Saturday, August 22, 2015

Three Great Apps for Keeping Track of Stuff

by Christian Holzinger from

The summer is almost over (not that we teachers REALLY get to sit for two months under a beach umbrella with our legs up sipping a Daiquiri and reading a great book - although I DO think that that should count towards in-service teacher training... being well-read is an important quality for a teacher).  Most of us will be heading back to our schools in the next few days for staff meetings, and to start preparations for a new school year. 

In order to keep track of what I have to do, I use Google Calendar. I would absolutely be LOST without it! (Ummm.....well..... no.... that's Waze..... I would be absolutely LOST without Waze.....but I would never remember what I need to do, and when, without my Google Calendar.) But that's for a different blog post. Since I no longer use the hard-copy calendar diary that we get at the beginning of the school year from our Teachers' Unions, I had to find something to replace the little pieces of paper that used to populate my calendar diary, (as well as my refrigerator door).  Here are a few different ones I have tried (all have at least basic actions that are free).

Any Do  

Any.Do lets you plan your day (it will pop up at a set time each morning and invite you to "plan your day". It lets you write your To Do lists, classify and label them, and will send you pop up reminders. When you miss a call, it will remind you later on that you had a call, and ask if you want to call them back, and if not now, then when (in an hour? this evening? tomorrow? next week?). I see now that it also has developed a desktop Chrome app, so that you can use it on the go, or in front of your computer. I had used it for a while, and, although it is no longer my app of choice, I suggest you look into it and play around. (I believe it is also an Israeli brain-child, so if patriotism is a selling-point...) 


Out of Milk 

I had been using Out of Milk for a REALLY long time, and was completely happy with it. It is a very convenient way to make your shopping list. You can divide it into categories (stores, sections of supermarkets, whatever) and sync it. However the more advanced options (for example, sharing a list with someone or adding a photo) are not free, and the bar-code scanner (for adding something to the list using the bar-code) never worked properly for me here in Israel, anyway. Although the current version has become surprisingly graphically pleasing, let's face it: I really want to use an app that does more than just a grocery list. 

Google Keep
Google Keep Widget

View on phone
Google Keep is currently my favorite go-to app for this purpose. I use it for my shopping lists, (and have shared that list with my son, so that if he wants me to get something when I go to the store, it's already in my list), and can even add a picture of something I want to get, so that I don't have to write a lot on the list, or describe it to the store keeper (the natural mosquito repellent in the brown bottle with the light blue and green label) I can just show the photo!

Google Keep syncs with my computer, so I can use the desktop view (below) OR the mobile view (above) on my phone. I make all sorts of notes of information that I need to find quickly (my license number, which dyscalculic me never remembers, the size of the windows I want to buy curtains for "someday") and - most importantly, my "To Do" list! There is an option of adding a reminder that will pop up to remind me to do something. It will even add a location reminder, so that if you want to do something when you are, say, in Ashkelon, the reminder will pop up next time you are there!

Desktop view

You can change the color of a note, add a label, add check boxes (and tick off a task when it's been done - then delete the "done" tasks). You can also copy a note to Googledocs, and further develop it there!  

If you are on the go, you can dictate and record your note. You can access it as a recording as well as a written note (because sometimes - especially when you dictate something with a Hebrew word or name - your phone won't know how to write it correctly - or it auto-corrects to something absurd- the fact that you have your voice recorded, can come in very handy to figure out WHAT you were thinking when you wrote that note! ;-) .)

Thanks to the sharing option, you can use it to share individual notes with your family, or colleagues, or anyone with whom you wish to collaborate on something, and share "To Do" notes! All your notes sync to all of your devices that are signed into Google Keep (mobile, desktop, tablet). I haven't used it at work yet, but I can see the potential as being ENORMOUS! The only thing you (and whomever you want to share a note with) need is a Google account and to install the app. Once you have done that, you can share away! I might try it with some of my students this year!

What I am actually hoping for is an integration between Google Keep and Calendar (something I see has been a pending request on the Google Help Forum, where they have been begging for for it for two years already). THAT would be PERFECT and solve ALL of the problems in my life (well... ok - maybe not the peace in the Middle East thing .... but you never know!)  Google Calendar has "Tasks" (will address that when I write about Calendar) which is helpful, but not as superb as would be Google Keep + Calendar  teamed up together. 

Do YOU have an app that really helps you keep track of stuff, and would like to recommend? Have you tried any of the ones I have written about here, and would like to add your opinion? Please feel free to write about them in the comments below! 

From Pixabay
Have a GREAT school year! (And one last summer cocktail, on me.)  

Digitally yours,