Kashmir unrest: LeT threatens J&K Education Minister

By: IANS | Srinagar | Published:September 27, 2016 9:29 pm

The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) outfit on Tuesday threatened Jammu and KashmirEducation Minister Naeem Akhtar “not to force people to resume normal work”, reports said.

Local news agency CNS said LeT chief Mehmood Shah has sent them a statement which says that the “present uprising in Kashmir is not against the education system but against India that is illegally in occupation of Kashmir from past seven decades”.

In the statement, the outfit threatened Akhtar “of dire consequence if he continues to force people to resume normal work”.

“Akhtar should desist from forcing people to end the strike,” it warned.

People of Kashmir are educated and “can differentiate between good and bad. The present struggle is not against education system but against Indian occupation. If Naeem Akhtar doesn’t budge, we will initiate action against him”, Shah said in the statement.

Akhtar has been constantly requesting everybody, including the separatist leadership, that since education concerns the future of Kashmir, educational institutions must be left out from the ambit of protests and shutdowns.


Here’s where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand on education

Education policy has largely been a second-tier issue in the 2016 presidential election.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, have focused their comments and discussions mostly on issues like national security, trade, and an email scandal.

Still, in Trump’s case, education discussions have followed him as he remains enmeshed in multiple lawsuits filed by former students of Trump University that accuse him of defrauding thousands of customers with worthless classes on real estate and investing.

In any case, both Trump and Clinton have given some indication about the issues they would back in the White House.

Here’s where the candidates fall on the big education issues.

School choice

In September, Trump pledged to immediately invest $20 billion in school choice. The move signaled that the polarizing issue of school vouchers would be the cornerstone of his education agenda.

Trump’s plan would reprioritize existing federal dollars to establish a grant to allow children living in poverty to attend the school of their choice. Trump argued not only that the voucher system would help impoverished children enroll at quality schools, but also that a free market would improve the entire system.

While eligibility for vouchers varies by state, Trump promised to campaign nationwide and call upon individual states and cities to elect officials in support of school choice.

“If the states collectively contribute another $110 billion of their own education budgets toward school choice on top of the 20 billion in federal dollars, that could provide $12,000 in school choice funds to every single K-12 student who today is living in poverty,” Trump said at a campaign event in Cleveland on Thursday.

Clinton, unsurprisingly, is staunchly opposed to school vouchers, an issue that is cleanly split along party lines. GOP policymakers traditionally favor school choice, while Democrats claim it hurts public education. Clinton asserted this point in a message she posted to her website after Trump unveiled his plan.

“Trump’s proposal to apparently gut nearly 30 percent of the federal education budget and turn it into private school vouchers would decimate public schools across America and deprive our most vulnerable students of the education they deserve,” Clinton wrote.

Opponents of voucher programs argue that they siphon essential funding from already meager public-school budgets to other schools and at their worst are unconstitutional, as they can use taxpayer-funded vouchers to benefit religious schools.

Supporters argue that vouchers help disadvantaged students.

“Voucher programs largely help low-income middle-class kids – these are the kids that most need access” to quality education, Michelle Tigani, the communications director at the Center for Education Reform, previously told Business Insider.

Voucher policies typically have income restrictions that vary by state to ensure education funds truly end up with the families most in need. In Indiana, where Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, championed numerous school choice policies, the 2016-2017 income limit for a family of four to receive the largest voucher amount was $44,955.

On the issue of charter schools, Trump and Clinton align. Trump unveiled his voucher proposal at a charter school in Ohio, and after the televised speech, he spoke with a group about his desire to increase the number of charter schools across the nation because, he said, “the traditional way, it’s not working so well,” The Washington Post reported.

Charters, which are publicly funded but privately run, are scorned by teachers unions – a constituent that has endorsed Clinton. The American Federation of Teachers, another teachers union that has endorsed her, also opposes school-choice policies. A supporter of charter schools since the 1990s, she must tread carefully on the issue now.

At an event for the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the US, Clinton spoke positively about charter schools and was interrupted with boos.

Trump openly criticizes teachers unions, pointing to their stance against school-choice policies.

