Mem:o Lets You Keep Track of Things Beautifully

Whether you’re keeping track of your spending, your workouts and calories, or your billable hours, we’re all keeping trying to keep on top of all the data we generate. And if you’re anything like me, you don’t really know where to put that stuff except in some boring spreadsheet that you may or may not ever look at again.

Keeping the ugly out of your data is the job of mem:o—an innovative app for the iPad that will make you want to revisit your data and, who knows, maybe learn something from it.

The great selling point of mem:o is that it’s lovely. Put together by the design firm of c+y, mem:o uses an clean but colorful palette, organizing your personal information into a series of circles of different sizes and colors. You can add tags and text notes for more information and view your data either on a calendar or a board. Read More

Free Photoshop Alternative: Try Canva

Everyone loves things that look nice. That’s why a lot of us wind up paying professional graphic designers to make our webpages, brochures, fliers, and the like. While designers are indispensable for their skills, they’re also indispensable because they have access to tools like Adobe Photoshop—which is pretty pricey for the amateur to acquire—and has a very steep learning curve.

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Can Bunkr Kill PowerPoint?

We’ve written before about the ubiquity of Microsoft Office products and their transition to mobile environments. Admittedly, they’ve been a little slow on the uptake, which created an opportunity for a number of companies to develop software meant to replace these seemingly irreplaceable office tools.

Bunkr is one such of those tools—a new product from a French startup that explicitly wants to be a PowerPoint killer. Whether it can dethrone the reigning champion of the slideshow is a separate question, but it does offer a lot of nifty features if you’re looking for an alternative to Office. For starters, Bunkr looks and feels a lot like PowerPoint. If you’re familiar with using that, making a switch to something new shouldn’t feel that weird. But Bunkr offers a few features that make it stand out. Read More

Is It Time for Smart Watches?

Image from Pebble

Just a few days ago, TechCrunch reported that Samsung has filed trademarks indicating that it may be entering the burgeoning smart watch market. With this news, it joins the ranks of other companies rumored to be developing smart watches: Apple, Google, and Microsoft all allegedly have watches in the making.

Interestingly, this emerging wearable computing market has been driven by small players—perhaps most famously by Pebble, a smart watch that was crowd funded through Kickstarter. But with these bigger companies moving in, it’s worth reviewing the smart watches on offer and asking whether this newest tech trend has something to offer you.

The tagline about smart watches is “hands-free computing.” The general idea is that the watches will wirelessly connect to your smart phone and move some of its functionality out of your pocket and on to your wrist. If you ever get furious about having to take the phone out of your pocket to make a call, check your messages, or read a text (or, for that matter check the time), then these might be products for you.

If that seems silly, keep in mind how everyone thought that the iPod (and mp3 players in general) were useless and that they’d never take off. Almost every reviewer has recognized the advantages in terms of convenience and connectivity of having a device that’s more accessible on your wrist. Read More

Outsourcing Expertise: eBay and Google Expert Networks Coming Down the Pipeline

Image from TechCruch

We spend a lot of time talking about ways we can best manage our time. And when there’s a lot on our plates, the dream is just to get someone to take care of business for us. Fortunately, we looked at ways to do just that: there are a lot of small-scale outsourcing options available, connecting people that have surplus time with people that have a deficit.

This has always been one of the promises of the web: connecting people that wouldn’t otherwise be connected. And while the time crunch issue has been addressed, some major players have identified an opportunity to make a different kind of valuable link: connecting experts with those that need expertise. Both Google and eBay are rolling out services that promise to link up people that know something with people that want to know something.

These services share something in common with Elance, which we talked about before, but each aims to carve out a specific, special niche when it comes to connecting specialists with those who need their help.

eBay opened the salvo with SecretGuru. Currently in beta and available only in the UK, SecretGuru is an attempt to bring a curatorial eye to selling expertise. Unlike Elance, which allows almost anyone to ply their services, SecretGuru is highly selective about which experts it offers. It wants to create “memorable experiences,” from specialized cooking classes to learning to make shoes to personal style advice.
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Bring Sanity to your Inbox with Sanebox

About a year ago, the consulting firm McKinsey and Company conducted a study that concluded about 28% of the average workers’ time is spent on email. Thinking about my own email experience, I know a lot of those emails are basically useless. Or, at least, things that don’t have to be dealt with immediately.

