Is Zero Inbox Achievable? With Mailbox App it is!

by Jess Samuels

Screen shot 2014-05-18 at 11.13.04 PM
No matter how hard we try, at some point we all end up using our email inbox as a to do list.  Of course, the folly in this system is that our “list” keeps getting longer and longer every day, making it harder to manage.

Enter the Mailbox App.  A new mail management app from Dropbox that allows you to manage your email from your phone or tablet.

Mailbox works by linking your gmail accounts (up to 10), icloud, and google apps.  To manage your inbox you will swipe to label, snooze, archive or delete.

By setting up messages to “snooze” you are able to get them out of your inbox and have them come back to you at a time or date that you are better able to manage them.

With a bit of ongoing dedication, this quick organization method allows you to get zero inbox (and stay there!) by allowing you to quickly label messages or bring them back later.

While I wouldn’t personally use mailbox as a day to day option for responding to all of my emails (regular gmail is too rich with tools to not use), it is great for it’s primary function – getting you on top of your overwhelming inbox.

So give it a try and see if you can achieve everyone’s dream goal: zero inbox!

Currently available for ios and Android.

Is Zero Inbox Achievable? With Mailbox App it is!

Blogger’s Choice: iOS7

by Valerie Heruska

So, you’ve got the new Apple iOS7 and if you’re like me you’re probably like: did Apple have an 8th grader work on the colors?

I think iOS7 is nifty, despite the way the graphics look on my phone. I think the people at Apple were looking to get away from the simpleness of the way the apps functioned and looked to this new brightness and more diversified way to use your apps and the phone. A friend passed along this article to me: The Best Hidden Features of iOS7 and I have to admit, it was pretty darn cool to figure out this new operating system.

First, I would suggest turning down the brightness of the phone so your eyes don’t bleed. Also, this helps maintain some good battery life if you’re rocking the iPhone 4/4s/5. I haven’t had the opportunity to tinker with the new iPhone 5S and 5C (c as in cheap – it’s all plastic) and so I don’t know about the battery life. If anyone out there has a new iPhone 5s/5c, can you please share your thoughts here. I’ve had this operating system for a few days and I have to say it will drain your battery, so be sure to keep a charger with you.

For me, two of the best new features: Male Siri voice and the fact that all my apps update automatically.  I remember the last time I upgraded that everything took forever and a day to update, but now, it just does it automatically. Facebook, Nike Running, Twitter, Newsstand, are just a few that have some pretty rad updates to go along with iOS7. Oh and make Siri voice sounds a lot less harsh than female Siri voice.

All in all, iOS7 is something that you should not be afraid of, rather you should embrace the change that Apple has bestowed upon us Apple nerds. If you have any fun tips or want to share any of your favorite features, share them here!

Blogger’s Choice: iOS7

Highlight an App: 30/30 for Productivty

By Brenda Bethman

As I think I’ve previously mentioned, I’m both a bit of an app addict and a stickler for being organized. The combination of those two things means that I have tried just about every to-do list app that exists for iOS. Today I want to write about one of my favorites, 30/30. Made for iOS devices (sorry Android and Windows peeps!) by Binary Hammer, 30/30 is both a task manager that combines a to-do list with a timer. Using it is simple: just enter your tasks, set an amount of time, color code and set icon if you like, and you are ready to start:

Screenshot of entering a task
Screenshot of entering a task

Tasks can be grouped in lists or you can just use one list for everything. Personally, I like lists as I can then look back and see when I did what:

Screenshot of task lists
Screenshot of task lists

Once tasks are entered, you can then use the app as a timer. Simply press the timer button and it starts counting down the time for the task. You also have options to increase or decrease the time, mark complete, move to the end of the list or delete. Tasks that are not active can be rearranged — and hidden in settings is a feature that adds the time to the task. For example, 30/30 tells me right now that I will finish writing this blog post at 1:49 p.m. In settings, you can also sync with other devices via iCloud (and I should note that this is vastly improved with the latest update — previously syncing tended to erase data. Not good). Here is what my list looked like earlier today:

Screenshot of active task list
Screenshot of active task list

You’ll note that I don’t put meetings, breaks, etc. on my list (I just pause the app when I take a break), but one could. I also don’t use it every day — I tend to use it on the days when I have a lot to do and really want to focus as I find the timers to be incredibly helpful in that respect.

30/30 is a free app, although you can make in-app purchases of extra icons if you wish. They are not necessary, though and there are no ads, which is nice. The only thing I wish it could do is sync with Clear, my other favorite to-do app. Do you use 30/30 or other task managers? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments!