“Our public schools have grown up in a competition-free zone, surrounded by a very high union wall,” he wrote in his book “The America We Deserve.” He continued:

“Why aren’t we shocked at the results? After all, teachers’ unions are motivated by the same desires that move the rest of us. With more than 85% of their soft-money donations going to Democrats, teachers’ unions know they can count on the politician they back to take a strong stand against school choice.”

Common Core

Trump has repeatedly blasted the Common Core State Standards. In avideo he uploaded to Facebook in January, for example, Trump vowed to end the controversial nationwide education standards.

“Common Core’s a total disaster,” he said. “We’re going to end Common Core.”

He also frequently uses the Common Core as a launch point to talk about how poorly the US performs in education compared with other countries.

“Common Core is out! It’s out,” he proclaimed at a rally in February.

“You have Norway, Sweden, Denmark, China, you have lots of places. You have some countries you’ve never even heard of are ahead of the USA,” he continued, vowing to improve American education.

Though Clinton does support Common Core and the concept of national standards, she doesn’t talk about it often. That’s likely because the Common Core has grown so universally unpopular on both sides of the aisle.

Instead, Clinton has focused on the issue of universal preschool, as a way to ensure students in primary school and beyond receive adequate education to help the US compete on a global scale.

“Now, building an economy for tomorrow also requires investing in our most important asset, our people, beginning with our youngest,” she said at a campaign event in New York City. “That’s why I will propose that we make preschool and quality childcare available to every child in America.”

College tuition

Clinton’s most vocal education agenda item is her college tuition plan.

“I’m a little different from those who say free college for everybody,” she said on NBC’s “Today” show in 2015. “I am not in favor of making college free for Donald Trump’s kids. I am in favor of making college free for your grandson by having no-debt tuition.”

Clinton’s plan would make tuition at four-year public colleges and universities “debt free” and would be calculated based on family income. Clinton’s proposal starts by making public college free for families that earn $85,000 or less annually, gradually lifting the threshold up to families that earn $125,000 a year by 2021. Community college would be free for all students, and interest rates on student loans would be decreased.

Clinton’s plan would also allow students to refinance student debt at current rates and would lower interest rates on future loans. Clinton previously proposed spending $350 billion over 10 years, in part by cutting tax deductions for high-income Americans, but the specific cost has since been removed from her website.

That’s one criticism of her plan: that the specifics are lacking and it’s unclear how she will make the plan a reality.

Trump has said very little about higher education, though he criticized the government’s role in student lending, according to PBS.

Still, there is at least some indication of Trump’s ideas about higher education via an interview Inside Higher Ed conducted with Sam Clovis, the policy director of Trump’s campaign.

Clovis indicated that Trump would fight Clinton’s proposal for debt-free college.

“How do you pay for that? It’s absurd on its surface,” he said.

Clovis also pushed back on the idea that community college should be free for all, indicating that the campaign already thought community colleges were affordable for all.

He also indicated that the campaign supported changes that would allow banks and colleges to consider students’ future earning potential when providing loans.

“If you are going to study 16th-century French art, more power to you,” Clovis said. “I support the arts. But you are not going to get a job.”

It’s unclear which of these ideas, if any, will develop into true policy proposals.


GoPro HERO 5 Black and HERO 5 Session Provide Action Video for Outdoor, Other Businesses

GoPro HERO 5 Black and HERO 5 Session Provide Action Video for Outdoor, Other Businesses

The internet, mobile technology, video and social media have merged together to give businesses and consumers a platform to share, connect and market with rich media. What GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) has tried to do with the new HERO 5 Black and HERO 5 Session cameras is simplify the process of capturing,sharing, storing and editing video so much, it becomes effortless.

GoPro is well known for capturing extreme sports and action sequences by professionals and amateurs alike. So the company has a customer base that greatly relies on its cameras. But going beyond this base required GoPro to add new features so anyone can pick up the new cameras and start recording 4K videos with greater ease than its previous versions.

The new HERO 5 Black and HERO 5 Session are cheaper and more powerful, with features the company says you can use out of the box to capture video and still images.

