Pocket that!

Bad habits are hard to break, especially digital bad habits. We don’t even realize we are creating these habits until we are overwhelmed by our inability to find anything on our computers and mobile devices.

In fact, most of us treat the information on our computer like a stranger unloading our dishwasher and putting all the glasses, dishes, pots and cutlery in the closest cabinet or drawer, with everything mixed up higgledy piggledy.

Thankfully, organizing files on a computer imitates the old-fashioned act of naming paper folders to hold documents in filing cabinets. It’s not difficult; it just takes discipline.

Conversely, the habit of keeping catalogs, magazines with dog-eared pages, and sections of old newspapers to be read “soon” has never seemed to lend itself to a practical filing system. And, therefore, trying to organize the digital equivalent of our stacks of periodical clutter is often done by creating bookmarks. A practice I have found unsatisfactory for short-term saving and, more importantly, finding at a later date.

I was notorious for keeping dozens of tabs open across my web browser. Maybe you do this too. You find an online store or article and don’t have the time to fully explore or read it, so you keep the tab open. As you add more tabs, your browser becomes so slow that it freezes or crashes and you wonder why. Or, you try to find a particular tab that you just know you left open – unsuccessfully.

A few months ago, I stumbled across a pretty fantastic solution, and it’s called Pocket. Pocket is an app that lets you save specific website pages and articles that you want to view later. And it’s synchronized across all of your devices. You can “pocket” a site from your computer and pull it up later from your smartphone or tablet.

While Pocket does not have a filing system per se, you can add tags to each page you are saving to help you find them later. For instance, if I was gathering information for an upcoming trip to New York, I would add the tag “New York” to every webpage that I wanted to save as a reference for planning my trip. When I am doing research for an article and saving references in Pocket, I tag each saved site with the topic of my research.

To find a saved site in Pocket, I select the correct tag first and then can find the specific saved site more quickly. It’s not unlike choosing a folder and then the correct document within the folder.

Whether you use a PC or Mac computer, Android or Apple mobile devices, getting started with Pocket is free, quick and easy. Here’s how to get it.

On your computer

  1. Go to https://getpocket.com/ and create an account. If you have a Gmail account, choose “Sign Up with Google,” otherwise choose “Sign Up with email.”
  2. Install Pocket in your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Opera) using these instructions. If you use Internet Explorer, use these instructions.
  3. Install Pocket on your computer. For Mac computers, use these instructions. For Windows computers, use these instructions.

On your smart phones and tablets

  1. On iPhones and iPads, go to the app store and search for the Pocket app. This is the correct symbol Pocket icon for the app. Download it and log in with the account you set up on your computer.
  2. For Android devices, download Pocket from the Google Play or Amazon Appstore.

Using Pocket

For detailed and advanced directions for using Pocket, I recommend that you browse through Pocket’s Help Center. The topics are well-organized and the instructions are easy to follow.

My quickstart instructions for Mac, Chrome and iPhone

How to save to Pocket with Chrome on a Mac:

  • When you are on a webpage that you want to save for later, click on this symbol Pocket extension iconthat will be near the top right, just past the address bar.
  • Wait for this popup to appear in the top right.
    Pocket page saved popup
  • I recommend that you type a category or topic in the “Add Tags” field and click on Save. This will make it much easier to find later.

How to save to Pocket on an iPhone:

  • From Safari, touch the Share-button button at the bottom of the screen. From Chrome, touch the Chrome vertical dots in the top right and then the Share-button button.
  • Touch the Pocket app icon. You will see this popup that it has been saved.
    iPhone pocket saved popup
  • To add a category or topic, touch the tag symbol. Enter or select your “tag” and then touch Save.

How to read your saved pages on a Mac:

  • Open the Pocket application from your Applications folder or the Launchpad.
  • To search for saved items with a particular tag, touch the tag symbol at the bottom of your list and select a tag.

How to read your saved pages on an iPhone:

  • Open the Pocket app.
  • Touch Pocket menu iconin the top left.
  • Select a tag.

Once you get in the habit of using Pocket, you will feel so smart!

