TechRepublic’s 12 Apps of Christmas
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Day 1: Grocery iQ
The 1st app of Christmas that Sonja Thompsonrngave to you is a shopping app called Grocery iQ.
For those of you who know me, it should come as no surprisernthat my all-time favorite app is Grocery iQ. I’m a foodie, and I use it morernthan any other app on my Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD. You can download it onrnyour PC, Androidrndevice, or iPhone/iPad.rnThe best part is that it’s absolutely free.
Here are some of Grocery iQ’s features:
- Favorites & history
- Organize items by aisle
- Add item details
- Print or email coupons
- Email list
- List synchronization
The ability to synchronize lists across multiple devices andrnshare lists with other users is what makes Grocery iQ especially useful in myrnhousehold. If you check u201cmilku201d off the list and then sync the update, you canrnfinally avoid duplicate shopping efforts and having to make room for tworngallons of milk in your refrigerator. Likewise, if you’re at the store,rnchecking off items on the list as you place them in the cart, you’re able tornimmediately receive new entries from other users you share a list with. Thatrncertainly helps avoid holiday disasters, like finding out after you’ve alreadyrngotten home that you’re running low on peppermint mocha coffee creamer.
I used to make actual grocery lists, with a pen and a piecernof paper, but Grocery iQ has simplified my shopping life with this one littlernapp. Don’t wait to find this app in your stocking. Download it on your devicerntoday, and see if it doesn’t immediately become one of your main go-to apps.
Day 2: RunKeeper
The 2nd app of Christmas that Deb Shinder gave to you is a fitness app called RunKeeper.
In 2009, I started a diet and exercise program by which Irnultimately lost almost 50 pounds over the course of a year and reached myrntarget weight. I’ve stayed within a 4 pound range for the last three years, butrnit’s not always easy. The holiday season is the most difficult time, withrnparties and family dinners, and all those miscellaneousrngoodies that appear when the baking spirit hits.
I try to keep my eating under control, but I don’t want tornsit around crunching carrots while everyone else is indulging in eggnog andrnseven-layer chocolate cake. I’ve found the best way to minimize the holidayrnweight gain is to increase my exercise quota. And naturally, being the techie I am, I turn to the latest technology tornhelp motivate me to do that.
One of my favorite ways burn some calories and at the samerntime spend some quality time with my u201cbabiesu201d — my three Japanese Chin rndogs — is to go for walks through the neighborhood. And my Galaxy Note 2rn (soon to bernreplaced by a Note 3) with its built-in GPS is the perfect gadget to rnkeeprntrack of how far and how fast I’ve walked and how many calories I used rndoingrnit.
There are a number of Android apps that you canrnuse to track your workouts. I picked RunKeeper because it’s simple yet offersrnmany features that I wanted. It’s available for both Android and the iPhone. The app andrnbasic service are free, but you can also upgrade to u201cRunkeeper Eliteu201d for $5/month orrn$20/year. Elite gives you extra features, such asrnmore advanced reports and the ability to broadcast the activity in real time onrnsocial media (with the free service, you can share the activity report afterrnit’s completed).
RunKeeper audio cues
You’ll need to set up an account and configure a fewrnsettings first, including language (English, French, Japanese, German,rnPortuguese, Italian or Spanish), distance units, display options, sharingrnsettings, and a few more. One of the most important is audio cues. The nicernthing about the app is that it talks to you — telling you when you’ve gone arncertain distance or have been walking for X number of minutes. You can selectrnexactly what the it tells you and how often. I have mine set uprnto report every 10 minutes and tell me the time I’ve been walking, distancernwalked, and my average speed.
Another important setting is Auto-Pause. If you turn this onrn(it’s disabled by default), when the GPS shows that you’ve stopped, it rnwillrnpause the time count. This is useful if you stop for a few minutes on rnyour walk to chat with a neighbor or let your dog do its business. rnWithout Auto-Pause, your time keepsrnaccumulating so that your overall average speed will fall and be rnincorrect inrnregard to your actual walking speed. You can also pause the app manuallyrn at anyrntime.
RunKeeper allows you to connect your account to Facebook and/or Twitter andrnset sharing settings to control who can see the maps and reports of yourrnactivity that the app generates. You can make these visible to everyone,rnfriends only, or just yourself.