Highlight an App: 30/30 for Productivty

Blogger Choice: A family that Macs together, stays together.

by Colleen Riggle

Apples

We are officially a full Apple family. MacBook Pro(s), iPads, iPhones, Apple TV and recently a 27 inch iMac was added to the family of glowing screens. We are the family that needs to have a special router to accommodate all the technology running in our home.  And I’m pretty sure my husband would buy our youngest (17 months) some type of Apple device if she wouldn’t attempt to chew on it.

Although she’s too young for a Macbook Pro, she loves to use my iPhone.  However, I must admit I’m thrifty when it comes to apps. I really don’t like to pay for them, so I usually find something that is free in place of one that is .99 – yes I know that’s way less than a Starbucks but it’s besides the point.  Fisher Price has definitely won my vote.  They have over 20 children’s educational apps.  Everything from learning the alphabet, numbers, to singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat to even a small piano!  All for free! I’ve gone through and bought almost all of them.  They are in a special folder for just for Catherine.

And on the other end of the spectrum, my 18 yo son just bought a MacBook Pro.  He’s a big gamer and had been using a 5 year old Dell – it’s quite the difference now.  We had a little down time the other night and were all found sitting at our pub table with the glow of the screen on our faces.

Some families bond over sports, some food, and others television.  We definitely love food, and a good show during prime time, but we will definitely always have the bond of technology.

A family that Macs together, stays together.

Blogger Choice: A family that Macs together, stays together.

Highlight an App: PhotoApps

By Jess Faulk

While the number of apps I use on a regular basis decreases dramatically based on the length of time I own my smartphone, I still have some favorites that I manage to find reasons to use.  Most often these apps are a way to capture the moment, or make a photograph unique.  While I most often use them for fun, I have found uses for many of them professionally as well.

Here are three of my favorites:

Microsoft PhotoSynth (Windows Phone or iOS)

provincetown

This photo-stitching app is great for capturing a moment in time or showing off a unique space.  I’ve used it to photograph vistas, our wedding venue, and even the international pillow fight day.  While posting it via twitter or facebook certainly works, the best way to view the outcome of this app is actually in the app itself, or on the web after uploading it to the photosynth site (check out this image of Inauguration 2013 by EricJay).  It feels like you were actually there.  I received quite a few retweets posting my photosynth of the NEACUHO conference final banquet on twitter – it captures so well the scale of an big event.

Pocketbooth (iOS, Android, Nokia, Windows Phone)

Alison & JessG

This has become the #1 app for capturing a moment for my fiancé and I.  During one of our very first vacations together (to the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk) we toiled for over 45 minutes with one broken photobooth after another, and waiting for the repair guy before I remembered I had a photo app on my phone.  Now we capture the moment whenever we are visiting somewhere new.  Our best use so far: pass the app around the table at a wedding and end up with a collection of our friends’ funny poses!  This would be an awesome way to capture the personality  your staff or members of a student organization. Revive the retro style of photo fun!

Popsicolor (iOS)

Just another fun filter to use on your photos.  This is certainly very different from your average instagram filters, and would make some fabulous wall art.  It would also make for a fun and colorful staff bulletin board!

Kiddo

Highlight an App: PhotoApps

Blog Prompt: Making life easier, expense sharing

by Jess Faulk

tricountWhen you first buy your smartphone or tablet device you can’t get enough of the coolest, latest apps.  Page and pages of apps fill your device, despite knowing somewhere in the back of your mind that you will forget what half of them do.

At this point you really need start to distinguishing the apps that are fun to use on ‘a rainy day’ vs. those ‘make your life easier.’  I want to share one with you that my partner and I use on almost a daily basis: Tricount.

When my partner and I first started dating, we immediately discussed the strategies for coordinating our shared expenses.  There is the “you get me this time and I will get you next time” method.  There is also the “let’s save up all of our receipts and figure out later” method.  Neither seemed particularly appealing, as both required some mental energy keeping it all straight in our heads.  My proposed solution was a Google doc where we would enter amounts each of us spent.  I set it up so that each column created a total at the top of the spreadsheet, and automatically split the total in two.  A good first-try tech solution, but we thought we could do better. Google docs aren’t the friendliest on our phones, and it didn’t allow a lot of flexibility if one of us bought something particularly expensive.  After an extensive search – we found a solution we love, Tricount.

Tricount is still in beta, so there are some kinks to be worked out, but even in it’s growing stage, it serves us quite well.  Tricount is designed as a group expense organizing tool.  The type of application that you would use if you went on a road trip with 4 other people and needed to track who owes who as you go.  This would be particularly helpful when not everyone has the right amount of money (or type of currency if traveling abroad), and need to rely on each other until you can find an ATM or vendor who takes credit cards.

tri count 2Our use of Tricount is relatively simple.  We buy dinner at Panera Bread and a minute later one of us pulls out our smartphone (iPhone or Android) to enter the expense.  As soon as the expense is in, the receipt gets thrown away.  No more tallying up or mental tracking.  Each month with the click of a button we balance the account and one of us sends the other a funds transfer. We then start tracking anew for the next month.  So far we’ve used it for 4 months for day-to-day expenses, and just recently started using it for tracking wedding expenses.  The program can be used on your computer through the web, on facebook, or via your phone.