GoPro HERO 5 Black

The HERO 5 Black has a 2-inch touch display to simplify the controls of the camera, but it all begins with a one-button control to power on the camera to start recording automatically. Once it is on, you can capture videos with resolutions up to 4K at 30 frames per second and professional still images of 12 MP with enhanced low-light performance on RAW and Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) formats.

Voice control has been added to further simplify the use of different functions. The camera has 10 commands in seven different languages, just in case you happen to be hurling down a slope and your hands are busy. So whether you speak English, German, French, Italian, Spanish or Chinese (with more languages on the way), voice control should understand you.

And if you happen to be, say, jumping out of an airplane, the new professional-grade electronic video stabilization feature will keep all of your images steady. And when it comes to audio, the stereo audio recording has an advanced wind noise reduction feature to better capture what you are saying — or screaming.

GoPro HERO 5 Session

The HERO 5 Session is a smaller version of the Black, but it pretty much keeps most of the features, including 4K video capture, image stabilization, enhanced low-light performance, WiFi and Bluetooth, waterproofing and voice control.

What you won’t find on the Session are the touch screen, GPS and RAW or WDR capture modes. Additionally, the still image capture is 10MP instead of the 12MP of the Black.

HERO Session

This is the cheapest version of the new line, however it still has some impressive features at this price. They include waterproofing, WiFi and Bluetooth, one-button control, and advanced noise and wind reduction.

The video and still capture are still high definition, with 1440P30/1080P60 for video and 8MP/10 fps burst time lapse for still images.

GoPro Plus

GoPro was and is still great at capturing video, but the company didn’t have the right set of apps to edit the millions of hours its customers were recording on its cameras. To overcome this problem, GoPro purchased two editing apps in February of this year: Splice and Replay, which the company has renamed Quik. With the new services users can now edit long videos into two minute highlight reels.

Quik, as the name implies, has been designed to quickly let you edit your videos by cutting off the boring footage and keeping the exciting stuff so you can post it on your social media site and share it with the world.  Splice, on the other hand, has more features, so, if you want more control, this is the app for you. Both apps are available for iOS and Android devices, as well as for your desktop.

GoPro Plus is a subscription service that is available for $4.99 per month, which includes an auto upload feature when you are charging your HERO cameras from your computer. The editing capability is available through the cloud on your smartphone, so you can quickly edit your videos no matter where you are.

The subscription plan also has a soundtrack library, premium support, among other features and accessories.

Small Businesses and GoPro

Video has become the preferred way of communicating for a growing number of online consumers.

If you own a small business running an outdoor/adventure company offering hiking, mountain climbing, hand gliding, whitewater rafting, camping, motocross, racing or other activities, you can now capture the experiences your customers are having — or can expect — with greater ease, better images and sound.

You can also use the cameras to interact with your customers by creating product tours, webinars, hands on lessons, and more.

With the new added features on the HERO 5 Black, HERO 5 Session, and HERO Session, there really is no limitation on how you can capture and share video.

The HERO 5 Black and HERO 5 Session will be available beginning October 2, but there is no date for the HERO Session on the company site.


UPS Successfully Tests Urgent Commercial Drone Delivery to Remote Locations

UPS Successfully Tests Urgent Commercial Drone Package Delivery to Remote LocationsComing shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration introduced its first regulations for commercial drone use, United Parcel Service, Inc., (NYSE:UPS) announced last week it has begun testing an unmanned aerial delivery vehicle built by drone-maker. The drone will be used to make urgent commercial deliveries of packages to remote or difficult-to-access locations, the giant package delivery company said.

“Our focus is on real-world applications that benefit our customers,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability in a press release announcing the tests. “We think drones offer a great solution to deliver to hard-to-reach locations in urgent situations where other modes of transportation are not readily available.”

Testing began with a staged mock delivery of urgently needed medicine from Beverly, Mass. to Children’s Island, which is about three miles off the Atlantic coast. The test was conducted to gather more information about drone uses and capabilities. In the mock scenario, the companies said the drone successfully carried an asthma inhaler to a child at a camp on the island, which is not reachable by automobile.

