Tech Tuesday: Apps to Help You Get Organized

887396125_5d69361cff_zImage by Jim Renaud via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Last night, the power in my apartment went out. There was no wind, no rain, and certainly no warning. Like any good millennial, I confess to not owning a single flashlight (nor an umbrella, for that matter). So what did I do? I reached for my cell phone. Many of the tools you need—including a high-powered flashlight, but perhaps with the exception of an umbrella—can be downloaded for free to your smart phone or tablet. This guide will highlight great tools that you can access from your phone, including basic tools, reference tools, and tools to help you get organized.


Basic Tools

POKqqdaXjDqk-84U-3PjIRip78I_As54FGYMFKVu-T3t0OxuXdV7oslBIJjpXCEkQA8n=w300When you are fumbling for your keys at night in the dark, or if the power in your neighborhood mysteriously cuts out, all you need is your smart phone. Flashlight apps are available for iOS and Android devices for free, and provide incredibly bright beams. The light emanates from beside your device’s camera as if you were taking a picture using flash, but the beam is steady. You will find your keys, or the electric company’s number, in no time.  

Other virtual tools that might help you out in a pickle, or simply clear some free space in your handbag, include measuring tape for home improvements, a handheld mirror for applying makeup on the go, and a metronome and instrument tuner for making music without taking up space.


Reference Tools

google-translateHaving a dictionary in your pocket comes in handy. With Internet access you can simply search Google to define a word, but the Merriam-Webster app allows you to search the dictionary or thesaurus even when you are offline. Downloading the app is free and compatible with iPhone, iPad, or Android devices.

You can also let go of your pocket foreign language dictionaries and upgrade to Google Translate. The app, free for Android and iOS, offers translation between 90 different languages and does not require Internet. You can translate using text, pictures, or speech. Yes, that means that you can translate what is being said about you at the nail parlor (like Elaine in Seinfeld), but perhaps you’d prefer not to know.


Organizational Tools

u_ZwBnOs3s7nHA2v4XDCrJknAAVVHQIzK4mVF8tbx1n62-_LrDSopwHviqeNuDIFigc=w300I too have tried the Post-it-notes method of organizing my plans and ideas—but it wasn’t pretty. Getting organized is simpler with apps that keep everything in one place, and never lose stickiness. The best app for consolidating your sticky notes and grocery lists is Evernote. Evernote is a free app for both iOS and Android and makes keeping lists and writing notes effortless, while offering more features than your everyday pen and paper. Begin by starting a “notebook” to write down ideas, or to record a grocery list or to-do list. Lists allow you to easily check off entries once you have completed them. Evernote’s notebooks boast speech-to-text for those who prefer not to type, and the ability to add photographs or audio recordings to your entries as you go. After creating a masterpiece of a grocery list with a picture of a specific brand of tomato sauce, Evernote lets you instantly share your notes with other users, like your husband, so he can do the shopping and get Prego this time, not Ragú. You can even search for key words in your entries: perhaps you want to check if eggs were on your grocery list last week so you don’t crowd your fridge with another dozen. Evernote even has a feature for converts like me that digitizes my messy sticky notes and organizes them into a virtual notebook. There are a lot of cool features to master, but the app seems to realize that new users might be a little lost. If you select “Explore Evernote,” the app provides a tutorial for each of its functions, guiding users to the correct screen and displaying step-by-step written directions. No more excuses—getting organized really couldn’t get much easier.

With everything you need neatly organized on your mobile device, the only problem becomes, What if you lose your device? Do you lose access to your contacts and notebooks? Could you expose personal or financial information? The solution is simple: you can locate your mobile device and protect or clear personal data with a free app. Mobile Defense, available for Android and iOS, only works when you need it to. The app is dormant when it is downloaded, not using up storage or battery until it is activated remotely. When you can’t find your device, Mobile Defense pinpoints its address using a combination of GPS, cell tower triangulation, and Wi-Fi. You can then lock your phone, wipe sensitive data, or signal for your phone to produce a loud alert (because it may in fact be behind the couch on silent mode, oops).

Now that your handheld device can serve as a pencil and paper, flashlight, dictionary, measuring tape, and travel mirror, you might as well forget carrying a handbag altogether. All you really need is your phone and a few handy apps. Unless it is raining, of course—then you should probably have an umbrella.

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  • Miguel Thang August 14, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    I try to eat healthy. Just came across this app for Healthy grocery lists:

  • Kelly May 7, 2015 at 7:21 am

    I like the organizational tool! Might try it!

  • mark blum May 4, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Thanks for the great tips, Amy! I’m getting the metronome.

  • Andy Johnson May 4, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Can you report on fitness apps? I know people who find them very useful but I don’t know where to begin.

  • elsa blum April 28, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    Fantastic article – so good I printed it. Don’t like umbrellas at all – never use them. Will definitely download Google Translate and mobile Defense. Thank you Amy.

  • Judith A. Ross April 28, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you for this Amy, the world needs as many clear and accurate science writers as it can get! I have just downloaded Evernote — I’ll let you know how it goes 😉

  • Roz Warren April 28, 2015 at 11:38 am

    Fascinating. One of these days, I just might get a smart phone. (Maybe.) And I am totally buying you an umbrella, Amy. Do you want a full size one or a collapsible?