Seven ways to keep your life in sync
Get through the week ahead with our daily tips for tech happiness:
Apple’s MobileMe (£59.99 a year) is a simple but impressive example of cloud computing, where your data is not only on your computer but on a remote server, too. Of course, it works best if you synchronise the calendar, email and contacts information to your phone, too, and it only does this with one phone, thank you – the iPhone. Still, it will keep your Mac and PC computers in sync, via iTunes, without a phone in the middle, but there’s something magical about putting an appointment in your iPhone calendar and seeing it on your computer’s calendar within minutes. Shame you can’t synchronise Notes from the iPhone, too.
2 Note Pad
Actually, that’s not quite true, there are ways of doing it, thanks to the App Store. There are a few alternative notes programs available for the iPhone, but Note Pad (£2.99) does the job well, though it certainly lacks the slick user-friendliness Apple would have brought to this feature. You have to get your head round the fact that when you open a new note it asks you if you want to save it before you have typed anything you want to save. And when you close it the information you’ve just typed in disappears alarmingly – though it does come back. Syncing looks unattractive, but works.
3 Missing Sync
You may still favour a Palm smartphone like the Centro. Why not? The Palm OS is elegant and efficient and avoids the hell that is Windows Mobile. And you can search every part of your contacts, say, when all you want to know is: "Whose number starts 07968?" you can’t do that in Cupertino. However, even the Palm doesn’t have perfect syncing skills and that’s where Missing Sync comes in. If you want to export your Palm Calendar and there are more than 1000 items in it, you social butterfly, you, then you’ll need Missing Sync for Palm OS to help you. It’s available from markspace.com along with versions for Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and, hey, iPhone (though the notes syncing is not bi-directional). Prices start from around $30 (£20).
4 Life Balance
If you want to go off-piste, you may want a program from the pleasantly named llamagraphics.com. Here you’ll find Life Balance available for Windows, Mac, Palm and now iPhone. It’s personal coaching software to help you figure out your goals and help you achieve them. It’s a sophisticated program that aims to prioritise your to do list, for instance, so that you don’t do what I do and put the really difficult things at the bottom so you never have to actually do them. There’s a free advice book program in the iPhone App store to get you started. The main iPhone app costs £11.99, others start from $79.95 (£49).
5 Sky Remote Record
See, it’s important to keep your TV watching in sync, too. Life’s too busy to remember to set the video recorder (as we used to call it in olden times) every day. And chances are you’ll forget when it really matters. If you have Sky+ you can set the machine to record even when you’re not at home. You can set it via your computer or your mobile phone. Of course, the arrival of BBC iPlayer and other online catch-up services means there’s no excuse to miss anything on the box, but at least with Sky Remote Record you can see it in full resolution (maximum of ten requests per day – don’t be greedy).
6 Digital music
Before iTunes, synchronisation was not a major part of our lives. Then, when music went digital, we all found out how important it was. Now, it means we can not only carry a shedload of music in your pocket, but that it’s backed up on a computer. So if the hard drive or the battery on your portable goes (as if!) then all is not lost. The latest music sites offer great things, like Nokia Comes With Music, with unlimited downloads you can keep. If your computer hard drive goes south, you can download it all again. Or Amazon MP3, the newest of all, which offers DRM-free music suitable for most players (including iPods), encoded at high bitrates (256kbps), with prices starting at £3 for an album.
There are, as we know, many faces to Google. And the online calendars, contacts and mail features took on a whole new level of usefulness with the arrival of a particularly compatible mobile phone. So now you can sync all those easily accessible programs with Android OS mobile phones. For now, that means the T-Mobile G1, but next year there’ll be more. It’s a handy and simple set-up which, like MobileMe, feels a little bit like magic but, unlike MobileMe, is free. BlackBerry users will also be able to benefit from Google's Sync software that will sync contacts and the calendar to your device over the air.