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Best iOS productivity apps in 2020: business and office software for iPad and iPhone

iOS productivity apps
(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone can be just as handy as an iPad when it comes to business use. Although the iPad has the bigger screen to work from, the iPhone is much easier to carry around and work on the go.

Additionally, while there are a lot of iPad business apps most if not all of these are just as available for the iPhone, which means you can potentially get more use from them on the go.

However, deciding which business apps to use on the iPhone can be a headache, and you want to avoid filling it up with too many apps. While there are a number of iOS apps that may need to be used according to company policy, there are additional apps worth having around to help with general productivity, as well as convenience.

With native apps and web apps for mobile devices available across the range of productivity and creativity applications, as well as easy accessibility for Software as a Service (SaaS), mobile Apple devices have established their place in the office.

Productivity suites for dealing with documents and spreadsheets still form the core of office work, plus there are a variety of related services available as apps to support that role, not least for document scanning and printing. 

Here we'll feature at various handy apps to have for your iPad and/or iPhone to help with general productivity. We'll also feature the best office software apps for iOS devices.

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The best office software in the world right now is: Office 365
There are many different office software suites out there, but Microsoft Office remains the original and best, offering an unsurpassed range of features and functionality that rivals just can't match.

Even better, Office 365 is a cloud-based solution which means you can use it on any computer, mobile device, or smartphone, without having to worry about compatibility. All your files are saved in the cloud and synced between devices, so you can begin work on a document at home or in the office, then continue working on it on the go.

You can sign up to Microsoft Office 365 here.

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Best iOS productivity apps

  1. Office 365
  2. Salesforce
  3. Trello
  4. Hot Schedules
  5. Wrike

Office 365

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Office 365

The leading office suite

Market leader
Full functionality
Not free

Microsoft Office remains the most ubiquitous office software on the market, and Office 365 is the cloud-based version that's easy to use from your iPhone or iPad.

While there are other office suites out there, some have problems converting between their own document formats and the common Microsoft ones, such as .doc and .docx, with the result that formatting can be lost or mixed up from your documents.

The price isn't particularly expensive, either, with a personal edition costing in the region of $6.99 per month or discounted to $69.99 when paid yearly, which is relatively cheap when a lot of other productivity apps have similar costs but fewer features and functionality.

Altogether, Office 365 remains the original and best when it comes to office suite software, so this is probably the first one you'll want to look at when considering your options.

2. Salesforce

The CRM behemoth has iPhone productivity covered

Includes Chatter tool for live communications 
Easy-to-use UI 
Handy notifications feature 

With Salesforce establishing itself as such a prominent enterprise platform, its only right they took care of business on mobile. Thankfully, for fans of the platform who like to work on the move, the Salesforce app has plenty to keep you productive outside of the office.

The service’s CRM data tools, communication tool Chatter, diary organization, and business process features can all be utilized from your iPhone or iPad. You can also receive updates from accounts on the go, tap into conference calls, access your sales actions via the publisher, log calls, create and update opportunities, and complete sales tasks.

Contextual notifications keep you up to speed wherever you are, as do report dashboards and live updates from your business. If something requires an action, the aforementioned Chatter tool enables you to start conversations with colleagues, with the ability to attach photos and files too. 

For organizations that use Salesforce and encourage mobile productivity from their workers, the Salesforce app is an excellent tool to have in the software arsenal.   

3. Trello

The iOS app for everyone in your business

Useful for variety of business disciplines 
Over 100 third-party integrations 
UI enhanced by recent updates 

Enterprise organization and project management is always a complex, multifaceted affair, but Trello aims to ease the headache by bringing everything together on one easy-to-use platform.

The breadth of features on Trello means virtually everyone in your organization is served, from sales and marketing to HR and operations, and teams can design and customize the platform to suit their needs. It also includes over 100 integrations with productivity tools like Google Drive, Slack, and Jira.

