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Task Management Apps Revisited: Part 3 – Any.do

Mobilized - Wed, 2014-07-02 01:31

In this post, I’m following up on my previous reviews of task management apps with another look at Any.do. When I last looked at task management apps, I was committed to using Google Tasks, and I concluded that the GTasks app offered me the best mobile experience (as Google doesn’t offer a mobile app for Tasks). Although I had seen great reviews of Any.do and liked its clean design and gesture-based interface, I didn’t want to order my task list using loose deadlines like This Week and Later. I also noticed that Google Tasks did not always sync reliably with Any.do.

Also, at that time there was no web interface for Any.do, and I wasn’t consistently using Chrome (there was and still is a browser extension for Chrome). Recently, the Any.do web app was finally released. In general, the web interface works well. It looks as nice as the mobile app and just feels like a logical extension of it:

Since I’ve already been using the Any.do app on my phone, the time seems right to revisit Any.do for Mobilized.

Changing Needs

Since my last look at task management apps, my needs evolved somewhat. These changes left me less committed to Google Tasks and more willing to experiment with Any.do:

  • It became more important to me to create tasks while on the go, or at home but away from my laptop. This made me more likely to add tasks from my phone, rather than in Google Tasks.
  • When I did create a task in Google Tasks, I got increasingly tired of having to pull out my phone in order to add a reminder notification. It made more sense to create the task using an app in the first place.
  • I’ve had a lot of tasks with changing deadlines. I also had other tasks that didn’t have a firm deadline, but needed continual action, and I didn’t want these all lumped together in the “No due date” area where I’d likely lose track of them. Google Tasks — and the apps I was using with it — required too much work to manually revise the deadlines of these tasks. It can also feel defeating to continually push back deadlines, even when the deadlines are just loose targets.
  • I wasn’t using Google Calendar much for deadline management, although I still wanted to see important deadlines on my calendar.
  • I got frustrated with some aspects of the Google Tasks interface. In Firefox, it’s possible to edit an existing task by clicking on the arrow to the right of the task, but this doesn’t work in Chrome. These days, I mostly use Chrome, so I found this annoying.
Experimenting with Any.do

I started using Any.do on my Android phone (without syncing with Google Tasks) because my Google Tasks list had begun to feel long and unmanageable. Any.do provided an easy way to organize tasks for the next few days. I organically began using Any.do for casual tasks that weren’t urgent, and Google Tasks for items with firm, important deadlines.

Any.do has been great for quickly creating tasks using my phone. It offers the ability to create tasks using predictive text and speech recognition. I like the fact that it can automatically add a reminder to return a missed call. You can also create a task in email by emailing do@any.do.

I began to see the benefit of Any.do’s organization scheme — Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming, and Someday (Someday contains all tasks that don’t have an assigned date). These simplified categories help me set goals for what I want to accomplish, but if all of today’s tasks don’t get done today, Any.do automatically pushes them to the next day — no need to spend time entering new deadlines.

In both the phone and web app, Any.do also makes it easy to drag tasks from one date to another, and to put them in any order you like within that deadline group.

The Any.do Moment feature, which can be disabled or set to occur only on certain days of the week, reminds you once a day to spend a minute organizing your to-do list. I think this helps overcome one of the biggest hurdles to success with a task management app — simply remembering to use it.

Any.do makes it easy to 1) create a manageable list of things to get done in the next few days, 2) revisit your task list each day, and 3) postpone tasks without too much guilt (this may be a pro or a con, depending on your style). The minimal design with generously sized type, and the pleasant reminder chime makes it a joy to use — most of the time. I do have a few issues with Any.do.

Issues with Any.do
  • At times, I find the gesture-based interface so pared down that it becomes confusing.
  • Setting up a recurring task

    When adding a sub-task (“note”) in the web app, it’s strange that you have to hit both Return and then Save to save the note.

  • The customization of recurring tasks is something that many users find lacking. You can’t set repeat tasks to occur, say, every weekday. You can set simple recurrences.
  • A minor annoyance, but one that can be turned off: Any.do has commercialized the app a bit. Amazon purchasing is integrated for certain tasks that contain the word “buy,” and the app presents you with “rewards” that are basically just advertisements.

But these are minor complaints. My main issue is still that Any.do doesn’t sync reliably or automatically with Google Tasks, and I’m not ready to totally give up on Google Tasks. I tried syncing the two and at first didn’t see any problems, but after multiple syncs, I ended up with many duplicate tasks, garbled notes, and strange due dates (e.g., 1969). This issue keeps me from going with Any.do as my sole task management app.

