In the past, I’ve made some really cool discoveries and have shared them with specific people. I usually did it by sending a message on WhatsApp, so it was sent and easily lost if something went wrong when I restored messages after switching phones etc.
More recently, I realised that a number of people still save numbers directly onto their mobiles. They haven’t embraced a way to save them that doesn’t lock the contacts onto their phone. I was passionate about helping people see why an alternative would be better for them so I wrote an article about it. A friend wrote back saying ‘…Soon you will diversify into tech blogging 🙂 too!‘ That made me realise that I’d not considered it before now and maybe I should! Since then, I’ve been doing my usual thing and repeatedly thinking ‘that will be good to share in a blog post! ‘ So this is that post!
Free apps, website and software that I use frequently
Signal is a great app. Other than being really private because everything is encrypted and nothing is saved, it’s a good app to have when you’re travelling.
Why? Well…it can be used to replace the regular SMS app which would be automatically installed on your phone. On Signal, messages are sent and received over the internet rather than through the mobile network. So when you’re travelling, if you need to receive an authorisation code because you’re trying to access your email account or get into your banking app, for example, Signal is ideal. Why? The verification codes are usually sent via SMS which often means that you’ll incur roaming charges but you can avoid that with Signal because it used the internet to send and receive SMS messages.
It’s like WhatsApp, in that, if you and the recipient have Signal, you can send voice notes, videos, images etc.
Unlike other music apps, this software picks up different types of music files. It’s awesome! I had a large collection of CDs which I copied onto my computer and saved in Dropbox so that I could create playlists and listen to them via my phone or laptop. I also wanted to do this for some music that I’ve purchased online. Some of the things that I love about CloudPlayer are:
- there’s a one-off cost for the software and it’s less than £10
- shuffling playlists is available
- you can link it to Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive
- there’s a built-in cloud playlist back-up and sync
- it includes gapless playback
- you can back-up of your playlists to avoid losing them if you lose access to your phone
- you can sync playlists across your devices
- you can switch to filter out cloud songs or MP3s and only show locally stored music
The basic version is free. There’s a 30-day trial, which doesn’t require any payment card options to be inputted. I got the paid version with a couple of weeks and am so glad that I did!
Accessing and sharing documents
If you’re familiar with My Documents on your laptop or PC, it’s easy to think of Dropbox as My Documents. The only difference is that they’re not on one physical machine which you can only be accessed if you’re in front of it. These documents can be accessed anywhere. All you have to do is log in. Downloaded the app on your phone means that you can access all your folders there without breaking a sweat. You can also have it set so that camera uploads are automatically saved onto it.
Evernote is a great way to make notes. It’s intuitive and easy to use. You can share them by creating a share link or by inserting an email address. You can also add tags and categorise them. When you’re using a laptop of PC you can save it as a PDF and easily share it without anyone needing to download or log into Evernote. Google struggles to direct people to our home so we created detailed directions, which I saved in the notes section of my own contact on my phone. However, it wasn’t enough so I used Evernote to create a new version with images so visitors know what to look out for and created a PDF which I can easily send by WhatsApp/email etc.
Passwords and online security
Lastpass is a great way to save passwords. You can access it via a password or a fingerprint and you can even use a 2-step process if that’s what you’d prefer. You can add the information that you don’t want to forget, add notes within the entry and even use it to generate secure passwords. Lastpass has a security challenge which will flag up any areas that you need to address.
Tasks and dates
I used to use Wunderlist but switched to Microsoft To Do when Wunderlist was shutdown. To Do has a more modern and slick feel to it and it’s great for any type of reminder! Here are some examples:
- make a note of a special date e.g. a birthday and set it to repeat each year
- if there’s something you need to do regularly but you often forget to do it, create a reminder and set it for every day, every 2 days, weekdays only, every few weeks, months, years etc.
- if there’s something you want to do and it’s not urgent but you don’t want to lose sight of it, add it to To Do
You can set it to show, hide or delete the completed items.
Planning, scheduling and collaborating
I love Google Calendar because it’s like Dropbox in that I can access it anywhere. You can share calendars which can empower the person it’s shared with to know when you’re free, when you have an event to attend together and it can be used to remind you about things. For example, when I have a night shift with the Samaritans, I add an entry for the following day which says something like ‘keep free due to night shift’ to help me make sure that I don’t forget and plan something that day. I could easily miss the entry about the night shift itself because I generally look at what I’m doing during the hours that I’m usually asleep. The other reason I like this calendar is that you can set it to notify you about events by email or as a push notification on your phone and you can set them to x number of minutes, hours, days or weeks before the event. Lastly, you can create events that show a specific slot eg from 7pm – 9pm or you can create an all-day event. I use all-day events to list ideas for food so when I’m pushed for time or struggling to come up with what to eat, I can look at that and within minutes, I know what to make.
Google Docs is like having Word online except you can easily share the document with a link or by send it to someone as a document or PDF through WhatsApp, email, Dropbox, Evernote etc. You can also add collaborators and give them viewing rights, the ability to comment or let them edit the document. Also, multiple people can edit the document at the same time without interfering with each other.
Google Sheets is pretty much like Excel online. You can easily share sheets with a link or by export/send it in a format of your choice via WhatsApp, email, Dropbox, Evernote etc. You can also add collaborators and give them viewing rights, the ability to comment or let them edit the spreadsheet. Also, multiple people can edit it at the same time without interfering with each other. One of the things I like about Google Sheets is that you can reduce the columns and rows easily, so that what you can see is limited. I remember feeling like it took forever whenever I tried to do that in Excel.
