Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gadget Goodies 9 -- Android Apps 1

A little business and then the fun.  The first item is about the feeds for RSS/Atom readers and email feeds.  There are several replacements for the Google Reader service, some even supplying their own reader app.  And there are other readers that have added the new sources.  That seems to be working well.  When the transition occurred, Feedburner seemed to handle the email portion without a hitch.  So, we’re not going to change that until it proves necessary.  In the meantime, we’ll explore other alternatives, to be ready, “just in case”.

As always, we’re learning.  As you probably already know, Amazon has It's own app store to supply the Kindle Fire line of tablets.  And, if you’re a Kindle Fire owner, it’s the only way to get apps, unless you learn how to root your tablet and sideload apps.  Amazon recently offered a bundle of productivity apps for free that made me wonder if their closed ecosystem extended to not being fully available on other Android devices.  As it turns out, it’s not closed that way.  And I added a couple of useful apps.  Which brings us to today’s tech subject – Android apps.

Several of us who became friends via Blackberry Messaging have, for some time, remained in touch via social media after we all ended up (for various reasons) switching to Android phones.  We even formed an alternate Google+ version of the original group.  Several of our recent discussions brought a focus on which apps we consider our essential “Top 10”. 

My friend John Vincent very quickly came up with a list, along with explanations of why he chose the apps he did and why they were where they are on his list.  The rest of us haven’t been quite so rapid in coming up with our lists.  We’re going to look at John’s list  and I’ll comment with my choices.  You’ll see some differences in apps and level of importance.  What we’re used to, how we work, and just plain personal preference make app choices a very personal thing.  The primary device for both John and me is the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.  Which eliminates most device related differences.
    #10 - Google Keep
    Previously I had used Evernote as my everyday note app, and still do to some extent for keeping certain things organized, but Google Keep has quickly risen through the ranks to become my go-to note app.
    Not only can you do a quick regular note, but it also has the option for a check-list. For me, this is a great app for items that I need to remember but don't necessarily warrant their own Task or Calendar appointment.
    Google Keep also has a web interface in Google Drive, so all my notes are backed up to my Google account.
I’ve used Evernote for a long time.  I have a lot of notes, all categorized.  So, I have some investment in hanging onto Evernote.  Especially since some of my sources of quotes for blog posts are in Evernote.  Evernote has its own cloud backup system.  There are a lot of apps that connect in one way or another to Evernote.  And Evernote has one of my priority features: it’s available on a number of different platforms.  I even use Evernote for things I want to read at a later date.  So, even though John has me wanting to check out that check list feature in Google Keep, I’m still solid with Evernote.  And the amount of use Evernote gets would probably make it #5 for me.
This is one of those app types where the way of working makes a huge difference.  For various reasons, I’m in my calendar a lot.  Or at least have several views “in my face” via widgets.  Much of my task notation is, therefore, in my calendar.  And we’ll discuss that further, when we get to what I use for my calendar.
As far as a separate task app, I’m not really in need of one.  But there’s an alternative that I really need to explore more.  That’s project management or outlining apps.  Instead of a standalone task app, I need something that will include multiple levels of subcategories for a larger task, such as organizing a planned blog post or outlining a book idea.  And, because I do a lot on computer, the data needs to be portable to software there.  I’m still looking, so I’ll take suggestions.  This one’s probably #7, for me.
I used to be in 100% agreement on this one.  I’ve used this one on Windows Mobile, several Blackberry OSes, several flavors of Android, and various versions of Windows.  And I have a lot of paid resources that I’ve added, over the years.  But usability is important in this type of app, for me.  Olivetree cut out a lot of the usability for me.  Let me explain.
Before I switched to an Android phone, I had a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet.  One of the things I loved about Olivetree was the built-in notepad, which allowed side by side Bible and notepad in church.  After I got my Note 2, they started making changes to the app, to make it more like the iOS version.  Which, to my way of thinking, substituted style for usability.  Let me explain.
The first change was to make the Bible change location by side to side swipes, like a book.  On my Note 2 (with Jellybean), that wasn’t an issue.  The note window became an external floating window.  But I’ve yet to see a clear explanation of how to switch rapidly between the two windows during service, to also look at the passages in the sermon.
My Galaxy Tab (with Ice Cream Sandwich) was a different story.  The note window remained attached, alongside the Bible window.  Switching was not an issue.  But, it turned out, the sideways Bible pagination was.  Each time you select a verse, it displays at the top of the visible page.  Once you take enough notes, the whole app starts moving upward to keep notes visible.  That pushes the top of the app off screen, eventually hiding your verse passages.  Because of the side to side page changes, there’s no way to bring the verses back onto the screen.  The original up and down scrolling would have solved that.
As a result of those changes, I still use Olivetree for some of my study, but I’ve found alternatives for church service use.  The Note 2 has a multiwindow function built into Android.  There aren’t a lot of apps that added the extra programming to take advantage of it.  AndBible is one of them.  It’s free.  Some of the normally paid Bible versions aren’t available, but there are lots of free ones, along with resources.  For notes, I use Papyrus by Steadfast Innovation, LLC.  It, too, is free, makes use of the S pen (better than S Notes), and also is multiwindow aware.  I actually don’t use them in split window.  Instead, I use the multiwindow access bar and the S pen to switch between the two, letting both have full screen.  Since I use them so much, that combination would be my #2.

This has gone a little longer than I expected for only three items.  We’ll stop here and begin again, next Wednesday.  But here’s a chance for you to start considering how you work.  What are your “must have”apps?

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