Perfect As a Pair: Apps for Work That Work Together

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So you may have gathered from my two weeks of guests for this column that is basically a thinly veiled personal blog where I tell you about my life through technology that graduate school is hard. In fact, graduate school is kicking my ass just a little. On Thursday, I exhausted myself sick and spent the day watching season six of Parks and Recreation and whining. But I’m still super happy. And I actually still feel like I’m coming out on top — I haven’t missed any deadlines and all the meetings I have cancelled have been on purpose. I’m relatively sane, given the workload I have! This is a triumph! Above all, this is exactly what I wanted to be doing with my year this year. And my technology is helping me with managing the craziness that I’ve got going on. Here’s a list of apps that are MAJORLY useful to me right now, and probably they will be useful to you as well. Some of them I’ve mentioned before, some of them I haven’t — but this installment of Queer Your Tech is about the way they work as a set. In glorious concert. These apps piggyback off each other to make mountains of work easier.


 

Calendar: Sunrise

Sunrise is one million times better than iCal — it’s a desktop and mobile client for Google Calendar, iCloud and Exchange (which covers a fairly wide array of calendars). And basically it takes calendars that are, frankly, a disaster by themselves and makes them into a clean, usable entity that you will actually enjoy looking at and adding events to. Sunrise also plugs into a bunch of apps like Asana and Producteev (although I have a better to-do solution than either one of these, so slow your roll).

Sunrise is free and available on iOS (iPhone and iPad both), Android, Mac and Web.


 

To-Do: Timeful

http://vimeo.com/102080981

Timeful lets you build a schedule based on how long things will take you, and it will remind you when you’re supposed to be starting a task. It learns your behavior and recommends a schedule based on how long everything takes, so that’s neat-o burrito. It connects with Google, iCal and Exchange (just like another service we just mentioned!). The cool part is, because both Timeful and Sunrise are syncing with you calendar, even though Sunrise doesn’t technically hook up to Timeful, they work brilliantly together. Timeful tasks show up as timed to-do items in Sunrise, and because Sunrise throws these super adorable event icons in the corner for event names it recognizes, it’s very easy to tell what’s a to-do because they all appear with an associated check mark. The events also grey out a little bit once you check them off in Timeful, making these two the perfect pair.

Timeful is free and currently available for iOS only. However, they are starting to invite beta testers for their web app and are working on an Android version as we speak.


 Note Taking: Notability

Notability is a powerful app that lets you combine handwriting, typing, photos and—yes—audio into one giant super note of awesomeness. It syncs up with Google Drive and Drop Box to make sharing and shuttling notes back and forth a piece of virtual cake. You can even annotate a PDF that you have hanging out in either of those two places. I mean, heck, you can record a lecture and take notes on it ALL AT ONCE. How friggin’ cool is that?

Notability is available on iOS ($2.99) and Mac ($9.99). Currently they do not have an Android or web version and it doesn’t look like they have plans for such a thing. So. Autostraddle Androids: what are you using?


 Library Researching: Genius Scan

Genius Scan is the scanner for your phone or tablet—take a photo of the paper you’d like to scan, select the area you’re concerned with and poof! Genius Scan corrects the perspective and enhances black and white or color scans for easier readability. This has been perfect for scanning library resources that can’t leave the library, but is also perfect for things like keeping track of expenses on business trips.

Genius Scan is free for iOS and Android, but also has a premium version ($6.99) on both iOS and Android. This premium version allows for cloud export—the ability to save to Drop Box, Google Drive, Evernote and more. This is where Genius Scan and Notability work perfectly together—create a PDF using Genius Scan, save it to Drop Box and write all over it with Notability. Such a wonderful pair.


 Draft Crushing: Ommwriter Dana

Plain text writing, soothing key stroke noises, ambient background including one that sounds like you’re on a train (we can ALL pretend we got the Amtrak residency)—Ommwriter is my very favorite draft-crushing app. Turn it on, put headphones on and power through. Doesn’t matter what you’re working on—if you could benefit from a little calm-making, nerve-soothing while doing it, this app is the correct choice.

Ommwriter operates on a sliding scale, price-wise, and is available on Mac, PC and iPad. A word to the wise—the iPad app is a little buggy, so before trying save or rename documents, just copy that sucker over to Notability. Just to be safe. Even with that massive bug, it’s still my favorite app for plugging away at writing. And that frigging says something.