You can use the app for many different types of activities,rnfrom the most mundane (walking, running, cycling) to the more exoticrn(cross-country skiing, mountain biking, snowboarding).
If you choose walking or running, you can then select arnsaved route or just start walking without one. Touch Start Activity and start exercising.
RunKeeper web site
You can log on to the web site with your computer to accessrnyour activities and settings and also to interact with other RunKeeper users.rnYou’ll see a news feed there of your RunKeeper friends’ activities that theyrnchoose to share, and you can edit your profile and set exercise goals.
With the Elite service, you can also get reports showingrngraphs of activity duration and calories burned over a time frame, as well asrnadvanced fitness reports that track your nutrition, sleep, strength, weight, andrnbody fat percentage.
I’ve been using RunKeeper for almost three years and havernfound the free service to be all I need. It’s reliable, keeps track of my walks, and helps motivate me to stay in shape.
Day 3: FlightTrack
The 3rd app of Christmas that Donovan Colbert gave to you is FlightTrack by Mobiata.
If you travel by air a lot or coordinate with family,rnfriends, or business associates who do, FlightTrack by Mobiata for Android and iOS smartrndevices is an essential app to add to your library.
With FlightTrack, you simply enter the airline and flightrnnumber you’re interested in, and you’ll be provided a nearly live stream ofrnall the pertinent data you might desire on any given flight.
I use this app most often to track my wife when she flies onrnbusiness, because I’m a nervous flyer, even when I’m not the one in the air.rnThe real time flight info shows altitude, airspeed, and even if the plane isrnencountering inclement weather or diverting around storms.
On a recent flight with Wi-Fi, I was able to connect and trackrnmy flight’s position in the air. I find comfort in knowing where I’m at rnrather than looking out of a window and guessing what state I’mrnseeing below.
It also takes a lot of the guesswork out of being ready to meetrnan expected traveler on arrival at the airport. Although the FCC rnsupposedlyrndelays the feeds by as much as 15 minutes, I’ve found that when I see a rnplanernland on my device, my wife generally calls me almost immediately to let rnme know that she’s arrived. I spend far less time in u201cCell Phone Parkingrn Lots,u201d waiting inrnthe dark for an expected arrival to land and call me to pick them up.
Additional features of FlightTrack include a menu that allows you to findrnalternative flights, call your booking airline, and log a journal of yourrnexperiences on the flight. You can save frequent flights and have them ready tornview as soon as you launch the app.
FlightTrack is by no means the only app in this crowded field — and Mobiatarnincludes a Pro version with even more features — so, I’d encourage you tornexperiment to find the app in this category that works best for you. Personally, I’ve beenrnvery happy with the performance and features of FlightTrack.
Day 4: CalenMob
The 4th app of Christmas that Bill Detwiler gave to you is a business app called CalenMob.
CalenMob on an iPhone
As a Google Apps for Business user who carries a personal iPhone, managing my mobile calendar has always been problematic. Google Sync will link my iOS and Google calendars, but using this method has a few known bugs.rn I can use Safari to access my Google Calendar, but again, this method rnhas several drawbacks, most notably the lack of pop-up, visual, and rnaudio meeting alerts. That’s where CalenMob steps in.
CalenMob calendar view
CalenMob (free) and CalenMob Pro ($6.99rn USD) from Blue Tags gives you the functionality of the Google web rncalendar and on-screen meeting alerts (along with SMS and email rnnotifications) of the native iOS Calendar. It can also be used offline.
The free version of CalenMob is ad supported. Because I use the app rnon a near daily basis, I decided to purchase CalenMob Pro that doesn’t rnhave ads.
The interface is clean and navigation is intuitive. CalenMob provides a variety of calendar views, including month, week, day, list, etc.
The processes of creating a new meeting, editing an existing meeting, and scheduling recurring events are relatively straightforward. If you’ve used other calendars and mobile apps, you should have no trouble with CalenMob.
Day 5: MyFitnessPal
The 5th app of Christmas that Teena Hammond gave to you is MyFitnessPal!
Onernof the best apps, particularly for the new year with its plethora of dietrnresolutions, is MyFitnessPal. This free app is availablernfor Windows, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android.
