Tag Archives: collaborative work

From “To Do” to “It’s Done” – Online task management

One obvious way to use online tools for school and study is to help keep things organized.

What Is It?

There are different tools that will keep track of your to do lists for you, but they all have the same basic features. You can create specific tasks, organize them into lists or projects, set due dates for each task, and view these tasks in a single agenda or project-by-project. Some tools can do more, like send you notifications of tasks as they are due, or give you a mobile app for your smartphone to use wherever you go.

To see a variety of to do list tools, take a look at these:

How Is It Useful?

When you write out your to do lists on pieces of paper or on a calendar on the wall at home, it’s easy to lose track of updating the list or remembering what was due when. Using an online task organizer, you can keep that list in one place and get to it wherever you can connect to the web. If you have a smartphone or tablet, it’s even easier. Just like all of the online account or online collaboration tools we’ve looked at, it’s about keeping things in one easily-accessible place and not having lots of information in different spots.

Try It Out

If you have an online account with Google, Yahoo! or Hotmail/WindowsLive, use the help below to create a basic to do list and try organizing just one project to start with. It might be a class you’re taking, a report you’re writing, or even a project at home. Don’t try to organize everything all at once – start with something simple and add projects as you get the hang of it.

For a little more organization, or if you don’t have an online account, give one of other tools a try. Remember the Milk and Todoist are the simplest to use, but all of them are good for different kinds of projects. Look at the lists of features and see what works for you.

Help & Resources

Doodle Me This…

When you’re trying to coordinate plans, one of the hardest things to do is to settle on a date and time. Why not use an online polling tool like Doodle to make that easier?

What Is It?

Doodle logoDoodle is a very simple tool that does just one thing: you quickly create a poll to let a group of people vote on a date and time for a meeting or event. That’s it – nothing fancy – and that’s what makes it great. In two minutes, you can set up a poll and send it out.

Once you’ve created the poll, send the web address to everyone who needs to vote. They visit the poll, enter their answers, and Doodle saves their responses right there for everyone to see. Participants can add a comment to give you more information, or they can just choose Yes, No, or (Yes) [Yes, if need be]. You get an email notification every time someone answers your poll, and you can change the poll if you need to add more options or update information.

How Does It Work?

First, you don’t need to set up an account to create a basic poll. Just visit Doodle and click on Schedule an Event. Fill in the information about your event and enter your email address to receive notifications and to get the Administration link for updating your poll.

Next, give your poll-takers a few options to pick from. Use the Basic calendar to just suggest days, or click on Calendar view to suggest both dates and times. Offer as many choices as you can, but not so many that no one will ever agree on a single day and time. In Basic Calendar, click on the days you want to include in the poll; in Calendar view, click and drag to choose blocks of time on each day you want. Click Next.

You can stay with a basic poll or click on Settings to pick from more options. This is most useful if you want to give your participants a “Yes, if need be” choice, or force them to pick just one option.

Finally, click on Finish to complete the poll. Doodle will send you two emails: one with the link to send out to your poll-takers, and the other with the link for you to change the poll if you need to. Copy and paste the poll link into an email message and send it to everyone whose opinion you want. They’ll reply, and you’re on your way to a decision!

See a finished product at Doodle’s example poll.

Why Is It Useful?

Like many other online tools, Doodle is most useful because you can keep everything in one location, where everyone who needs to can see everything at the same time. Similar to Anyvite, PerfectPotluck, or any of the online collaboration tools we’ve looked at, the best thing about Doodle is that it gets rid of the dozens of emails or phone calls you send back and forth trying to coordinate an event or a meeting or even just dinner with friends. There’s less of a chance that people could agree to two different times, or miscommunicate about what day everyone chose, or get stuck with any of the misunderstandings that happen when many people try to plan together.

Doodle also lets you make other decisions with votes from your friends. After you click on Schedule an event, click on Free text instead of sticking with the Basic calendar view. You can also go to the Functions and Products page and click on Make a Choice rather than Schedule an Event. You can poll friends about what sort of party to have, poll coworkers about the best gift to buy someone who’s leaving, or poll family about what to do for Mom’s birthday.

