best apps for small business

The best apps for small business are easy to use, lightweight, and affordable. I love trying new apps that make me more productive and Bear is one of my new favorites.

I heard about it several weeks ago. It’s similar in some ways to one of my perennial favorites, Evernote. Bear is both a writing app and an app to store and collect information you find online. It’s great if you’re researching a topic or collecting information for a project.

It’s lighter and faster than Evernote, but, in fairness, without as many features. I’ve been an Evernote user since about 2006, but have grown tired of paying $72/year for my premium version, so I’m looking for a replacement. I’m not sure Bear will replace Evernote completly, but it’s pretty nice and is already my go-to app for writing blog posts (like this one).

For starters, there’s a free version and even the Pro version is reasonably priced at $14.99/year or $1.49/month, which is a huge savings over Evernote. The interface is clean and uncluttered, which that matters to me as I tend to get distracted easily.

There are versions for iPhone, iPad, and Mac and the app itself is free. If you want to sync your content between devices, change the theme of the interface, and/or need export options beyond what’s offered in the free version, you’ll have to go Pro. Sorry, no Windows or Android.

Getting Started with Bear on Mac

Download the app from the Mac App Atore. When you open the app you’ll see some sample notes already added. Play around with those and edit, delete, add to them to get the idea of how Bear works.

Next you’ll want to add the browser extension, so you can easily add content you find online to Bear. Go to Browser extensions and install the extension for your browser. Then, when you find something you’d like to save, click the Bear logo and it will automatically add the page. To tag the note, click anywhere in the note and add the desired tag as a hashtag.

Bear app
The Bear browser extension will let you add any page you like to the app. Click anywhere in the note to tag it.

Once you add a tag to a note, that tag will appear in the sidebar on the left. When you click the tag, all notes with that tag will come up. You can change the icon for each tag. Control+click the tag, and a context-sensitive menu will pop up. You’ll choose the icon you’d like to use for that tag from the dialog box that appears.

Tags are listed in the left sidebar toward the bottom. Once I tag any note with any of these, they appear in the sidebar. Then I just have to click the tag to see all notes tagged with that term.

Organize With Bear

Say you’re planning a trip and you want to keep everything together. You can save articles into Bear, tag them and keep everything together. Then you click on the tag and you’ll see your notes on the topic.

As spring approaches in the American South, I’m preparing to plant tomatoes. It’s been a few years since I grew them, so I’m doing a little online research on supplies, and what I need to do to get ready and have a successful harvest.

As I’m online, I’ve saved pages with products I might be interested in or articles with growing advice. As I captured the articles, I tagged them #gardening. Now I’ve got them all together where I can easily find them and go from one to the next.

Notice my #gardening tag at the top of the note and the list of notes tagged with #gardening.
Here I’ve saved a product page — something I may need to order for my garden.

This could be invaluable for organizing bills, receipts, invoices, and myriad other documents a small business might need to keep up with. Then at year’s end, you could archive them or export to keep backup copies.

I keep PDFs that I download and want to read later, tagged with “read,” so when I have a moment I can do some reading.


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Write With Bear

Writing with Bear is a joy. It’s fast and easy and you can format as you go along, or not. You can choose to add H1 – H6 headers, ordered (numbered) or unordered (bullet) lists and insert links, files, and images.

In the top right corner there’s an “i” icon that shows you word count, character count, paragraph count, date, read time, and export options. You can pin the note to the top of the list to find it quickly.

best apps for small business

At the bottom right, there’s a pen icon that gives you the formatting options such as headings, lists, and code blocks. Under the pen icon you can control whether you show or hide the sidebar or keep the writing screen full width.

Let’s switch to mobile for a minute.

This is the writing interface on my iPhone. It’s just as easy to use as the desktop and I can see myself writing in this app when I’m away from my computer.

For formatting I can select the header and other options below. To link to another note, tap the paper icon at bottom, and tap the desired link. You can insert the date, add code, add highlighted text, indent and navigate with the arrows below the writing space.

Bear also allows you to add a to-do item in a note.

best small business apps

Type Command+T or select from the pen tool menu at bottom right. Bear adds a checkbox to the item and the note that contains it will appear in the sidebar under “Todo” until the todo is checked complete.

On the iPhone I can draw and paint, and select color and pen thickness. Bear supports the Apple pencil. Drawing is not supported for encrypted notes.

Blog With Bear and WordPress

Bear allows you to post your note directly to WordPress as a post. If you’re on self-hosted WordPress, you must have Jetpack enabled for this to work. WordPress will automatically grab the title if you use H1 for your note title and use it for the post title. If you want to save the new post as a draft, you can do that in the WordPress app.

To share your note directly to WordPress as a new post, tap the three vertical dots at top, which will take you to the “Share” menu. Depending on how your sharing options are set up, you may have to tap, “More.” Select WordPress from the list.

best small business apps

Once you get your post into WordPress, you’ll want to edit in either the WordPress mobile app or the web interface to take advantage of WordPress features.

Import and Export

If you’re switching apps, you can migrate to Bear from Evernote, Apple Notes, DayOne and others. You can also export in a variety of formats, including Google Docs.

Emoji

Bear will autosuggest emoji for you. Just type 😃 a colon and a couple of letters and the box will pop up.

best small business apps

Attachments

You can add attachments, although files larger than 250 will not be synced between devices. To add an attachment on the desktop app, just drag and drop it into the writing space or tap the camera icon on iOS.

Archive

I love this feature. You can archive a note if you don’t want to delete it, but don’t need to see it on a regular basis. One you archive your first note, you’ll see a link in the sidebar to your archived notes, which you can access at any time. On iPhone, you swipe on the note in the notes list, then tap “More” and select “Archive” from the menu.

Is Bear Worth It?

For me, it’s a definite yes. I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll keep Evernote yet, but I’ll keep Bear. The writing is enough for me to justify the reasonable price for Bear Pro, as I like to be able to take my content with me on my phone. You never know when you’ll get time to write a paragraph or two in line at the grocery store.

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