I’vernbeen using MyFitnessPal online for four years, and I added the app to my iPhonerntwo years ago. The app is one of the best ways to keep track of food intake andrnexercise, and I use it much more frequently than the full online version. MyFitnessPalrnhas a database of the nutritional value of more than 3 million foods, so yourncan either type in a food by name, or you can scan a barcode of the item you’rerneating to automatically plug it into your daily journal.
Everyrntime you log in, it shows you your weight loss or exercise total since yourrnlast visit. Admittedly, there is a guilt factor involved, because if more thanrna few days have passed since your last log in, it notes the absence.
There’srnsomething about knowing that everything you eat must be accounted for thatrnmakes losing weight easier. And does it work? It definitely does. I’ve lost 85rnlbs. since I started using MyFitnessPal. That’s an entire fifth grader. And thernapp makes it easy to keep weight off — every dieter’s Achilles’s heel — since,rnagain, everything is easily tracked.
Therernare options for entering body measurements and weight, and reports arernavailable to see how you’ve done over the past week, month, year, or longer. It’srnalso ideal for setting goals, and your daily intake can be customized withrnspecific amounts, such as whether you want to increase your protein or reducerncarbs and fats.
Day 6: Evernote
The 6th app of Christmas Will Kelly gave to you is the champion app called Evernote.
Evernote is a very popular app that’s available for Android, the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone. They offer both a free version and a Premium product that costs $5.00 a month/$45.00 a year. I’ve been using Evernoternsince the early days, and I’ve watched it transform from just a note-taking apprninto a product line tailored to help people collect and remember information.
Since getting my first PC, I’ve always been better organizedrnelectronically than with hardcopy, so I truly fit the Evernote userrndemographic. Evernote is where I keep ideas, notes, and research for myrnTechRepublic posts, corporate client work, and my personal projects.
The Evernote Web Clipper and Clearly make it easy for me to capture articles andrnblog posts for later reference. I especially like being able to drag-and-droprnWord documents and Adobe PDF files into Evernote.
Because I’m a Premium user, I can search inside PDFs, Wordrndocuments, and even screen images I save in Evernote. Another bonus is beingrnable to create offline notebooks so I can refer to information on my iPhone or iPad onrnthe rare times I’m not on Wi-Fi.
Evernote lets you set up notebooks to better organize yourrnnotes. I use synchronized notebooks for client work, so I can access therninformation in the cloud and across my devices. I create notebooks to organizernnotes for particular projects. I then use notebook stacks (an Evernote featurernfor grouping notebooks) across various parts of my professional and personalrnlife.
Recently, I’ve been relying more on tagging to organize therncontent I capture and my notes, because I found myself creating too manyrnnotebooks over time.
The Evernote app is running on all of my Macs, PCs, iPhone,rniPads, and Android tablets to ensure that my notes and research are rnalways accessible. I regularly take notes using Evernote on the Mac rnduring client meetings.rnMy preference is to keep the formatting in my notes simple. However, rnEvernoternlets me format notes using bold, italics, and other options you’d expectrn tornfind in a word processor. Using Evernote on my iPhone lets me take rnpictures ofrnwhite board drawings and save them directly into Evernote for later rnreference. Evernoternhas allowed me be a paperless note taker after years of jotting down rnmeeting andrninterview notes on yellow legal pads.
I highly recommend Evernote if you have project notes spreadrnout across folders, cloud accounts, and apps, and you want to centralize all of yourrnnote-taking for sanity sake and easy reference.
Day 7: Twitter
The 7th app of Christmas Erik Eckel gave to you is a social app called Twitter.
Whenever I purchase a new gadget — be it a desktop, laptop,rntablet, or smartphone — Twitterrnis inevitably the first app I load.
Am I so narcissistic that I must Tweet, without delay and uponrnevery device I wield? No. The ability to post status updates for friends,rnfamily, and followers isn’t that overwhelming. Let’s be honest. I don’t livernthat exciting a life or one that prompts others to remain riveted to my Twitterrnmusings. I’m just not that compelling.
Instead, Twitter’s attraction is contained within its revolutionary capacity to immediately and concisely disseminate information. The app hasrnreally changed my life and the way I consume news and information that I can’trnthink of a more important technology, other than email, that possesses a greaterrnimpact on my life — that is, since I replaced my Smith Corona Coronet XL with a word processor.