SaneBox is an inbox management program that wants to help you deal with your chronic email bloat. Compatible with Gmail, Apple Mail, Outlook, Yahoo Mail, and most other web-based email programs and email clients you might use, SaneBox gives you a toolbox to let you manage your email rather than having your email manage you.

There are a lot of products that help you manage your email, but SaneBox has given some deep thought to the problem, and their efforts show. Based in part on the principles of the popular productivity principles of Getting Things Done, SaneBox is more than a simple email filtering tool like Gmail’s priority inbox.

Though it does filtering quite well, too, which is the foundation of most email management tools. SaneBox defaults to two levels of importance, but is able to manage up to five. And while their importance algorithms work well on their own, SaneBox allows you to connect to you various social media accounts to better learn what’s important to you and what isn’t. Best of all, it summarizes your unimportant emails for you so you can decide quickly what needs your attention and what you can ignore.

But what makes SaneBox really interesting is what it can bring to your inbox besides basic filtering. One of my favorite features is the summary of email activity, which includes the summary of your latest unimportant emails, but more powerfully, provides a lot of statistics on your email behavior, which lets you think critically about how much time you’re spending and the load of messages you’re dealing with. A richer understanding of how much time I can expect to spend on email helps to plan my workload—and lets me consider whether I really need to read everything I think I need to read.

There are a whole host of other great features: one-click unsubscribing from email lists you don’t want to be on anymore, automated nagging features that will email you to let you know if an important email hasn’t been replied to, cloud-based attachment storage, and others. It also works with the email on your mobile devices, so you don’t have to worry about scrolling through a ton of useless messages on your phone.

SaneBox will cost you $5 per month (and you can try it for free for 14 days), but given that the company estimates that it saves the average user two hours per week, it just might be worth it to you.

Quip: Word Processing on the Go

Image from Quip

A couple days ago, I wrote about the release of Microsoft Office for the iPhone and Android. This got me thinking about the state of the original killer apps: the productivity software that really drove the original personal computer revolution.

It’s interesting that the mobile revolution hasn’t really produced the same kind of software that made the pc ubiquitous in homes and businesses. The founders of Quip hope to change that. Founded by Bret Taylor, the former Facebook CTO and one of the driving forces behind Google Maps, and Kevin Gibbs, who headed the technical team for the Google App Engine, with $15 million in startup funding, the Quip team has the brains and muscle to make a real difference in our mobile productivity.

The inaugural blog post for quip makes a really good point: after showing a picture of MacWrite, one of the first graphical word processors that was released in 1984, they note: With the exception of some additional color and a stack of toolbars at the top of the screen, it doesn’t look different from the software that probably came bundled with your current laptop. We still use the same metaphors and the same workflow that we used when shoulder pads and leg warmers were cool.

Quip tried to rethink word processing from the ground up for the mobile experience, emphasizing four design goals: collaboration, mobility, interactivity, and simplicity. We’ll walk through these to understand what Quip has to offer.

Central to Quip is the idea that you’ll want to share your documents and work on them collaboratively. Quip allows a single document to be edited simultaneously on any device by multiple users, which is a pretty good feature in itself. Most revolutionarily, tho’, is that the document is combined with an editing and commenting thread, so you can keep up-to-date on the conversation and the edits that have been made.

Image from Quip

Quip also provides shared folders that automatically update users when something inside them has changed.

Quip strives to make word processing truly optimized for mobile: besides working well offline, Quip looks great no matter the device you’re working on. And it’s not just a pretty face: the formatting of documents changes depending on the device. If you’re reading on an iPad, for instance, pictures and text might be integrated in a different way that takes advantage of the larger screen. The same document on the iPhone might separate the text and photos to make reading easier. Quip promises that whatever the device, you won’t need to pinch and resize to have a usable document.

Quip supports printing, but they also realize we usually just look at documents on the screen these days. To take advantage of this, they offer some interactive features that seem truly handy. You’re able to “@-mention” people and other documents, for instance, to link directly to them. You’re also able to transform text simply. To borrow Quip’s example, you can change a bulleted list into a checklist that multiple users can update at once.

Finally, Quip is pretty easy to use. That said, some users might find this simplicity a disadvantage. Some of the standard ways we’re used to dealing with word processors just don’t apply to Quip. There’s something of a learning curve. There also aren’t the same robust formatting options we’re used to. This is the trade-off for what the Quip folks say is “a minimal, elegant design that helps you focus on writing — not ribbons.”