4 iOS 9 Features Worth Trying

Now that iOS 9 for the iPhone and iPad has been out for a month or more and has even had a few updates, I’d like to share my four favorite features and encourage you to start using them. They are listed in reverse order because I saved the best for last!

4. Wi-Fi Assist Mode

We’ve all been “taught” to get our iPhones onto Wi-Fi whenever possible to avoid using our cell phone data plan. It’s a great practice, except when your W-Fi signal is weak and the cell phone data signal is strong. Until iOS 9, your iPhone would stubbornly struggle to connect to an app or website over Wi-Fi, oblivious to the stronger and faster cellular data connection it had.

If you prefer speed and don’t mind using your data plan, there is a new setting that will automatically switch from using Wi-Fi to cellular data when your Wi-Fi connection gets spotty. To turn it on or off, touch Settings > Cellular and scroll all the way to the bottom and touch the toggle switch.

3. Multiple Photos Selection

Most people let their photos accumulate on their iPhones until they get the “Not Enough Storage … This iPhone cannot be backed up” message and panic. Until iOS 9, deleting photos from the Camera Roll or All Photos (if you have iCloud Photo Library turned on) was a painstakingly slow, one-by-one tap on each photo. Now, from the Photos app, after you touch Select, you can drag your finger across multiple pictures to choose them quickly.

2. The New Notes

For years I’ve been synchronizing my iPhone Notes through Gmail. (It’s a setting on an iPhone under Mail, Contacts, Calendars for most email providers and iCloud – not just Gmail.)

The reason I synched through Gmail rather than iCloud was that iCloud required you to create an icloud.com email address to sync Notes. For most of us, having yet another email address was not needed or wanted.

Now, Apple has upgraded Notes to include basic formatting, drawing, inserting photos and even organizing Notes into folders. The catch is that it only works if you synchronize your Notes through iCloud, but you no longer have to create an icloud.com email address!

If you use Notes frequently, you will especially appreciate the ability to create folders to organize and then find them.

1. Siri

Siri is so remarkably improved that she deserves this whole article to herself (or himself, depending on your settings). It really wasn’t that long ago when you tried to tell Siri to “Call John Smith” and she responded by calling your mother. And of course you replied with a few, choice words for Siri!

With iOS 9, Siri understands almost everything you say and can do so much more.

The ability to activate Siri with the command “Hey, Siri” has been around for awhile, but only when your iPhone was plugged into a power source. If you happen to own the new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, you can ask Siri questions anywhere that your iPhone can hear you, without being plugged in.

Holding the home button down to activate Siri still works with all iPhone models 4s and later. For those of you who find that Siri can be a little impatient as you are asking a question, you can take as long as you want by holding down the home button the entire time you are speaking.

Here is a list of some of the ways you can begin using Siri to save time and make your iPhone more useful:

  • “Show my photos from Washington last June.” No more scrolling and scrolling through your photos!
  • “Get the Scannable app.” No more slow searching to find any app in the app store!
  • “When is the next game for the Tar Heels?”
  • “Remind me to turn on the oven when I get home.”
  • “What movies are playing near me tonight?”
  • “What is the best pizza restaurant in Chicago?”
  • “Find a table for four tonight in Washington, DC.”
  • “What is 20% of $63.75?” Or, something complicated like: “What is the square root of 325?”

Remember, go to Settings > General > Siri to turn it on, to allow “Hey Siri,” and to train Siri to your voice.

In addition, you can train Siri on other name pronunciations at any time or on contact relationships like “Learn to pronounce Shania Twain” or “John Smith is my husband.”

I highly recommend that you experiment and take a look at the list Apple has created at http://www.apple.com/ios/siri/.

Do You Know How to Really Clean Your Computer?

Buying a new computer is kind of like moving. When you move, you’re inspired to clean out, give away or throw away your clutter because the last thing you want to see in your new dwelling is your old junk.

I recently felt the same way when I purchased a new laptop. I still love and prefer using my desktop computer at home but I wanted to duplicate the apps and files from my desktop to my new laptop. This presented a “moving clutter dilemma” for me. There were so many unnecessary and junk files on my desktop that I first needed to clean it up before copying the good files to my new laptop.

