Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Must-Have Apps for Improving Your Personal Productivity

Image credit © Kaspars Grinvalds, Shutterstock Inc

It used to be that, aside from making calls, we could do little more with our phones other than using the built-in calculator function. Needless to say, things have changed quite a bit. Ever since the advent of smartphones, we’ve seen apps for just about any function that you can imagine. Scan through the iTunes App or Google Play Store on any given day and you’ll see dozens of brand new apps and more are developed and released every single day. With millions of apps to choose from, it makes finding one that’s useful like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

At the same time, productivity continues to be a daily struggle. We attribute some level of our unproductivity to procrastination and distractions, which — perhaps ironically — seem inevitable as our smartphones keep us connected and informed of what’s happening on social media, on the news, and at places where we cannot physically be. It seems natural, then, that we would turn to our smartphones for help, hoping that there were some way these devices that so often prevent us from attending to important tasks would be able to help us complete them.

Fortunately, there are a variety of tools that are meant to make us more productive, responsible members of society, and we can access them right on our smartphones. Here are some apps that will help improve your personal productivity.


It’s likely that you’ve at least heard of Wunderlist already, but if you haven’t, prepare to meet your new best friend. As the name implies, it’s one of the multitude of to-do list-making apps available for smartphones, but Wunderlist stands out for several reasons. First, Wunderlist isn’t just an app; while it’s available for free on Android and iOS devices, it’s also accessible on the web. This means that once you create and sign into your account, you can create and edit your to-do lists on one device, then access and continue them later on another. You can also create multiple lists, sorting tasks by their subject or some other label of your choosing.

Wunderlist via Google Play Store

Wunderlist also supports adding multiple users to a list, which offers great functionality both at work and at home. In the office, this means you could have a to-do list of tasks for a department that anyone in that department can access and work on, then have separate lists for individual people for projects and tasks assigned on an individual basis. At home, this translates as being able to create a master chore list, for example, then creating a grocery list for your spouse and assigning individual tasks to your teenager. Users need only to have an Android or iOS device, the app, and a Wunderlist account to be added to lists or create their own. Users added to a list can even exchange messages with each other right there in the app. As such, Wunderlist is an incredibly powerful app with great potential for not only your personal productivity, but also helping you to keep your employees or family more organized as well.



Do you find it difficult to keep track of your expenses anytime you’re traveling in the name of business? Do you not only lose receipts, but also hours of your time creating incomplete expense reports? Shoeboxed is the app you need because it can do all of the dirty work for you. Available for free on both Android and iOS devices, and offering web access like Wunderlist, Shoeboxed lets you scan receipts using your smartphone’s cameras, then collates and organizes all those business expenses for you. You can also do the same thing with all those business cards that associates were handing you; simply scan them into the app, then let Shoeboxed create a contact list by pulling the info from those business cards.

Shoeboxed via iTunes App Store

When you return from your business trip, Shoeboxed will have a detailed expense report ready for you to send, which you can also do right there in the app. Shoeboxed saves you time, the hassle of trying to hang onto all those receipts, and perhaps most importantly, is a free cloud-based service that you can access on all your connected smart devices. And even though it’s marketed for business trips, Shoeboxed can also be used by the thorough record-keepers among us, by entrepreneurs, and by those who freelance and need to keep track of expenses accrued in the line of duty. Having a detailed record of all business-related expenses will be an incredible relief come tax season.


Google Docs

If you’re not already using Google Docs, you probably will be eventually. Google Docs almost single-handedly brought word processing to the smartphone when probably just five years ago we all would have agree that we’ve never want or need to create and edit documents on a smartphone or tablet. However, Google Docs is a well-made, easy-to-use mobile word processor that can easily import and export files in the most essential document file types, such as Microsoft Word files and PDF files.

Via Google Play Store

Perhaps the most useful feature of Google Docs is its seamless integration with Google’s free cloud storage service, Google Drive. When you open or create a document in Google Docs, it’s automatically saved to your Google Drive while you have the option to save it locally on the device you’re using. Google Docs also auto-saves your work after every change you make, even if that change is as trivial and small as a single letter or punctuation mark. This makes it essentially impossible to lose any unsaved changes, which is a godsend when it comes to word processing — anyone who has ever lost hours of progress after Microsoft Word crashed will agree — and also means the document you’re seeing will always be the most up-to-date version. Since you can share documents with other users to work on a project remotely and simultaneously, it’s good to know that you’re working on the most current version and not spending time making changes that were already made by someone else.


