Keeping Organized in a Digital World

I usually try and stay pretty organized with my own things using my BlackBerry Bold 9930 and PlayBook but that doesn’t help my girlfriend and I stay organized with the entire family. We started thinking of ideas and came up with several but all seemed to require multiple apps/services. This is when I remember hearing about Cozi and how it helps busy families stay organized so I took a look into it. What I found was a great all in one family organizer.

I first visited Cozi’s website (www.cozi.com) and got my account setup. My interest in this program grew tremendously just during the setup. When I heard about the program I only remembered hearing about the calendar feature which is great but it seems to have grown or I wasn’t fully informed of the features they offered. So lets get started and go through some of the features they offer for users.

  1. Calendar
  2. To Do
  3. Shopping
  4. Meals
  5. Messages
  6. Journal

Calendar

What I love most about the calendar is with any event I create I can essentially tag any family member or several if needed and it will place a colored dot (selected for each member) and the name next to the event. This makes it easy to see who has what coming up. Now just like all calendar programs you can view the day, week, or the month view. I prefer the week view because it has an agenda kind of look to it and I can scroll down to view next day/week. At the top where is says “type appointment” you can easily and quickly add an event or you can double click on the day and get a popup with your usual calendar options like what, where, start time, end time, and who is attending this event. You can download the Cozi app on Android, iOS, or BlackBerry device which makes all this accessible on the go as well. You can import calendars into Cozi as well as share them with programs like Outlook or services like Google Calendar. I have mine shared with Google Calendar which also syncs to my phone, tablet and PC calendar. I love this feature because I can easily look at my normal calendar and see what I have going on as well as everyone else without using a 3rd party app. Only downside is I can’t add events from my devices synced with Google and I do have to go to the app to add them to Cozi. I can also import a kid’s soccer schedule or school schedule with a few simple clicks rather than each event individually. Under the settings you also have an option to get emailed the schedule for the week on every Sunday. I like this feature because it sums up my week for me and emails it to me in case I forget to check it. This helps plan the week before it begins rather than scramble mid week to get things done.

To Do

This is exactly as it sounds and every smartphone on the market has an app available for this exact thing but since this is just another tool within this one app I find it a lot more useful. You can organize lists for each family member or the entire family. You can also create new lists for each project or whatever it is your working on.

Shopping

This is a pretty simple feature found within many other apps but again having it apart of this one app just adds to the value and power. This is very similar to the To Do lists and you can create new lists for each family member or individual stores if you wish. These are all viewable with the mobile apps that Cozi provides so no need for the old school pen and paper lists that you always forget to take to the store with you.

Meals

This is one feature I haven’t jumped into yet but I’m really excited to start using it. Growing up my step mom had a dry erase board with each day of the week on it with the meal we would have that day. I never thought much of this and how awesome of an idea it was until recently. I have been talking to my girlfriend about us doing this same thing to keep us from going out a couple times a week to pick up all the little things we didn’t get because we didn’t plan for the meal. Now this feature isn’t available on the mobile apps but you can view it from any web browser so this is great for the kitchen with a tablet. You can not only set the meals for each day but you can save the recipes into the app as well for reference when you are cooking the meals. Cozi also provides some recipes for the users to browse through.

Messages

This is a feature I haven’t found a use for yet but is a nice way to communicate a message to the entire family and it will appear on the home screen when you log into Cozi. I’m still trying to get everything in this app setup for my needs so I’m sure I can find a use for this or someone else can if they choose to use this service.

Journal

I haven’t jumped into this one yet but this is a journal or “blog” for the family that you can post whatever it is you want to either save for a memory or share with other friends and family. This a cool way to talk about a trip you had with the family or some event the family attended and want to share that memory or save it forever.

Now like I mentioned earlier with the calendar feature I find it easier to have all this sync directly to my Google calendar. Now the guys over at CrackBerry wrote up a nice article on how to sync multiple Gmail calendars on your BlackBerry PlayBook. In the comments a user mentioned that to get the calendars on your BlackBerry device you couldn’t use the sync settings in the email setup wizard but instead you need to download Google Sync on your BlackBerry and sync contacts and calendar this way instead.