The process of cleaning out old files on a computer is as tedious and unappealing to me as cleaning out the basement. But, like moving into a new place with fewer belongings, a digital cleanse is heavenly.

You Need a System

I decided on a two-step process to clean up the old computer. First, delete duplicate files, which especially occurred in my photos. Second, organize the remaining files into folders that make sense and delete those no longer needed.

I could have spent the next three years trying to find the duplicate files, photos and videos one by one! To maintain my sanity, I decided to search for an app to do the dreary job. When it comes to choosing software, I always check for reviews and recommendations on lifehacker.com. I like their explanations and have never been disappointed with their top picks.

My old computer is an iMac and my new laptop is a Macbook Pro. Lifehacker recommended Gemini (http://macpaw.com/gemini), which costs $10. For PC users, Lifehacker recommends a free app called dupeGuru (http://www.hardcoded.net/dupeguru/). dupeGuru also has a Mac version, but I decided to stick with the number one Mac recommendation, Gemini.

If you have many photos, videos or music files, it may take the duplicate finder hours to completely search and clean up your computer. After Gemini found and deleted my duplicates, the re-organization of the remaining files was required. This was manual labor on my part and took a few days, off and on. I reviewed every file and folder on my iMac, not including system or application files. I’ll share my process with you.

  1. Decide where you want all of your file folders to be located. On a Mac, I recommend under your user name, rather than Documents. On a PC, however, I do recommend that you use the My Documents location.
  2. Every file must be in a folder. Create folders within folders. No folder should have a mixture of files and folders, i.e. the last folder within a group of folders should only have files in it. This one rule can keep you super organized.
  3. Completely cleanup the Downloads folder by deleting all .dmg files on a Mac or .exe files on PC’s. These are the files that install software you have downloaded to your computer. Deleting them will not delete your installed applications. If it bothers you to delete these files, at least move them into a folder called Software Downloads in your chosen folder location. Move other documents to proper folders or delete. The goal is to end up with an empty Downloads folder.
  4. If you are really feeling inspired, uninstall programs that you no longer use. You will need to have administrator privileges and know your password to do this.
    • On a PC
      1. Click Windows Start icon >Control Panel>Programs>Programs and Features.
      2. Select a program and click Uninstall.
      3. Enter your PC password if requested.
    • On an Apple (for most applications)
      1. Open the Applications folder in Finder.
      2. If the app to be uninstalled is in a folder, open the folder. If you see Uninstall or Uninstaller, double-click on it and follow the instructions.
      3. If the app to be uninstalled is not in a folder, drag and drop the application into the Trash can icon in the dock.

My favorite “To Do List” App for the iPhone

My husband has been asking me for over a year to research “To Do List” apps for the iPhone, and I’ve put it off as long as I could. You see, I knew that there were lots of apps in that category. Three thousand three hundred eleven to be exact!

The Review

Since I couldn’t possibly tackle that list, I decided to compare the three most mentioned apps in the technology articles I read daily: Trello, Wunderlist and ToDoist. In addition, I’ll include the benefits of just using the Reminders app that comes with each iPhone.

Trello, Wunderlist and ToDoist have free and paid versions. All three, plus the Reminders app, keep your “To Do” lists synchronized between all your devices, can be accessed online from any computer and allow you to share your lists with others.

In it’s most basic form, a “To Do” app should function like pen and paper. You make a list of tasks and check them off as they are completed. But it’s the extra features that can keep you organized and productive that makes it worth using an electronic “To Do List” manager.

In researching each of these apps, I looked for functionality in three areas: 1) ease of creating, deleting and organizing tasks and lists, 2) ease of creating reminders for tasks, and 3) bonus features such as attaching additional information to a task, syncing with a calendar or using Siri to create tasks.

Reminders

Reminders is the most basic of the “To Do List” apps I compared, yet it’s quite enough for many people. With Reminders, you can create multiple lists and easily add tasks with due dates and times. Adding tasks to a list with Siri works very well, and you can have notifications based on date and time or location. For example, if you need to stop by the dry cleaners on your way home from work, you can be notified by Reminders when you leave work. Reminders falls short in its very basic design and the inability to create lists of lists (what I call sublists).