“We’re thrilled to partner with UPS in this endeavor,” said Helen Greiner, CyPhy’s founder and chief technology officer. “Drone technology used in this way can save lives and deliver products and services to places that are difficult to reach by traditional transit infrastructures.”

Drone Package Delivery Race in the U.S.

Innovation through aerial automation and robotics has long been a focus for the world’s largest companies. Amazon whose current delivery is handled by UPS along with FedEx, for example, first announced plans to begin commercial drone delivery back in 2013. Plans have been ongoing since then.

Chipotle earlier this month partnered with Project Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, to test drone delivery of a tasty Mexican menu item. However, the first federally-approved commercial drone delivery was achieved by the small Australian start-up Flirtey that was first in flight over U.S. airspace. Flirtey is said to have delivered supplies to a rural medical clinic in Virginia in late July 2015.

Whatever the outcome of this apparent drone delivery race in the U.S. and elsewhere across the globe, small businesses are probably better off with shippers like UPS and FedEx looking at cutting costs with unmanned aircraft deliveries. Perhaps drone deliveries could help bring down the rising costs of shipping packages and consequently bring some much needed relief to small businesses.

The CyPhy drone used in the UPS test is the Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) system. The battery-powered drone flies itself, so very little user training is required, said UPS and CyPhy. It is extremely durable, has night vision and features secure communications that cannot be intercepted or disrupted, added the companies.


Businesses Move Forward With Self-Driving Cars, While Lawmakers Remain Parked (Watch)

Want to disrupt the system? Turn the world on its head? That's great! But be ready for the hoops and hurdles of small business regulations along the way.Companies like Google and Tesla are moving forward with developing autonomous vehicles. But they might be moving a little too fast for state and local governments.

Currently, only nine states and Washington D.C. have laws on the books related to self-driving vehicles. And not all of those laws even specify whether or not a human driver must be present in case they need to take over.

This type of thing is bound to happen with brand new and evolving technology. But it can be a serious issue for businesses that are developing the technology. If companies pour their time and resources into creating a new technology only to be slapped with a bunch of unexpected regulations after the fact, it could be a huge deterrent to future innovation.

There’s not always a way to avoid regulations entirely. And the companies that make autonomous vehicles should certainly expect to deal with plenty of new related laws in the coming years. But they’d still likely prefer to be aware of any rules or obstacles before dedicating a bunch of resources to those projects.

Know the Small Business Regulations That May Affect You

For small businesses, while it might not be self-driving cars, there are still likely to be some times where you have to deal with changing rules and laws. So it’s important for communities hoping to encourage small business development to be straightforward about these rules up front. Otherwise they’ll need to kiss that much needed small business growth goodbye.


Samsung Recall Demonstrates the Importance of Crisis Management in Business (Watch)

Samsung Recall Provides a Crisis Management Example You can Learn FromImagine browsing the internet or taking a call on your smartphone and all of a sudden — the device catches on fire! It might sound far-fetched, but it has actually happened to some owners of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

Samsung issued a recall of about a million of the devices earlier this month after receiving nearly 100 reports of the phone’s batteries overheating. And surprisingly, it’s been the recall effort, potentially even more than the actual fires, that has hurt Samsung throughout this process.

It took nearly two weeks for Samsung to coordinate the recall with the U.S. government. And all the while, consumers who weren’t aware of the recall continued experiencing overheating batteries. The delay and mishandling of the recall caused Samsung’s market value to plummet by billions of dollars.

The Takeaway From This Crisis Management Example

This situation demonstrates the importance of crisis management for businesses of all sizes. When dealing with recalls or other serious issues, you need to act quickly and deliberately. No one wants their business to go through something like this. On the other hand, a smooth and decisive response by your business can actually win back some of the good will you lost in the first place. So it pays to be able to handle a crisis well.

Image: Newsy


SmartBrief Provides Business News for Many Industries

SmartBrief Provides Business News for Many Industries

SmartBrief is a digital B2B media company that provides timely, relevant news to nearly six million industry executives, thought leaders and business professionals across a range of industries via email newsletters, a mobile app and website. It’s content from which small businesses can benefit, too.