From empowering technology solutions in the workplace to assisting first responders to playing a pivotal role in historic events, Twitter has changed the way news andrninformation flow. Twitter proves the old mantra, u201cinformation wants to bernfree,u201d is true. The social media platform essentially enables instantrnmessaging to an unlimited number of followers from a myriad number of locationsrnwherever someone with a Twitter account might be present.
Twitter communications, themselves simplistic 140-characterrnmessages, receive an extraordinary distribution assist due to two factors. Thernfirst is re-tweeting, which enables members to distribute others’rncommunications to one’s own collection of followers. The second is hashtags,rnwhich permits users to associate communications around topics andrnevents using specific keywords. Hashtags then make it possible to search forrnand identify all communications occurring worldwide that focus on a single topicrnor event.
My son and I were among the first of tens of thousands ofrnNASCAR attendees to learn the event was being postponed, thanks to Twitter.rnWhile tens of thousands stood confusedly in a prolonged rain shower, we headedrnto the parking lot, secure in the knowledge that the event was beingrnpostponed until the following morning.
I’ve received critical weather information updates, followedrncountless breaking news stories, collected much industry-related rnknowledge, wonrna helpful O’Reilly Knoppix Linux guide, saved considerable sums from rnlearning about targeted flash sales, discovered a favorite band was rncoming to town (enablingrnme to obtain seats to the sold-out show), and more using Twitter. The rnsocialrnmedia app has also helped me stay in touch with colleagues as they move rnto newrnpositions and cities, service my clients, and obtain seeming insiderninformation for a number of hobbies.
Best of all, Twitter is free. No for-pay subscriptionrnaccount is required. Further, the service is infinitely customizable in thatrnyou can follow Tweets from a vast variety of accounts however you wish andrnaccess it whenever you want, catching up on missed Tweets as time permits.
Whether you leverage the service’s web site, which enablesrnreviewing and searching Twitter feeds as well as posting tweets, or Twitter’s iOS,rnAndroid, Nokia, BlackBerry, or Windows phone apps, corresponding tabletrniterations, or Mac, Windows 8, or TweetDeck apps, the programs are free. The apps canrnbe found on Twitter’s web site and within most every vendor’s respective app store.
rnSo, what are you waiting for? If you don’t have a Twitter account, now isrnthe time to try it. And if you already use Twitter, take a moment to reallyrnstop and reflect. What passions, interests, and topics truly motivate you? Havernyou taken time to search Twitter and follow corresponding Twitter feeds that you mayrnhave overlooked? When considering the accounts to follow, think of the pastrntimes, sports, products, beliefs, charities, books, films, art, authors, manufacturers,rnmagazines, web sites, radio broadcasts, podcasts, newspapers, travelrndestination,s and services that bring you the most joy and fulfillment, then getrncracking. You may just find new accounts to follow that begin changing the wayrnyou live your life too.
Day 8: TripIt
The 8th app of Christmas Jason Hiner gave to you is a handy app called TripIt.
I love Tripit. This free app is available for the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 7 — and it’s by far the bestrnapp I’ve found for keeping track of travel itineraries.
TripIt upcoming trips
TripIt is powered by somernexcellent backend systems. You simply forward your confirmation emails to email@example.com (or use the Gmail plugin torndo it automatically) for your flights, hotels, rental cars, and more and itrnautomatically organizes them into trips.
TripIt confirmation numbers
The TripIt app is one of the most useful travel tools that I’ve used, as it stores all of your flight details and confirmationrnnumbers so that you have that information right at your fingertips.
Day 9: Nova Launcher Prime
The 9th app of Christmas Jack Wallen gave to you, the Nova Launcher Prime home screen.
Whenever I get a new Android device, one of the first thingsrnI do is install the Nova Launcher Prime for $4.00 (USD) — and it’s worth every penny. Why? Firstrnand foremost, it’s one of the cleanest Android launchers you’ll find. If you’rerna big fan of a minimalist home screen (that still offers plenty of features),rnyou’ll love Nova.
Nova Launcher Prime features
The Nova Launcher Prime feature list includes:rn
- Custom grids
- Infinite scroll
- Drawer groups
- Scrollable dock
- Folder icons
- Hide apps
- Scroll effects
- Icon/dock swipes
- Unique Nova Actions
- Unread counts
And much more.
