Browsing articles in "Technology"
Aug 17, 2009

Pocket Informant for runners, parents and hectic lifers

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post on iPhone apps that I love, but after recommending Pocket Informant on Twitter and getting questions about it, I’ll just dedicate a post to Pocket Informant.  It’s full of so many features that I think it might just deserve its own post!

I first started with Pocket Informant Lite and loved it, but its limitations were obvious because it only syncs with one google calendar.  When I looked at the full version and saw that it syncs with all my google calendars, I quickly realized the potential it could have… and then add on syncing with Toodledo, and it becomes awesome.

So, first things first:

You need to know the features of google calendars.  If you don’t already use Google calendars, you’ll quickly see how useful they can become with Pocket Informant.

I’ll give an overview of how I use Google calendars:

1) Shared calendars: It’s a great feature if you want be informed of what is happening in a community.  I personally am a member of a local Flickr (photography) group.  A calendar was created for the group and it was made public, which means that if you have the link to the calendar, you can just add it to your list of Google calendars and be informed of any activities (or birthdays) that are happening within the group.  The events appear on your general calendar view if you have selected for it to be shown.   Shared calendars don’t always have to be public, though.  You can create a calendar and choose who you want to share it with by sending a link to whoever you want to see it.   Let’s say you have a local running group, or some kind of meetup group: you can create a calendar and add the events there.  If it’s a local running group, you could add all the local races, or meetups the group is planning to have, so if any of the members want to know what is going on, they can just look at the calendar.  Easy!  For example, you and your spouse can share the family calendar so you are both informed!  No excuses like “I didn’t know!”

2) Public calendars:  Google has a few public calendars (National holidays, lunar phases, etc) and  you can also search for other calendars.  I personally added US holidays, the lunar phases one, and local weather forecast, so whenever I look at my Google calendar, all those events appear.

3) Personal calendars: I’m not quite sure if there’s a limit to the amount of calendars you can create for your own personal use, but these are the ones that I have created for myself:

- The default calendar (it’s the calendar you are given automatically when you have a google account).  I use it for random personal stuff.

-Birthdays: Quite self explanatory.  You can choose for the event to repeat every year… which is what birthdays tend to do. :P

-Family: I put all family activities in this calendar, including all my kids’ stuff; important school dates (you know, like when the school year starts, or the delayed openings, etc), their activities, and all the things that are related to my family and kids.

-Fitness planner: Realizing that I could plan my fitness schedule like this is one of my favorite things about Google calendars.  I plan when I’m going to run, swim, do yoga, etc.

-Fitness tracker: I made a separate one to actually track what I do, because it doesn’t always fit in exactly with what I’ve planned.  I love having this because I can look back on my training at any point.  So useful!  I can also compare my planning with what I actually did.

-Weight tracking: I just input my weight everyday so that is tracked alongside with my fitness.  Useful to see it all in one place!

-Photography: I’m a photographer and do wedding shoots, etc once in a while, but it’s nice to have a separate calendar for this.

-I have a couple more calendars for other types of work I do.  I do contract work with different companies so I have a calendar for each company and I track the work I did with each one of them through separate calendars.

-Mood calendar: I suffer from depression (it’s getting better!) so I track my moods.  I started this recently because I want to see if there is a pattern and I’d also like to compare it with my fitness calendar to see if my mood is improving with my exercise routines.

So, yes, Google calendars can be personalized to the tiniest degree.  I love them.

POCKET INFORMANT

And back to Pocket Informant: it’s the only app I’ve found that is very well built and syncs with your Google calendars.  So add all the pros of using Google calendars and put that in an app.  If you look at the information about the app at the App Store, you’ll be able to read about more of its features.

-You can view everything you’ve put in your calendars the following views: List, Day, Week, Month.

-You can search the calendars through the search function.

-You can select colors for each calendar.

-You can also set various alarms for each event (I’ll be explaining a little more about this in the “Cons” section)

TOODLEDO

Then you have the Toodledo part of the application.  The price of the standalone Toodledo app for the iPhone is $3.99, but the app is included in Pocket Informant.  To be honest, I had bought the “Things” app… but when I realized that I could use Toodledo within the Pocket Informant app, I stopped using “Things”.  You can sign up for Toodledo for free online.  It’s important to know this because there are so many apps that have hidden costs.  For example, if you want to use “Things” on your computer, you have to buy the application for your computer (I think it’s $39.99).  Another example is OmniFocus.  The app is $19.99, but you have to buy the application for your computer which is $79.99 (I think) and THEN you have have to have a MacMe (is that what it’s called) account which is $100 dollars per year.  I’m using all these numbers from what I can remember, so correct me if I’m wrong.

The Toodledo site is not so pretty, to be honest.  I mean, the information can be entered on your computer with the free account, but they haven’t done a great job of it visually.  The Toodledo section in Pocket Informant is very nice and very similar to “Things” and “OmniFocus”.  OmniFocus does offer GPS location so you add errands you need to do according to a specific location, but I just don’t think paying all that money is worth it.

The nice thing about having Toodledo integrated in one app with Google calendars is that you can create actions/errands, make a date for them and they are automatically entered into whatever calendar you choose.  The Menu on the Pocket Informant app for the ToDo section is grouped as follows:

-Inbox

-Projects

-Contexts

-Starred

-Next Actions

FILTERS

-All Active

-In Progress

-Overdue

-Due Today/Tomorrow

-Undated

-Completed

You can sequence actions too: For example 1) Hit your head against the wall; and then 2) Go to the doctor for stitches!  (haha!)

Now, the CONS… or better said, the CON, of this app:

- I mentioned above that you can set alarms for each event.  The problem with this app is that they haven’t included Push Notifications (Yet! They said it’ll be included in an update).  You’ll get the alarm if you have google calendars open on your computer, but you won’t get the alarm on your phone.  I really can’t wait for the Push Notifications update so I can get the alarms pop up on my phone.  I do check the app everyday, though.

Just so you can understand how much I love this app, I’ve removed the iPod icon from the permanent bar at the bottom of my iPhone screen (you know, where the Phone, Mail, Safari apps are) and I’ve replaced it with the Pocket Informant app.

Here’s the screen shot to prove it :P

Pocket Informant and it's place on my iPhone.

Pocket Informant and it's place on my iPhone.

I just love that Pocket Informant has integrated all that is wonderful about Google Calendars and Toodledo in one app.

If you have any questions, let me know. :)

And if there are any spelling mistakes, I’m sorry.  I wrote this as fast as I could to answer some questions on Twitter.  Follow me: @positivelylu