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So, I'm at the gym the other day. Yeah, I know it's a miracle, but hey sometimes it happens. (The fact that we are going to Hawaii in three months where I will spend 80% of my time in a bathing suit and be photographed by my wife for distribution to most of the known universe when we get back, has nothing to do with it.) Anyway, I'm getting off the treadmill when I almost bump into another guy. No problem, it happens, and then I realize, "Hey I know that guy."
"Bob?" I ask. Yes, it is Bob. Bob from some meeting/event/seminar/tradeshow/party in the past. Bob (not his real name) runs a family owned supply company that specializes in something or another. Anyway, Bob and I got to talking at whatever it was that we were at together when our mutual professions came up and Bob mentioned that maybe he could use someone like me down the road. We exchanged cards and that was it.
As it turns out, Bob has some business for us now. Great. Only, I'm terrible with remembering everything in a situation like this. So, I do my best to talk to Bob while trying to memorize the important details. When we finish talking, I make a beeline for my locker. I dial the combination, rip open my gym bag and realize that I have nothing to take any note with. Why would I? It's my GYM BAG! What would I need a pen for at the gym? But, I notice my cellphone, I'm saved!
Until that day, I had the number for an online service named Jott programmed into my speed dial. I never use it. Well, not never, but hardly ever. Most of the time I do have pen and paper (I'm a writer). On this day, the voice on the other end informs me that the service is leaving beta testing and I'll have to start paying. Yipe! Whatever, just let me get these details down, and I'll worry about it late
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Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that people who provide useful services can't do it for free all the time, but I don't use Jott often enough to pay for it. So, I started looking for alternatives, and I'm glad, because I found reQall.
(Quick side note, I panicked too quickly, there is a free basic version of Jott still available. I'll compare the two in a later article.)
reQall works in several ways to help you remember and organize your tasks, ideas, and thoughts. The most straightforward way is to dial a number and record a message. A computer voice guides you through the process and then depending upon what you say, it transcribes what you have said and creates an appropriate list or message for you to access later.
So, in the example above, I would dial the number (1-888-9-REQALL) and then a computer will answer. It asks me if I want to "Add", "Share", or "Recall". I would say "Add" and then it beeps, just like an answering machine. At that point you record a message. What is so cool is that certain keywords get certain results. In this case I would say, "Note. Met Bob Smith at gym. He is president of Bob's Supply on King Road. He needs someone to re-write blah...blah...blah" Basically, anything you want to say for up to 30 seconds. (You can always call back if you need longer.)
Because I said, "Note", reQall really won't do anything with this message except send it on to me. You can set it to send a text message or an email, or whatever. Or, in this case, I'll go online when I get back home and get all the data.
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Super Cool Options
Ok, now this is pretty cool already, but you could just use the record option on your phone if you have one. But, it is all the other stuff reQall can do that makes it so useful for the home office user out defenseless in the real world.
When I'm done with the note, I will call back reQall. This time, I'll say "Add" and then say, "Call Bob tomorrow at 2:00pm" Now, reQall is smart enough to recognize certain words including "call", "tommorow", and "2:00pm" so it will actually add a todo to my list to call Bob at 2:00pm. I don't have to manually do it. Then, I can have it setup to send me a text message to remind me so that if I forget to logon and get the info or forget to move it into my calendar, I'll still get a reminder from reQall.
Wait, it gets better. I can also add my business partner to my reQall group. If it would be better for him to call Bob I can say, "Add", and then "Tell Sally to call Bob tomorrow at 2:00pm" and reQall will actually add that to Sally's todo list and then send her a text message to remind her all without any more interaction from me.
Other things reQall understands are "buy" which adds something to your shopping list, "meet" which adds something as an appointment (you can cheat and say "Meet the doctor at 4:00pm" to get your doctor's appointment on the calendar as a meeting), and it understands dates and times as well as things like tomorrow. "Next week" or "later this month" are no good, so you'll have to make up a date.
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The other great thing is the number of ways you get can reminders. Text messages don't help much when you are in a meeting and have your phone on silent. Email might be better. It does that. How about an RSS feed for yourself with all your todos and notes? It does that too. One of my latest favorite gizmos is the Firefox plugin which allows you to highlight text in your browser and select "Add to reQall". What you selected gets added as a note, so you can find the name of that company, or product, or website again without have to add a bookmark.
But, the best thing is that it integrates with your calendar. If you use Google Calendar, Outlook 2007, or Sunbird, you are all set. I hear it also does Apple iCal, but I haven't tried it (no Apple). There is also a client for Windows Mobile, but it is in alpha phase, so we'll leave that for the time being.
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Oh, yeah, it is free, and it isn't beta. It is free for as far as they know. My guess is that they are waiting to get bought out and we'll see what happens then, but until then, I won't miss making that call to Bob tomorrow!