Trello

When I first tried Trello, I loved it because it was so visually appealing. In Trello, lists are called “Cards” and organized in “Boards” because that’s what they look like. It’s easy to drag and drop tasks from one “Card” to another, but it takes too many steps to remove a task once it’s completed. If you are highly visual, using Trello would be like having a big white board with post-it notes of lists.

Wunderlist

Wunderlist falls somewhere between Reminders and Trello. It’s more visually appealing than Reminders yet less flashy than Trello. Wunderlist allows sublists, which Reminders does not, and it accepts file attachments in its free version, as does Trello. If you want to see your “To Do” tasks in your calendar, it is very easy to set up.

ToDoist

When I first began testing ToDoist, I was expecting a lot because it is so popular. It is powerful, but only if you upgrade from its free version for $29/year. Otherwise, it’s a more basic “To Do List” manager than Reminders. Upgraded ToDoist is an excellent option for business users who need task management for a team of employees, but overkill for the rest of us.

As with many productivity apps, the best choice for you depends upon how you intend to use a “To Do List” app. 

To Do List Apps Review

AppAllows Lists within ListsLocation Based RemindersCan Sync with CalendarCan Attach File to a TaskEase of Use with Siri
TrelloYesNoYesYesLimited
WunderlistYesNoYesYesLimited
ToDoistYesPaid VersionPaid VersionPaid VersionLimited
RemindersNoYesNot without using a background program.NoExcellent

The Verdict

Best “To Do List” app for calendar syncing and file attachments – Wunderlist

Best “To Do List” app for managing employees and projects – ToDoist paid version

Best “To Do List” app for use with Siri & location based reminders & my personal favorite – Reminders

Here’s a little video I created to show you examples of how I use the Reminders app:

Choosing a Password Manager

I give up. I am drowning in an ocean of passwords and it’s time to save myself.

It’s time for me to decide on a password manager program and burn my pages upon pages of passwords.

A password manager is an app for your computer and mobile devices that securely stores your passwords so you don’t have to remember them. Actually, it’s a misnomer to call it a password manager. It’s also a username manager. Not because it can change or create more secure usernames, but because it remembers them also.

The best password managers also generate long and strong passwords for you, will alert you if  a website has been hacked and automatically change a hacked password. In addition, password managers can auto-fill address and payments forms, keep your passwords synchronized among all of your devices and allow you to securely share a password with a co-worker or family member.

Password managers have been around for years, but I have been primarily skeptical about storing my financial logins “out there somewhere.” So, I devised a system for creating mostly unique passwords that contained a variety of characters and no words. And that system still works really well for me, but the reality is that a) the increased sophistication of cyber attacks requires ever longer passwords, and b) I’m tired of creating, entering and remembering longer passwords.

It’s time to choose from among the best and most secure password managers. In a recent article by lifehacker.com, the most popular password managers are LastPass (lastpass.com), 1Password (1password.com) and Dashlane (dashlane.com). All of them securely store passwords, sync between my devices, generate strong, unique passwords and auto-fill online forms.

Originally, I was going to test each of these three services and share my opinions with you. But that has already been done so many times by very reputable websites that I don’t need to reinvent that wheel.

Instead, I’m going to tell you why I’m just going to go with LastPass. Price.

The capabilities of LastPass, 1Password and Dashlane are essentially the same. Some have easier to understand apps, but none are difficult to use. 1Password is a one-time purchase of $50. Dashlane is free to use on one device and then $40/year to use and sync on multiple devices. LastPass is free to use on a computer and $12/year to use and sync with your mobile devices.

So, why not go with 1Password which ends up costing less than LastPass beginning in the 5th year at $12/year? Because technology is going to change from typed passwords to something more unique. Whether it’s a fingerprint, retina scan or hardware token. Cyber security is a big industry and I expect to see something better than passwords sooner rather than later.

*** Update – last week LastPass reported that it suspected a security breach and asked all users to change their LastPass master password. Nothing is 100% secure, and I still have confidence in LastPass and I really need a password manager. Therefore, I still recommend and use LastPass.

Hoping to get control of your Inbox in 2015?

