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!

Highlight An App: Office for iPad

By Brenda Bethman

If you follow tech news at all, you likely know that in late March Microsoft (finally!) released a version of Office for the iPad — and also made the iPhone version free. The iPad apps (Word, Excel, and Power Point) are also free, as are versions of OneNote for the Mac and iOS.

Well, technically free. With the free versions of the iPad apps, you can view and read files, but not edit them. Editing requires an Office 365 subscription, the cost of which varies depending on the type of plan purchased. For folks working in higher education, it’s not a bad deal. If you don’t already have a subscription through your university (which many do), you can purchase Office 365 University. The cost is $79.99 for 4 years, and includes 2 installations of Office on Macs or PCs, access to the tablet apps, 20GB of storage on OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) and 60 Skype minutes per month.

Even if you don’t buy the subscription, I recommend downloading the apps for anyone who works with a lot of Office documents and uses their iPad in meetings. Unlike former solutions where formatting would be a hot mess, these apps preserve the formatting, meaning your documents look basically the same on your iPad (first photo below) as on your laptop (second photo below):

Word document on iPad

 

Word document on Mac laptop

While Microsoft obviously couldn’t include all the functionality of the computer apps, the important things are there, including document review and the ability to add/read comments. If you use and love (or even like) Office a lot and want to be able to work on Office documents on your iPad, you will love these apps.

What you will not love — the price (especially if you don’t qualify for a University subscription), the inability to print (which Microsoft says is coming), the lack of cloud options other than Microsoft’s OneDrive (no saving to Dropbox or iCloud), and the inability to work offline. Nonetheless, these are solid, well-built apps, and a vast improvement over previous options for the iPad.

 

Highlight An App: Office for iPad

Review: Pebble Smartwatch

by Kristen Abell

Over a year ago, the tech world was set afire with news of a Kickstarter campaign for a smartwatch that would do…well, just about everything, but mainly it would sync with your phone and the apps on it. The Pebble smartwatch Kickstarter campaign took off like no other before it, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the contributors who got in fairly early on it. Actually, my partner was, as he ordered it for me as a late Mother’s Day gift. It was supposed to arrive in September of that year.

Fast forward to March, when I FINALLY got my Pebble, due to the overwhelming response and multiple delays in manufacturing. I was excited to play with it and see what all it could do. But I was one of the lucky ones – several folks have never gotten their watches, and there are now plans to market it through Best Buy before fulfilling those orders. So Pebble was not off to an auspicious beginning.

After getting the watch, the initial sync process wasn’t too difficult – download the Pebble app, sync up your phone, voila! Smartwatch. But after that initial process, nothing about the watch has been terribly user-friendly or intuitive. I get my texts through it, and I can see when I get a phone call. I can also start my iPhone playing music if I want to, so it serves as a bit of a remote. But supposedly I’m also able to get tweets from most Twitter apps and Facebook updates, and I have yet to figure out how to sync my watch to make that happen, despite researching it. RunKeeper has recently been implemented as a paired app with the watch, as well, and though I haven’t gotten to use it yet, it took me a little research to figure out exactly how it worked.

So thus far, I essentially have a remote for my phone as a watch, with the potential for a fitness app, should I want to use it. Should you need a remote for your phone, I’d highly recommend the Pebble – it’s sleek, and the various watchface options make it a fun watch. If you’re looking for a smartwatch, however, you might hold off on this one until they iron out a few more glitches.

Has anyone else tried the Pebble? What are your thoughts?

Review: Pebble Smartwatch

Highlight An App: Walk Score

By Anitra Cottledge

Remember that I tend to underutilize apps? OK, as long as you keep that in mind when I do these “Highlight An App” posts. Just know that I’m digging deep here.

An app I do love: Walk Score.

I don’t even remember how I found out about Walk Score. I do know that I found the website before I downloaded the app, and that the website really helped me when I was moving to get a sense of the neighborhoods I was considering. If you are a person who really values and prioritizes being able to walk to certain things around your apartment/house, this is the app for you.

With Walk Score, you can see how far the nearest coffeeshop, grocery store, restaurant, school, or outdoor place (e.g., park, golf course [!], etc.) is from where you live. You can also use Walk Score to find public transit routes, and other potential places to live (e.g., available apartment rentals).

So, all in all, a pretty comprehensive app/website if you’re actively and intentionally looking for somewhere to live, or if you want to explore your current neighborhood, or if you just find this kind of thing interesting.

