Ditching paper planners for Google Calendar-Android combo

EACH November, I’d eagerly start my annual search for the next year’s planner. It is a circuitous process that almost always ends the same way each year—I’d drool over one planner after the other, go on coffee binges to collect stickers for a free diary, and end up buying a Moleskine.

I’ve been regularly trying and experimenting with online calendars and task managers for years but never got around to using one for long, back when the only interface was a Web browser and you needed to have an Internet connection to be able to use the system.

Paper was more efficient, apart from being more beautiful.

Starbucks 2011 planner and Google Calendars on the Samsung Galaxy Tab

BLANK PAGES. My Google calendar items in the Galaxy Tab placed on top the blank pages of the free 2011 Starbucks planners that I got after a coffee binge. Click to enlarge. Click to enlarge. (PHOTO BY MARLEN LIMPAG)

Last year, however, I started to gradually shift from using paper planners to online calendar services and a mobile phone.

I started with Nokia Ovi using my trustworthy-but-now-gone Nokia E63. If you have a Nokia phone, you have to use it with Ovi, a suite of online services that allow you to manage your phone’s calendar and contacts from the Web. Although I repeatedly encountered downtimes and syncing problems with Nokia Ovi last year, I found it useful enough that I migrated my office tasks and even marathon training schedule to the service.

With Ovi, you could enter tasks on the Web, set reminder settings and then have all these downloaded to your phone. Close to the end of last year, the service started allowing the sharing of calendar tasks and I was about to test it with the Sun.Star Cebu business section team when I lost my phone.

Then I got an Android phone.

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Have phone, will travel

IN the early morning of Feb. 5, I guided an experienced taxi driver to a nondescript and obscure hotel in Makati using Google Maps, GPS and my Android phone.

It was something almost right out of the movies—we were getting a real time rendering of where we were on the map (indicated by a moving blue dot) and using it to find our way through Isabelle Royale Hotel and Suites (I told you it was obscure).

On Feb. 4, I took the red-eye flight to Manila for the Condura Skyway Marathon with my wife, Marlen, and the kids. For that trip, I took copious notes of travel details in my phone, an LG P500 running Android Froyo, instead of the handy paper notebook I used to always keep with me.

Google Maps with GPS on Android Froyo in the LG P500

VIRTUAL GUIDE. Google Maps uses GPS to pinpoint my exact location on the map. Using the system, I was able to guide a taxi driver to an obscure hotel in Makati City.

I kept travel details in Springpad–a free notes-taking web service that has mobile clients for smartphones like the Android and the iPhone. Springpad is a really great web and mobile application that’s very useful for writing and organizing notes. I’ve used Springpad in my Android phone for more than a month and find it indispensable. I came to Springpad from Evernote, another free note-taking service with mobile clients. While both are great web services, I prefer Springpad because I find that it fits my workflow better.

Since we would be arriving in Manila at past midnight, Marlen and I were worried about finding our way to the hotel. Hours before our flight, I took a screengrab of the Google Maps rendering of the areas leading to Isabelle Royale Hotel and Suites intending to show it to the driver.

But the driver of our cab said he wasn’t that familiar with the place. I suspected he was feigning ignorance. I turned on Google Maps and GPS intending to to check where we were on the map so that we could find our way to the hotel.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Google Maps renders your location in real time. I was connected to Smart’s HSPA (a high-speed mobile Internet network) network and the map tiles were downloading and rendering flawlessly—fast enough to keep up with us, as represented by that blue dot on the screen. Maybe I was just lucky or maybe the network wasn’t as congested because it was early in the morning (I encountered some lag in buffering maps data when I used it early in the afternoon two days after).

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Turning into a fandroid

HOW long does your initial fascination with a new phone last? Two weeks? A month?

In my case, it used to take about two weeks before the novelty of a new unit started to wear off.

But not with my LG P500, a device that has Android 2.2 or Froyo as operating system. Two months after buying it, I’m more fascinated and attached to it today than in the day after I unboxed the unit.

Before Android, I wouldn’t have considered buying either a Samsung or an LG unit. I was a Sony Ericsson and, later, a Nokia person. It was such a hassle having to transition to another mobile phone brand and relearn everything—from quirks in the keypad to the way other software components worked.

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Use QR codes to make your business cards interactive

DO you still hand out business cards or do you just wirelessly send contact details? Does the printed business card still have a role in a time when phone users can just Bump to exchange contact data?

In some tech circles, contacts data are already transmitted through a type of bar code known as QR for quick response codes. QR Codes, which was created by Denso-Wave in 1994, are widely in use in Japan, even in encoding passport data.

With most smartphone platforms—from Android, iPhone and Symbian—supporting QR Codes and even coming bundled with a scanner, its use has a chance of going mainstream.

Increasingly QR codes are being used in business cards to simplify the entry of data into the phone.

I wrote about using QR codes in business cards in a column here four years ago but the steps it took were a bit tedious. Now, it’s infinitely easier.

SCANNING. The phone redirects to my Dooid.com profile page after scanning my QR Code. Using QR Codes, you can make your business cards interactive.

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