How to Use Jott to Get Things Done

I first tried out Jott last year, and was really impressed with what it could do. You call their number, say something into the phone, and it sends it as a text message back to you. And it works — aside from a few odd names and strange words, its transcriptions are pretty much spot on. Apparently they run your voice message through a speech-to-text engine and then run it by a human operator for double-checking.

However they make it work, it’s pretty slick. But I couldn’t figure out much to do with it at the time. I’m not the kind of person who would leave myself voicemail to remind myself to do things — I carry a Palm for that. And a paper notebook. So I let my Jott account gather dust for a while.

In the last few months, though, Jott’s introduced their Jott Links service, which allows you to use Jott to add items to your todo list, send messages to other people, even blog using their service. And it works — so well, in fact, that connection with Jott Links was one of my primary criteria in selecting an online task list manager (I ended up with Toodledo).

All it takes is a little set-up, first in your Jott account, then on your phone, and you can start Jotting things to any number of online services. Here’s how.

First things first: send yourself a message

The easiest thing to do with Jott is to send yourself a message — useful for reminders and quick collection of random thoughts while on the go.

  1. Sign up for a Jott account. You’ll enter your phone’s telephone number, which acts as your username — any call from that phone number goes to your account.
  2. Add a speed-dial entry to your phone for Jott. The number is 1 (866) JOTT-123 [1 866-568-8123, for those without standard phone keypads]. I have my Treo set to call Jott whenever I press and hold the “J” key.
  3. Call Jott.
  4. The operator will ask who you want to send a message to. Say “Myself”.
  5. Record your message.
  6. Hang up.
  7. A few minutes later, a text message will arrive with your transcribed message. Goggle at the wonder that is today’s technology.

Send yourself a reminder

You can have Jott send you a text message 15 minutes before an event.

  1. Call Jott.
  2. When the operator asks who you want to send a message to, say “Reminder”.
  3. Jott says “What time?” and you reply with the time.
  4. Jott says “What day” and you give a date, or say “today” or “tomorrow”.
  5. When you hear the beep, record what you want to be reminded of.
  6. Hang up.
  7. 15 minutes before the event, you’ll get a text message with a transcription of your recorded message.
  8. Get somewhere on time, for a change.

Send text messages (SMS) with your voice

  1. Login to your Jott account.
  2. Add contacts under the “Contacts” tab. You can either enter them one at a time, or import them using either Plaxo or by uploading an exported CSV file from Outlook.
  3. Call Jott.
  4. When the operator asks who you want to send a message to, say the name of the person you want to send a message to. Speak clearly!
  5. The operator repeats the name back to you. Since the operator is a computer, she will say it in a funny way. Don’t laugh! Instead, if it’s correct, say “yes”, or say “no” to try again.
  6. Record your message.
  7. Hang up.
  8. A few minutes later, your friend will receive your message, neatly transcribed into standard English. They won’t have any idea what it means, though, since they only read Textish.

Send a text message to a bunch of people at the same time

  1. Log into your Jott account.
  2. Click the “Groups” tab.
  3. Click “New Groups” and walk through the wizard. You’ll now have a group whose name functions exactly as any other contact. When you call Jott, instead of saying the name of a person, you’ll say the name of the whole group, e.g. “Family” or “Friends”.
  4. Call Jott.
  5. Record your message as usual.
  6. A few minutes later, everyone in the group will receive the message at the same time. They’ll look at each other in awe, wondering how you typed so fast!

Organize your messages to yourself

If you send a lot of messages to yourself, you might want to create folders to organize them all.

  1. Log into your Jott account.
  2. On the main page (“My Jotts”), click “New Folder”.
  3. Name your folder.
  4. When you call in, instead of saying “myself”, say the name of the folder you want to send a message to.

So, for example, maybe you want to keep track of your expenses. While you’re out and about, call Jott every time you spend money, and send the amount and the nature of the purchase to your “expenses” folder. That seems like a good idea.

Jott Links: Send messages to other services

This is where Jott gets really cool. You can use Jott to have spoken messages transcribed and sent to a bunch of online services. At the moment, you can use Jott with any of these services:

Search with Jott

  • Amazon: Look up items and prices. Sends an email with results, no text message.
  • Zillow: Get housing price estimates.
  • Recommendr: Product reviews and recommendations.
  • mosio: Jott a question and it’s answered by real people.
  • Gumiyo: Online classifieds.
  • Trapster: Share speed traps you come across, or find out if there are any in your area.

Blog with Jott

  • Blogger
  • WordPress.com: Works with WordPress.com hosted blogs only; not available for your own WordPress blogs (yet?)
  • TypePad: Also only for hosted blogs.
  • LiveJournal
  • tumblr
  • twitter
  • jaiku
  • Yahoo Groups: Not exactly blogging, but this doesn’t fit anywhere else.

Get Things Done with Jott

  • Schedule events: You can send events to Google Calendar and 30Boxes.
  • Add tasks to your todo list: Send tasks to Remember the Milk, vitalist, or Toodledo.
  • Keep track of expenses: Record your purchases with expensr.
  • Send yourself reminders: Tell Sandy what you need to be reminded of.

You have to activate each of these separately, which usually amounts to going to the “Jott Links” tab in your account and selecting the service you want to add, which sends you to the service’s website where you have to confirm your request. That’s about it.

Check the “send response” box, and Jott will send you a confirmation message saying it’s added whatever you sent to the service you sent it to, which is nice. You can send about 1000 characters, which is about 200 words or a page of written text, to most services, which should be plenty.

Use the syntax you would normally use. To send a task to Toodledo, for instance, I just say “Check on mom’s cats on Tuesday”. It doesn’t add the date, but that’s ok. To send a reminder to Sandy, be sure to use “Remind me” or “Remember”, like this: “Remind me to check on mom’s cats on Tuesday at 3:00 pm.”

What should work but apparently doesn’t

You know how you can send emails to Google Docs or Zoho Documents and they’re converted into word processor documents? For some reason, can’t get Jotts emailed to those services to come up as documents. You’d think it would work, but it doesn’t. And I’m not sure if it’s because of something Jott does weird with emails, or (more likely) the incredibly spotty nature of Google Docs’ and Zoho’s email parsing, which doesn’t work on half the emails I send anyway.

Be more productive with Jott

If you find yourself away from home or your office a lot, or if you’re just more comfortable dictating than typing, getting familiar with Jott can be a real help in getting stuff done. I doubt if I could have moved to an online todo list if I didn’t know I could enter tasks from anywhere using my mobile phone. With more and more services adding Jott Links, it may be only a matter of time before your favorite service is Jott-enabled (I’m talking to you, Adobe Buzzword!) and there are already plenty of services to use with Jott if you aren’t already tied to a service.

If you’ve dreamed of a future where you talk to your computer and it does stuff, it seems like your dreams are starting to come true. You can’t do everything with Jott just yet, but there are a surprising number of things you can do. And best of all, it works. Really well.

Got any Jott hacks to share with us? Let us know in the comments — especially if you’ve gotten the whole “Jott to document editor” thing worked out.

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