Start Your New Year with Day One

January 1, 2014 at 6:43 pm (Applications, iDevices, iPhone/iPod Touch, Personal, Productivity, shareware, writing) (, , , , , )

Happy New Year!  Another year beginning, another year ending, resolutions to make, resolutions to break.  I’m not being pessimistic, just realistic.  In the past couple of weeks with the old winding down and getting ready to give way to the new, I’ve had several friends ask me if I still journal, and if so, what app I use.  

I have always jotted down thoughts here and there, since I was a kid and got my “First Diary”.  You remember those, right?  They were little books with a cardboard flap and a couple of flimsy keys that anyone with a pair of scissors or a paperclip could get into; but we were young, so we thought it was locked up tight.  But, how things have changed.  Well, sort of.  They still make those for the kiddies, but our adult selections are so much better.  Most of the ones you actually write in no longer have locks, and are made of leather, pleather, vinyl, card stock, etc. and can be found ruled, as a grid, or blank.   

Day One Icon

But, for those who have transitioned to the digital world, (wait for it…), there’s an app for that. (You had to know it was coming). Actually, there are a lot of apps for that now, and quite a few good choices. But the one that has won my heart is the award-winning Day One.  It is a truly wonderful app for Mac, and there is a universal companion app, which is an excellent standalone app in its own right, for the iPhone and iPad. 

It is incredibly easy to get started, and you won’t even have to read any how-to guides to get up and running.  Their tag line is “Record life as you live it”, and the app’s design makes it easy to do just that. The interface is simple, clean, and minimalistic. Data that is automatically entered includes date and time, location, weather, photo EXIF, activity (walking, biking, running), and music playing. There is tagging and Markdown support, as well as customized reminders that you can set to be sent daily or weekly at certain times. The app really shines with its organizational abilities, as you can view past entries using the calendar, maps, photos, timeline, and more. Day One’s Mac version has a nifty little Menu Bar quick entry feature where you can (just like it sounds) make an entry right from the Menu Bar without opening the application. That’s great for a quick notation, or even a longer one when you’re not attaching a photo. Automatic backups keep your data safe as well.

Your entries can be synced from your Mac to and across your iDevices using iCloud or Dropbox.  I will say that I tried to use iCloud, and I really wanted to use it to save my rapidly filling Dropbox space.  But, I kept having issues with it, and in the end, it was just easier to disable iCloud syncing and go with Dropbox.  I haven’t had the first issue since the switch.  

Entries can be shared by emailing to friends and family or posting to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Day One also creates individual webpages at dayone.me for any entires you want to publish. I’ve seen examples of it used for almost anything you can imagine, for typical writing and journaling, for research, for reviewing books, movies, and other media, as a work journal and timekeeper, as a travel and mileage log, as a prayer book and inspirational guide, and much more. 

I must say that it is a joy to use Day One.  I use it for jotting quick notes about events or captioning a photo, as well as making more personal longer entries or capturing special events. I’ve also been using it to log geocaching adventures, as well as ideas for my own devious geocaches to hide.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  

You can get more information about Day One at its website here.  The Desktop version for Mac is available thru the Mac App Store for $9.99 and the Universal version for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is $4.99. Now go jot down all your resolutions, then use Day One to write about them. Once you start using it, you’ll be likely to continue.  Enjoy!

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15 iPad Apps to Boost Productivity

April 25, 2013 at 4:19 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Like many people these days, my friends and I are spending more and more time using mobile devices for work and play. I’ve done a little bit of investigating, and have come up with fifteen of the best iPad apps for boosting productivity:

IOS App Icons 2

1. Evernote (Free) How would you like it if you could remember everything? With Evernote, you’ll never forget anything again…but, if you do, you can skim back thru your index and find it. Evernote for iPad lets you create new text, audio, and photo notes. With its gesture control, you can view existing Evernote content just by swiping or tapping your finger. It lets you create multiple types of notes, organize them in notebooks, and syncs automatically and flawlessly. You can also share with others. There is also a Premium account with more great features, including their amazing text recognition. It’s cross-platform and cross-device, so you’ll never be without your information again. It’s truly become my peripheral brain. If I could only have one app, this would be it.

