Monday, February 27, 2012
The best part of the calendar app is the ease of use and the ability to send alerts as SMS
One of the things we have been told to lead an organised life is to ‘have a diary' with us. There are two ways of using a diary. One is to write out our thoughts and also what we did each day, so that at some point of time, we can analyse our actions.
There is another and more important aspect of having a diary — keeping track of appointments and things to do. Carrying a diary around is a great habit, but when everything is becoming digital, why not the humble diary?
In the digital world, any calendar programme in your desktop computer or the ones that come with e-mail programmes such as Outlook or Thunderbird can help you get organised. They can even alert you at the set time. The biggest drawback of this is that the computer has to be on at the time and also, you cannot be always in front of your computer.
Here, you can use a mix of some cloud-based programmes and your mobile to get reminded whenever your appointment or ‘to do' is due.
The best and one of the oldest (that has been written about a lot) is the Google / Gmail calendar.
The best part of the calendar app is the ease of use and the ability to send alerts as SMS. Getting the alert as an SMS means you don't need a smartphone to receive the alerts. Even the lowest-priced phone is enough.
If you have a Google account, you have to login to the calendar (http://calendar.google.com). Or if you don't like typing big URLs, you can log in to any Google account (Gmail, Picasa and the like) and click the Calendar tab.
Creating an appointment cannot be made easier. Clicking on the date will open up a small box where you can enter something like ‘8 a.m. Meet Joseph'. The calendar will automatically create an entry at 8 a.m. on that date.
The alert will be delivered on time on your mobile. You can also edit the appointment to tell the calendar when you have to be alerted.
Of course, you have to set the mobile number in the calendar settings. The alerts will also be sent to the e-mail address you specify.
This is not restricted only to Google. Similar functionalities are available across all platforms such as Yahoo, Windows Live (Hotmail) and Apple. If you have a smartphone, these calendars sync to the phone and you get pop-ups at the scheduled time.
Even if you don't have a smartphone, you can still use your low-end phone's calendar to schedule reminders. The only issue is that the calendar in low-end phones may not be very user-friendly, and keying in multiple reminders or appointments can be a painful affair, but you can still get alerts.
But, these calendar apps won't help if you have multiple things to do. For that there are task managers where you can add several tasks and clear them one by one when you complete them.
There are ‘To do' managers available across all platforms — with cloud-device sync. Most of the phones have them, but again, if you have a lot ‘to do', you will be spending most of your day keying in the ‘to dos'.
Gmail has its own task manager for mobiles (mail.google.com/tasks), for which, obviously, you will need a browser. If you want more functionality, again, as always, you have apps at your service.
Android market has, as usual, the most number of apps. Each app comes with its own features, but many of them have one feature that makes things easier — syncing with Google Tasks. That way, whatever tasks you key in gets automatically synchronised with Google Tasks. If you want to directly access Google Task, there are apps for that too. If all the apps do the same thing, how does the market support multiple apps? Most of them differ in the ease of use and user interface. There are some that come with widget functionality so that the tasks are visible on the phone screen itself, without you having to open the task app every time. Many of them also alert you through the notification screen.
One thing you will have to remember while downloading the task apps is that there are other apps that are also called ‘task managers' that have a totally different function — to manage the apps running in the phone. You have to ensure you download a ‘To Do' app instead of an app manager.
Talking of USP, one of the most popular apps in the Android market is Astrid. While it has the Google Task sync function, you can also collaborate with your friends and have combined tasks. It also has a beautiful calendar interface.
If your computer has Microsoft's One Note installed, you can make it a functional task manager that can sync with almost all your smart devices. One Note has apps for all major platforms such as Windows Phone, iPhone and Android. Even if you have devices in different platforms, you can sync your One Note to all the devices.
Can they replace your good old diary? Yes, putting it on paper has its own advantages — it doesn't crash, the data doesn't get deleted by mistake and you don't have to worry about accounts, passwords and platform compatibility. But with sheer convenience, digital diaries and To Do managers do make our lives much easier.