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PicMonkey Steps Up To The Plate

1 Jun

Looking for a free picture editor? You need to check out Pic­Mon­key. The picture editing service shares sim­i­lar features of Pic­nik because the same creators of Picnik are the brains behind PicMonkey. You may remember Picnik was the pop­u­lar photo edit­ing ser­vice that Google purchased and clos­ed down in April.

Pic­Mon­key is bet­ter than ever. It’s faster, more pow­er­ful, and eas­i­er to use than Picnik. The only downside is that the site requires flash so it doesn’t work on an iPad or iPhone.

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Getting Cozi (Review): Organizing A Growing Family, Digitally

19 Apr

I am fortunate enough to have young kids, ages 4 (Luke, soon to be 5 by the end of April), 3 (Caleb), and 5 months (Hannah… or “Babes” as Luke calls her). I love my growing family! And the larger my family grows, the busier I seem to get.

It’s become clear to me that as busy as I think I am right now with family activities, I’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg. My oldest is in pre-school 3 times a week, karate 2 times a week, and starts all-day Kindergarten in the Fall (and I’ve heard a rumor about soccer in the Fall, too). Caleb starts pre-school next year, and Hannah will be right on his heels.

I reflected on this growing challenge one Saturday morning with my wife, Tara. She suggested we find some way to organize a family calendar, digitally. Enter, Cozi (

Cozi organizes your family life into 4 sections:

  • Calendar
  • To Do Lists
  • Shopping
  • Journal

Family Calendar Feature
The calendar is easily the best thing about Cozi. You can assign each person in your family a color code, then build out the calendar as you would in Outlook or Google Calendar, only with events color coded for who is involved. Recurrence is setup (just like Outlook), making it easy to populate your calendar quickly and thoroughly.

There is a single, linear view for the calendar (scroll up and down), which honestly makes it easy to navigate, even though it has no view or navigation variety. It is also easy to organize the calendar by individual.

Family To Do Lists Feature
It’s easy to organize several To Do lists for each individual setup in the calendar. For example, when my wife and I visit her parents each Sunday I have a checklist I can go by to make sure I don’t forget to bring anything important. You can also have shared To Do lists, and lists for individuals.

Family Shopping List Feature
This works exactly the same as the To Do list feature, complete with the ability to email a list to anyone.

Family Journal Feature
The idea of this feature is nice, but it’s not something I use much. Without the ability to socially share the funny story Caleb told, or the fact that Luke just broke a board at karate, or the cute picture of Hannah, it’s a bit cumbersome and unnecessary.

Best Feature
Organizing the calendar by individual makes it easy to see who is busy and who can help!

Biggest Bummer
Push notifications are not yet setup. I use the app on my iPhone 100% of the time. Preferably, I’d like to receive calendar notifications like I do from iCal, with just a couple of the important notes about the event pushed through as a reminder.

The app does allow for email and text message notifications, but the convenience of receiving push notifications is a big miss.

Overall Score: 8/10

Bottom Line on Cozi
The developers have correctly identified 4 primary areas of a family’s life that are in need of organization and coordination. But more features can be added to make Cozi even better. For example, the Shopping Lists can be evolved on the model of Grocery IQ, while the Journal could allow for social sharing (or allow you to toggle that feature off, depending on your family’s feelings about privacy on the web).

If you have a hectic family schedule, Cozi can help organize it for you. It’s easy enough for the entire family to use and free of charge, but not yet feature rich. Let’s cross our fingers in hopes the developers will ramp up soon!

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Parents Poll: Your Kids Internet Usage

29 Dec

How involved are you with your children’s online viewing habits? Are you engaged when it comes to their Internet activity? Are you checking their smart phones routinely? Are you monitoring what sites they are surfing? Are you intimated and don’t know where to start? Do you not feel you need to review their usage? How can you turn over a new leaf in 2012?