SmartBrief’s Origins

SmartBrief was founded in 1999 by Rick Stamberger, along with business partners Dan O’Brien and Tom Wheeler.

At the time, an associate of Stamberger’s was serving as a domestic policy advisor to Vice President Al Gore. Stamberger developed an early algorithm that provided a daily email summary of issues of interest to the domestic policy team.

From that, Stamberger, O’Brien and Wheeler conceived a business idea that utilized the algorithm and convinced five trade associations to sign on as partners to host newsletters for their members.

What began with five has grown to a network of more than 200 newsletters serving a multitude of trade associations, foundations, NGOs and private corporate partners across a range of industries that include business, education, finance, health care, marketing and more.

According to Joe Webster, managing director for SmartBrief, who spoke with Small Business Trends by phone, most of the publications are tied to trade associations and serve as a way for the organizations to position themselves as thought leaders in the industry they represent.

“A curated newsletter provides daily brand recognition for the associations, demonstrates relevance and keeps the core constituency informed,” he said. “That’s been validated by the explosion in SmartBrief newsletters over the past couple of years.”

Although a few newsletters are private, reserved for particular groups, most are open to anyone who wants to subscribe, at no cost.

How SmartBrief Works

SmartBrief has human editors who curate relevant industry content on a daily basis.

Editors arise early (often, before dawn) to begin curating content. Newsletters hit subscribers’ inboxes at the start of the day. SmartBrief uses its proprietary algorithm, refined over the past 17 years, to economize on the time editors need to gather information.

“The algorithm does the heavy lifting and keeps editors from becoming overwhelmed,” Webster said.

SmartBrief’s Unique Value Proposition

According to Webster, SmartBrief’s UVP is that it is the only source of curated content for many industries. He cited nuclear cardiology, veterinary medicine and hospital CIOs as examples of the types of niche verticals it covers.

“Similar providers, such as the Wall Street Journal, include broader, more generalized content in their newsletters,” he said. “We’re in a unique space because we serve these niche verticals and sub-verticals very well.”

SmartBrief’s Benefit to Small Business

SmartBrief has four newsletters that should appeal to small business owners, including one specifically intended for small business, another for entrepreneurs, and even one for women-owned businesses, sponsored by the National Association of Women Business Owners. Other business-related newsletters cover topics such as leadership, human resources, public policy, marketing and advertising.

When asked how these and other SmartBrief newsletters benefit small businesses, Webster replied, “Business owners are focused on running their business, taking care of employees and beating out the competition. They don’t have time to scour the web to find relevant information that may help them be more productive in those endeavors, so we do that for them. Our editorial team is constantly on the hunt to find pertinent information.”

Examples Small Business SmartBrief Newsletters

The following screenshot, from a SmartBrief on Small Business newsletter, is an example of the type of content a small business owner can expect to find in his or her inbox each day.

SmartBrief on Small Business

This particular edition covers topics that include marketing, management, money and tips and tools. There’s even a “Just for Fun” section that provides some levity.

Another newsletter, SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs, focuses on startups. This example contains information about funding, ways to avoid failure and how to make your startup better.

SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs

Starting the day with a hot cup of coffee and a SmartBrief newsletter could be a helpful way for a small business owner to keep abreast of the trends and changes taking place in his or her industry. It takes just a few minutes to read.

The newsletters have millions of subscribers who clearly believe SmartBrief is well worth the time.


Live Chat Returns to Groove Through Olark Partnership

Groove Live Chat Returns Through Olark Partnership

Help desk software provider Groove just announced a partnership with Olark to offer a live chat app to its small business customers. Now, instead of switching between two apps to deliver customer service, the integration creates an all-in-one help desk and live chat solution.

This is not the first time Groove has included live chat as part of its product lineup. The company had its own version but killed it saying it was not competitive with other live chat tools on the market, had low usage among customers and was a drain on resources.

