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12 Free Android Apps to Help Get Things Done (Part 2)

12 Free Android Apps to Help Get Things Done (Part 2)

12 Free Android Apps to Help Get Things Done

    This post continues the list I started in Part 1, adding apps for managing contacts, collaborating, and accessing computer services from your Android phone (or, in the near future, other device). As before, I’m including links to the developers’ homepage when available, but all of these apps can be downloaded from the Google Market on your Android phone. And all are free (or were when I accessed them). So here we go:

    7. PrinterShare

    PrinterShare lets you print over the Internet on your own printer at home or at the office. Sign up for a free account, install and configure the server software on the computer your printer is attached to, and then you can print from your Android phone from anywhere (so long as you have network access via 3G or wi-fi). The big drawback is that you’re fairly limited to the type of content that’s printable: contacts, photos, and webpages. However, with more and more work shifting to the Web, you can usually find a way to get your content into the web broswer to print it (e.g. sending email attachments to Google Docs and sharing as HTML).

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    8. RemoteDroid

    RemoteDroid turns your Android phone into a remote touchpad and keyboard to control your PC. The screen becomes a touchpad just like you’d find on a laptop, with right-click and left-click buttons; the keyboard functions normally, except one of the alt keys becomes “CTRL” so you can do CTRL-keystroke combos like CTRL-V to paste.

    RemoteDroid works over your home wi-fi network: you run the server on your PC and enter the IP address on the app to connect. If you’re trying to think of why you’d do this, consider watching video content on your big monitor or through your TV; now, you can use your phone to control the computer from across the room to pause, adjust volume, skip to the next video, or whatever.

    9. ShareYourBoard

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    ShareYourBoard

      This app is for storing and sharing whiteboards – after a meeting or presentation, open Share Your Board and snap a picture of your whiteboard. Share Your Board automatically trims the image (saving just the marked-on part of the board), adjusts contrast and color, and adjusts the perspective of the image, producing a flat, legible image that can be shared with others and commented on. You can take multiple images over the course of a meeting to assemble a kind of slide-show, too. Images can be shared via MMS, email, or sent to programs like Twidroid (a Twitter client), PostBot (a WordPress client – see Part 1), Picasa, or PrinterShare.

      The image in the screenshot above was captured in an unlit corner of my apartment; the only lamp is a three-bulb unit across the room which uses compact fluorescent bulbs (which give an awful yellow cast to photos); my whiteboard is surrounded on all sides with index cards and business cards I’ve tucked into the frame. As you can see, it’s done a fairly good job of isolating the relevant stuff (there’s an index card at the bottom) and making a very readable image of the keyboard shortcuts for my transcription software.

      10. Upvise

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      upvise

        Upvise is collaborative project management software comprised of several modular “applications”: contacts, notebooks, projects, tasks, and so on. The Android app integrates with an online service (both free, though there is a paid “Premium” level that offers a few more features) so you’re not limited to collaborating with other Android users. Projects and notes can be shared, tasks can be assigned out, and ideas can be voted on by anyone in your group. A sales application allows business users to track and follow-up leads. One nice thing: the contacts application will import all your Google contacts (although, as far as I can tell, it doesn’t sync new contacts back to your Google address book).

        11. StarContact

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        starcontact

          StarContact is a replacement for the default Dialer software, allowing you to search your contact list (using the T9-style keypad shown in the screenshot, a more compact version, or the regular keyboard). You can also search within non-name fields in your contact list (like address, company name, and notes) as well as by initials. Other than that, it looks and acts like the normal dialer, making it easy to adapt to if you’re already used to using ANdroid’s built-in software.

          12. Wapedia

          wapedia

            There are several Android apps for searching and displaying Wikipedia articles, and to be honest, they basically all do the same thing. Wapedia does it very quickly, with entries nicely formatted for the mobile screen and very good image rendering and scaling. You can also access specialized wiki sites, like the Muppet Wiki, Wookiepedia, WoWWiki (World of Warcraft), the Recipes Wiki, Wiktionary, and several others. 

            (Note: Wapedia is a site that can be accessed from any browser, but here I’m talking about the dedicated app that acts as a front-end to the website.

            What are your favorite Android apps for keeping yourself engaged, informed, and productive on the go? Since it may not be too long before Android goes mainstream, let us know what we should look for when we crack open our next smartphone or netbook.

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            Last Updated on January 21, 2020

            Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

            Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

            Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

            This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

            The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

            The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

            Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

            Curiosity

            Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

            People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

            Patience

            Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

            When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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            Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

            A Feeling for Connectedness

            This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

            A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

            The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

            How to Self-Taught Effectively

            With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

            1. Research

            Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

            Learning the Basics

            Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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            Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

            What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

            Hitting the Books

            Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

            Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

            Long-Term Reference

            While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

            My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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            2. Practice

            Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

            A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

            Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

            Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

            3. Network

            One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

            These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

            Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

            Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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            4. Schedule

            For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

            Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

            Final Thoughts

            In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

            If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

            At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

            More About Self-Learning

            Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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