2. 1Password ($17.99) This hall of fame app is easily the best password manager for the iPad, iOS and Mac (also for Windows and Android). It uses industry standard security, has a user-friendly (and gorgeous) interface, has desktop partner apps for Mac and Windows, and automagically syncs with Dropbox to keep everything at your fingertips. Use it to store log-ins, software registrations, secure notes, account information, and more. Generate strong passwords to protect your digital information. Use the in-app browser to log in to places like online banking sites securely from within the app. There were previously separate apps for iPhone and iPad, but now there is one universal app. This is a great standalone app, but it’s really powerful when you use it in conjunction with its desktop counterpart.

3. Dropbox (Free) This service lets you take your photos, documents, and videos anywhere and easily share them. You can keep files in a central location accessible to all devices, and share with other users. It is integrated with many iOS apps and has become the standard app to which many apps sync to safely store information.

4. TextExpander ($4.99) – This is an invaluable app on your Mac, and now it has come to the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. Use short abbreviations that expand to words, snippets of text, or entire paragraphs to increase productivity and save lots of typing. Set your abbreviation then watch it expand to fill information such as addresses, URL’s, standard responses, and more. Every day, more apps are integrated with it…over 100 already. Sync your TextExpander snippets with your Mac via Dropbox.

5. Notability ($1.99) This was Apple’s best selling note-taker of 2012. Taking notes is an essential part of important work meetings, but everyone has their own style and preferred method of capturing and transcribing information. Notability rolls all those styles into one handy app. You can type, doodle notes by hand, record snippets of audio, pull images from the web or add them from your photo library, annotate PDFs, and index everything in one place. Once you have your notes, you can sync to your favorite cloud service. You can also import Microsoft Office files (.doc, .ppt, and .xls) as PDFs using Google Drive.

6. JotNot Scanner Pro ($.99) When you need to scan docs, this is the app to use. Take a picture of your document (or batch scan multiple docs), adjust the corners where you want them, then send it to yourself via Evernote, email, uploading to Dropbox, etc. Scan your docs, receipts, (and anything else you can snap with your camera) into PDFs. Take advantage of in-app faxing to U.S. numbers via fax credits (99¢ for up to 5 pages). You can adjust file size and resolution within the app. Tag, search, and sort your documents. It automatically detects standard paper sizes, or you can set custom sizes. View PDF docs or export them to other iOS apps such as iBooks. Some folks prefer Scanner Pro ($6.99). Both do essentially the same things. I’ve always used JotNot, and never had an issue. I have some friends who use Scanner Pro who say the same thing. Get whichever looks better to you. You can’t go wrong with either one, although there’s a $6 price difference at the moment.

7. Wunderlist (Free) After trying over a dozen planners, to-do lists, and reminder-type apps, this has become my favorite of the bunch. It might not have all the bells and whistles (or price tag!) of OmniFocus or Things, but by the same token, I don’t get all bogged down in it, and I can just concentrate on getting things done. Wunderlist has won multiple awards from Lifehacker, Mashable, and others. You can create and manage multiple lists in one place, set reminders, and add recurring tasks and subtasks. It is easy to collaborate with others by inviting friends or colleagues to share lists. In addition to using this for basic to-do lists, I have a media list that a group of us share and a shopping list that I share with my partner. We can both add to it from our respective iDevices, and it stays in sync between us. Never forget the ice cream again 🙂

8. Log Me In (Free) This app gives you direct access to your computer at home or work with just one click. Remotely access your computer or access and edit files from your iPad as if you were sitting at your computer. Never be away from important files again. The Pro version has premium features.

