Some apps are useful in the office, some are useful in the truck getting to the site and some are useful at the site. They can be a reference for learning more, a tool for getting a task done, or a resource for solving an immediate problem, such as “Where is there a bathroom around here I can use, like, ASAP?
There are a million apps out there. Actually, there are several million. As of last summer, the Google Play store had roughly 1.6 million apps, leading Apple’s iTunes App Store with 1.5 million and the number has just gone up from there.
That said, the average smartphone owner has about 45 apps on his or her device. No one could possibly ever sift through the fray to find the apps for arborists that are beneficial, but I have bravely tried.
Since 2012, I personally have downloaded and reviewed about 900 apps. Some are great—many are worthless.
Here are 30 apps for arborists that I deem worthy of your consideration.
Editor’s Note: Each app listed here is free (unless noted otherwise) and is available through both Apple’s iTunes store and Google Play’s app store.
KNOW THY TREE
Gorgeous detailed photos of tree parts like flowers, twigs and leaves. Has the cool “Snap it” feature to help with ID, also has a user-generated map of sightings. Accuracy is so-so, but the concept is cool.
Audubon Society Tree ID
Similar to the popular book series, this app contains detailed photos and silvicultural info for all North American species—and the photos look great on these screens. $4.99, which is about one-third the cost of the book version.
Beautiful looking app with nice photos of many species; it might be more “casual tree-fan”-oriented than “professional arborist” but nice interface nonetheless. Also has a “Tree Quiz” feature for your entertainment.
If you actually need to identify an unknown tree in the field, nothing beats a dichotomous key. If you’ve ever used the one from Virginia Tech’s Department of Forestry, you know it is a simple but accurate key for figuring out the tree in question. The vTree app is pretty much the mobile version of that key.
GETTING WORK DONE IN THE FIELD
Easy-to-use app that allows you to draw on photos and maps, then email them off. Snap a picture of a tree, draw on the branches you plan to remove, get the client to approve, then send the image to your crew leader. The possibilities are endless.
Similar to Skitch but with more of a sketch pad/field notebook feel. Good for jotting notes, drawing maps and adding photos. Syncs to an Evernote account, which, speaking of…
Start typing on your computer, add stuff to it from your phone, finish it on your iPad, all without even thinking about syncing them. Magic.
Very simple app for drawing quick sketches or maps. Your completed work can be saved, emailed or tweeted, for that matter.
THE BUSINESS OF BUSINESS
This little device from Square.com plugs into your phone/tablet, turning it into a credit card reader. Get paid as soon as you do the work and funds appear in your account the next day. *They take a 2 percent fee on transactions, and funds are deposited the next day.
Avoid angry finance department hassles by snapping a pic of the receipt as soon as you get it. Completed reports can be submitted via email as a PDF.
Free version allows you to leave professional-looking invoices and estimates with the client before leaving the job site. Paid versions will sync to many accounting software programs as well.
MEASURING AND CONVERTING
Simple-to-use app that allows you to quickly find the area of any section on a map. While it might not be accurate down to the inch, it is handy for making quick estimates of a given property.
I’ve tried about a dozen unit-conversion apps and this one stands out for the diversity of measurements one can convert and its cool design. I won’t lie—takes a few seconds to understand the interface, but get the hang of it and it’s great.
How many cubic yards of mulch will you need to cover that planting bed in 2 inches of organic goodness? Personally, I’m terrible at estimating volume in cubic yards. Luckily, this app does it for me.
Multi Measures 2
This all-in-one app has a decibel meter, a plumb bob, a compass, a bubble level and several other features in a slick interface. Use the plumb bob to determine the exact degree of lean that hazard tree is exhibiting.
REPLACING THAT OLD OFFICE MACHINE
Docs to Go
All the Office programs like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook on your phone or tablet for you Microsoft purists out there. A premium version allows syncing to a cloud for a $16.99 upgrade fee.
Simply use your camera to shoot a pic of the document and Cam Scanner allows you to save the item as either a PDF or a JPG that you can easily email away. This app may be mundane, but it can be a real time-saver.
Who has a fax machine anymore? Nobody, yet every so often someone needs you to send a fax. This app has you covered. The first few uses are free, and then you can buy credits if you are a frequent faxer.
STAYING AHEAD OF THE WEATHER
OSHA Heat Safety Tool
Simply open the app, allow it to determine your location, and it will let you know the current heat advisory conditions for your area. Not saying it will get you out of working in sweltering weather, but it does at least provide information about what protective measures you should be taking.
BE BETTER AT TREE HEALTH CARE
Purdue Tree Doctor
Produced by Purdue University, you can use this collection of hi-res photos to diagnose what’s wrong and get some options for management. $1.99, iOS only.
Forest Insect Pests in North America
This is one of many new apps coming out of The Center for Invasive Species & Ecosystem Health from the University of Georgia. It taps into the expansive Bugwood.org photo library and is organized neatly by the major orders of insects.
Growing Degree Days
Allows you to check current growing degree days and compare with last year’s data. Use this data to better time your treatments—and your marketing.
SoilWeb for iPhone
Uses your location and USDA soil map indexes to tell you the exact type of soil under you. Knowing a little about soil taxonomy would help you significantly to decipher the information it gives, however.
WHEN YOU’RE ON THE ROAD
Where should I eat lunch? Where’s there an ATM? Where’s a gas station? How much does the gas cost per gallon? Wait, does it have diesel? All these questions are answered for you by this handy app, and it’s free. What an age we’re living in.
Beat the Traffic
Like many realtime traffic info apps, this gives a color-coded map of the traffic densities around you. Cool feature: It accesses on-road traffic cameras, giving you an up-to-the-minute photograph of what the road actually looks like.
If you are the type who likes to drive an extra mile or two to save a penny or two per gallon—this is your app. It compares all the gas prices in your area and also has other “points” earning options where you can save even more.
With this app, you can quickly get up-to-the-minute radar images that can help you decide if you should start working on that next tree or not. It also will show lightning and wind animations. As a bonus, you can set an alert to notify you if there is lightning or other severe weather headed your way.
Storm Distance Tracker
Lightning Flash … Hit the button. Wait … Thunder Clash … Hit the button. Lightning strike was 7.9 miles away. Slightly more accurate than One one-thousand…Two one-thousand…
WORKING IN A TREE
Climbers will enjoy this app for practical reasons, and non-climbers will just like playing with it to see how many different knots they have no idea how to tie. The free version includes 33 different knots, and a $1.99 version has 70-plus to learn. Not all are climbing- related, but even the free version has nine of the most common ones used by technical arborists.
The free app turns your phone into an altimeter, which is not quite accurate enough to give your distance above the ground on smaller trees, but fun to check out nonetheless.