Drawbacks: As I said before, this is a public beta, so they are not yet 100% awesome.  Some mini hurdles that have stuck out for me are: 1. It’s European date format (takes a while to get used to), 2. It needs a streamlined system for syncing that allows for both editing online and editing with your phone (it can be done, but only through emailing links to the accounts via the people involved).

Overall, I do have to say that Tricount has made my life easier.  Whether you are sharing expenses with a partner, taking a trip with friends, or trying to remember all of the items you need to be reimbursed by your office, I hope that it makes your life easier too.

Blog Prompt: Making life easier, expense sharing

What’s On Your Homescreen?

By Brenda Bethman

I have a thing about the “what’s on your homescreen?” genre of blog posts / websites. I love to scroll through galleries to see what other folks put on their homescreens as the apps you choose to highlight on that precious phone real estate says something to me about the kind of person you are. I can happily waste tons of time looking at posts / sites featuring homescreens (click here, here, and here for just a few examples). Recently I realized that we here at SAWTT had never done such a post, so here it is. Below is a screen shot of my homescreen with some explanation for why those apps are there.

Row #1: App Store, Settings, Music folder, Safari. A lot of folks don’t put stock Apple apps like the App Store and Settings on the homescreen, but I like to have them there for easy access — especially since I’ve upgraded to the iPhone 5 and have become obsessed with battery life and find myself opening the Settings app multiple times per day to tweak settings in an attempt to squeeze out as much battery life as possible. The Music folder contains iTunes, the Music app, Pandora, and Podcasts — and Safari is another app I use multiple times per day.

Row #2: Messages, Maps, Cameras folder, Photography folder. One surprising development for me since getting an iPhone a couple of years ago is what a huge texter I have become. As someone who previously scorned the form, this is truly surprising. I have also developed digital hoarding tendencies — a recent need to restore my phone as new (thank you, battery issues) prompted a search for an app that would backup my texts (see this post for more on that process) and revealed that I had accumulated over 6,300 texts on my old phone is just two years. So, the Messages app definitely gets a prominent place on my phone. Maps, Cameras and Photography are also used frequently (and again, the over 2,500 photos on my device tells you something about my ability to hoard. I really need to work on that….).

Row #3: Facebook, Messenger, Tweetbot, Foursquare. This is the “social” row and these four apps are accessed many, many times per day. I’ve written enough both here and on my blog for readers to know how I feel about social media, so I see no need to elaborate. The surprise would be if these apps weren’t on my homescreen.

Row #4: Day One, Clear, 30/30, DraftsThe productivity row — Day One is a great journaling app that helps me keep track of both personal and professional highlights. Drafts is an awesome note-taking app that can send your text just about anywhere (to-do apps, note-taking apps like Simplenote, email, Day One, etc.). And Clear and 30/30 are the task management / to-do list apps that have stuck with me through my experiments with any number of such apps (see this post for an explanation of why I still prefer pen and paper for task management).

Row #5: Dropbox, Reeder, Pocket, Cue. Dropbox allows me instant access to any file I need on the go (and has in fact saved me by allowing me to email/text links to files I forgot to send to someone before hitting the road. With Dropbox, I can send the link from wherever I am). Reeder keeps me up to date on the (too many) blogs I subscribe to (again with that hoarding thing), while Pocket lets me save things to read later (and syncs with my iPad and MacBook so I can catch up anywhere). Cue is a recent discovery for me and an app I’m coming to like quite a bit — it pulls information from your calendars, contacts, social networks, etc. to provide an overview of your day. If you’re running late, you can text from within the app to let folks know that — you can also pull up a history of your interactions with the meeting attendees as well as get a weather summary for the day, including sunrise and sunset times. I’m still exploring it, but so far finding it quite handy.

Dock: Mail, Phone, Contacts, Calendar. These apps are the reason I have a phone in the first place, so it only makes sense to have them in the row that’s accessible from all screens.

Background: The background photo is a picture of a sunset in Ephraim, WI, taken in summer 2012. My husband and I have been vacationing there for the past three years and photos of water and sunsets grace most of my devices as backgrounds.

What about you? What’s on your homescreen? Why? Please share in the comments!

What’s On Your Homescreen?

Gadget Love

By Brenda Bethman

One of the perils of being an early adopter is that you get to work out all the kinks in a product. Which for me means that I am currently dealing with an iPhone 5 with a super-fast draining battery (and no, I am not alone). As I am about to head out on a trip and battery cases are not yet available, I headed down to the Apple store at lunch to see what kind of power solution I could pick up. While there, I chatted with one of the Geniuses and explained my issue.