It’s also useful to be able to type up important documents right from your smartphone. You probably won’t want to use your on-screen keyboard to write a term paper, but it’s good to know that if you ever needed to make small changes while on the go, Google Docs certainly gives you the option. On the other hand, you could connect a Bluetooth keyboard while you sit in a coffee shop or library and type longer documents more comfortably. Google Docs is an incredibly capable mobile word processor that’s free for Android and iOS devices, accessible on the web, and proves that it’s not unrealistic to create and edit documents on the go.


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Post by Guest Blogger Dane O’Leary

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Google Kills Spreadsheet Gadgets

This is the old map gadget from Google – it doesn’t exist any more and the maps created using it won’t exist soon either.

If you’re asking yourself: What happened to Google Docs Gadgets? – the answer isn’t anything you want to hear

I loved Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) gadgets. These were advanced options you could use with Google spreadsheets.

There was a Motion Chart gadget which helped you to create a great looking motion chart. You could set it up the way you wanted it to look and save those settings to the defaults. Click Publish and you’d get the code for the chart and you could embed it into a blog or website. Now it’s gone and the alternative is pretty awful by comparison. You can’t preset the motion chart settings – well you can try – but they aren’t saved with the worksheet and you can’t configure it and then put it on your website or blog. The chart keeps reverting to the default settings making it a whole lot less useful than it used to be.

 This and other old Gadgets either don’t exist in Google Drive or they have a really reduced functionality. 

Don’t get me started on the Map Gadget

Please don’t ask me about this one. This is so totally totally sad! The map gadget let you type a series of addresses into a Google Drive spreadsheet and you could select them and add the map gadget and it would plot the locations on a map.

It was A W E S O M E. And you know what? Google killed it – D E A D.

There is no map gadget – not even one which works horribly(like the other charts that replace deprecated gadgets) – it’s all gone. The only saving grace is that some folks have created apps to fill the gap and does a good job of taking the data from a Google Drive spreadsheet and plotting it on a map. Only I wish I didn’t have to use it – the old Google Gadget was a heap easier to use. To help you get started with MapAList I created a Youtube video that goes through the process.

This is why I hate the cloud

Yep.. there are things I hate about the cloud. Before the cloud took over our lives we bought software and it worked. If a developer made a new version of the software with new features – of if they removed old ones, we  could decide to upgrade or not.

The  cloud changed all that. Now Google makes changes and not only can we not do what we want to do but things we made don’t work anymore. The map gadget is being deprecated – for that read folks who used it in the past will find their published maps won’t work in the future. Don’t you hate that?

So what other bad news is there?

Sadly there is a lot. Google not only killed gadgets but it made a half hearted attempt at mollifying us with some new charts. Problem is that they suck – really, in contrast to what we had, they are pretty awful. They don’t have headings – so you can’t add a heading to charts like the motion chart, table chart, organization chart etc.  So, if you post a chart to your blog you’ll have to find another way to title it – really! Table charts used to be able to filter data – now they can’t – the list goes on.

This is the new Organization chart – it is horrible, no title, buttons that don’t work and limited customization options – Shame Google Shame!

So, what can you do?

Bellyache about them – like I am.

Realize that all those blog posts out there that talk about Google Docs Gadgets are now wildly out of date – they are mostly useless as the charts don’t work like they use to.

Learn JavaScript – Google has a developer tool that you can use to make charts for web pages – but it is all done using JavaScript and the instructions and the examples on the Google site lack any real detail so, unless you really know what you are doing – they are hard to follow. Expect to put in a lot of trial and error to get it all working – and, to add insult to injury, you have to test your code online – the scripts won’t work on a local machine.

Hope someone creates better solutions. The folks at have done a good job of simplifying map creation. Hopefully other developers will create solutions that give us the functionality that Google saw fit to remove.

Stop talking about the cloud as being the panacea of all ills – it too often sucks and it disadvantages users when companies like Google take away functionality from their products.

OK.. rant over..


… for now  😉


Helen Bradley

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Cometdocs – A smarter file converting tool

Learn how to convert files directly from Dropbox and Google Drive

Needing to converted a document from one file type into another is very common today, which is why online file conversion services have become so popular. One service that has made a name for itself by offering free high-quality file conversion capabilities is Cometdocs. Cometdocs is a document management service that also offers cloud storage and file transfer options, the website is still primarily used by people who need fast and accurate file conversion online.

The service has unveiled a bunch of updates recently, one of them being integration with popular cloud storage services such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Even though Cometdocs offers free storage to its users (2GB worth), there is no denying that there are many much more popular cloud storage competitors out there.

