Best bets for free apps

If you’re looking for completely free apps for your smartphone or PC, consider the following recommendations:

* Skype — Available for PCs and select smartphones (iPhone and Windows Mobile), Skype lets you make free phone calls to any other Skype user on the Internet via VoIP technology. PC users can also chat using video, swap files, or pay a few cents a minute for “Skype Out” calls to landlines and cell phones.

* Gmail — Google’s free Web-based e-mail solution reliably keeps you in touch with others, regardless of the platform you’re using it on. Benefits include loads of storage, little spam, contact and calendar management, and support for Google Talk between multiple devices.

* — Sun Microsystems’s free Microsoft Office alternative offers a suite of productivity tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, and graphics. It supports multiple operating systems and has a portable version that runs off a USB key.

* Documents To Go — With a free version included on newer BlackBerry devices, this clever app suite allows for viewing and editing of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. It’s usually bundled with PDF To Go, as well, supporting Adobe’s popular Portable Document Format.

* Zoho — Free for individuals, Zoho’s range of productivity and collaboration apps include Zoho Mail, Zoho Chat, Zoho CRM, Zoho Writer, Zoho Discussions, Zoho Sheet, Zoho Meeting, Zoho Show, Zoho Creator, Zoho Docs, Zoho Invoice, Zoho Notebook, Zoho Projects, Zoho Wiki, Zoho Reports, and others.

* Windows Live SkyDrive — Microsoft is offering up to 25GB of free online storage. Only a Windows ID is required (such as a Hotmail e-mail address) and this password-protected virtual drive can be accessed for virtually any online computer in the world. Some folders can be set up for sharing, while other are for your eyes only.

* Remote Desktop Lite — Use your iPhone or iPod touch to securely access a Windows XP Professional computer, anywhere on the planet. This software provides full access to your PC — via Wi-Fi or EDGE — as if you were in front of the machine you’re accessing. At the time of writing this, Remote Desktop Lite is the no. 1 free business app at Apple’s App Store.

* Call Time Tracker by momentum — As the name suggests, Redwood Technologies’ free app for Blackberry helps business professionals account for their time in order to bill hours and recover expenses. Ideal for lawyers, consultants, salespeople, realtors and IT professionals, this app pops up at the end of calls and you can easily mark it as billable time.

* Nice Office — BlackBerry users can manage their e-mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks from this one free suite of tools. Nice Office securely also grants access to forms and documents, lets you record sales activity while on the go and automatically logs device activity, and provides a detailed report on mobile interactions with your contacts, including calls, messages, and appointments.

* Google Maps — While it doesn’t provide audio-based turn-by-turn commands, Google Maps is a completely free and powerful tool for your smartphone that can help you find nearby establishments (such as restaurants, gas stations, or hotels), show overhead street views (even with satellite imagery), and give you accurate directions to a destination. It works via GPS or even cellular technology (though the latter isn’t as accurate).

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