I hope this article inspires as least one user to try this service and enjoy it as much as I have already in the short time I have been using it. I’m looking forward to include this service more and more into our daily functions to keep our simple yet busy life organized.

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BlackBerry Traffic

Some people may think you need to be on the go all the time to new places to benefit from an application like BlackBerry Traffic but I think otherwise. Often times where I live there can be 2-3 different ways to get somewhere with roughly the same amount of time just depends on the traffic for that day and time you plan on leaving.

Now the reason I have come to love this app is it has saved me from being late several times after I snooze one too many times in the morning. This has done so by telling me the ETA and traffic conditions based on color for two different routes to my destination. Since it gives me choices and ETA for both routes it’s easy for me to pick which route I’m going to take with having to study the traffic conditions on some traffic website before I leave. This cuts down on time figuring out my route. I use this a lot for work and since I know how to get to work I just fire up the app simply to get the traffic report and once I know how I’m getting to work I just close that app.

I really like the dual route options in this and haven’t found another app that does the same thing. Now I love Google maps and I was a little disappointed that BlackBerry Traffic runs off of Bing maps but to be honest I haven’t come across any issues with it. I remember when I used an Android phone you could open Google maps and view the traffic layer just like you could with the Google maps app on a BlackBerry but if it doesn’t tell you the travel time for the different routes then you’re really just staring at some red and yellow lines hoping you can decipher them well enough to guess which way is faster.

As an added bonus for those that don’t already know BlackBerry Traffic gives audible turn by turn directions now so you can use it for more than just traffic and have it direct you to your destination. Once I really started using and understanding this app it quickly moved up to my top 5 used apps.

Simple Note Taking

I work for a retailer of a cell phone company and remember several months back our BlackBerry rep came in to ask us questions about sales, accessories, problems, etc like all manufacture reps and took notes from our responses and suggestions.

Now the reason I’m choosing to write about this is because of how she took down the notes during this particular visit. She had her 9930 in hand at all times and was just flying on the keyboard taking down everything we were throwing at her. For whatever reason this didn’t stand out to me much till our next manufacture rep came in with a trusty old pen and paper and just seemed old fashioned and slow with the note taking.

I started doing stuff like this on my phone and it started to make much more sense because I could just simply copy and paste this info right into and email without having to type it all up after just handwriting it. If I wanted to wait to get it onto a pc or laptop I could wait and just sync with desktop manager and all my notes are immediately transferred to my pc for easy access later.

Now some people will say they are faster at typing on a computer and that’s probably true but if you figure in the time to hand write all the your notes and then type them all up on the computer I guarantee it would have been a lot faster from your phone.

I remember seeing stories of some music artists that use their BlackBerry phone to write lyrics and I recently saw a story that a guy wrong up an entire autobiography on his smartphone that also happened to be a BlackBerry.

For me personally I find it easier to input everything on my BlackBerry Bold 9930 and use a pc/tablet for viewing it later if needed. My phone is always on and with me so I never have to worry about finding a pen and paper or firing up a laptop to take down some important notes.

This is a simple feature I think a lot of people over look on their smart phones. We type on our mobile devices more then we realize and become quite quick on them over time so quick note taking would seem logical on these devices rather then resorting to older and slower methods.

ShortcutMe Blackberry App

So a buddy of mine (@kanehamilton) has been asking for me to check out this application for awhile now I always just stayed with QuickLaunch cause it works for me.

Well I finally got the app downloaded and started using it. I will admit at first the app was very confusing to me and that’s due to the fact that I was so use to something else. After diving into the app and reading a little bit about it on the ShortcutMe webpage I started to see why I was suggested this app.

