By Christina Orlovsky Page, contributor
July 12, 2012 - For years, we’ve been hearing that whenever we have a problem that needs solving, “There’s an app for that!” With more than half a million in the Apple App Store alone, and a large contingent of Android apps and others available, as well, it’s likely true--if you have a need for something, it probably exists. The hard part is knowing which apps are really useful.
Whether you’re on a quest to find facts, manage your finances, keep yourself on track with fitness, or simply have fun, here are 12 of our favorite free apps to accomplish your goals and make your life easier in today’s high-tech world.
Fact-finding and Organizing Apps
Remember the Milk. If you’ve ever suffered from the brain freeze that occurs when you walk into a store and forget why you needed to go there in the first place, this is the app for you. Prioritize tasks based on location of where you’re running errands, sort “to-dos” in easy-to-manage buckets, and set instant message or email reminders to never forget what needs to get done. A virtual check allows you to mark a task “complete” and feel productive at the end of each day. www.rememberthemilk.com.
Evernote. Post-it people will love this all-in-one organizational tool that allows you to sync all of your devices – think home computer, work computer, smartphone, tablet or laptop--to keep calendar events, to-do lists, web pages, photos, and even voice reminders, all in one searchable cachet. www.evernote.com.
Cozi. Busy families often need a full-time planner to synchronize their schedules. Cozi fits the bill as an online family organizer, offering a color-coded calendar the whole family can access, a meal-planning and grocery guide that can be sent via text or email, an online journal, and much more. www.cozi.com.
Mint.com. Budget isn’t a four-letter word, but for many people it may as well be. Mint.com makes money management easy by keeping track of all your accounts in one place. Track your spending and pay down your debt with the help of the app’s user-friendly tools and graphs. It’s like having your own personal financial planner right at your fingertips. www.mint.com.
Mobile Banking. If you’re not already banking with a financial institution that allows mobile access to your accounts, you’re missing the boat. Major banks, from Chase and CitiBank to Bank of America and US Bank, all have mobile apps that allow you to check balances, make transfers, receive alerts when you’re under a specified amount, and even snap a photo and deposit a check without having to visit the branch. Check your bank’s website for information.
GasBuddy. If you ever find yourself driving around searching for a gas station because you know there has to be one cheaper than the five you just passed, save yourself time, frustration--and the gas and money you’re wasting on principle--with this app that gives you real-time gas prices based on your current location or a ZIP code you enter. You’ll never pay top dollar for gas again. www.gasbuddy.com.
Fitness and Food Apps
MyFitnessPal. You’ll never feel alone in your fitness goals with this online buddy system that provides a variety of diet and exercise tools and calculators, calorie counters, journals and more to keep you on a path to health and wellness. www.myfitnesspal.com.
Lose It! Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows that accountability is a key to success--and that keeping a food journal is a surefire way to track your calories and see your triggers to unhealthy eating. With this virtual food journal, simply set your diet goals, enter the food you eat and watch as it counts calories for you and keeps track of your remaining daily calorie balance. Set reminders and motivators, track personal diet and exercise trends, and share your progress with like-minded friends. www.loseit.com.
AllRecipes. If you’re always seeking the answer to the nagging “What’s for dinner?” question, this is the app for you. With thousands of recipes, reviews and a handy “Dinner Spinner” tool that puts the fun in food prep, you’ll never search aimlessly for inspiration in your fridge again. www.allrecipes.com.
TripAdvisor. With any number of travel review sites out there, TripAdvisor is a long-trusted source of user-generated reviews for hotels, restaurants, attractions and more in cities all across the world. Planning an Alaskan cruise? Check out the site’s message boards for excursion ideas. Searching for a B&B in the County Cork countryside? Peruse reviews for the best Irish breakfast and much more. www.tripadvisor.com.
OpenTable. Making a dinner reservation has never been easier than with OpenTable, which lists restaurants in cities all across the world. Search for a spot nearby, read reviews and reserve a table in seconds. You’ll receive an online confirmation, send an email to your dining companions and receive points after you dine that you can trade in for a dining certificate after enough accumulate. www.opentable.com.
Words with Friends. Word nerds, rejoice! This uber-popular Scrabble-like game--and its Boggle-like sister, Scramble with Friends--has made spelling cool, competitive and downright addictive. Log on, sync with your mobile phone or social media sites, and let the games begin! www.wordswithfriends.com.
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