Try It Out

Are you trying to agree on a day or time to make plans with friends? Put together a simple Doodle poll and send it out to them, asking them to vote on the days that work best for them. You could even use it to arrange a good night for a babysitter, a good time for a working lunch, or a good day to visit the library! Any question that could use some opinions is a good one for a poll.

Help & Resources

Anyvite logo

Getting all together – Evite, Anyvite and other invitation tools

Anyvite logoWhen you’re planning parties this summer (or any time), online tools can make it easy to invite guests, track RSVPs, and send out messages and updates. Different tools have different features, but most of them will let you:

  • Create an event that includes the what, where, and when information
  • Send invitations to guests using email addresses or social network messages
  • Receive notifications as people RSVP
  • Easily send messages out ot all invitees, or any group of RSVP type (asking the Maybes to say yes or no, for instance)
  • Update event information on the page and notify guests of changes
  • Link to a map or directions to your event

Some tools will also help you organize a potluck or other party contributions, let you pick themes and offer recipe and decor suggestions, or include other party planning fieatures.

How Does It Work?

First, choose what tool you’re going to use. These are some of the more well-known invitation tools online:

  • Evite.com – the most well-known invitation tool; owned by Yahoo, but you don’t need a Yahoo account to use it
  • Anyvite.com – an alternative to Evite; simple to use
  • Punchbowl.com – a full party planning site
  • Signupgenius.com – think of it like an online sign-up sheet posted on a bulletin board; create a sign-up list for anything from a party to a potluck to a volunteer schedule

You can also use the event scheduling features of some social networks to create events and invite guests:

  • Facebook event is great if you and your guests use FB
  • Google Plus (G+) lets you easily create and manage events if you use G+ or just have a Google account
  • Tweetvite helps you invite folks to an event using Twitter
  • Google Calendar (or any other online account calendar) will let you create an event on your calendar and then invite others to it. If you want the basics, this is enough.

Then, create an event. You might need to sign up with the tool first, or it might let you just get going. Click Create an event or whatever the button is, and then fill in the day, time, location and other details. Click Save and you’ve done most of the work.

Next, there will be an option to Invite or Add Guests. Click on that and enter your guests’ email addresses or choose from a list of your social network friends. There will probably be a place to type in a message inviting them to the event – add something cheerful but don’t repeat all the information in the event itself. When you’ve got everyone entered, click on Send to send out the invitations.

If you need to change the event information or add guests, you can do that at any time. The tool you use will probably ask whether you want to send a message out with the updates or email the new guests – do this so your guests know that something has changed. You can also Send a Message to all guests or just folks who have RSVPd yes or maybe to give them the new details or remind them that the event is coming up. Some invitation tools will automatically add your event to your guests’ online calendars, and send them reminders as the date of the event approaches.

Since you probably used your email address to create the event or sign up for the tool, you’ll receive notifications as your guests RSVP. If not, you can always go back and visit your event to see who has said yes, no, or maybe so far.

Once the event is over, your event page can stay up as a place for people to leave messages telling you what a great time they had, or you can hide it. That’s usually your choice, depending on the tool you used.

How Is it Useful?

What’s most useful about this is that it lets you keep all your event information in one place, online, where your guests can see it and keep track of it and their RSVPs. It also lets you easily track RSVPs and attendance numbers for your event, and might even let you manage potluck or other party contributions all in the same spot. Just like many of the other things we’ve looked at, it’s a one-stop party planning powerhouse of a tool.

Try It Out

If you have Yahoo or Google, it’s easy to just create an event in your online calendar and invite a few guests using their email addresses.

If you want to do a bit more, try out Anyvite or Punchbowl for a complete party planning experience. Push the buttons and see what special features each tool has, and see which one works best for you and the event you’re planning.

If you’ve found any other online party planning or invite tools to be really helpful, post them in the comments below.

