Blog Archives

Ditching Evernote for Google Keep

I’ve found a replacement for Evernote with the newly introduced Google Keep. Evernote has been great, but like so many good application it’s become bloated from feature creep.

Here’s what I need in a notes app.

  • Text Notes
  • Checklists
  • Snapshots (Photos of labels, serial numbers, parts, etc.)
  • Basic tagging or category organization
  • Mobile App
  • Desktop or Browser App
  • Cloud sync

Evernote definitely ticks all of the boxes and a lot more, but I don’t need fonts, highlighters. I don’t need to organize notes with categories AND tags and I don’t need to share notes or collaborate on them. Evernote’s desktop client feels more like a nicely de-bloated version of Microsoft Word.

Google Keep has the features I need and that’s about it! I like elegant  simple applications and Google’s managed to do it with Keep. Sure, there’s room for improvement but it’s pretty good as it is.

My only real concern is that Google has dropped other services that I enjoyed, most notably their recent decision to scrap Google Reader. If they do eventually drop Keep, it should be easy to find another service, even if it means going back to Evernote and the bloat that comes with it.



Apps for Real Life

Having a Smart Phone is great, right? But aside from telephone calls and texting, does it really make your average day any easier? When you’re done checking Facebook and playing Words with Friends, try out some apps that may actually make your life a bit easier.

Notes & Lists

Are you an obsessive list maker? Do you have notes strewn about your office, house and car?

For general note taking, I’ve found EverNote to be very useful. With EverNote, you can create plain text notes, checklists, snapshot notes with your camera and even record quick voice notes. Everything is synced to EverNote’s servers so you can access them from any mobile device, Windows PC, Mac or anything with a web browser. The free service is limited by the amount of monthly synchronization that you do. I’ve used it fairly regularly for several years on a free account and I’ve never come close to the limit. Microsoft OneNote is another app with very similar features.

Out of Milk focuses on lists. It was specifically designed for making shopping lists. Create a list before you go to the store by entering what you need, the app will even scan barcodes on your food items using the phone’s camera. Success with scanning can be hit or miss, but it’s still a cool feature. You can share lists among family members and update them on any device or from the web site so that everyone is working off of the same shopping list.

Documents & Files

My Reference Files

Google Drive, the recently renamed Google Docs, is a full-fledged Office Suite.. It can create, edit and store documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. Granted, working on a complex spreadsheet with a 4″ touch screen isn’t the best arrangement, but it’ll do in a pinch. The files are all stored on Google servers so they are available from any device. Drive can also be used to store almost any file even if you can’t edit it with the app. The service is free but is limited to 5GB of storage. More storage is available for a fee.

If you simply want to synchronize files and folders between all of your mobile devices and computers, check out DropBox. You’ll get a limited amount of space for free and more when you get friends to sign up. You can, of course, pay for more storage.

Shopping & Finance

Shopping is the main focus of Amazon‘s mobile app. But you can also scan any product’s barcode to perform a search against

Shopping Bag, Orange

Amazon’s online store. I feel a little guilty standing in a store, scanning products and buying them from Amazon, but I get over it pretty quickly

PayPal is widely accepted as the standard for online payments. By using the mobile app, you can easily pay someone back for lunch when you’re out of cash.

Almost every bank has a mobile app these days, use yours to check balances and transfer funds between accounts. Mint is a free mobile and web-based app from Intuit that allows you to monitor all of your accounts in one place. Mint can access most banks, investment companies and credit card companies. Use it to set budgets and remind you when you’re getting close to going over budget.

Manage your stack of rewards cards with KeyRing. Use the built-in scanner to enter all of your rewards cards. I’ve had very limited success with stores being able to scan the barcode from my phone, but they can always enter the number manually.

I hope that I’ve helped you make better use of the investment that you’ve made in your Smart Phone. Let me know what apps make your life easier and I’ll check them out!


If This Then That – Tasks, Recipes & Channels

“If This Then That” is one of the core operating statements for computer programming. It’s a simple set of commands to tell a computer to perform a particular action when a specific condition exists, like “If the enter key is pressed, then move the cursor to the next line”. You can use the web service offered at this simple concept to perform some very useful automated tasks.

Don’t let the programming talk intimidate you, IFTTT is dead simple to set up and operate. After logging in, you’re dropped on the dashboard page. At the top of the dashboard you’ll find buttons for the three main elements of the service, Tasks, Recipes and Channels.

Channels are a collection of the services that you use on the Internet, like Facebook, Twitter, GMail, Instagram, Tumblr, Evernote and more. Setting the channels up is as simple as clicking on the icon for the service and following a few steps to grant IFTTT access to your information.

After setting up a few channels, you can then set up a few tasks. Tasks are a made up of triggers and actions, a trigger event occurs and IFTTT performs the defined action. Suppose you wanted to have all photos that you upload to Facebook backed up on your DropBox account. From the Tasks page, click the big blue Create Task button. The phrase “if this then that” shows up in nice big letters. Click on “this” and you’ll get to choose the service that you want to watch for a trigger, Facebook in this case. You then get to choose from predefined triggers, we’ll choose “You upload a new photo” and click “Create Trigger”.

You’ll now see the Facebook icon inserted like so. if  then that. Click on “that” and you can choose the channel to perform an action with. We’ll click the DropBox icon followed by “Add file from URL” and then the “Create action” button. Give the task a name and click “Create task”. You’re all set!

The number of possible combinations for triggers and actions can seem overwhelming. That’s where Recipes come in. Recipes are tasks that others have come up with and shared. Just browse through them and you’re bound to find one to do what you want. There’s recipes to log your tweets to a DropBox file, Tweet when you post a link on Facebook, save your favorited tweets to Evernote, etc.

A lot can be accomplished with the simple statement of “If This Then That” and has put it to great use. Go create an account and play around a bit.

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