As it turns out, the walk score for my neighborhood is 54 – Somewhat Walkable. Not as wonderful as I would like, but next time I’ll shoot for a walk score of 70 and above.

 

Highlight An App: Walk Score

App or Website?

by Kristen Abell

As college campuses continue to assess their websites, they find that more and more of our users are accessing sites through mobile browsers – smartphones, tablets, etc. (duh). What this calls into question, though, is what direction do we go from here? Do we invest our resources in a mobile app, or do we build a website easily accessible on mobile devices? A few thoughts to consider…

The majority of users on mobile devices access their favorite sites through apps (think Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.). They are used to the speed and ease of use of these apps. Most of these sites have created apps to be used across a variety of platforms – iOS, Android, etc. They highlight the most important aspects of the site for any user, and they turn them into buttons or easily used functions. This sets a fantastic example for universities in what mobile users are looking for when accessing a site on their device.

Quickly becoming more popular than mobile websites these days are responsive design sites – sites that adjust to fit the device on which they’re being viewed. These have a lot of potential for users to continue to be able to access all parts of the site, and once a responsive site has been implemented, it’s much easier to make changes to than a mobile app. In addition, for those users that are less familiar with using apps (believe me, they’re actually out there), this provides a more friendly interface.

One of the biggest challenges to universities is the breadth of audience and user functions required by their sites. They are providing information for students, future students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff and community. They are often large and unwieldy sites branching across a variety of departments and academic units. They also often use tools for registration, data-tracking and other applications that may not have ventured into the realm of mobile-friendliness.

So what is the best path for universities to take? What does your institution do? Do you have other thoughts on the mobile app vs. responsive website debate?

App or Website?

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?

Blog Prompt: Best Technology Advances

By Anitra Cottledge

Occasionally, when I’m given a blog prompt, I go to my Facebook and/or Twitter for what I like to call “Audience Participation Time.” I ask my friends and followers what they think about a particular question or issue. So when I realized my topic du prompt was about the best advances in technology this year/this decade, I was very curious about what other people thought.

I have to say…I was very surprised by the response I got from other folks.

Before I get to that, let me share my own personal thoughts about the prompt. As you might imagine, it’s difficult to pin down one or two or even five top technological advances that have occurred in the last year or even the last decade. I think part of this difficulty is due to the fact that technology changes so quickly these days, that it’s simply hard to keep track. When I think about the technology that has really impacted my life, a common theme is “portability.” What a lot of technology in the last decade has done for many of us is make it much easier to take our media – books, music, film, – with us without too much fuss. I’m talking about iPods, iPads, and e-readers, etc. Who among us has some sort of iPod, or MP3 player, and also remembers your first one? Do you remember how revolutionary it was to walk around with a good chunk of your musical library in a small device that you could put into your pocket? Even as these things have been refined and made even smaller, even faster, even flashier, it’s still pretty amazing that technology has been able to take us from Walkmans to Discmans to MP3 layers, and in a very short period of time, to boot.

I will also go on record as saying, despite my initial reservations about e-readers, Kima (my Kindle Fire) is a godsend when I travel. I’m the kind of traveler for whom having several reading options is a must. Now, I can take a mini-library with me when I travel instead of having to choose one or two books (that I will probably finish too quickly).

Another common theme is convenience. It helps to be able to pay bills online, to order any number of things online, to schedule blog posts and tweets and Facebook statuses ahead of time. (I continue to be fascinated by the ways that the internet and technology in general simultaneously save us time and steal our time.)

Those where the things I was thinking about. Thus, I was expecting to hear echoes of that from other people. And while some people did mention their iPads and laptops, the clear winner that I heard from other people was Roku.

Roku - XDSI never saw that coming. But I suppose it makes sense: Roku fits right in with those themes of portability and convenience. With Roku, you can stream all sorts of media and services to your TV: Amazon.com Instant Video, Hulu, Netflix, HBO GO, TED talks, games like Angry Birds, Pandora, etc.

Most people who responded said that Roku was the piece of technology they couldn’t live without, and most interesting, that it signals the end of cable TV. I don’t use Roku, but now this round of Audience Participation Time has me considering it. And now, I’m curious to see what, in fact, does happen to cable TV if more people start using Roku.

What about you? What do you think are the best technology advances in the last year or decade?

Blog Prompt: Best Technology Advances

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