Help & Resources

What to bring? – coordinating with PerfectPotluck

Hope your 4th of July was exciting in all the best ways. Today on Learning for Life Online, let’s continue the food theme and look at ways to make sure you don’t have 15 macaroni salads at your next backyard BBQ. You could just have everyone email you what they’re bringing, but then you have to keep track of it all and let folks know when they need to pick something else.

Instead, why don’t you try an online tool that all of your guests can see and add to themselves – something like Perfect Potluck?

What Is It?

Perfect PotluckPerfect Potluck is exactly what it sounds like: a place to coordinate what people are bringing to a group potluck.

Perfect Potluck is simple to use – just click on Click Here to Create a Group Meal and fill out the form with all your event details. It asks for your phone number, but you don’t have to enter your real number if you don’t want to. It’s just there for your guests to contact you, and if they have your number already, you’re all set. In the same way, you don’t have to add your address if your guests know where you live, but if you do add it, Perfect Potluck will include a link to a map for your guests to use.
Perfect Potluck sign-up block

For the potluck categories below, you can keep the ones that are already there or delete them and type in your own. You need to add a quantity of at least 1 item for your category to show up on your potluck sign-up list. After the categories, add details like time and other instructions in the Notes section. If you have any useful links for your guests (like Yummly!), you can add them.

When you’re done, click on Submit Group Meal Details and you’re all set. You’ll get an email with a link to your sign-up page. Send that link to your guests using plain email, an invitation or party-planning site (we’ll cover those next week), or an online calendar or Facebook event invite.

When your guests click on the link, they’ll visit your Perfect Potluck sign-up page. They can see what other people are already bringing and choose something to fill in the holes. All they have to do to sign up is click on Take next to whatever they want to bring. The only required field is their email address – they can fill in whatever else they’d like. They can also go back to the link and change their reply at any time.
Perfect Potluck guest sign-up

How Is It Useful?

The big answer to this is that you don’t have a hundred emails or phone calls flying back and forth about what people are bringing. There’s a single list, in a single place, that everyone can see and add to. Better still, that list is online and always accurate, unlike paper lists that might have duplicates. Guests with smartphones can even check the list while in the store on the way to the potluck, helping out with last-minute needs.

An online potluck tool cuts down on the duplication, the hassle, and the potential for too much pasta.

Try It Out

If you’re planning a potluck or any group meal, try out Perfect Potluck or any of the other tools on the list below.

Other online potluck tools:

Help & Resources

Listgeeks – for people who love lists

Sometimes, the simplest tool is the most interesting. This week on Learning for Life Online, let’s look at Listgeeks a social sharing tool that’s all about lists.

What Is It?

Listgeeks logoListgeeks is just what it sounds like: it’s a social network make up of lists. That’s it – you create lists, share them with others, and follow other people to get ideas from their lists. Nothing fancy, and that’s okay.

To start saving lists, you do need to create an account or sign in with your Facebook or Twitter username and password. Then, you can just start making your own lists, or you can make your own version of someone else’s list. No, it’s not stealing their idea – this is a social listmaking site, and one of the ways it’s social is that the lists are collaborative.

Let’s say you find an interesting list, like Random Things I’m Into Lately. You look at it, and it’s pretty neat. You know from the little numbers next to the list name that 26 other people have made their own versions of this list, so you can click on the Next or Prev buttons on the right to see those other lists.

As you click and read, you realize that you’re into some interesting stuff yourself, so you can start creating your version of this list by either typing into the spaces next to the numbers in the left-hand list or by clicking and dragging one of the items from someone else’s list onto your own. You’re not “stealing their idea” – you’re adding your own voice to the crowd.

To see what the average set of results for this topic is, click the word Average just above the right-hand list. You’ll see the most commonly added items to this list, up to the top 99. See how popular your random things are by finding where they are on this average list.

How Is It Useful?

Featured List from ListgeeksFirst, just by searching through other people’s lists, you might be inspired to try something new or find a new book/movie/TV show/artist/song you’ve never heard of before. Think of it as a way to search all those lists of recommendations people scribble on scraps of paper to each other. If you check the averages for a topic, you’ll find the most popular suggestions for it.

