I've always been a fan of good lists, like Brit + Co. In that spirit I'm introducing a series of Friday blogs on my favorite tools, plugins, apps and tips.
I'm fawning over three particular personal assistant apps this week. I had a heck of a time finding a decent task app that could also be a bit CRM and project manager AND look good (and I'll get to that one next week) but I've always been doubtful of the PA apps. How can an app really help me?
As it turns out, it can help quite a bit. My favorites are Osito (no longer available in the US iTunes store) and Donna, and I'm still crossing between them till one gets the better of the other. My third is EasilyDo, which brings in the social component. Osito and Donna are only for iOS, but I can easily see their use expanding.
I did try Google Now, which was useful, but didn't fit my exact needs. We all have our own quirks dictating how useful an app will be, and for me, much of that lies in meetings and traffic.
Each reminds you of your appointments — but better than a calendar, they assess current traffic and tell you when to leave for your appointment (when that comes up for a conference call it's just... odd). If you do have a conference call, each asks if it can dial in for you.
If you have a "usual" home and work address, it alerts you to the best time to leave to beat traffic.
All allow you to email, call or text colleagues if you're running late — but only if you put the person's full name in there. If someone doesn't show, their contact info (via your phone book) is available for the same treatment. And directions are pulled from Google Maps or Apple maps, depending on which you prefer, directly from the app.
Mostly, I love Donna because it appeals to my designer sensibilities.
Osito's marketing says it relies on "predictive intelligence" — and though it has all the features above, it excels in travel and weather.
Your air travel info is updated on the fly, pulling data from your email. And weather updates are uncannily precise, telling you to the minute: "It will begin raining in Chicago at 12:55 pm." Even meteorologists can't do that.
Osito didn't overwhelm me on design, but it's clean and clear.
EasilyDo is rather cool for connecting to your Facebook or other social network (or just email) and scheduling personal greetings and even gifts from you. They'll even tell you how much time you saved by going through their app rather than doing it yourself (is it accurate? Hmmm...).
It scans your contacts and prompts you to update or merge them, a nice service I tired of with Plaxo a while ago. Easily Do is very graphic and you feel as if you're accomplishing something — even if it's just bday greetings.
Some of these features may not seem noteworthy if you aren't traveling (by any mode), but they've saved me from overly-long meetings with alerts, and pulling important data when I failed to do so. For free apps, I'm more than sold.