 

Stress Relief: Songza

Songza is free, audio-ad free—which is important because it’s curated playlists based on activities, holidays, moods and more. And those folks at Songza have flawless taste. Because of the nature of my work, I am a big fan of the playlists “Ambient Music For Reading,” “Jazz For Reading” and “Classical for Studying.” When I’m mixing you a cocktail, though, I go with “High Stylin’ Cocktail Hour.”

Sometimes music while I’m working is just the thing to make me feel in control, like I don’t actually have one million tasks to do and I’m not actually staring at the closest I’ve pulled to an all-nighter since graduating from college. Music I don’t have to think about or control? Even better. Let’s me focus.

AND! It works wonderfully with Ommwriter—yes, their ambient sounds are pretty wonderful. But there is a limited selection, which can get a little boring sometimes if you’re working on longer pieces (they’re on a loop). Turning on Songza and then opening Ommwriter (but turning off Ommwriter’s ambient sounds) is the perfect way to keep your distraction-free writing environment and calming key stroke sounds while mixing it up just a tiny bit.

Songza is free on the web and for iOS and Android. It is fun and creative and if you do nothing else, I highly recommend downloading this sucker right now.


When you have a giant amount of work to do, what pieces of technology help you best? Do you agree with my picks? Disagree?

This has been the ninety-eighth installment of  Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy tech column. Not everything we cover is queer per se, but we talk about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology. Feature image via Shutterstock. Header by Rory Midhani.


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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 529 articles for us.

18 Comments

  1. Thank you for the Sunrise app! I just updated my laptop from some really old version to Mavericks and the iCal is so hard to view now. I don’t like that I can’t see all events from a monthly view and it’s harder to tell what calendar an event is from when they’re all together (now it’s a small colored dot instead of colored text).

  2. For some reason I thought this would be a list of apps you can share with your significant other – maybe because I recently started sharing my calendar with my girlfriend, and we found an app we can share our grocery lists on. This looks good though, and I’m going to check out some of these apps – and maybe even share this information with my girlfriend!

  3. At work i’ve been using the spotify desktop app with the lazzify app. It let’s you drag any track into it from spotify and it creates a playlist up to 8 hours long. I find it super useful as I work 12 hr shifts in a lab and can get bored with my own playlists. I’ve been jamming to the Autostraddle playlists on 8tracks

  4. I don’thhave a galaxy note device but, by default if I am not mistaken they include a pdf annotate app to take advantage of the Wacom pen. I know for my ThinkPad android device, which also had pen support I was using Adobe Reader. However, from what I have read One Note for Android now has digitizer support for those Samsung Note users and any other android tablet with digitizer support.

    Personally I can’t wait to get a Windows device with Wacom(or even n-trig) digitizer support for proper one note support and better pdf annotate support.

  5. I would like Notability more if it was easier to take notes with a stylus – does anyone have any recommendations? Also my wrist keeps getting my way and messing up my notes. I do use Notability to sync copies of papers I’m reading to dropbox and highlight them when I do read them.

    My favorite productivity app though is Wunderlist – it’s just a simple to-do list app that orders your tasks by due date, but it syncs between my Mac, phone, and iPad pretty well (occasionally has issues but there pretty good about releasing new versions) and I can set recurring events for things that have to be done weekly, like grading for the class I TA.

    I also like Coffitivity (plays coffee shop background noise, I might have found out about it via Autostraddle) and Hush (silences Mac notifications so I can work without being distracted by my email every three seconds).

    You can tell I’m a grad student because I just typed this much about productivity apps…

  6. I’ve been using Sunrise on my iPad and laptop, but had NO IDEA it was available for Android and it is so much better than the default Google thing on my phone! Yay! I’m going to give Timeful a whirl.

  7. i LOVE Draft, which is a fairly lightweight text editor webapp. It hooks into multiple file services (I mostly use Dropbox and Google Drive with it), and can load from and save to those, and you can publish things you write in it to various platforms– twitter, tumblr, and wordpress are the ones I use the most.

    Some of its best features is that it uses Markdown, a lightweight html-ish text formatting syntax, and it has versioning, so you can access old versions of what you’re writing, or merge, selectively or wholescale, another person’s edits with your version.

    No mobile app versions (yet i hope) but it’s a super useful desktop tool, with a very responsive developer who answers email very quickly.

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