Apps to help organize Thanksgiving

By Sharon Machlis

It's my first autumn with both an iPad and an Android phone, and it's nice to be out of the webOS apps wilderness. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I was on the lookout for something to help me keep track of various holiday-week tasks across both my mobile platforms. Here are a couple I'm using now; I'd be interested to hear any additional suggestions in the comments below.

For groceries, I've settled on OurGroceries, available for iOS, Android and BlackBerry as well as on the Web (although the website was a bit less reliable than the app when I was putting together a Thanksgiving grocery list last week). You can share grocery lists across multiple devices and platforms, including with a spouse or other partner who splits your household chores. It's easy to add items and/or mark them off as you're shopping. For long-term use, you can enter recipes into the app and then add ingredients all at once to your list.

This isn't a super-high-tech app that let you scan codes to pop items automagically onto your list. I tried one of those, and it seemed to take more time for me to position the camera and snap a barcode than it did to type "walnuts." If you want one , though (hate to type? dislike voice-recognition?), Grocery IQ is popular, although I found it more complex than my list-making seems to warrant.

The OurGroceries ad-supported app is free; if you like it, you can pay $4.99 to make it ad free (and support the developer).

I'm still on the hunt for a great to-do list/task manager that doesn't require an annual subscription fee. Unfortunately, Google Tasks isn't nearly as robust as Google Calendar, so it falls short for me as a hub for full-featured to-do management. And, I've encountered some glitches when trying to make multiple lists sync across devices and platforms using different apps that all sync via Google Tasks (I've yet to encounter such issues with Google Calendar-based apps).

Toodledo looks promising on iOS, but I'd have to find another 3rd-party app on Android to work with it (or use the website in my Galaxy S II browser. But what fun is that for syncing a database?). Wunderlist syncs cross-platform for free, but it's so stripped down that it didn't seem all that much more useful than just keeping a text list in Google Docs or Evernote. OK, I exaggerate -- you can sort tasks by day and star some as high priority, as well as easily check them off when done. The no-frills interface didn't do much for me, though. The developer is working on a substantially more robust organizational tool called Wunderkit, but it's still being developed -- and is unlikely to be ready for my holiday preparations this week.

So for now, I'm using the highly popular Remember The Milk, available for iOS, Android and BlackBerry, as well as services for Google Calendar, GMail and, yes, Outlook tasks as well as the Web. Some basic Remember the Milk services are available for free, but accounts are limited to one sync per day, and the apps are somewhat stripped down. A Pro account is needed for Outlook sync, for example, as well as multiple daily syncs across devices and adding location-based reminders to pop up when you're near a certain place. I'm not sure if the Pro features are worth $25/year for me, but I was able to order an in-app month for $3 to test it. So far, I am enjoying the interface for creating and viewing appointments, as it's got a nice balance between functionality (multiple priority levels, different type of event repeats, tags, location-based reminders, search, smart lists based on your own criteria and more) and ease of use. I expect I'll be splurging for a pro account at least through the end of the year ... unless someone points me to another task manager I like even more.

Happy Thanksgiving week!

Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her e-mail address is You can follow her on Twitter  @sharon000, on Facebook, on Google+ or by subscribing to her RSS feeds:
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