I struggle with remembering routes and knowing where I am so some form of navigation is really helpful. Google Maps is great because you can set the location for home and work, you can add other locations, such as, reservations, and you can label your favourite places, where you want to go, and add tags like volunteering. I also like the fact that it shows you a few routes, at a glance, so you can compare and choose. You can also set it to automatically choose the quickest or shortest route.
Contact details: numbers, emails, websites, addresses and more
I’ve written an article about how I use Google Contacts beyond the obvious! I like using this because everything is in one place, I can access the contacts anywhere, I won’t lose them if my phone gets lost, breaks or I start using a different phone etc.
Presentations, newsletters, notices etc
Google Slides is just like PowerPoint without needing to pay a subscription to Microsoft. It’s easy to use, there are templates to help and inspire users and the presentation can be saved in multiple formats. If you want a larger choice of templates, SlidesCarnival has loads of funky, beautiful, smart and trendy free ones, which are compatible with Google Slides.
Being immersed without forgetting to do other things that matter
I use repeat alarms to help me get things done without carrying them. If I know that an alarm will go off to remind me to do something, I can get immersed in something and not worry about forgetting anything. For example, if I need to leave at a specific time to attend a weekly event, let’s say Choir, I have an alarm that’s called water and glasses because it reminds me to get them ready before I need to leave. have another to remind me to finish up whatever I’m doing and get ready for an exercise class. This app is great because you can choose if it’s a one-off alarm or one which you want to repeat. If it’s the latter, you can choose which days you want to repeat it on. You can set it to ‘ring’ or vibrate, you can choose the tune and you can adjust the volume of each alarm, so if there’s something that you need to be pushed to work towards, you can make it bold so you can’t ignore it, but if something needs a softly softly approach, you can make it quieter.
Have you ever noticed how some web links are really long? You might prefer it to be shorter so that you can share it without it looking so overwhelming or add it to your bio in Instagram without using so many characters! This is the way to do it. I’ve created an account using Bitly and it’s so easy to use. You add the link and it shortens it. You can copy and share that or customise it and give it a specific name which will appear after bit.ly/…
Reduce, reuse and recycle
This app makes it so easy to sell or gift things. Take photos, choose which to include, add a title, description, choose the category eg freebies or for sale, add the price if applicable, location and post the ad. You can then share the link to the ad with others or simply wait for takers.
Trash nothing is very similar to Gumtree except anything posted on here is classed under offers and requests. All offer posts are to be given away without receiving any money for them. However, you can also post what you need, which is a great way to save money and make use of items that someone no longer needs.
Books, books and more books…
This is a great way to track what you’ve read if you read a lot and want to avoid opening a book and realising you’ve read it. It’s also a good way to create a list of things you want to read.
Keeping track of, and being prepared for, bodily changes
Clue is a good way to record how you feel before, during and after your menstrual cycle. It also reminds you when it predicts that the next cycle is due.
If you’re tracking any of the following, you’ll find Cronometer helpful:
- what you eat in terms of nutrition
- consumption of calories
- fitness and movement
It’s easy to create recipes of things you make regularly, the support team are awesome and it can be linked to multiple platforms including Google Fit.
This app lets you scan labels and be notified about the journey of the parcel. You can use it to return something and send a parcel too.
Scheduling future events
I mostly use Doodle to share a list of options e.g. dates for meeting up, when it involves a large number of people. Doodle is great for this because we just need to click on the link, add our name and tick the slots that suit and then we can easily see which one is the best for the majority. It’s a fair, easy and transparent way to choose a date/time to meet.
Writing flawless messages
Grammarly is awesome! You can add to the dictionary so that it doesn’t flag up names that it doesn’t recognise. The best part of it is, you can add it as an extension to your browser and there’s a keyboard app for the phone and it’s great at picking up small errors which can make the world of difference to the person who’s reading the message.
Editing and creating images
Canva is a great way of creating images. You can use ones that they provide or edit ones that you have uploaded. You can add text, fade the image, add shapes, edit the size so it’s formatted for a specific platform e.g. Twitter.
Giving and receiving
GiveasyouLive is a great way to shop online and donate to your favourite charity without spending any extra money. A notification will pop up asking if you want to donate, you click yes, shop, checkout and the company that you made a purchase from will make a donation on your behalf.
All you have to do is shop online, check if the company is gifting any cashback by searching for them on Quidco and if they are, click on ‘get cashback’ and that’s it. The purchase is logged and the money will be put into your account, which you can withdraw whenever you want.
TopCashback is the same as Quidco except that they often pay more. At different times, one may feature cashback from x whilst the other doesn’t. The main difference is that TopCashback charges £5 on an annual basis for Plus members. They deduct it from the cashback that you have earned.
The ones that I pay for
I use PromoRepublic to create, edit and share images. It’s similar to Canva but better. There’s more flexibility and it’s easier to re-customise a creation for Twitter, Insta and Facebook without starting over. You can then schedule when you would like them to be shared.
I’ve used a couple of different companies to create, manage or edit websites and I’ve found Squarespace to be the smoothest, easiest and most attractive. I’m not techy so I get frustrated if I can completely customise my website but then I have to keep finding new widgets or forms or themes because the ones I selected before have changed. I want to think, create, edit and then for it to stay in place, unless I want to change it. I created PlantShift.com from scratch, using Squarespace and I did most of it on my own.
For a number of years, I had a free account with Dropbox but I found myself running out space and being forced to quickly delete things when I was notified about the lack of storage. For peace of mind, I paid for the Plus plan and I haven’t looked back!
Gumtree: How to clear a property, effortlessly, within 30 minutes
Declutter and donate: Reduce, re-use and recycle
Transferring data: Things to keep in mind when you switch mobile phones
I’d love to hear about anything different that you use and if you’ve had a different experience regarding any of the above.