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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jott Assistant - Personal Productivity on Steroids

Over a year ago, I walked away from Jott Assistant (then simply called Jott) because it moved from free to paid. But I'm back, I'm paying - a modest $3.95 a month - and couldn't be happier.

Here's just a sample of what Jott Assistant does for me:
  1. Let's me send email just by speaking into my phone. I have around 80 contacts individuals and groups of people I've set this up for and I can add as many as I want. Individuals, committees, volunteer organizations, teams, I can email them all simply by talking. This works with dumb phones as well as smart ones.
  2. Reads my favorite RSS feeds back to me. You want cool? Try this in the car with your bluetooth earpiece on. I need to keep track of media constantly throughout the day. This really helps.
  3. Sets up events and appointments for me in Outlook Calendar when I tell it to - and reminds me of them when I want it to.
  4. Allows me to set up categories for every hat I wear and for any meeting or label. Then, it transcribes my voice notes into them. This is unbelievably handy. Throughout the week I simply dictate a Jott note or agenda item, tell it to dump it into the appropriate category, then review the whole bunch a couple of days before the meeting. When I walked away from Jott in early 2009, I had 27 categories spread throughout my home, work and church life. They were all waiting for me when I signed up again.
  5. Sends the people I email a slim voice file along with the transcription.
  6. Plays well with all my devices. I can Jott on my iPad, iPhone or desktop and the information is always current. Wherever I am I can Jott and read my Jotts. And it works on the Blackberry, too.
  7. Let's me print my Jotts. In a pinch, this can become an instant agenda.
There is so much I haven't tried yet - like voice posting to Google Calendar, Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, Remember the Milk, Toodledo and dozens more. But I'll tackle those if and when I need them.

All I can say for now, is that coming back to Jott Assistant is a real kick. It gives me another way to keep the balls in the air when I'm on the run - which is pretty much always.

Like most teachers - and people like me that work for them - I like free. But free can be so limiting.

If you're in the market for a reasonably priced productivity app, you've got to check this one out. Jott Assistant is not merely a clever voice-to-text toy.

In these fast and frantic times, it's a tool to lean on.

(Disclosure: I have no investment in Jott whatsoever, but I'd like to ; )

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Create Your Own Personal Cloud - Without Using Dropbox or Pogoplug

Recently, I told you how to bypass an iTunes sync and download video straight to your iPad with Dropbox. I also wrote about how to create your own personal "Dropbox" with Pogoplug.

But a few days ago, I stumbled on an app quietly sitting in the App Store that allows you to stream, view or download just about any file on your desktop - without iTunes and without hardware of any kind.

Zumocast is an slick little app that you download onto your PC or Mac as well as your iPad or iPhone. This app is so quick and duh simple to set up that when you suddenly see the entire contents of your laptop or desktop staring back at you from your iPad or iPhone, it's pretty trippy. Especially when you consider you haven't had to convert or sync a thing.

Stream your heart out
The app is free and gives you access to every document, photo, video or piece of music residing on your PC or Mac. You can stream video and music to your heart's content and view, but not edit, all your non-media files.

The wrinkle comes in not with streaming videos, but with playing those you actually download to the iPad in fullscreen. That's where I found the software a bit buggy. Many times video that I tried to play fullscreen would be masked by the menu area to the side of the viewing area. On subsequent tries things worked as you'd expect. Playing video less than full screen was always fine.

I tried correcting this spotty performance by downloading various sizes of video files, but in the end it beat me. I had to go back to Dropbox's solid and flawless fullscreen performance on downloads.

Temporary blemish
But don't let this temporary blemish - which I expect will be corrected in the next version - turn you away from everything else Zumocast has to offer. Streaming video fullscreen worked fine for me as did music. And viewing all your desktop pics and documents from your iPad display is pretty clever.

While you're mulling that over, check out the first video I downloaded from my laptop to my iPad via Zumocast - a fun three-minute blast from LDS hip-hop violinist Lindsey Stirling. It kicks off classically and morphs into the Black-Eyed Peas. For a "throw-up" (graffiti tagger terminology for a quick piece of work) in an underground parkade it's pretty amazing stuff.

Catch more of Lindsey's tunes - plus her AGT performance - on YouTube.