Everyone uses a browser, and almost everyone uses Microsoft Office. These programs are standard and useful, but not exciting. What do impress me are the apps that have allowed me, over the past two years, to use the cloud and share information across two computers, an iPad and an iPhone. What is the cloud? I think of file storage on a remote server that I can access (with a proper login) on multiple devices. I personally recommend these three apps in particular:
As an academic, I find this to be an indispensable program, because it saves and organizes PDF files. I collect PDFs for my research and for handing out to students and residents. Originally written for Macintosh, the app now has a Windows and an iOS version. I also synchronize selected folders to my iPad, which allows me to read articles on planes and elsewhere.
Several features make this app a big hit. First, you can organize PDFs in folders. For example, I have a pharyngitis folder, a fusobacterium folder, a diagnostic reasoning folder, etc. You can file any article in more than one folder, which allows you to use the same article in different collections.
The program also stores all the relevant bibliographic information from each PDF and allows you to develop bibliographies in Word. When you are ready to create a reference list, you choose a journal format, click a button and—BOOM!—the references are created in the correct format.
You can try Papers2 for 30 days for free, after which a single-user license costs $79. Volume discounts are available for multi-user licenses, and there are student discounts. While Papers2 isn't a cloud-based app, you can use it with the cloud via apps like the next one.
For years experts have told us to back up our files to avoid disasters. Dropbox can help make that task easier.
Dropbox is a free application. You create folders that exist both on your computer and in the cloud. Again, the cloud just refers to storage elsewhere—usually on a large-storage computer. So when I add a file to a Dropbox folder, that file exists on my computer and in the cloud. Since I also have Dropbox on my iPad and my second computer, I have automatic access to that same file from those devices.
I keep all my PDFs in Dropbox. When I got a new iMac and installed Papers2, I told the program to find the PDFs in Dropbox and—presto—I had quick access to all my PDFs. When I work on a paper or a talk, I save it to a Dropbox folder and do not have to worry about backing the file up or accessing it from a different computer.
Catch is an app for keeping track of your ideas—it stores notes, checklists, photos and voice memos. I do all my notes in Catch and since it is a cloud application, I have access to them on my iPhone and my iPad. The free version allows you five categories for your notes, and you can make those categories public or private. If you like, you can have a category that you share with colleagues for brainstorming.
I do not keep identifiable clinical information in the cloud. While I embrace the cloud, I do understand that there is the possibility that someone could hack into that information. The information that goes to the cloud is academic and personal.