9. Dragon Dictation (Free) This is by far the best voice-to-text tool that I’ve ever used. It works from the moment you install it with no configuration or setting up, and no ‘training’ period. It is the embodiment of the phrase ‘it just works.’ If fast typing isn’t your thing, this is a great solution for hands-free transcription. This helpful and accurate dictation app turns your speech into text, then lets you send it easily to social networking apps, email, or other programs. Once you get a feel for it, using this app is a breeze.

10. iXpenseIt ($4.99) – This one has taken multiple awards for favorite app from different sites. It helps with expense tracking, budgeting, and bill reminders for personal or business use. There’s an export feature using email or wi-fi, or use .CSV importing into either Numbers or Excel spreadsheets. Access your data via any web browser using the wi-fi option, or email expense reports, with photos if desired. The lite version has limit of 200 records, including recurring expenses, so you can give it a try.

11. OfficeTime ($7.99, Universal) Accurately tracking time spent working across multiple projects in a day can feel like a tedious juggling act that completely saps your focus. This easy-to-use time tracker app handles that task for you. All you do is set a project and tap a button. Switching between different tasks auto pauses your current project when you swap. Export to Numbers or Excel, Mac or PC. Designed for Freelancers and small teams. There is also a free version with limited functionality, but it should be enough to let you see that you would like the paid version so you can track unlimited projects and categories and sync to your Mac or PC.

12. Camera+ for iPad ($.99) Since the day it was released, Camera+ has been the best iPhone app for taking and editing photos. It runs circles around Apple’s own Camera app, largely due to the “Clarity” filter that improves almost any photo in any circumstances. I rarely take photos with my iPad, but I do a lot of minor editing and enhancing, and that is where this app shines. There are oodles of filters, effects, and treatments that have been created by figure skater turned model turned professional photographer, Lisa Bettany, and she has worked some serious magic with this app. Use one effect, or stack them for even more unique results. Then add borders and captions for a little extra punch. Keep your photos in sync between your iDevices using their iCloud Lightbox feature, then share your photos via popular social media apps.

13. Flipboard (Free) This flagship iPad app is still the standard for news apps on the iPad, or as they say, “your personal magazine”. Completely customizable to suit your tastes, it is a great aggregator of all your favorite sources, from Twitter and Facebook to your favorite ‘read later’ app, with a gorgeous magazine style layout. A cool new feature includes the ability to literally save content into your own magazines, for example to make a “Dream Trip” planning guide, or set up your very own magazine for all things geocaching. Did I mention the gorgeous layout? 😉

14. Pocket (Free) Save long articles, web pages, or videos to view later, when you have time, on your computer, iPhone, or iPad. It syncs automatically across devices. Save virtually anything from your browser or from over 300 apps. This is another app that has been a repeat award winner over the past year or so. This is a great app for when I’m stuck somewhere without online access and a weak or non-existent cell signal. Thanks to Pocket, I can still access prime content. Some new features include sharing content and sending to friends.

15. Spotify (Free) When I’m working or relaxing or pretty much any time in between, I’ve got to be listening to music. It just makes me more productive. This excellent music streaming service is now a universal iOS app and it’s a great one. You can listen to your own music for free or get full offline access to all your favorite synced playlists with a Spotify premium account. U.S. users can listen to free radio as well. Share your favorite music with friends and send it to Facebook. Listening to music just got a whole lot better.

Bonus app: Bento for iPad ($9.99) For an all-around organizational tool for your life, check out Bento. This app has 25 different database templates designed for a variety of subjects, including recipes, event planning, inventory tracking, billable hours and expenses, vehicle maintenance, and contacts. All the templates are customizable, so you can tweak them to suit your specific needs, or design your own from scratch. Organize virtually any type of information. This can be used as a standalone app, or in conjunction with the iPhone ($4.99) version or Mac ($49.99) version. It does have a bit of a learning curve, but there are some great tutorials available online.