The Bottom Line

Any.do works really well for me for keeping track of tasks coming up in the next few days, especially when I want to create a list of simple tasks while on the go. It’s great for quickly adding tasks like errands, chores, and phone calls. The Someday category, which holds all tasks without a deadline, is a good hold-all for non-critical tasks that I don’t want to forget. But when I want to schedule something with a firm deadline, especially if it’s a few weeks off, I still find it best to enter that task in Google Tasks — and sync it to mobile using either the Tasks or GTasks app.

If you’re not using Google Tasks, and you don’t have a lot of mid-range deadlines to keep track of, Any.do may be the task management solution for you.

Any.do Moment screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET.

Related posts:

  1. Task Management Apps Revisited: Part 2 In my last post, I did a review of some...
  2. Task Management Apps Revisited A few months ago, Erin Hayes discussed how she manages...
  3. Staying Organized with Wunderlist Last summer, I sought out a simple task manager application...
Categories: Mobilized

Tips for Recording Audio Narration

Convergence - Wed, 2014-06-25 14:44

Many staff and faculty take advantage of the eLearning Studio, especially the Articulate Studio software, to get outside of the traditional lecture and flip their classroom with some audio narration. Employing this type of teaching model is beneficial for both faculty and students, however most folks don’t anticipate how challenging designing for online delivery can be. Use the following tips to help you think through how to best include audio narration in your next CLE course.

The number one piece of advice the Learning Technologies Group (LTG) gives to faculty and staff who are including audio narration is to write and practice reading a script before coming to the eLearning Studio to do their recording (and maybe even before you create your slideshow!).

Writing text for a learner to read is a lot different than writing text that will be listened to. A voiceover script is like a conversation with your learners, so write with listening in mind and give your learners the feeling that you are actually talking to each student personally.

Be sure to include transitional statements when moving from one topic to another. Phrases like “Now that we have a better understanding of [insert topic], let’s look at how to apply [insert next topic] or “Let’s shift gears to discuss [insert next topic]” help in carrying the learner along with you as you talk through the content.

Keep your script sentences short, simple, and direct. This will require some editing after your initial writing. When reviewing, first, take a look at the text at the paragraph level and cut out the sentences that aren’t really saying very much. Then, go to the sentence level and cut out the unnecessary words. You’ll probably find many ways to reduce the words on the page, but keep the content in tact.

Ideally, a script shouldn’t match the text learners see the screen verbatim. People read much faster than narration can play and this may be frustrating for the learner. This is a great opportunity to determine if your slides are visually appealing and pithy enough. Take advantage of the two different modes of delivery (audio narration and visual text) and deliver each piece of content in the mode that makes the most sense. (Check out the other UCSF Learning Technologies blog The Better Presenter for more tips on this.)

Always read your script out loud when you review it. Ask yourself is this how people really talk about this topic? Well designed courses reflect reality. Because of that, try to keep your writing and delivery as honest as possible. Your learners will appreciate it!

As you can see below, in Articulate Presenter, the speaker notes that you add to your PowerPoint slides appear for you along the side of the screen when you record narration in the software. Take advantage of this feature and copy the script for each slide into PowerPoint!

Additional spacing makes your script easier to read. Add a hard return between each sentence of your script. Also, mark the places in your script where you’ll want to add a natural pause or an inflection in your voice for emphasis. Indicate pauses with the word “pause” in brackets and indicate emphasized words with bold or italicized text.

When you’re sitting in the Studio about to start your recording, it’s best practice to wait one or two seconds from clicking the record button to beginning to speak. This will go a long way for the learner who’ll be listening to the slides back to back. Instead of receiving the information rapid fire, this gives them a short time to process the content on the slide before the narration begins. It’s also a good idea to wait a second or two when you’re finished speaking to stop the recording, especially if you or someone else will be editing your audio files.

Although most of us are neither professional actors nor voice over talent, it still is worth trying to add in differences in tone and inflection to make it clear why the content is important to the learners. Think about the kind of attitude you would want to hear when listening to a recording. Most eLearning developers and scriptwriters encourage the use of an informal, friendly tone in the delivery of the content. Help learners make a connection with you and stay engaged in the content. Listen to examples of well-done narration for online Learning by voice-over artists.*

Lastly, be open to rewriting the script as you’re recording or even after you think you’re done! You may decide something should be reworded, deleted, or added in while you’re in the Studio. And that’s OK, too! Ad-libbing helps with enhancing the natural flow of the conversation and makes for a more engaging course experience.

To learn more about the audio, video, and multimedia software and equipment available to you as a part of the UCSF community, check out the Multimedia Support Center or contact the Learning Technologies Group!

Do you have any tips or tricks for audio narration or script writing that you’d like to share? Please write your comments below!

*Please note the LTG has never worked with this artist and therefore, are not specifically recommending working with her.