There was sufficient demand by customers to cause Groove to reconsider its stance, however, and the company reviewed several options that included:

  • Building a live chat app. The company quickly dismissed that as an option;
  • Acquiring a live chat app startup. Groove rejected that idea due to the strain that additional team members could place on the company;
  • Offering light integrations. The company moved forward with this option and built light integrations with live chat providers Olark and SnapEngage. However, it failed to add the value the company was hoping to achieve and was discontinued;
  • Forge a deep partnership. Groove finally settled on a partnership with Olark and both companies committed to forging a deep integration to provide a seamless experience for Groove’s customers.

In a blog post reflecting on the reasons for partnership, Groove CEO Alex Turnbull said, “We believed in many of the same things: bootstrapping to sustainable growth, growing a remote team that gives employees flexibility and opportunity, and building a brand by being different and creating human connections with our customers long before they became customers.”

Once the two companies struck a deal, it took several months of working together to develop the product, which was released last week.

“This isn’t one of those basic integrations with minimal functionality,” said the official blog post announcing the product’s release. “This is the result of months of deep collaboration between our development team and Olark’s, to build a seamless integration that gives you full live chat capabilities within Groove.”

So far, customer feedback has been positive, and it looks like a “huge business win,” according to Turnbull.

Read Turnbull’s full post to learn more about the partnership and visit the Live Chat Widget page to get more detail about how it works. Groove customers can go to “Apps” in their account to add the integration.


Riot Launches Introducing Open Source Encrypted Collaboration for Business

Riot Launches Introducing Open Source Encrypted Secure Messaging and Collaboration for Business

The ability to securely communicate in real-time is a key feature of today’s collaborative work environment.Riot, a secure messaging solution designed to bring online collaborations into a single space, has just launched promising to make this as simple and effortless as possible.

The public availability of Riot comes after a successful beta where the application was tested for the ability to create a shared workspace for the web, making it more than a messaging app.

Vector Creations, the company responsible for the app, initially built Riot for developers as a free and open source software. It has evolved into a secure, interoperable, open source and decentralized environment real-time messaging product that is readily available on the web, the App Store, Google Play, and F-Droid.

The goal for the Riot team was to make getting in touch with someone as simple as possible by making it transparent. Additionally, they believed everything should be carried out in a single app, whether you are looking to communicate with your colleagues, customers, suppliers or anyone else.

With Riot, you can control the communication from beginning to end because it is built on Matrix, an open standard for decentralized persistent communication, the company says. Matrix can be used to power Instant Messaging, VoIP/WebRTC signaling, Internet of Things communication and tracking conversation history with a standard HTTP API for publishing and subscribing to data.

By defining the standards, Matrix helps create new communications solutions, as well as extend the capabilities of existing ones. What this means for users is, it provides a solution that lets you communicate with virtually anyone without having to worry about what app or server they are using and by letting you choose whichever app or server you want. It also makes it possible to use a neutral identity system like an e-mail address or phone number to discover people to talk to.

The feature rich capability of Matrix has been implemented in Riot so teams can share data and collaborate on projects across different communication apps and third party tools. So the old days of siloed systems and the limitations they imposed are over, the company says. The bridging to external networks such as Slack, IRC, Twitter and RSS (and soon Skype, Google Hangouts, and Lync) makes it possible for team members to keep using their preferred messaging app, no matter what it is.

Secure Messaging is Needed

But being able to communicate without limitations is not enough in this highly dangerous digital environment, the developer adds. Security is just as important. Riot has an interoperable, end-to-end encryption that only users can decrypt. The advanced and open source cryptographic ratchet of Matrix’s Megolm platform delivers, according to the company, the only collaboration environment which is decentralized and encrypted end to end.

Some of the key features of Riot include:

  • Group chat, VoIP and video calling,
  • App bridging — bringing together users from disparate networks,
  • Integrations with productivity tools and bots,
  • Easy onboarding — includng invites to room participants via email or optional Riot account sign up,
  • Customizable notifications volume controls, and
  • Easy to use file transfer and file management.

The messaging is space is crowded. And in almost every instance these platforms are propriety based solutions that require all of their users to have the same platform. As the way people communicate continues to evolve without being limited to location, time, device, and application, the solution Riot provides seems, at first glance, timely.

