Although it has been a few years, Lucky Magazine used to run a column called “How I’m Wired.” Their tech staffer Emily Hsieh would share all the gadgets and gizmos she loved most, from wireless printers to her favorite purse-size camera and so forth. Here’s the last column I’ve been able to find from 2010.
I suspect that the simple truth is that a) none of the good stuff is really “wired” anymore and b) 90% of readers are now smartphone-carrying tech experts themselves, but nonetheless, I miss the column. I thought it was a great way to share emerging tech and media trends with a nod to fashion. These days, I read Cool Mom Tech and Evolved Mommy for my fix, but I secretly wish Lucky would relaunch How I’m Wired. See? Meet adorable Emily:
In the interim, as a nod to my affection for that feature, I’ll just satisfy myself by tagging my own blog features on apps, tech and so forth (with or without wires) #HowImWired. There. Now that I’ve justified this (in lengthy fashion) publicly, I feel better. Anyway…
Back in 2010, I shared a list of apps and technology garnering my attention, and while many remain unchanged I realized it is in need of a little polish. So, I’m dividing it into categories (essential apps, favorite websites, gadgets and tools) to share in a series format. Another disclaimer: I’ve been on a pretty big purging spree. Although it’s been nearly 25 years since our family moved to the U.S. from Jamaica and I began learning about Earth Day and developing a penchant for sustainability, I’ve only in recent years started to really eliminate stuff, aiming to live a more paperless life and trying to find tips that go beyond just recycling, bringing my own bags and refusing plastic bags and bottles. So, some of these apps are related to my sustainability and paperless goals as well as handy in their own right.
I should note that I’m not a tech blogger – you should follow Evolved Mommy for that since she was recently ranked one of the best around and she knows what’s up, yo. I’m just another human with a penchant for useful tech tools. Enjoy.
Nine Essential Apps
Artkive – This is my current big app crush, identified thanks to Cool Mom Tech. And, it happens to be one of our first family projects for summer… we’ll be tackling those mountains of artwork sent home from school and scanning the keepers into Artkive. Artwork can be filed by child’s name and you can attach dates and details (such as “Third Grade”). Then, we can share them on Facebook, email them to art teachers or friends and even print them into a slim photo book. I’m going a step further and even scanning some report cards, REACH project displays as well as a select few worksheets and in-class writing assignments that will be fun to reference through the years, such as that one about “My Mom’s super powers.” Mine was apparently ice.
Audible – This would never have been on my list a year ago. Like so many, I was hung up on ideas about needing to hold books, magazines and newspapers rather than going digital. More on that below, and I’ll never stop frequenting book stores. However, I was reminded that sometimes, I want to just devour a book and not necessarily keep it for eternity to pass down to my children’s children. So, while I certainly use the Kindle app in that regard as well, I’ve also started to listen to Audible audiobooks while I shop for groceries, run errands, bike, commute or knock out household chores. I’m powering through a number of reads that had been lurking on my “to read” list on Goodreads for ages, and I’m hooked. Well worth the subscription, free app.
Endless ABC – I am the mom who allows my toddler to devour (limited) technology so that I do not completely lose my mind. Don’t judge me. A stranger in a bakery once commented on how adroit my barely-two-year-old was with the iPad. She assured me it was a compliment. This is the app that has helped us survive our intense second child thus far, and I love that it is as useful now while learning the alphabet as it will be in coming years when she tackles reading and spelling. Adorable monsters from the good folks at Callaway Digital Arts march across the screen dragging words like gargantuan, and each word is clearly spoken and defined with a little skit. Free. Did I mention I luuuurrve it?
Evernote – THE single most essential tool I use on a daily basis. It’s my go-to for snapping photos of books I want to read or inspiration from magazines at the doctor’s office (not that I touch those), keeping up with personal information, writing blog posts and articles and nine million other things. Evernote has become my brain – I now create most of my documents and meeting agendas in it, and can always transfer them to word processing or PDF documents if needed or email them to others directly. I can’t really do this tool justice – it’s worth reading more on the site or reading tips from the Evernote ambassadors and super users such as Michael Hyatt, who you ought to follow anyway. I’ll devote a separate post to my efforts to be closer to #paperless, but this is the best tool in my arsenal. I’ve also written separately on The Food Adventuress about my affection for Evernote Food. Free.
Google Catalogs – Launched in late 2011, Google Catalogs is literally one of those amazing products that I happened upon and then was completely, obsessively amazed that Every. Single. Person. I know was not talking about it constantly. It’s pure genius. Why yes – yes, I do want to read books, magazines and even flip through catalogs on my tablet or computer and finally put an end to the mountains of wasteful junk mail that deluge my house. Plus, half the time I’m browsing for inspiration and not necessarily placing orders, so Google Catalogs is perfect. And it’s free. Go now.
Kindle – Call it elementary, but I find the Kindle app (free) for smartphones, computers and tablets to be essential. I do love books to no end, but I also find that I often just want to consume an e-book and not keep it for posterity or handing down to future generations. I’m currently inhaling Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson and One Bite At A Time: 52 Projects For Making Life Simpler by Tsh Oxenreider in this format, and I love that I can make notes and reference action items as I read. That’s $5 apiece I’ve paid for some of the best reading I’ve done in ages, with me all the time on my iPad or phone.
Routines – I’m betting there are plenty of people out there – probably not reading this blog for starters – who have far better control over their lives and everyday tasks. I’m that person who needs a checklist to survive, and even then I still rarely get it all done. I love the Routines app from Coopla ($1.99) because it helps me tackle both everyday chores and recurring monthly or annual tasks with the satisfaction I apparently crave very deeply to mark them off and free up mental space trying to remember such things. My husband finds this to be pure insanity and is a competent-enough individual to get up in the morning and simply do what needs to be done, and even more impressive to remember things like treating the pets for varmints on the first day of every month. Every month. Never forgets. I, on the other hand, manage to rise every single day of the year and feel utterly overwhelmed by things like unloading the dishwasher and taking a vitamin. For the five others on the planet like me, here’s a list: 1) Download app. 2) Open app daily. 3) Check things off. 4) Feel pleased and self-satisfied.
Skitch – Part of the Evenote family of lovely add-on products, I can honestly attest that Skitch took my blogging to the next level. No more was I forced to take a photo and then edit it at home to suit my needs and upload to the blog – Skitch lets me grab and edit screenshots on my iPad or iPhone or quickly sketch an icon (like the red electronic device above) to illustrate a point. I can even tinker with existing photos in my camera roll like the cute one below of my pal Lyndi from a recent post about bookshelf stalking.
Ziplist Trust me, there will be an entire separate post on the merits of Ziplist over on The Food Adventuress. It’s yet another in the arsenal of apps that have allowed me to get closer to paperless and eliminate those pesky scraps of paper where I would jot (and subsequently lose) my shopping list. And, I love that I can create various lists for various stores – so I can have lists for items from Walgreens or Sam’s Club as well as a list for our annual Thanksgiving meal, meaning I can shop for those items when it is convenient rather than setting aside time to dig out my recipes and make the same list every year. Free.
Any favorites to share?
Disclaimer: I was not compensated for these opinions – I am simply sharing some of my personal favorite apps. Additionally, the images are the property of the app developers and authors – I have shared them here to direct you to their products because I believe in them, and do not claim any ownership of the products or images.