9 Essential Apps to Keep in Sync
by Dave Loft
Living part of my digital life on a desktop and the other on a smartphone has presented itself with a few difficulties. The question is how to keep what you do in sync between your devices? Sure you can plug it in with a cable and sync your files but who wants to use a cable, especially in 2011. Theres also limitations in what can be done with software like iTunes or even just transferring files in file explorer. Because it’s really more than just files that need syncing. It’s also places, ideas, thoughts, notes and experiences that needs a solution that bridges the gap. In the following article you will read about the 9 apps I use everyday to keep in sync.
The first app I will showcase is Chrome to Phone, it’s a Google app that can be installed on any Android device with 2.2 or higher. It requires a extension in browser to function. If your on your desktop or laptop reading an article and you want to finish reading but you have to leave, just click Chrome to Phone and the site will automatically load on your phone. This app also works with YouTube videos and Google Maps. If you prefer looking up directions before you leave this app is very useful. Hit up Google Maps to chart your route then push it to your phone, saving you from having to map it on the smaller screen.
There is only one thing Chrome to Phone doesn’t do and that’s push links from the phone to your computer. So that’s why Paddy Foran created android2cloud. When browsing on my phone I often come across videos I want to watch, it allows me to push it to my desktop or media center PC so I can watch it on the bigger screen. It’s really the ease of use and how natural it works that it becomes so natural to use.
When I first got my Android phone I really wanted a way to sync my desktop bookmarks to my phone. I downloaded an app to do it but shortly after I realized what a terrible idea it really was. Many of the bookmarks I have saved were just not useful at all on my mobile phone. After some searching I finally found what I really wanted, which was to store the articles I came across. I would use this service to bookmark links that I wanted to read but did not have time too. Chrome to Phone was great for the right now experience but this app was perfect for saving it for later.
The app I speak of is aptly called Read it Later. When I’m on my phone and I come across an article I want to read later, I use Android’s share function and hit Read it Later. The app on the phone actually downloads the text of the article so even if I’m on the subway, it’s still accessible. It also adds the article to my Read it Later online profile. So from the comfort of my desk, I can actually finish the article. Once read I can check it off my unread list and it gets moved to a list of read articles. I also have a plugin in Chrome called ChromeItLater which allows me to store articles for later right from desktop. This app has literally transformed the way I read.
For anyone interested in moving files between the phone and the computer I have two suggestions for you. The first is Dropbox, which allows you to store 2GB’s of data in the cloud for free. You can download the app to your desktop OS to automatically keep a folder in sync with their servers. From any computer you just need to go to dropbox.com where you can download or upload any file you wish. I have dropbox installed at home and at school keeping my class files in sync and with me wherever I go. When I’m on my phone its very easy to upload files to dropbox using Androids share function. To download just load the app and select the file you want, it’s easy to use and has completely replaced my USB drive.
If your looking for a more direct way to transfer a file to and from your Android phone I highly recommend giving Samba Filesharing by FunkyFresh a try. This app requires a rooted phone but is such a good app that it’s worth rooting just for this. The app is dead simple to use, you just need to set a username and password and then your good to go. Once running it will list the address you need t to type on your computer to access the drive. But from a Windows 7 desktop I only had to select network from the file explorer and within a few seconds of scanning the network it will show Android on the list. Once connected you will have full read andwrite access to your SD card to do as you wish.
The next piece of software is 1Password by Agile Web Solutions. This app allows me to have one place for storing your account logins, banking, product keys or anything else you want to keep private. The desktop application is required to create entries and is unfortunately quite costly. But I have tired half a dozen applications that do what this app does and none of them work as well as 1Password. The key to it’s success is utilizing Dropbox to keep the phone and desktop in sync. This app has allowed me to use wildly long and difficult passwords for all my logins I use throughout the day. With this app I just need to remember 1 password to retrieve them, hence the name.
The next app is for the worker on the go. The business man who lives and breathes office software. Word, Excel and PowerPoint editing is not very well represented on Android. So far Google has only made the web based version of Google docs available for editing on the phone. So it’s come to the third party developers to offer an alternative and I have found my favorite in Documents to Go by DataViz. There are three ways to get your documents on your phone and working with Documents to Go. With the first requiring a cable I’m just going to ignore that one and talk about the other two. The second option requires another app, as I mentioned before I suggest Samba Filesharing or Dropbox. The third option is the one I use, Google Docs.
I have completely got rid of Office on my desktop and just use Google Docs for everything now. It’s easy to setup Documents to Go with Google Docs and once done the option for it is accessible right on the home page. This is not an app I use everyday but it’s an app that’s there when needed and it’s a life saver. For the everyday simple note taking a streamlined quicker to get in and out app is recommended. I have tried many note taking applications on my phone and the more I try the more I appreciate Evernote. It’s well polished, quick, efficient and everything I write is available from my account online or my desktop.
Evernote makes an extension for Chrome that I use if I want to take notes about any article I’m reading. When using the app on the phone you can also clip files, pictures of voice recordings to the note as well. The desktop app makes using the service a better experience, especially if you don’t always have a net connection.
The only downside to Evernote is its list making ability. A good way to make to-do lists, grocery lists or any other list your heart desires requires another app. I use CloudList for all my list needs and what I love about it is the syncing and sharing feature. I have a grocery list I share with my wife. We can both add to the list and whoever goes and get’s the groceries can check off the list.
All of these apps will allow you to have a cohesive experience between a phone, tablet, netbook, laptop and desktop. Which as a result frees you up to just use your device and enjoy it any way you will.