Those who use Trello on iPhone and iPad received good news earlier in 2018 when a significant update took place on the app. Among the improvements was the custom fields power-up enabling you to organize information in new, visually appealing ways, enhancements to the calendar and date selector, clickable links in checklists and comments, plus the ability to attach and send multiple files at the same time.

For an app of this nature, Trello is surprisingly easy on the eye and with a slick UI bringing together it’s range of tools and features, this is a very strong mobile tool for work on the move.   

(Image credit: Hot Schedules)

4. Hot Schedules

The biggest selling app you've never heard of

Easy to use 
Simplifies management
Good for employees

HotSchedules is dedicated to managing schedules and shifts between managers and employees. Not only does it allow managers to set shifts, but it also allows employees to swap shifts with each other.

This can provide significant time savings for managers, as all they have to do to publish a shift pattern, and workers who want more hours can claim extra shifts they need, while those who need to reduce their hours in a particular week can do so.

Managers can monitor everything as much as they need to, allowing assigned shifts to be held or swapped as required.

And, of course, employees also find it an invaluable app for helping manage their own work-life balance.

While Hot Schedule might not seem the most obvious app to include in this list, it's definitely useful to consider if you do have multiple employees.

Additionally, even with its admittedly minimal cost of $2.99, it's the most popular business app in the Apple AppStore.

5. Wrike

Planning projects with a few taps of your phone

Intuitive UI 
Good range of features 
Wrike accounts not cheap 

Built in the cloud, Wrike is a one-stop-shop for project management, planning and team collaboration. Adaptable to tasks both big and small, organizations ranging from SMBs right up to Fortune 500 companies are among Wrike’s purported 15,000 users.

Rather than merely serving as a mobile add-on to your Wrike account, the iOS app aims to be a standalone, multi-functional service in its own right. From creating a brand new account with Wrike to managing workflow across your business and sharing reports, virtually every phase and feature can take place in the app.  

The tools include live inbox communication, access to folders, projects and tasks, assigning and scheduling work, sharing images and files, tracking time spent on tasks, accessing personal and shared dashboards, and viewing and sending performance stats to people both inside and outside of your organization.  

While the iOS app is free, Wrike accounts themselves are at the more expensive end of the market, with packages for small to medium size businesses (5-200 users) costing $24.80 (£19) per user, per month.   

Best iOS office apps

Microsoft may be the company that many Apple users love to hate, but Microsoft's Office suite remains the most widely used around the world, especially when it comes to docs, spreadsheets, and presentations. However, there are alternatives you can consider and we feature the best of those here:

  1. Polaris Office
  2. GoodReader
  3. Documents
  4. WPS Office
  5. Pages

(Image credit: Polaris Office)

1. Polaris Office

Lightweight, powerful and easy to use if you don't mind the ads

Free
Easy to use
Invasive ads

Polaris Office is a free office suite that runs across all platforms. It also has a handy iPhone and iPad app that lets you access your documents from anywhere. Everything you need is in one handy application.

Polaris Office is fully compatible with MS Office and supports most file types such as ODT, PDF, PPT, DOC and XLS. Within the app you can open all file formats including PowerPoint and Excel. All of these formats can be opened, edited and saved through the application.

The app also supports writing with pen and the use of pointer features meaning you can draw and edit as if you were writing on actual sheets of paper.

You can view PDF's directly from your iPhone or iPad and can easily convert them into another format to edit them. There is no need to extract files with Polaris Office, you can view them through the app.

It comes with 1GB of Cloud storage of its own but you can connect your own cloud storage provider with it in order to gain more storage. Polaris also supports over 18 languages.

One of the main criticisms of the free app is the ads that can interrupt the service. However, this can easily be resolved by purchasing the remove ads option for $3.99.

There are also several different price tiers starting at $5.49 per month that will give you access to more cloud storage and annotation on PDF. All payments are based on a recurring subscription and will automatically renew.

(Image credit: GoodReader)

2. GoodReader

Great for viewing and editing PDFs and other documents

Excellent support
Easy to use
Connectivity issues

GoodReader was developed by GoodiWare Ltd which was started by Yuri Selukoff. It was first released in 2010. The iPhone and iPad app costs $5.99.