This app does everything my previous app did and so much more. Now with that being said this app is harder to set up as well. You can setup macros with this app to do just about anything on your phone which is what makes this so powerful. You can create something as simple has 2 clicks to open any 1 app or you can go as far as to open BBM, select contact, and send preloaded message. This app gives you so much control of your phone without leaving the homescreen. I considered this a must have app for a power user on any Blackberry device.

At first I didn’t really like the appearance of the app over some others because I normally like everything minimal but if you play with the fonts and find/make a background for it you will love it like I do now.

So if your interested in the app and want to buy it click here.
If you just want to learn a little more about ShortcutMe then click here.

BeWeather Update

Photobucket
(I don’t know where the hourglass came from cause it wasn’t there when I took the pic)

Just got an email saying saying BerryWeather was updated to 2.6.12 and came with the following change log. Looks like mostly OS7 stuff but I always like new versions of apps.

– Adjusted day/night background images for higher resolution screens on OS 7.0
– Added native sendmenu for sharing weather on OS 7.0 (Facebook, Twitter, BBM etc)
– Added native sendmenu on OS 7.0 for sharing weather advisory
– Added new compact forecast style/configurable POP visibility
– Added support for multiple built-in maps
– Added auto-dismissing popup showing detailed error information when location update fails
– Reworked license screen
– Reworked settings categories screen
– Minor changes to theme colors
– Fixed error on first load of radar map

Download Here

My Top 5 Apps

1: Quicklaunch – $4.99

This has to be my most used and favorite app hands down on my device. I’m all about being efficient with my Blackberry and just about everything I do in my life. This is a very powerful tool for people like me. I have shortcuts setup for things I do the most like view picture folder (space, P), twitter (space, t) and many other apps that don’t have shortcuts. My favorite is the google search function built into Quicklaunch which I set to Space, G for quick google searches. I can often find things before any iPhone or Android user with that shortcut even with my inferior browser. The ability to create folders to keep your list from getting to long is a nice feature as well so you can “hide” the apps you have hot-keyed making it easier to scroll to what you haven’t.

Someone suggested ShortcutMe not to long ago and I watched the youtube video explaining its and that too looks like an even more powerful app then QL but I don’t want to buy another app when QL works perfectly for me as it is. If you don’t have either already check out both and see what you like better.

2: FileScout – $4.99

This app is just an awesome file explorer for your phone that makes finding any kind of file on your phone easy to find and share if needed. I view work documents a lot especially my work schedule for my staff and this makes it so easy access. The ZIP/UNZIP feature is nice as well and didn’t think I would be able to do this from my phone before finding this app.

3: BeBuzz – $4.99

I have set customer ringtones for every notification on my phone from day one but I find that I now keep my phone on vibrate more then anything so the different sounds don’t do anything for me anymore. With this app I can customize the color of the blinking LED for each notification just like I did the sounds before. Now if your like me and seeing that light is like an itch you have to scratch then this app will help dull that pain a little. Now just glancing at the color that is blinking I know if its an email (work or personal)/bbm/text/twitter (@ or DM)/facebook and so on which makes my decision of checking it right then and there much easier. Some colors are more important then others to me. You can even customize colors for specific people so you never ignore them.

4: BeReader – $9.99

I recently fell in love with google reader and don’t know why I didn’t sooner. This syncs everything from your google reader to your Blackberry and has easy options for sharing to email/twitter/facebook. If you are a big google reader fan this is a must have app that is worth the price. I get most of my news now right on my phone while on the go instead of reading it all at once when I get home or wake up. Much nicer getting my news throughout the day instead of all at once.

5: Memopad – FREE and native

I cant believe I use to completely under use this app for so long. I didn’t start using this app to its fullest till I saw a guy on the trolley just blazing away on his phone switching between Memopad and browser checking different sites and tracking packages/orders online right from his phone with such ease. I now use my Memopad for just about everything and since its so easy to find stuff as long as you title each one appropriately. I use it for logins at work I cant remember, app codes, gift ideas, drink recipes I find, links I use/share, and so much more. I have anywhere from 20-30 memos at all times. Some are short term ones but most are long term that I keep handy to easily copy/paste at a later time.