Each late December, when the new year is approaching, I instinctively think about goals for the coming year. Of course, that leads me to think about the resolutions I made for the current year and whether or not I accomplished them.

Many of my goals are technology oriented. You may have some technology goals yourself.

I often hear clients say that they want to learn how to use their iPhone or iPad better, or learn how to use cloud storage.

I must confess that I had mixed results with my resolutions for 2014.

These were my successful intentions for this past year:

  1. Get my husband’s and my computers set up to automatically back up in the cloud.
    Unlike an external hard drive, it’s the easiest and most cost effective way to protect your digital files from a disaster like fire. After extensively researching our options, I chose a service called Crashplan. Now, all of our files, folders and photos are constantly backed up on Crashplan’s remote computers somewhere.
  2. Learn something new on my iPhone, iPad or computer.
    This was easy because it has become a daily habit of mine. I am constantly looking for time saving apps or tips to make my life easier. And keeping up with all the changes those updates bring is mandatory for me.
  3. Create some online classes.
    I really loved creating video courses on “How to Create an iPhoto Slideshow” and “How to Use Your iPhone for Free (or nearly Free) in Europe.” Self-paced, online learning is a great way to learn a new skill, idea, hobby, etc.

My difficult and incompleted goals for 2014 were:

  1. Clean out and organize my digital closet (aka computer).
    Get files organized into folders, clean out the Downloads folder and delete old files. This is about as much fun as cleaning out the basement or garage! I started my digital de-cluttering, but it’s just so hard to finish it!
  2. Clean out my overwhelming Inbox.
    Delete, delete, delete old emails and organize the others into email folders. This might even be worse than organizing the files on my computer, but I’ve come up with a trick that might help me for 2015. I am going to have the computer automatically file emails from past years into folders labeled “Inbox 2014,” “Inbox 2013,”, “Inbox 2012,” etc. It will make the current Inbox look manageable and make it more rewarding as I tackle and clean out each old Inbox. It’s all a mind game!
  3. Organize my digital photos and video clips.
    I use an awesome program on my Mac called iPhoto (there are similar programs for PC’s). It can categorize pictures by date, location, event and who’s in the photo.

Which leads to my 2015 New Year’s resolutions.

Yes, I will continue to work on my digital housekeeping and I intend to create some more online classes.

The topics I’m considering will help you

  • learn how to use iTunes
  • learn how to organize and store iPhone/iPad photos, and
  • learn how to use the upcoming, new Photos program for Apple computers.

What about you? I encourage you to come up with some technology goals of your own.

The important thing is to keep learning, or at least striving to learn.

To help us both get started, here is my “Empty Your Gmail Inbox Mind Game!

How to Organize Your Family Vacation

Ahhh, summertime in the South. For many of us, that means multi-generational, family beach trips. And that means divvying up who’s bringing what and who’s cooking when.

My family’s annual beach trip is in its 75th year this summer. It began two decades before I was born. I guess we could it call the Diamond Anniversary Beach Trip.

This year, we will have fourteen adults and five children between two houses. That’s a lot of mouths to feed and food to coordinate!

Thankfully the internet and particularly Google Drive is making the back and forth tweaking of “the beach list” easy. Google Drive is an amazing free service for anyone with a Gmail address or a Google account.

It’s cloud storage, a word processing program, a spreadsheet program and more, all rolled into one.

The way we use Google Drive for our beach trip is that one person creates a document or spreadsheet with columns which list the items each attendee has agreed to bring. On a second page, the daily mealtime cooks are listed.

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Yes, You Can Have Email Lists on Your iPhone/iPad!

One of the time-saving features in most email programs is the ability to organize contacts into groups for emailing everyone in a couple of mouse clicks. If you’ve set up email groups on your computer, you’ve probably noticed that you cannot use them to email from your iPhone or iPad. 

What was Apple thinking!

Whether your contact groups are created in iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo or some other email service, they just don’t work on the iPhone/iPad with the Mail app.

Until recently, I did not know that there is a “work around.” It’s not hard, but it will take a little time and patience to set up.  As we use our iPhones and iPads more and more for everything, including emailing, it’s probably worth your time.

The steps to create a distribution list on iPhone/iPad

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