Thanks to this new update, Cometdocs users can convert files directly from their Google Drive or Dropbox accounts in two different ways – via their browser or using Cometdocs’ new desktop app.

Of course, in both instances you need to sign up for a free Cometdocs account first. Once you have signed up and logged in, here’s how to integrate Google Drive and Dropbox with the online service.

Right at the top of Cometdocs’ online interface, you will see a button that says “Import file from.” Click on that button and choose to synch either Dropbox or Google Drive with Cometdocs.


Once the synch has been completed, a window will open up listing all of your Dropbox or Drive files. Click on the file you want converted and then click “Choose.”

The file is now sent to your Cometdocs clipboard from where you can drag it to the Convert tab and choose your conversion option. Cometdocs allows users to convert PDFs into a large number of different file formats including MS Excel, Word, PowerPoint, HTML, Text, AutoCAD formats and more. You can also convert these files types and more into PDF with Cometdocs. It’s safe to say that the conversion options are plentiful.


Integrating Cometdocs with your favorite cloud storage service is even easier when using the desktop app. Once you have downloaded and installed the app and you have signed in to your Cometdocs account through it, the conversion process can be completed in just one step.

Simple open your cloud storage folder of choice. When using the desktop app, you are no longer limited to Google Drive and Dropbox integration. You can open up the folder of any cloud service you prefer to use.

Now simply right-click on the file that you want to convert. Find the Cometdocs logo in the menu and select your conversion type.

And that’s all there is to it. The app sends the file off to Cometdocs’ server for conversion, and once the process is complete, the newly converted file is downloaded automatically into your cloud storage folder and synched.

If you are looking for a faster and easier way to convert files from within your cloud storage conveniently, Cometdocs’ integration features are hard to beat.

Go to:  or


Helen Bradley

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Google Drive Spreadsheet Notifications

Google Drive’s spreadsheets are liable to be shared and edited by many people.

This can potentially compromise the integrity of their data, so it’s a good idea to keep track of the changes made. Fortunately, Google provides a notifications service so the spreadsheet’s owner can do just that.

To access the notification rules, open the spreadsheet you want to track and select Tools > Notification Rules…. The resulting dialogue allows you to choose what changes to track. If only some data is critical, you can choose to only track a specific sheet or cell range. If you’ve set up a form to feed its result into your spreadsheet, you can choose to be notified whenever somebody submits the form. Choosing email – daily digest will add the notification to a daily email that contains all of your notifications that have this rule selected. Email right away immediately sends the specific notification to you.

Click Save when you are done. Your new notification rule will be the first on a list of all the notification rules for that spreadsheet. From the list you can add new rules, or edit or delete an existing one.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Google Drive Change File Ownership

So you’ve decided of your documents is better of in somebody else’s hands. Maybe you prepared the document for a colleague with the intention of handing it off to them later, or maybe you’re just offloading some of your work. Whatever the case, Google makes transferring ownership of your files extremely simple.

To begin, you must first share the file with its new owner. Either click the blue share button in the top right corner of the document, or select File > Share…. When the share menu appears, enter the new owner’s email address and press Share & Save to share the file with them.

Their address should now be listed in the share menu. Click the can edit box next to their name, select is owner, then click Save Changes. The new owner will be notified by email about the ownership change, and you will still have editing privileges as long as the new owner allows it.

Helen Bradley

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Google Docs Search the Menus

Sometimes you know what you want but you don’t know where to find it. Google Docs’ menus are pretty simple, but the Search the menus tool can make menus entirely obsolete. You can find this search tool under the Help menu, but it can be more easily reached by pressing Alt + /.

This search tool is extremely powerful. Type anything related to what you want and it’s almost guaranteed to appear, from basic settings to specific font settings. Search “math” and you’ll see the option to insert a new a equation, “double” will yield the double line space setting, “list” will provide many different types of lists you can insert.

Almost every setting can be tweaked from this search menu. Next time you’re lost in the settings menus, just pressing Alt + / and find what you want in seconds.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Paint Text Formats in Google Docs

You’ll often discover that copy-pasted text from other parts of the web does not match the font styling of your document.

For example, you may copy a quote from an article and find it in 10 pt and a different font or color. Google Doc’s new paint format tool solves this problem by letting you instantly match foreign text’s style to your own by copying the formatting from one set of text to another.

To use it, select any of the text from your own document and select the paint roller icon from the left side of the toolbar. The selected text’s styling will be saved in the paint tool, and the next body of text you select will have the styling “pasted” onto it such that the foreign text now matches your own. So, with the template text and paint tool selected, select the text with incorrect styling and it will be fixed instantly.

Helen Bradley