Category Archives: Cool Tools

Wunderlist – Public Lists

Are you a list maker? Me too. It’s gotten even worse since I discovered Wunderlist. This amazing platform allows me to indulge in my list fixation in ways I never though possible.

Wunderlist supports Windows and Mac desktops as well as iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices. There’s a web-based version too. It costs nothing to get started, but upgrading to a premium account ($4.99/mo) adds some very useful features. The basic version does everything you’d expect from a to-do list:

  • maintain multiple lists
  • set due dates on list items
  • share the list with others
  • real-time data sync between devices
  • reminders and notifications
  • include notes on list items
  • supports sub-tasks

Wunderlist Desktop

But don’t just think of it as a to-do list service. It does a lot more. I use it a lot for capturing story ideas. Often those ideas come from an article in my newsreader. Using Wunderlist’s bookmarklet, all it takes is one click. I also keep a list of upcoming presentations with notes on what’s ready and what still needs to be done. My premium account lets me attach files to list items so I can include the presentation file and handouts in each presentation item. Wunderlist supports the iCalendar format so I can subscribe to my Wunderlist feed in my Calendar app and have my deadlines and due dates delivered to my calendar.

I’ve just begun experimenting with Wunderlists’ public lists. I’m still dusting the cobwebs out of the Gazette blog – cleaning up broken links and disappearing images as well as updating out-dated information. Rather than re-write the entire page about digital toolbox resources I decided to give public lists a try. It’s still a work-in-progress but you can take a look at it in action here.

Wunderlist public list

A public list has it’s own online physical location, but it can also be embedded like I did on the resource page. The list title is a link to that location. The list scrolls within the embed window. Notice the icon to the right of some list items? Click on it and additional information is displayed. In this example, I used the Notes field to add more descriptive information about a list item. Even more interesting . . . when I make changes to the list, the embed automatically updates. In a situation like this where things are constantly changing, it’s much easier to update the list than the blog post.

This is just one of the many reasons I am so attached to Wunderlist. If you’re looking for a list that does more, I suggest you take a look for yourself.

Is Your Dropbox Up-to-date?

Now that I have so much more room on Dropbox, I decided I was going to set up all my Scrivener projects to sync with my iPad so I can work on them whenever and wherever. There was just one problem . . . nothing was synching. I did a little poking around and discovered that my Dropbox manager app was way out of date. Downloading and installing the latest version fixed everything.

How do you know what version of Dropbox you’re running? On the Mac, hover over the Dropbox icon in the menu bar and a popup message shows the current version. The latest version is available from Dropbox’s downloads page.

Pencil, meet Paper

Paper by FiftyThree [iPad – $6.99 for all in-app purchased tools] is one of my favorite apps for the iPad. It is an art journal where you can draw, write, paint and create just about anything your imagination inspires. Those results can then be shared in a number of ways. I have created my own journal of scribbled sketches and have imported selected sketches into my personal journal on Day One.


Cool Tools: Travel Router

We’ve been on the road a lot lately – with more yet to come. Although most of the places we’ve been have provided wi-fi in the room, it’s neither fast or secure. For that reason I keep my old AirPort Express router in my bag. It’s been very useful for creating our own – secure – wi-fi networks on the road. Unfortunately, it can be a bit difficult to configure without a desktop so if the hotel has some unexpected settings or requirements, it’s useless.

I recently stumbled onto an article describing the latest and greatest mobile router devices and one jumped out – NetGear’s Trek N300. Not only is it an easy-to-use travel router, here at the Creek I’m using it to extend the range of my home’s wi-fi network out to the back porch and to boost the signal back to the Internet-connected television in the bedroom. It gets better! This little jewel will only cost you $35!

But that’s not all. I haven’t tried this yet, but I can use it to connect to public wi-fi hotspots and build my own private wi-fi network with firewall. It could come in useful in hotels with wi-fi in the room to provide a level of security, but I’d still be careful about what personal information I share across these hot spots.

