37signals are well known for their suite of productivity and collaboration web apps, designed to help people work efficiently and get things done. Although 37signals applications are designed primarily for use in the browser, a wide range of complimentary Mac and iPhone software has arisen in recent years.
This post will be offering a quick overview of each 37signals app: Basecamp, Backpack, Campfire and Highrise, before moving on to outline over 25 Mac and iPhone apps designed to work alongside them. You’ll be spoiled for choice!
Basecamp is highly regarded as one of the most successful web-based project management tools available. It allows a team to easily collaborate on a project, share files, manage deadlines, and contribute to documents. If you’re a paying customer, access is also available to time tracking.
Basecamp Mac Applications
Sundial – A simple dashboard widget that allows you to post entries to Basecamp, integrating with the time tracking functionality. This link points to a “fixed” version of the official widget.
Basecamp Time Widget – Again focusing on the time tracking element of Basecamp, this widget has a slightly clunky interface but gets the job done.
Radar – A great looking menu bar application that notifies you of updates to your Basecamp account. Fairly simple in terms of functionality, but a very Mac-like notification solution.
Basecamp iPhone Applications
Outpost – A very full-featured iPhone client that offers comprehensive support for messages, milestones, to-dos, and comments. It works perfectly offline, and synchronization happens automatically in the background. Impressive, yet not overly expensive at $12.99.
Projects – Priced at $9.99, Projects is another app that covers all the bases and also supports time tracking (if you have a Basecamp account with that functionality). The interface isn’t quite as well polished as Outpost.
Minivan – Cheaper still, Minivan is priced at $6.99. You can add/edit/delete different items, and the colour scheme-based interface looks fairly attractive.
Groundwork – Another fairly well-know app, Groundwork allows access to every aspect of your Basecamp account, but doesn’t support any offline access. The interface can be a little confusing at first. It’s priced at $7.99. You can also try Groundwork Lite for a slightly cut-down but less expensive option.
BC Files – Designed solely for accessing Basecamp files, this app is more limiting than those mentioned previously. For the price of $3.99, it’s definitely worth spending a few extra dollars on one of the full-featured options.
Chieftent – This app takes a step away from the traditional iPhone interface, and follows the design stylings of 37signals much more closely. It “feels” more like Basecamp but, for the price ($9.99), I would recommend forgoing the quirky design for something that packs a little more punch with offline access etc.
Encamp – The interface isn’t completely polished (I’m not a fan of the blue text), but it seems to have a decent range of features. Syncing is fairly snappy, but for $10, I’d still be drawn to Groundwork or Outpost.
Sherpa – A great name and icon make Sherpa feel very friendly to use. The interface is lovely, though it can’t match the feature set of a solution such as Outpost. At $3.99, it’s a fairly good price for what you get. There also seems to be a free Sherpa app, though it doesn’t seem to bear any resemblance to the paid version and they seem to be from completely different developers.
Highrise is a web-based contact manager/customer relationship system, allowing you to easily manage all your contacts and communication in one place. Logs can be kept of when a certain person was contacted, and what was said, along with simple tracking of sales and leads.
Highrise Mac Applications
As far as we could tell, there’s a distinct lack of any desktop app for connecting to Highrise. Obviously, you could go down the route of using Fluid as a SSB which would provide a slightly improved desktop experience.
If you’re looking for a way to export your Address Book contacts into Highrise, this guide should explain the process very clearly.
Highrise iPhone Applications
Floor13 – This app fits right in with the iPhone interface, mimicking the local Contacts tool. You can view contacts, companies, notes/emails, manage tasks, and add notes to contacts. The developers are also apparently working on support for cases/deals, tagging, and the ability to add new contacts (something that shouldn’t be missing!) It costs about $5.
Top Floor – Slightly more expensive at $9.99, Top Floor has a really attractive interface. You can synchronise contacts, add and manage tasks, check up on your sales and deals, but are unable to add new contacts.
hContacts – At $1.99, hContacts is the cheapest option available. It’s very much an access-only app, and you can’t add any new information. There also appears to be a cap of 1,000 contacts (though I wouldn’t think that’s a major problem for many of you…)
Backpack offers a way to keep your business organised, based around a system of pages. You can store documents centrally, share how-tos, tutorials, and guides, manage a group calendar, and generally stay on top of everything! Everything is safely stored and archived.
Backpack Mac Applications
Logbook – A menu bar utility, Logbook oozes style and comes in at $12.99. It offers a simple way to post updates and notes to your Logbook journal, and can automatically “check in” with you every 30 minutes or so to remind you to issue an update. I’m looking forward to seeing another release from these guys.
Journal Widget – A very simple dashboard widget for updating your status or adding another completed task. Simple, unobtrusive, and completely free.
Backpack Widget – A slightly more full-featured dashboard widget, showing reminders, lists, and notes. It supports SSL and packs a surprisingly large amount into such a small widget.
Backboard – This is a desktop Mac app that integrates with Backpack, turning it into a “Getting Things Done” tool. If you’re looking for an app that supports most of what Backpack has to offer, it’s worth taking a look at. Again, it’s completely free.
PackRat – A desktop app that allows offline access to all your Backpack information, downloading all your content locally. It’s priced at $14.95, but could be a lifesaver if you need regular access to Backpack with no internet connection.
Backpack iPhone Applications
FrontPocket – The original Backpack iPhone app that brings almost all the functionality of the web app into your mobile device. It’s priced at $4.99, and the mixed reviews on the App Store seem to primarily be targeted at a slightly buggy release that has now been fixed.
Satchel – The second, and arguably best, iPhone client works surprisingly well. It offers all the features you’d expect (except a few not yet supported by the Backpack API). It isn’t cheap, at $10, but seems to get the job done.
The final application to consider is Campfire, a chat and instant messaging system designed for groups. 37signals plug the statistic of Campfire having handled “over 60,000,000 messages”, and the fact is that it’s a great tool for collaborating and discussing in real-time. Transcripts are also logged for later viewing.
Campfire Mac Applications
Pyro – This app is completely free, and creates a simple SSB (Site Specific Browser) for accessing Campfire on your Mac. It can display the number of unread messages on the Dock icon, integrate with Growl, and also offers native drag and drop file upload. If it floats your boat, Pyro is fully AppleScript-able.
Propane – Priced at $20, Propane (I love these names…) is another great desktop interface to Campfire. It allows customized notifications for different types of message, tabbed chats, and fairly advanced file sharing support (including knowing where you dragged a file from). It’s not free, unlike Pyro, but has slightly more polish, and a very slick icon!
Campfire iPhone Applications
Ember – A native iPhone application for Campfire, sporting multiple account support, the ability to review chat transcripts, and full support for previewing files and images inline. It’s a thoroughly full-featured option, and really does feel like you have the full power of campfire in the palm of your hand. It’s priced at $9.99.
So there you have it – regardless of which 37signals app you love to use on a day-to-day basis, you needn’t be confined to the web. There’s no doubt that some of the Mac and iPhone apps mentioned are better than others, but hopefully the comments above will help you make a well-informed decision.
Please let us know if we’ve missed a particular piece of software, and we’ll update the list to add it in. Happy productivity!