The app can read and view documents in different formats such as DOC, PDF and XLS. It is mainly a PDF reader and within it you can make changes to PDF documents.

GoodReader enables users to read, edit and sign PDF files. From here you can also make annotations within your PDF document such as highlighting and drawing. Signing PDF documents only takes three taps. The app makes everything very simple.

You can store your data simply and efficiently though cloud providers such as Dropbox and OneDrive. GoodReader also supports copy and paste along with the ability to Zip/Unzip and unRAR files and folders. 

Any users of the old version can use a migration assistant that will help to move files to the new app seamlessly. Users new to GoodReader will enjoy the text-to-speech feature which supports a large number of languages.

(Image credit: Documents)

3. Documents

Lightweight and powerful, with many extra features

Lightweight
Compatible with iWorks
No search features

Documents for iOS is developed by Savy Soda who are located in Melbourne, Australia. Documents works with Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive to give users optimal storage. Editing can be done both online and offline.

The app includes a Text Editor, a spreadsheet app and a file manager. With the use of all three this gives users the ability to open all MS Office files along with full compatibility with iWorks. It fully supports all TXT and CSV files but there is limited support for DOC and XLS files through Google Docs.

Included within Documents is a Photo Album tool which helps users to manage their photos easily.

Spreadsheets are fully functional and supports all formulae, formats and basic features associated with Excel. Files that you create within the app can be opened by Notepad, OpenOffice, and Word amongst others.

This appears to be a popular app with users having very little to criticize about it. However, one of the few complaints is that there is no ability to search within a document and that it always requests you save a document whether you have made changes or not.

(Image credit: WPS Office)

4. WPS Office

A formidable free office suite if you can stand the ads

Free to install
Full office suite
Intrusive adverts

WPS Office (Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets) is an office suite developed by Chinese software developer Kingsoft. The suite is available on both iPhone and iPad. The app is free but ad-supported, though you can remove these by paying either $3.99 a month or $29.99 a year. The suite's comprised of WPS Writer, WPS Presentation and WPS Spreadsheet.

The WPS PDF reader has the ability to convert PDF to WPS and is able to read Adobe PDF files.  The app supports a number of file types such as DOC, RTF, DOT, PPTX, TXT and HTML amongst others. All documents are fully compatible with Microsoft Office and Google Docs.

The app allows you to securely encrypt your files with passkeys and you can edit your documents without the fear of losing your work with the auto-save option. Features include the ability to track changes, comments and run spell checks.

The app can present documents straight from your iPhone/iPad to a compatible TV or projector. WPS for iOS also supports 47 different languages.

It seems that if do not purchase the premium subscription within the app then you will be plagued by intrusive ads while using the service.

(Image credit: Pages)

5. Pages

Use Apple's own colorful productivity apps if you have enough space

Microsoft Office compatible
Excellent design templates
Documents display differently in MS Word

Pages is part of the iWork productivity suite and is developed by Apple. However, the suite can not be installed in one handy app but is divided up into three separate apps: Pages (word processor), Numbers (Spreadsheet software) and Keynote (presentation software). 

Pages can open DOCX, DOC, RTF and TXT files. It can export files through PDF, DOCX, RTF and EPUB. If collaborating with users of Microsoft Office, you will need to convert the file into either a PDF or DOCX file before sending as it is not fully compatible with MS Office and can cause readability issues.

You can annotate and draw within documents using the Apple Pen. This is an easy to use tool that allows you to add drawings in several different ways besides the Apple Pen e.g. 'fill tools'.

Pages also has its own Apple designed templates for letters, resumes and posters which are easy to use.

With the collaboration tool users can see exactly who is working on the document at the same time as them, can share the document publicly and can easily follow other users edits. It is also available on documents that are stored in iCloud.

The general consensus amongst users is that the app should be more compatible with MS Office. Even though you can convert documents into DOCX files, they can still appear different in MS Office.