His advice? “Just restore as new.” “But,” I said, “that takes forever and I’ll lose all my texts.” “Then I guess you’re stuck with the battery pack,” he says.

As someone who has only recently (in the last couple of years or so) been converted to texting, I was surprised at how strong my emotional reaction was to this suggestion. The idea of losing (and by losing I mean not being to restore to my phone — I suppose they would be living on my computer in a backup somewhere) my texts really bothered me. Histories of arranging meetups at conferences, snarky text exchanges with Kristen, the long text conversations had with a friend who was back home while his mother was dying — all gone? Never to be reread? Not to mention the useful information like addresses, emails, phone numbers, etc. Oh, and the kitten videos and texts from my nephew. Gone? Just gone? The very idea made me feel bereft. I was also annoyed with how cavalier the dismissal by the Apple employee was. They encourage this very emotional connection and then just shrug while telling you “sorry, yes, you will lose that data”?

For now, I’m trying other options before resorting to restore as new. And some Googling has produced two resources: Backuptrans iPhone and iBackupBot, both of which promise to backup and restore text messages (although I doubt neither can do anything about the time suck that that involves. Alas). Still, though, this gave me some pause, raising some questions: am I too attached to my iPhone? Are these texts really that important? Sure, I carry around (and will forever) the letters that my husband wrote me back when we first met and I was on my Fulbright in Vienna — but are electronic messages really the same? Am I too sentimental? I don’t know the answers just yet, but I do know that for now I’m looking to find a way to preserve those texts. What about you? How attached are you to your electronic archives?

Gadget Love

Highlight of an app: My Fitness Pal

by Colleen Riggle

It took my child turning one to finally give me the push to lose those lingering baby pounds.  I often hear many women complain about them days, months, or even years after giving birth.  Not that I am super concerned with my weight, but it was more so wanting to expand my wardrobe a bit more.  Materialistic? Perhaps, but it’s more realistic with the cooler Fall temps approaching.

Being an athlete I’ve always keep a good idea of what my daily caloric intake, fat and protein looks like and used various apps in the past.  However, for the past 35 days I have successfully logged every meal, snack, and cardio/strength workout.  For me that’s pretty impressive.

My Fitness Pal has been awesome for a couple reason.  It’s an app that is web based as well, so when I’m at work I can log my snacks and foods quickly without having to use my phone.  But if I’m on the go, sitting in traffic (carpooling, of course) I can log in my dinner or send some motivation to my “friends”.  Additionally, you’re able to either keep your food diary public or private.  My friends and I have public food diaries, so we able to get fresh, new ideas of meals or snacks.  We’re also able to give advice where someone might be struggling.  Or you can see just how many Starbucks I’ve had in the last week!

Lastly, what I love about My Fitness Pal is the barcode scanner! It’s awesome.  At dinner time, I just run around zapping the barcodes, which add to my “recent” foods, as well as my meal history!   Once in a while it’s a little wonky where it pulled up something totally random from what I was eating!

Whether you’re watching your intake, on a “diet” or just looking for a cool new app My Fitness Pal gets 5 stars from me!

Highlight of an app: My Fitness Pal

App Addiction

By Brenda Bethman

As Anitra did last week, I also have a confession — one that is also related to the apps on my iPhone / iPad. In my case, its that I am just a wee bit addicted to trying new apps. So much so that I currently have 143 apps installed on my phone, 148 on the iPad and a library of 223 in iTunes on my Mac (and this is after a major purge a bit ago during which I deleted close to 100 apps from iTunes).

There are a few reasons for this addiction of mine:

  • One is that I genuinely enjoy playing around with and testing new apps (and hey, I do co-edit a tech blog, so thats probably a good thing). As this was a long weekend, I spent some time downloading some new apps, playing around with them, and then deciding whether to keep them (Drafts made the cut, Smartr did not, and the jury is still out on Things).
  • Secondly is that I am a bit of a digital hoarder. Paper I will throw out, but I hang on to my apps just in case I need them sometime. Yes, I know I can re-download at any time, but that requires an Internet connection and time. What if I need the app right away?!? Much better to have it on my phone.
  • Third is the belief that somewhere out there the perfect app is waiting for me — one that will accurately and beautifully forecast the weather, one that will magically organize the chaos of my contacts, one that will keep my to-do lists in such perfect order that I will become more productive overnight, etc., etc. I know thats a myth, and yet…..the hope and promise of a new app is like a siren call, one to which I succumb again and again.

What about you? Are an app addict? Or a buy-just-what-you-need kind of app buyer? Let us know. Oh, and if you have any tips for that app that might just change my life, please leave a link in the comments!

 

App Addiction