Headset Image Credit: Microsoft Office



Categories: Convergence

Learn to Use RefWorks with these Online Tutorials

In Plain Sight - Wed, 2014-06-18 11:59

Don’t have time to attend a RefWorks class? Forget how to use it? There is now a series of superb short online tutorials that cover everything that RefWorks does, from adding references and linking PDFs to creating a bibliography.






You can also find more information and help on the UCSF Library’s citation management subject guide.

Categories: In Plain Sight

EndNote alternative? ReadCube Grows Up!

In Plain Sight - Tue, 2014-06-03 13:58

ReadCube arrived on the reference management scene in late 2011. I looked at it a year ago and found it lacking in comparison to the “big 5” — EndNote, Menedeley, Papers, RefWorks and Zotero (these are in alphabetical order, I am not playing favorites here!).

ReadCube released a mammoth upgrade about a month ago making it worthy of consideration as your primary reference manager. Read Cube works with any browser on both Mac and Windows machines, it also works on iOS devices; there is no Android version yet.


The basic version is free and now integrates with Microsoft Word, and provides simple altmetrics information. Altmetrics describes a way to measure the impact of the article you are reading. The PRO version costs $5/mo. or $45/yr. but you get several features for your money. It syncs across your iOS devices, adds unlimited cloud storage, advanced article metrics, and “watch folders”. What’s a watch folder? When new article PDFs are added to folders on your computer that you have told ReadCube to watch, they are automatically added to ReadCube. Note: I do not have a PRO account so the above is based on the ReadCube website.

Test Drive:
A search using the PubMed Special Queries (found near the bottom of the PubMed homepage) “Comparative Effectiveness Research” search tool to find information about cost-effective diagnosis of pulmonary embolism found 81 results. Several of these articles looked quite good and I wanted a way to move all of them into ReadCube in one step. It appears that you can only import one article at a time (!) from PubMed by using the by Add to Read Cube bookmarklet.

Comparative Effectiveness Search through PubMed

ReadCube encourages you to use their in-application search. It is convenient, but feels stripped down and is limited to GoogleScholar and PubMed. Sophisticated PubMed searchers will feel hamstrung by the simplified search. GoogleScholar results are shown by relevance, you cannot sort by year. I also searched in Scopus and Web of Science and was able to import one article at a time into ReadCube with the bookmarklet.

GoogleScholar and PubMed search within ReadCube

UCSF full text is easily accessible by selecting “University of California, San Francisco” from the drop down menu in Institutional Affiliation found in Preferences.

Formatting in-text citations and references in Word works well. Like Papers, pressing Control twice will launch the citation tool.

All in all, ReadCube has improved rapidly. As you can see from the above there are some capabilities I would like to see added to ReadCube. With a devoted user group and the quick evolution to date I expect to see further evolution soon.

Please contact me if you have questions. Evans.Whitaker@UCSF.edu

Categories: In Plain Sight

5 Questions with Dr. Daniel Lowenstein

The Better Presenter - Mon, 2013-07-29 08:30

In the previous post, we were introduced to Dr. Daniel Lowenstein and his “Last Lecture” presentation, which was both powerful and inspiring. Shortly after writing the post, Dr. Lowenstein contacted me, and we had an interesting discussion about his experience preparing for, and delivering that presentation.

I have always wanted to incorporate the voices of the instructors, students, and staff at UCSF, who work in the trenches and present or attend presentations on a daily basis. This post marks the beginning of a new series that will feature interviews of those people. I hope you enjoy the first episode of “5 Questions!”

5 Questions with Dr. Lowenstein

Bonus track: The Basement People

The full version of the original presentation has recently been uploaded to the UCSF Public Relations YouTube channel, so please head over there to watch the video, like it, and leave your comments!

If you have any ideas about who the next 5 Questions interviewee should be, please contact me or leave your ideas in the comments section below.

Categories: Better Presenter

Top 5 Lessons Learned from The Last Lecture

The Better Presenter - Thu, 2013-05-16 12:58

Powerful. Inspirational. Emotionally moving.

Those are the words that best describe Dr. Daniel Lowenstein’s “The Last Lecture” presentation, delivered to a packed house in Cole Hall on April 25th. The Last Lecture is an annual lecture series hosted by a UCSF professional school government group (and inspired by the original last lecture), in which the presenter is hand-picked by students and asked to respond to the question, ”If you had but one lecture to give, what would you say?” Dr. Daniel Lowenstein, epilepsy specialist and director of the UCSF Epilepsy Center, did not disappoint. In fact, I can say with confidence that he delivered one of the best presentations that I have attended.