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Online File Converter

10 Jun

How often do you find yourself stuck with a file you just can”t open? Most likely the file you received is in a format that you simply do not have the software to open. One solution to the challenge is to convert the file into a format that you can read. I found this free online program that will just about convert any file you need called Convert Files. The site is simple to use and gives you a handy progress meter as you wait.

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Creately, Free Diagram Tool

13 May

At Leading Hands, we are constantly scouring the web to find tools that will improve your digital lifestyle. In the past we have recommended Gliffy as the alternative to Microsoft’s Visio, software that lets you make diagrams. Creately is another free diagram tool worth checking out.

Creately lets you create beautiful flowcharts, diagrams and drawings. Build software projects for web mockups, business diagrams for work flows and educational templates for chemistry labs.

The app features dragging and dropping objects, connecting objects and sharing them with other contributors. When you sign-up your are automatically given a free plan with limited functionality and all your diagrams are public. Pricing plans are available and even more special pricing for educators. The app is available in the Google Marketplace.

What do you think of Creately?

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Dropbox is Sharing and Storage

16 Nov

What is Dropbox?
Drop box is similar to You Send It where you can share files back and forth to each other. However the energized file sharing site also has a built in feature like Mozy where you can back up files from your system. With the initial sign-up, you get two gig free of space but of course you can upgrade for more. I also discovered there is a new iPhone app for Dropbox too!

Stephen Herron who introduced me to Dropbox said he is using it primarily for storage of his writing projects. He is also impressed with how everything automatically syncs up between his laptops and PCs. He proclaims that, “it’s very handy.”

Give drop box a try.

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Zamzar Online File Converter

14 Sep

The internet is truly powerful and if used the right way, you can produce powerful results. Remember that line from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Exhibit A is a recent find called Zamzar which is an online file converter that works great.

Do you have a video in mpg format you need convert to avi? Do you have a word document you need converted to a PDF? Whatever file format you need to covert from audio, video, doc or image, Zamzar can do it! The free account does the basic conversion, if you want to store all your files online, rename, increase maximum size limits or establish a secure connection, then you’ll need to upgrade to a paid account.

Free Zamzar account:

  • Up to 100 mega-bytes (mb)
  • No contract
  • No sign-up
  • File conversion of image, doc, video and audio

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Need that old program back?

9 Jul

I was recently talking with a friend and he reminded me of a great website that often gets overlooked called Old Apps. Let’s say you were a big fan of the defunct program MusicMatch, an audio player that Yahoo discontinued, but you still wanted to get it. At Old Apps, you can download outdated software for free.

Search through thousands of oldies but goodies apps and party like it’s 1999.

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Need Software, No Cash?

5 Mar

Before making the next big software purchase, check out Source Forge.

You just might be surprised what you don’t have to pay for.

My Home Computers run Win XP, at work its Mac OSX. I even run Ubuntu at times. Sourceforge has software for everybody.

I needed to convert some video files and then make a DVD. At Work the Mac has built in options. At Home I needed solutions. I was able to find open source software at for converting my video files and make the DVD with menus.

Everything was found, installed and going within a half hour.

George Jetson here I come.

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The Next Generation of Chat

14 Oct

If you don’t have a web cam, then you are in a growing minority of computer owners. Now web cameras are built standard into most computers and if not they can be cheaply purchased. With the increase of broadband and the decline of dial-up Internet service, the ability to easily communicate via video on the web has increased two fold. With this new found speed of data, the quote from Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility” seems relevant.  Webcams create a new reality and safety measures should be considered.

For example, I stumbled upon Paltalk while I was searching for instant messaging programs. Paltalk is an all-in-one instant messaging, group video calls & chat room program. With this Swiss army knife program, now you are not only chatting with others online, you are utilizing your web camera to take it to the next level.

Teen Webcam Safety Tips:

  • Keep your computer in an open area
  • Check what new programs have been installed on computer
  • Establish what is appropriate to do and say online

Are you concerned about the impact of web cams and your teen? What steps do you take to ensure children are using them appropriately?

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