Day 10: Zite
The 10th app of Christmas Mary Weilage gave to you is a useful app that’s simply called Zite.
Zite news app
Zite is the app Irnhave recommended most to others. Why? Because this free news app is anrnefficient way for me to peruse the latest content from a vast array of sourcesrnon topics that I choose or that falls under one of the Zite preset categories,rnsuch as Arts & Culture and World News, in one handy list.
Zite Share options
When you select and look at a piece of contentrnfrom Your Top Stories stream, you can vote it up or down; you can share it viarnemail, SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Evernote, Instapaper, orrnPocket; you can copy it; and you can open it in a browser.
Zite vote actions
The vote/up down action triggers the app to display related topics as suggestions that you can choose to add to your stream. In most stories I’ve seen, you also have the option to increase or decrease the text size and block that particular source.
Zite Recent Articles
Zite’s other nice features include the following:
- It’s easy to navigate.
- Content is greyed after you click it, so it’s easy to tell at arnglance what you’ve already read — or at least seen.
- One simple way to add new subjects to your reading list is to clickrna topic that’s featured in a box or (depending on how you’re viewing content)rnclick the heart by the topic name.
- In the Recent Articles view, you see lists of all the recentrnarticles you clicked, voted up (or, as the app calls it, thumbed), and shared
The folks at Zite claim this personalizedrnmagazine-style app learns from your reading choices to better match whatrncontent to serve you. I have never seen content in my feed that doesn’t fit myrnchosen preferences, so this functionality appears to work as advertised.
My only very minor frustration in previousrnversions of the app was that I couldn’t access content in multi-page articlesrnbeyond page one from within the app. It appears this issue has been resolved.
I think the fact that I only have one quibble tornreport after using it for a year and a half speaks to the quality of the app.
Zite is available for the iPhone and iPad (iOS 6.0 orrnhigher), Android (Android 2.3 orrnnewer), and Windows Phone (7.5 and 8).
If you haven’t already tried Zite, I encouragernyou to download the app — consider it a free gift to yourself.
Day 11: DeskConnect
The 11th app of Christmas Matt Nawrocki gave to you is an iOS app called DeskConnect.
By design, iOS devices do not have a mass storage device mode that rnallows you to easily copy files back and forth between your iPhone and arn Mac. Fortunately, an option exists to lower the walled garden a bit rnwith DeskConnect.rn After downloading this free app, you simply sign in and pair your Applern devices together for easy content sharing, including documents and rnphotos.
In addition to simple file transfers between Apple devices, you can pushrn web pages you are reading on Safari to another Safari session rnseamlessly, send phone numbers from your Mac to your iPhone, a street rnaddress to Apple Maps, and so much more. Functionality is also fully extensible via AppleScript.
Day 12: Charity Miles
The 12th app of Christmas Nicole Bremer Nash gave to you a selfless app called Charity Miles.
Charity Miles is the real spirit of giving. So, if you’re looking to give an app to a friend or loved onernthis holiday season, you can’t go wrong with Charity Miles. Snag their Android or Apple smartphone andrndownload it for free! It incentivizes people to get moving by turning theirrnworkouts into corporate philanthropy.
Charity Miles activities
Charity Miles uses GPS tracking to measure how far a personrnwalks, runs, or bicycles — and then it turns that activity into charitable giving.rnIt’s so simple. Create your account and connect it to your favorite socialrnnetwork. Before you head out, start the app, and select your activity and therncharity you want to donate to.
Charity Miles charities
When you’re done, select Finish, then AcceptrnSponsorship. Charity Miles posts to your connected social network account withrnhow far you went, a relevant message, and a “thank you” to the corporation makingrnthe donation on your behalf. It’s just one post per workout, and it turns everyrnworkout or jaunt to the corner store into an opportunity to give withoutrnopening your wallet. Not to mention the mega-bragging rights it creates onrnFacebook.
The Android or Apple device must have a network connection in order for the app tornwork. It doesn’t use many resources — I run it right along Map My Run and Zombies, Run, and my music app, and I usually have plenty of battery life leftover on my Samsung Galaxy Note II, even after long workouts.
Since the app is free, you might also considerrngiving the recipient an athletic phone holder that attaches to their arm orrnwaist, so they can be sure to have the device with them while they go.