Rather than attempt to paraphrase his words, or provide a Cliff Notes version that doesn’t do his presentation justice, I will instead encourage you to watch the video recording of his presentation. The video is an hour in length, and if you have any interest in becoming a better presenter yourself, it is a must-watch. After the jump, we’ll explore my top “top 5 lessons learned” from Dr. Lowenstein’s presentation.

Last Lecture – Top 5 Lessons Learned:

  1. “PowerPoint” is still boring. Dr. Lowenstein’s projected slide show was not typical PowerPoint. It did not consist of any bullet points, familiar and boring templates, or images “borrowed” from a last minute Google image search. Instead, used images from his own collection, and Prezi to build a canvas of images that moved in all directions, expanding, contracting and rotating to craft his message. The resulting slide show was personal, meaningful and most importantly, relatable.
  2. Story telling is the secret to success. When I first began studying the art of presenting, the idea of incorporating storytelling into a presentation was an elusive one. I am now convinced that storytelling is the secret to transforming a good presentation, into a great presentation. It is the glue that holds all of the elements of your presentation together, as well as the glitter that makes it shine. Dr. Lowenstein’s entire presentation was crafted into a story, the setting of which was established right from the beginning and illustrated by his first content slide. There were also chapters within the story, the most memorable of which for me was the Justice segment of his presentation, and his depiction of The Basement People. He didn’t begin by pointing out the original members of the UCSF Black Caucus that were in the audience, as most presenters would have done. Instead, he gradually painted a picture for us, so we could imagine what it was like to be a minority at UCSF over 50 years ago. He described their struggles in detail, and gave us time to relate, and even pointed out the fact that they had met in that very hall where we all sat. He didn’t reveal their presence until the end of the chapter, creating a crescendo of emotion, and the moment brought tears to the eyes of many audience members.
  3. Vulnerability equals trust. If you want your audience to believe in your message, you must first give them a reason to believe in you. And one of the most effective ways to make that happen is to share your vulnerabilities. In the eyes of the audience, this makes the presenter human, and it creates a bond between both parties. No one wants to listen to a sales-pitch presentation. Instead, they want the whole story with the ups and downs, so they can decide how we feel about it on their own terms. Just be sure to share vulnerabilities that relate to the subject of the presentation, because you’re going for empathy, not sympathy (which could have a negative effect). Dr. Lowenstein, when talking about Joy and Sorrow, shared one of his deepest personal sorrows, which was the unexpected passing of his son. In contrast, he shared a touching moment with his wife, expressing his love for her, right in front of the whole audience. These moments worked perfectly in the presentation because they were genuine, and they gave the audience a deeper understanding of Dr. Lowenstein.
  4. Don’t forget humor. No matter how serious, no matter how technical, there is a place in your presentation for a little humor. It can be used to lighten a heavy moment, open closed minds, and bring everyone in a room together (even if your audience members have very different backgrounds). Amidst Dr. Lowenstein’s presentation were timely moments of humor that seemed to come naturally from his personality. And hey, who doesn’t like a good male-patterened-baldness joke, anyway?! But seriously, if you can laugh at yourself, the audience has no excuse to not laugh along with you. There are two keys to using humor in your presentation; (1) it should be relevant to the current topic or story, and (2) it can’t be forced. If you’re not good at telling jokes, then try another form of humor!
  5. Present on your passions. As a presenter, your goal is simple – to instill in the audience an understanding of your message, and a belief in you. If you give them the impression, even for a moment, that you don’t believe in yourself or the message you’re presenting, you’re a dead man walking (or presenting) in the audience’s eyes. If you choose topics that you are passionate about, however, you will never have this problem. You may think it was easy for Dr. Lowenstein’s to be passionate about his presentation, because his task was, in essence, to present about his life’s passions… but I can assure you, it’s not easy to talk about your own life in front of an audience. In contrast, imagine that you have to give a presentation on, say, your department’s new accounting policies. To make matters worse, imagine that your audience is being forced to attend. What do you do? Surely, there is no passion to be found in accounting policy, is there?! Well, actually, there is, if you take the right angle. For example, does this new accounting policy save the department time, or money? And then, can that saved time and money be applied towards more constructive, or creative tasks that your coworkers actually want to do? If so, and you frame the presentation in a positive light, the audience will listen.

To top it all off, Dr. Lowenstein spent the last few minutes of his presentation reviewing each of the 4 segments of his talk, and then related it all back to a single, clear message. That, my friends, is an example of storytelling 101, so I hope you were talking notes!

Continue on to part 2 of this post, where I interview Dr. Lowenstein about his experiences preparing for and delivering the Last Lecture presentation!

If you also found inspiration in Dr. Lowenstein’s presentation, please share your thoughts below, and I’ll see you at next year’s “Last Lecturer” event.

Categories: Better Presenter
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