There you have it. Those are my fifteen top apps for boosting productivity using just your iPad and a few well-placed taps and swipes. Let me know what apps you can’t live without.

 

 

 

 

 

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Try Clarify for quick “how to” instructions

August 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm (Apple, Applications, How-to, Productivity, shareware) (, , , )

There’s a new kid in town to make life easier when you get emails, texts, and phone calls from friends and family asking, “Hey, can you tell me how to do (task of the day) real quick?”.  It’s an application called Clarify from Blue Mango Software. You might be familiar with them for their terrific ScreenSteps application that’s been around for a few years and is invaluable for those who write technical instructions, software manuals, and the like.

Clarify is like a lighter version of ScreenSteps. In fact, the process is very similar, so anyone who has used ScreenSteps will be able to use it right out of the gate, and those who aren’t accustomed to it will be able to use it in mere minutes. It’s that easy and intuitive.

Blue Mango says they streamlined the application to be more of a screen capture tool and is primarily for “reducing round trip emails”. Rather than having to send multiple emails back and forth to re-explain, or clarify, your instructions, you can easily do it in just one email using this software.

I did a quick “How to create a how-to using Clarify” in about 2 minutes.

The following is what the user interface looks like within the software while you’re creating your document.

CreateHowToThis next screenshot is what the finished product looks like on the Clarify-it.com sharing site, where you will send folks to view the how-to information. It looks very nice and polished. It can also be exported as a pdf file.

FinishedProductThere is a free public beta available now so you can try it out. The price will be $29.99 when the application is released. It’s available here: http://www.bluemangolearning.com/clarify/ .  Give it a go then leave a comment and let me know what you think about it.  What other methods do you use for this type of communication? Email? Skitch? Something else? Let’s hear your ideas below.

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Jott This!!

April 15, 2008 at 3:29 am (Standard) (, , , , , , , )

I “discovered” Jott today. This is a terrific little app that basically transcribes your messages for you. You call Jott and leave your message. Then Jott transcribes it and either emails or sends a text message to you or your chosen contact(s). That’s pretty cool all by itself, but it also integrates with other apps to make it even more powerful. It’s especially useful given that more and more states are enacting laws about not driving while talking on a cell phone. Just pop your bluetooth headset on and you’re good to go.

It is quick and easy to get a Jott account. And free. Head to www.jott.com. Fill out your info, confirm it with the email they send you, then add 866.JOTT.123 to your contacts list. Make that first call and see how easy it is. You can set it up to get confirmation emails, text messages, or both. I made “my phone” a contact (an idea I got from lifehacker) and didn’t enter an email address for those times when I just want a text message. For email reminders, I added “me” as a contact. You can also add groups, which comes in quite handy for work or family.

There is a very simple how-to guide and FAQs at Jott’s site. It’s pretty much a no-brainer though. When you call, a cheerful voice asks, “Who do you want to Jott?”. You tell her your contact’s name, then give your info. She confirms your message has been received with “Got it!”, and you hang up. How easy is that!!

There are several applications, including the ever-popular Google Calendar webapp, that use Jott links. How cool is it to leave a message on your cell phone then have it show up on your Google calendar the next time you open it?!? Jott also works with Remember the Milk (www.rememberthemilk.com), which was voted the best web-based task manager at lifehacker.com. RTM also integrates with iCal, Google Calendar, Gmail and more. You can use Jott to let everyone know what you’re doing on Twitter, and you can post a blog entry using popular blog apps such as WordPress and Blogger. You can record short messages up to 30 seconds (hey, I said they were short!) that you can playback at your account page on Jott’s website.

I played around with the accuracy, and it’s very good. They do give you some tips in the guide, so check those out as well. You can spell odd or difficult names and make it less likely for an error to occur.

This is one hot application. I still can’t believe it’s this good AND it’s free! Try it today. You’ll be hooked.

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