Mac is a great tool. It's fast, beautiful, and at $59 is a third of Acrobat's annual price and 50% cheaper than PDFpen's cheaper version, is one of the most cost effective ways to edit PDFs if you don't need every possible PDF editing feature.
Spreadsheets are essential and hidden, relied on and unloved. They're the unseen tool behind a surprising number of business processes, blamed for financial crises and praised for making number crunching and statical analysis available to everyone.
They're the original killer app, the main reason so many bought their first personal computer. And today, spreadsheets can run on the phone in your pocket or in your browser, for free, and they're still as handy as ever for crunching numbers.
Google Sheets especially so. As an online spreadsheet, you can gather data from websites and pull it right into your spreadsheet, link it with forms, and write scripts to send emails and more right from your spreadsheet. It's a powerful tool, enough that we've written an entire book about it at Zapier.
I'm running out of words about spreadsheets because I've used them all in the book. So stop reading this, and go grab a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Google Sheets. It just might make you fall in love with spreadsheets—or finally kick your Excel habit and switch to the Google Apps side.
Switching to Google Apps isn't so hard if you just need the basic, built-in features. But what if you need more advanced tools—perhaps a specific Excel add-on for a class, or a way to analyze your data with machine learning?
Turns out, Google Sheets is powerful enough for that, too. There's add-ons to quickly format your spreadsheet, pull in research, and crunch numbers with industry standard tools like Risk Soulver.
Backing up your computer was never easy, but at least back in the day all your data was on one computer. A few ZIP disks, CDs, or DVDs later, and you had a complete extra copy of all your documents, photos, and other files. External hard drives made it even quicker.
Then, all your files started moving to the cloud, and your phone became your primary computer, and complete backups suddenly became nearly impossible to make.
Nearly, but not entirely. You can still back up every picture, status update, playlist, document, and more from all your apps and devices today.
Your great idea could turn into something amazing, but it'll take a lot of work to get there. Ideas come out of thin air—real things take blood, sweat, toil, and tears.
And management. Lots of management.
It's easy to think your great idea can lead you to success on its own. But more often than not, you'll need a detailed plan to take turn that idea into reality. That's where project management comes in.
Project management isn't just a category of apps. It's an entire universe of ideas and strategies to break your project down into achievable steps, put them into a workflow to ensure they'll be consistently completed well, and set a timeframe to get everything finished.
You'll need a project management system, and tools to help you follow that system. And you'll likely need some advice from those who've managed projects before.
Zapier's latest book has that and more. In The Ultimate Guide to Project Management, you'll learn about the best project management systems, software, and strategies to make your next project a success. It's the first thing you should read before taking on your next project.
Spreadsheets are the original killer app for PCs ... and they're still one of the most used business apps today. But they're not just number-crunching tools. With any spreadsheet—and especially Google Sheets—you can re-format text, translate it, pull in data from online sources automatically, create complex HTML tables in seconds, and much more.
Looking for a tool to help manage your projects? After breaking down the best project management strategies, the past few months I've been testing and reviewing dozens of project management apps.
I came into the project with a few favorite project management apps—including Trello, Basecamp, and Flow—and came away with a number of new favorites, including Projectplace, Runrun.it, and more. Simple, focused tools are awesome—but I fell in love with a number of apps that include hybrid views, perhaps merging Gantt and kanban for a way to manage workflow and deadlines together.
The thing that's important about a project management app is how it helps you setup a workflow for your tasks, something beyond just checking off to-dos. And so, as I tested apps, I watched for great workflow tools, and selected the apps that do that best. It's fascinating how each app in such a crowded category can still be unique, with its own take on how to manage your projects.
So, without further ado, here's Zapier's roundup of the 50 Best Project Management Apps. It's massive, with over 10k words and thousands more in linked in-depth reviews. And, it even includes a cheat sheet and reference spreadsheet where you can sort through 20 top features to find the app with just the features you need.
If you're looking for a new tool to manage your projects—or just want to see what the best PM apps offer today—it's the roundup for you.