Secondly, if you create an account and save your lists, you’ll have access to them wherever you can get to the internet. This includes a smart device or tablet, as well as a standard computer. Create a list of “Books I Need to Buy” or “Stuff to Do While Waiting in Line” – with links to things to read or websites to visit – and you’ll always be able to get to it quickly while you’ve got a few minutes to kill.

Third, like Pinterest, you can use these online lists to share your interests and ideas with other people. Make a list of things you need for your new apartment and send a link to the list to your mom, or post a list of things you want for your birthday to your Facebook timeline. Share a list of movies you want to see this summer and see if anyone wants to go with you. Create the list in one place and share it everywhere you are online.

Try It Out

Let’s go back to that Random Things list to play a little bit. Once you’ve found the Random Things I’m Into Lately list, try clicking on and dragging the second item – “Planning the production of a feature film” – into your list. Simple, yes? Use the Next button to find another list with another interesting item on it, and click and drag that item to your list. Keep doing this, or type your own ideas into your list at any point.

Let’s try finding another set of lists to play with. Type a topic or thing into the search field at the top right of the screen and see what lists are already in there. Get wild – try to find something a little bit different. Here’s a few ideas to get you going:

You can practice finding, clicking, dragging, and typing without ever signing in, but if you decide you enjoy working with Listgeeks lists, you do need to create an account to save and share your lists. Just sign in with your Facebook or Twitter account information, or make a brand new account just for Listgeeks.

Share

Did you make a list you really like? Add it to the comments below, or post it on the Learning for Life Online Facebook wall.

Help & Resources

Stay on Schedule with Google Calendar

Continuing our theme of going deeper with online accounts, this week we’ll take a brief look at Google Calendar.

What Is It?

For starters, it’s a calendar that is easy to check and edit from anywhere you can log in to your Google Account. You can see a day, a week or a month at at time, or view upcoming events as an agenda list. To add an event, you just click on the day, type in a start time and a couple of words about what you’re doing, and click Create Event. If you want more details, click Edit Event and add a location, a description or more.

If you want to keep separate calendars for different things in your life – family events, volunteering jobs, consulting clients, house repair schedules – you just Add a new calendar and then choose whether to make it public, share with only invited people, or keep it private. This lets you share out calendars with the people who need to see them. Other people with Google Calendar can share theirs with you, or you can request that they share with you by typing their email address in the Add a friend’s calendar box on the left.

Google Calendar lets you invite people to the events you create. If you’re hosting a New Year’s Eve party, set up the event in Google Calendar and then email invitations to everyone on your list. Guests click Yes, No, or Maybe (and the event will be added to their calendar if they have one) and you can easily keep track of the RSVP list. You can send emails to all invitees to remind them of the party, or last-minute changes to the menu.

You can keep a to-do list in Google Calendar using the Tasks feature. Click on a date that you need to run an errand, and click on the word Task at the top of the box that pops up. Add the information about the errand and click on Create Task. The errand appears on your calendar and on a list of tasks off to one side of the screen.

Set reminders for any event or task to pop up on your screen a few minutes or hours before the event starts or the task is due. Never miss a meeting or an appointment again.

Finally, you can add a Google Calendar app to your mobile device and get all these features wherever you are. Those reminders will pop up on your phone, or you can set a ringtone to go off whenever an event is coming up.

How Is It Useful?

Imagine how you can combine all the features mentioned above: You’re hosting that New Year’s Eve party for friends and family. Start by setting up the event and inviting all the guests via email. Check the RSVP list to see who’s coming, and send out reminders to those last-minute folks. Add Tasks to your calendar for party preparations (buying supplies, shopping for a new outfit, meeting with your friends who are helping with set-up) and have that list on your mobile while you’re out running errands. Share the Party calendar with your partner so he or she can keep track of what’s going on without having to ask, and maybe even add a few tasks to their calendar. As the day gets closer, send out a note to everyone attending about how to get to your place by public transit and where the good parking choices are. That morning, check the RSVPs one final time and you’ll know who to expect. Then, get a reminder 15 minutes before the first guest arrives. Success!