There’s a free app for iOS and Android devices to help configure and manage the router while on the road. The price caught my eye, but this sealed the deal. So far it’s lived up to all its great reviews.

Simple Document Management with Yep

Mac users are blessed with a number of affordable document organization and management tools. This week I want to introduce you to another amazing app from Ironic Software – the developers of Email Archiver. Yep [Mac – $23.99] is a document management system that makes creating, organizing and finding documents amazingly easy.

The Yep workspace displaying all my files tagged with the Gervais surname.

The Yep workspace displaying all my files tagged with the Gervais surname.

Here you see the Yep screen. The center pane displays thumbnails of each document matching my search criteria – in this case everything I have tagged with the Gervais surname. The left sidebar displays a tag cloud showing all the tags attached to this collection of documents. The right sidebar displays the details for the selected document along with several command buttons.

Once installed, Yep automatically tracks all the iWork, PDF and Office documents saved in your Documents, Desktop and Downloads folders. You can add additional folders using the app’s Preferences – including cloud storage such as iCloud and Dropbox. If you are using the Email Archiver app, just check the box in Yep’s preferences and those archived message are also included.

There’s a very nice scanning interface which simplifies the scan, organize & save workflow. In addition, you can select text or an image from a web page and drag it into Yep to quickly create a note. By default, Yep stores each new “created” document in the Filed Documents folder (located inside the Documents folder). Of course you can choose to move it wherever you want – right from the Yep interface. And, the latest version of Yep even recognizes Mac OSX’s new file tagging feature so you don’t need to retag them in Yep.

Using Yep to find files is both quick and easy. The toolbar just above the display panels has quick buttons to set limits to your search, then you choose the tag(s) to identify the content you’re looking for. The results are there in a blink of an eye. Click on the document thumbnail to view the metadata in the right sidebar or double-click the thumbnail to open and view the document. Don’t have everything tagged? No problem. Yep does content searching too.

The combination of Yep and Email Archiver makes an awesome management system for your personal archives. And, you can buy both for less than $50! They’re worth every penny and then some.

iPad File Management

Two of the most useful apps on my iPad are both by Readdle. First there’s Documents [iOS – free] that not only reads just about any kind of file ranging from Office documents to ebooks but also is a media player for movies, audio and podcasts. And, it connects to just about every cloud service known to man with a file manager that makes it easy to move these document, publication and media files to and from your tablet and the cloud services you use. Oh, and you can open email attachments to read in Documents too. It’s absolutely amazing!

. . . until you take a look at PDF Expert [iOS – $9.99]. This app takes PDF documents to a whole new level. With PDF Expert, you can fill in forms, sign documents, highlight and bookmark text, draw on a document and even add comments. It can open PDFs you receive as email attachments. You can also encrypt documents to protect them.


A look at the file manager in Documents.

The file management component in both apps are almost identical. Each displays the files stored in the app on your device, as well as your photos and any external storage you use like iCloud, Dropbox, SkyDrive, Box or GoogleDocs. I love the Wi-Fi Drive feature which makes it easy to move files from my desktop to my iPad. Just yesterday I used the browser built into the Documents app to download RootsTech sessions material, review them and move them to my reference library at Box. Because it was all done in the same app, it was actually easier than trying to do this on my desktop!

Documents is an impressive reading app, but its file management features turns it into a must-have tool for your iPad.

Tablet Stocking Stuffers

These two tablet stands are very versatile – and quite affordable.

Tablet StandAmazon’s Mini Travel Stand costs a whopping $6.68 and is shipped free for Prime members. It supports both our full-size and mini tablets and folds flat to easily tuck into a purse or pocket. It’s perfect for use in the kitchen with my cookbook apps.

Voila_Capture565The Portable Fold-Up Travel Stand is a bit more expensive at $8.89 (with Prime shipping) but it offers more flexibility. The third “leg” can adjust to different angles making it easy to switch from reading to typing in seconds.

Both of these stands have seen a lot of use at home and on the road and have held up well. They would make great stocking stuffers for any of the tablet/e-reader fans in your family.