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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Digital Grocery Lists

I like making lists.

Lists are cool.

I don't need to make lists in order to be organized; I make lists because I am organized.

My wife hates that I plan things out as much as possible before executing something.  She's always been... well... spontaneous at best... impulsive at worst.

Even grocery lists rarely escape her scorn.  Actually scorn isn't even the best word... more like derision.  She feels that her mind is a shrine of perfection wherein cute petite monks labour tirelessly to sort and organize all the information she could ever need.  If something is missed, or not included, well then that just means it wasn't important enough to make the cut.  So... I'm pretty sure she feels lists are for suckas.

I don't.

Anyway, I used to keep a magnetic note pad and pen of some variety on the fridge in our kitchen.  It was handy to write something down which has run out or is soon to run out, not even so much just so we'd remember to replace it, but more just to keep it all in a neat and tidy place of reference.  That way I just tear off the list and head to the grocer's.

However, with paper, corporeal, lists, there are... limitations.

For one, it exists in one place only.  Not so awesome if you find yourself at the grocery store, and your list is back at home on the fridge (mocking your forgetfulness, and laughing at you sinisterly, of course.)

For another, there are times when one or the other of us will do perfunctory shopping trips 'on-the-fly' and nab a thing or three but not the entire list.  Well, then you need to convince the taciturn and precocious list to let you cross off those things lest there be duplicates... or worse... in-store confusion over whether you actually did pick that item up or not...


So, it wasn't new to me to want to find some sort of digital replacement.  I've tried programs for the computer, and I even tried using some 'memo' functions on my ipod or phone... but really nothing was truly convenient.  It hit me every time that it was in fact MORE of a chore to navigate the stupid interface of these programs than to just write something down on a piece of paper.

Then, just last week, I decided to look for something specifically designed for grocery lists for my Android phone.  After doing a little bit of research and reading of forums, I came across app and decided to give it a try.

No more paper lists for me!

The biggest thing which intrigued me, was the usability across multiple platforms.  Even now I'm still a little jazzed at how awesome it is to be able to view/use/update the same list(s) whether from a computer, or EITHER my phone OR my wife's phone!

It's really cool, I have to say.

I have an Android phone, and my wife has a Blackberry, and this works perfectly well on both - not to mention our home PC - and download was simple, easy, and free for all three.

So, if you're interested in downloading that app I highly recommend it!  You can read the overview and the FAQ yourselves, for all the details.  Here, I'll just talk a bit about my own fun with it.

I made a list of all the items I could think of ever needing to stock my kitchen, and made that my 'baseline' list, so to speak.  I then picked and chose individual items from that list to make a 'currently needed' list which we worked off of that evening at the grocery store.

So, while making the list for the first time, I was pleased at the ability to make my own entries despite the app having a whole bunch of 'default' items.  It'll let you add any item you want, and call it anything you want, and then categorize it anyway you want!

Choose from a list of existing common items, or make up literally anything you want!  Clicking it more than once adds multiples of that item.

You can name an entry anything you like, and then put it in any category you can think of.
Even cooler, it kicks ass to be able to categorize these items according to where in the grocery store they reside.  (I'm big on efficiency, and often tailor my shopping lists to go with the flow of the store).  I was trying to get the categories to order differently than the default (alphabetical) and tried to get categories like "Dairy" to come after "Produce" and thinking to myself "Damn, it would be cool if it let me re-order the category hierarchy".  I even started to try to 'beat the system' and tried re-naming the categories to "1_Produce", "2_Dairy", etc.  But then I noticed these little 'grab-bars' on the category headers and had a tiny moment of love and appreciation for this app, and then promptly felt stupid.  
Not only can you make any category you want, you can also re-order them!
I was gratified to see that you can, in fact, re-order the categories.  So I restored their names, and shuffled the categories around according to the order in which I'd hit them in-store.

So... the making of lists in this app is actually quite intuitive.

The next coolest thing, is the ability to actively 'cross-off' items as you're getting them.  So, I'll bring up my current list on my phone, tell the app (in the settings menu) to ignore my phone's natural tendency to turn off the display after a few seconds (which is definitely a handy feature for an app to have), and then follow the list in order as I flow naturally through the store, giving each listing a quick tap to take it off the list.  Rather than remove it forever though, which would suck, it actually just moves it to the bottom where there is a special header just for 'crossed-off items'.  The text will even be "striked-through" so you know they're there but that they've been crossed off.

A single tap moves any item from the list to the 'crossed-off' category. A second tap moves it back again to its original category (if you changed your mind!) When finished, hit 'Delete' and they're gone for good!

Pretty darn cool.

The single best thing about this app, however, and as I said above, is the fact that the lists get updated in real-time, regardless of who is manipulating them.  I mean, you have to 'sync' the platforms to your master account first (which is just done, quite simply, with a master email address and password) but after that you can play with your list from anywhere.  So... when this was novel, and we were still just trying it out, my wife and I BOTH had the list up on our respective phones, and when one or the other of us 'crossed-off' an item, it immediately updated on both phones!  WAY freaking cool!

Anyway, as long as I keep the list up-to-date, I expect this app to make our grocery shopping super awesomer.  ;)

The only un-intuitive thing about this process is the whole logging in on my PC, or the app on my phone, in order to "write down" a needed grocery item... but I suppose I will get used to that, and the hope is that eventually it'll become as natural as just grabbing a pen and paper used to be...

Anyway, check it out if you're interested!

1 comment:

  1. WOW!!!!! It sounds great .... a little too complicated for my senior mind. I make lists to remember to make lists ..