One of the things I love about a freelance career is being able to up sticks from my home office and go to a local café, bar or library to work in a different environment. It can prove extremely productive and as they say, a change is as good as a rest. I’ve even used the boot of my MPV as a makeshift office!
While I generally have my Windows 8 Acer Iconia W7 series tablet with me in such situations, there are of course times when I’ve been caught out. Equipped with just a Windows Phone I’ve found myself publishing to websites, writing proposals and editing resumes, making notes, recording videos, taking phone calls and even interviewing people – all with my Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone.
I won’t pretend that using any smartphone is preferable to having the preferred office environment and computer, but it strikes me that as unfashionable Windows Phone is app-centric quarters, I’ve managed to do an awful lot with this phone.
Word Processing & Spreadsheets
Perhaps the obvious place to start is Windows Phone’s mobile office solution, called – unsurprisingly – Microsoft Office Mobile. Comprising Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, this is a cloud-synced collection of familiar apps, stripped down for use on a Windows Phone.
These apps launch quickly, making them extremely useful for fast note taking and fact checking, particularly while on a phone call.
Additionally, the Windows Phone keyboard is, in my humble opinion (and I have an iPad, an Android Ice Cream Sandwich phone and a Windows 8 tablet before me as I type this), the fastest and easiest to use touchscreen keyboard with excellent text prediction and spellchecking. Indeed, the keyboard proves a boon across all apps.
Mobile Working with Windows Phone – Microsoft Office Mobile 2013 covers these native apps in more depth, and will illustrate just how useful I have found them.
Phone Calls & Multitasking
I won’t lie: most of the phone calls I receive are from people trying to sell me stuff I don’t need (mobile contracts, PPI claims, carbon credits) and Windows Phone doesn’t at this stage have a call blocking or personal assistant app that can filter out the rubbish.
On this subject, however, there are a couple of useful tools such as ignoring calls by place the device face-down.
Often when I’m working away from my home office, I use my hands-free headset and this proves extremely useful for checking notes and documents and other resources while on a call. A quick tap of the Start button, a couple of swipes and a moment later I have the data I need – and the phone call screen can be resumed by tapping the red bar across the top of the display. It’s pretty effortless, and saves much messing about.
What would be good is a working call recorder app. There are a couple of the Windows Phone Store that claim to fulfill this task, but neither has worked for me so far. This isn’t unusual – across half a dozen Windows Mobile, Android and Windows Phone handsets since 2004, only one of my handsets has managed to record phone calls.
There is also the benefit of the Skype app, of course, although overuse of this can result in a quickly decreasing battery charge – not ideal when you’re collaborating remotely in Pret a Manger!
Taking Notes Quickly With OneNote
Is Microsoft OneNote the most under-rated app in the world? It’s certainly not as popular as Evernote but I would certainly argue in its favour. One of Microsoft’s truly useful applications, I often find myself running it in favour of Word for developing ideas, taking notes and even actual writing on my phone.
I have a shortcut tile for OneNote – I don’t have one for Word – so this should give you an idea of how often it is opened on my Windows Phone.
The beauty of this app isn’t just the note taking, the photo embedding and the syncing (which enables me to instantly open and continue with the same set of notes on any PC or even on another mobile device) but the fact that it also includes an audio notes recorder that embeds the recording and uploads it to SkyDrive. No more lost notes!
Emailing On The Go!
Naturally I spend quite a lot of time emailing – in fact, this was my primary requirement when I got my first PDA back in 2004 when I was first starting out as a freelancer.
The Windows Phone email client might seem a little clunky at first, but this is due to the default options. Once multiple mailboxes have been combined and the live tile shortcut added to the Start screen, emailing becomes far slicker, and if you’re not able to type (perhaps wearing gloves, although my Nokia Lumia 920 will respond to a gloved hand) you can use the voice-to-text feature to compose messages.
There is also the adjunct Calendar app which is perfectly good for adding new appointments that are then synced to my tablet PC (and my iPad) through my Windows account.
Perhaps the only drawback with emailing from Windows Phone is the lack of hypertext support in signatures, but I can live with that!
Blogging With WordPress
A must have app for any blogger using Windows Phone, this version of the app has come along since it was first released for Windows Phone 7.
Capable of handling multiple blogs, hosted and self-hosted (as well as offering a tool to start a new blog at WordPress.com) this app has full spellchecker keyboard support, the ability to add tags and set categories, upload images (saved or newly snapped with your camera) and also supports push notifications to inform you when new comments have been left on you blog (although if you prefer to bulk moderate this is an option best left unset!).
Email aside, WordPress for Windows Phone is probably my most-used app when mobile working.
News Collection With Windows Phone
Whether I’m researching material for articles on MakeUseOf or for my own blogs, I use several different tools to find links of interest and share them.
Weave News Reader is a good example, pulling together top content from a range of good websites based on topic with excellent sharing options.
I also use the Rowi Twitter app to keep on top of multiple accounts and Facebook too, where many of my contacts share links of interest.
All of these tools offer sharing options either natively or via the native Internet Explorer browser, which makes emailing them to myself easy. On some occasions I might copy and paste URLs into OneNote, but what is missing which I would like to see added is the ability to share to other, non-native apps – such as WordPress. That would be a huge time saver!
My Windows Phone Is a Mobile Office
Over the months since picking up my second Windows Phone I have written large swathes of content for MakeUseOf, spoken to interesting people and minor celebrities for interviews and posted vital updates to my WordPress blog.
My email accounts have pulsated with important freelancing projects, my Twitter feed has provided me with vital news updates and Microsoft Office Mobile has proved invaluable as a tool for writing and outlining new articles as well as syncing my work to the SkyDrive cloud.
All in all, my Windows Phone has proved to be a vital component of my freelancing arsenal, offering useful apps and features that fill the void when I don’t have my main computer to hand.
It isn’t perfect in this regard, and there is plenty of room for improvement, but this hasn’t stopped me from achieving the vast majority of what is needed from mobile working with my Windows Phone.