You can also use shared calendars to coordinate care between family members for an elderly relative, to find a good meeting date for a volunteer organization, or to stay aware of your closest family and friends’ schedules. Have all that information at your fingertips wherever you are.

Try It Out

If you have a Google account already, just click on Calendar at the top of the page and start pushing some buttons. Add a few events, click on Edit Event and see what your options are. Send an invitation to someone you know well and see how that works. Add a Task or two, or add a few public calendars like holidays or Phases of the Moon. Share your calendar with others, or ask that they share theirs with you (if you know them well enough).

If you don’t have a Google Account, click through the links below to see if it’s useful to you.

Help & Resources

Google Documents – Working together far apart

First, an apology – there was no lesson from LLO last Monday due to circumstances beyond our control. Sorry for the missed week, but we’re back today!

As you may remember, we posted early on in Learning for Life Online about online accounts being more than just email nowadays. During December, we’ll take a closer look at some of the things you get along with your Google, Yahoo and Hotmail accounts. This week, we’ll start with Google Documents (better known as Google Docs).

What Is It?

Google Docs is a service provided by Google to let users create and save documents entirely online. Just like the Microsoft Office programs (Word, Powerpoint, Excel), these Google Docs will let you write papers, draft resumes and cover letters, create presentations, put together spreadsheets and write and distribute online forms and survey – all completely online. You can switch from computer to computer to mobile device and always be able to work on your files. Best of all, you can share these documents with others and let them work collaboratively with you on the document. Think about all the party and project planning that would be so much easier without emailing lists back and forth.

Google Docs is made up of five different features:

  • Google Documents is like Microsoft Word. You create a document and type, just like with any other word processing program. Use it for resumes, letters, papers, flyers and so much more.
  • Google Spreadsheets is similar to Microsoft Excel. These spreadsheet programs are good for creating budgets, developing project plans, putting together party to do lists and similar tasks. The basic formulas you can apply do some of the math for you.
  • Google Presentations is their version of Microsoft Powerpoint. Create slideshows for school reports, conference talks, book discussion groups or any other place where you need to present visual ideas to a group of people. Best of all, you can embed the slideshows in a blog or website to make them available to everyone!
  • Google Drawings is a newer service. Use the shapes and drawing tools to add diagrams and flowcharts to reports, to sketch out a process for making household decisions or create an organizational chart.
  • Google Forms is a neat tool to help you create, distribute, and collect responses from online forms and surveys. Simple to set up and share, you can quickly put together a survey to choose an event date, get ideas for a potluck, figure out the best choices for paint colors and learn more about what people are thinking about anything.

For all of these, you can choose to share each document with specific people (invited by email) or publish the document publicly using a web link. You can also download most of the documents to your local computer in a variety of formats including PDF, which is useful for sending out documents that you don’t want changed.

If you’ve started a document on your own computer, you can upload that document to Google Docs to start a file there – you don’t need to do the whole thing over again.

How Is It Useful?

In addition to all the suggestions above, here’s a few ways you can use all of the Google Docs together. Let’s say you’re working with your friends or coworkers to put on a holiday craft fair. By using Google Docs, you can all share the documents, edit them from wherever you are, and save them or print them out as needed. So, create a flyer for the fair in Google Documents, put the price lists and the fair supply budget into a Google Spreadsheet, figure out the map of the artists’ booths in Google Drawings, add an online registration form to your website or Facebook page using Google Forms, and when it’s all over, give a presentation on how it all went using Google Presentations.

Try It Out

If you have a Google account, just click on the word “Documents” up at the top and try a few of them out. Start with things you know already – Google Documents would be a good one – and then try some of the others. If you don’t have a Google account, follow the links to each feature above and play with their demonstration documents. Watch a few videos on how each service works, then maybe sign up for an account and try it for real.

Help & Resources