Unfortunately, Quip doesn’t offer any compatibility with Microsoft Word—just Quip’s native format and PDFs. So if you’re interested in making the transition, you have to jump in head first.

Quip is available now for desktop and iOS devices, and there’s an Android app in the works, too. The basic service is free for up to 5 users, and the professional edition (currently in beta) costs only $12 a month.

Buffer: Management Software for Social Media

It’s 2013, and by now most of us know that a powerful social media presence is essential to building your brand on the internet. To make that responsibility a little easier, a number of social media management applications have emerged to coordinate your presence through time and across social media platforms.

One of the applications that seems to be picking up a lot of steam is Buffer, an application that started life managing twitter feeds but has expanded its focus to include Facebook, LinkedIn, and many other platforms and features.

The basic idea behind social media management software is that you’re able to make updates to your various social media accounts in a single convenient location. And best of all, you’re able to schedule your updates so you’re able to prepare your posts and tweets beforehand. Most applications also offer various analytics to determine your social media impact and help you to refine your strategies for maximum reach.

In this respect, Buffer behaves a lot like its competitors, which include HootSuite, perhaps the most popular of these applications, and others such as TweetDeck, and SocialFlow.

Buffer really distinguishes itself when it comes to ease of use. The scheduler is often singled out for approval: you’re able to set up default posting times so you don’t have to specify for each new post, which is the case for most other social media management software. This is especially useful as you can schedule your posts to correspond to peak usage time for each different networks, set it, and forget it.

Besides scheduling posts, generating and sharing content online is also a snap. Buffer provides you with browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari to make sharing content from the web a snap. Just find something you like, click on the Buffer button in your browser, and you’re all set to either share immediately or to put it in your buffer and share at your previously scheduled times. Read More

How Small Businesses Can Use the New Twitter Profiles, Twitter for iPad

This morning on the Today Show, Twitter rolled out a couple of big changes: updated profiles and a huge update of their iPad app. These new Twitter changes are bigger than they sound, and it’s important businesses react quickly to these and future changes to a key messaging and marketing platform. Not only is there a slight first mover advantage, but you’ll never be caught trying to play catchup on new technology. It’s especially important if being a tech-savvy company is important to you brand. As always, it’s a branding opportunity.

Mario's new Twitter profile page

Updated Profile Image
Goodbye tiny Twitter avatar, hello giant banner. Does Matt Lauer’s Twitter profile page remind you of anything? If you answered Facebook, we’re on the same page here. That giant image is great for quickly and immediately introducing people to your brand, and makes your Twitter page feel more “branded” in general. Take advantage of it, and make sure you’re presenting a page that fits in with the rest of your identity, digital and otherwise.

Updated Profile Photo Stream
Over in the left sidebar, you can see the redesigned Twitter profile page puts a lot more emphasis on photos that you’ve posted. As a small business, it’s important to remember to take those photos, and that only 6 will show at a time. While taking photos, try to balance subject matter, colors, and close-ups between photos, so that you have different kinds of photos showing on your profile that look good even at a glance.

The big trend here is an emphasis on media, and users creating and sharing it. Again, that should remind you of Facebook, and it makes sense. Getting users to interact with your service means they spend more time on your site, and it makes sense to bring the media inside your site, rather than push users elsewhere to bring pageviews to other people.

We see that same trend pushed even farther in the new Twitter iPad app. The big news here, beyond the redesign, is that users can experience media from Tweets within the stream. The company told the Today Show that the idea was to create an experience more like, but also to let users “view photos in fullscreen and swipe through them really easily.” So again, it’s all about photos. Are you good with a camera? It’s good for Twitter, Facebook, and your business’s image if you are.

Yahoo Axis: Aging Search Giant Making A Huge Step Into the Future with Hot New Service

In a time when the word “Google” is synonymous with searching the Internet, have you been wondering what some of those old search engines of yore are up to?  I know that I have.  I have to say that it seems that Yahoo! has not let the world pass them by, with their new Axis product they have impressed me by embracing the modern mobile culture.

The basic idea behind this product is a solid one.  Your web browsing experience follows you from device to device, from platform to platform.  If mobile productivity is your thing, then this simple concept is appealing to you, seamless movement from tablet to desktop with no syncing, really no thinking is required. Read More