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