Amandine Le Pape, Head of Product for Riot, addressed this very issue in a release announcing Riot’s official launch Sept. 20 saying, “Despite all this activity, there really hasn’t been a go-to solution for cross-team collaboration since email, which clearly has huge drawbacks. Riot eventually brings the ubiquity of email to chat whilst also providing the mandatory features for today’s collaboration: integrations, bots, security, calls … Riot is more than a messaging app: it’s a shared workspace for the web.”


Freshbooks’ New User Interface Makes Small Business Accounting ‘Ridiculously Easy,’ Company Says

A Freshbooks Redesign Makes Small Business Accounting 'Ridiculously Easy'

FreshBooks, the cloud accounting software designed for service-based small businesses and solo entrepreneurs, today announced the launch of an entirely rebuilt user interface (UI) designed to make managing invoices, clients and expenses faster and easier. The platform is also expanding its ecosystem of integrations and adding companies such as Google, GoDaddy and Apple.

“The new FreshBooks is designed to be the most ridiculously easy to use accounting software ever built — yet still packed with powerful features for self-employed professionals,” says Mike McDerment, CEO and co-founder of FreshBooks, in the announcement. “This isn’t innovation for innovation’s sake. This is about making it easier for self-employed professionals to succeed because it’s hard enough being out on your own serving your clients.”

According to McDerment, who spoke with Small Business Trends via Skype, a year and a half ago the company took a hard look at the future and determined that if there was one thing that it could do differently, it would be to make the UI much easier for customers to use. The new design reflects that mindset.

“We determined that the only way to get there was to go from the bottom up,” he said. “You can’t iterate your way to a design change like that. It demands a completely different user experience from top to bottom.”

A Look at the Freshbooks Redesign

New Freshbooks Interface Features

Freshbooks’ new interface includes the following features:

Redesigned Dashboard. The new dashboard is designed to help self-employed professionals see at a glance how their business is doing. First, it shows a graphical representation of outstanding revenue, followed by a picture of profit, a review of expenses and other commonly-used reports (P&L, account aging, expense reporting, etc.).

Freshbooks Redesign - Dashboard

Notifications Center. A feature unique to this version is a notifications center, which acts like an assistant that keeps a record of any activity taking place on the platform since the last time a user logged in. Click the bell icon to see the latest activity.

Freshbooks Redesign - Notifications

Reimagined Invoices. “Creating a FreshBooks invoice is now simpler than typing in Word and packed full of new benefits,” says the announcement. That includes options for customization (layout, color, logo, etc.), due dates and the ability to communicate with clients directly on an invoice.

Project Management. A new simple to use project management tool allows teams to share files and communicate inside a single interface.

Freshbooks Redesign - Project Management

Time Tracking. The time tracking component was completely redesigned to reflect a time of day orientation and show the hourly utilization rate more clearly.

Freshbooks Redesign - Time Tracking

Multiple Business Management. Many self-employed people own more than one business. The new UI lets users switch from one to the other seamlessly, without having to log out and back in, something the older version did not accommodate.

Redesigned Mobile Apps. The new version also offers a mobile app for iOS and Android, to enable business owners to run things at anytime from anywhere.

Older Features Made More Visible. McDerment told Small Business Trends that the old interface prevented users from seeing all the available features, such as the ability to accept credit cards, send payment reminders and charge late fees. In fact, many customers did not know these features even existed, he said. The new interface makes such features more conspicuous.

Expanded Integrations Ecosystem

FreshBooks is also expanding its ecosystem of integrations to include major players such as Google, GoDaddy and Apple.

“We’re expanding our network of partner integrations, launching with 14 partners today, and will be rapidly adding more as we continue to invest in our platform,” McDerment said in the announcement. “When your accounting data flows effortlessly between the apps you use every day … you end up spending less time on administrative tasks and more time serving your clients.”

The new interface was beta tested with 1,000 of Freshbooks customers. The company is conducting a gradual rollout so not everyone will have immediate access. Users will also have the option to switch back to the older version if desired.