If you take just a casual look at the iOS App Store, you’ll see that personal assistants are a dime a dozen, and I have personally tried and discarded many. Many iOS users are perfectly content with Siri, the in-built iOS personal assistant which can do everything from take notes to telling you the meaning of life.
But Siri only does what you tell it to do – it responds to direct questions, it doesn’t take the initiative and remind you of things itself. So what if you need a virtual personal assistant keeping a watch on your schedule and telling you when peoples birthdays were, or keeping your address book up-to-date? One good app for that is the free EasilyDo. It takes a bit of setting up, but finally you’ll have a nice little app keeping watch on the little details while you take care of the bigger picture stuff.
Once you’ve installed it and opened it up, head to the settings and you’ll a row along the top indicating all possible accounts that you can connect. At present, it supports Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Exchange, iCloud, IMAP mail accounts, Evernote, LinkedIn, Twitter, Dropbox and Box.
Obviously you are under no obligation to connect any particular account, so just use the ones you want and ignore the rest. Tap on the icon and you’ll be taken to the appropriate login and permissions pages. Then when you have authorized the app to take over your life and steal your soul, the little icon will light up showing that it is now working as advertised.
Further down this settings page, you’ll see tabs for your profile and other preferences. Your profile is where you can enter your home and work addresses (more on that later) and the preferences tab enables you to specify things like what version of Maps you want to use (Google or Apple), and what measurement of temperature you prefer (fahrenheit or celsius).
The time “Saved” dial in the middle is supposed to show you how much time the app has saved you by doing your small tasks for you. To me, it’s a pretty pointless feature, but you may beg to differ.
Once your accounts have been linked, it’s time to see what this personal assistant can do for you. Again, there’s no obligation to use all of these features, so just enable and disable at will.
I don’t have this section enabled at all, because I work from home, so the features are not needed in my case. Plus this section requires GPS to be constantly on, which is a HUGE battery drainer. This would only be practical, if for example, you had the phone constantly charging in your car as you were driving.
Daily Commute gives you an estimated drive time in traffic, so you can plan your commute to work. Directions To Home and Directions To Work are fairly self-explanatory. The rest of the options here are also fairly obvious.
If you are constantly on the move, these features can be extremely useful but make sure you have an extra source of juice for your battery. Plus you shouldn’t mind being constantly tracked by GPS (some privacy fanatics may shrink from this).
This section obviously relies on you connecting your Facebook account to the app. I recommend you do so, because otherwise you would be missing out on some of EasilyDo’s best features. I am just going to summarise what I think are the best ones.
Birthdays tells you several days in advance when one or more of your Facebook friends has a birthday. As well as reminding you, it will also offer to leave a customized birthday message on that person’s Facebook wall on your behalf on the day. This is very useful if you have a Swiss cheese memory (like me) and are likely to forget the birthday again. It has saved my hide on more than one occasion.
RSVP’s will respond to your Facebook event invites and add the events you’re going to to your calendar. Tagged Photos Of Me shows you the photos in which you have been tagged over the previous 24 hours. Very useful for keeping on top of any potentially embarrassing photos of you which are about to pop up on Facebook.
My Profile Picture is a very useful one if you also have a Twitter account. When you change your Facebook photo, the app will automatically change it on your Twitter account too. This is great because personal branding is the big thing online, and keeping your photos synced is one less thing for you to think about.
This section is huge (so much so that I couldn’t fit all of the options in the one screenshot!). There’s so much here that I’ve just taken the time to highlight my most-used features, and there’s plenty left to explore.
Important Email Alerts notifies you on your phone when an email matching your search criteria arrives. Apparently there are people who do not live in their email inbox. Weird. Contact Information is a personal favourite. When you make a new contact, EasilyDo will offer to save the information to your address book and Evernote.
You can use Job Changes to keep watch over your LinkedIn account and when someone announces a new job, you are told right away so you can say congratulations (and ask if there are any other positions going). Package Tracking will tell you the status of a package at all times when you buy something that has tracking.
Bill Pay Reminders… well, do you really need me to explain this one?
Basically this app is running your life and holding your hand. The only thing it doesn’t do for you is cook dinner, and listen to you moan about your work day.
Calendar, Contacts, & Extras
Finally there are a number of features that deal with your calendar, contacts, and a couple of extra features. The Next Calendar Event not only tells you about your next meeting on your calendar, but also gets directions for you so you don’t get lost and offers to “contact attendees”. Never miss a meeting or be late again.
Finally, Online Privacy Checkup emails you a monthly reminder about what apps can access your private data so you can review it.
Once you have activated the ones you want, wait for the app to run through your accounts and do its thing. Then on the main screen, you’ll start to see reminders arriving.
Just tap the ones you want to act on, and swipe the ones you want to delete. Easy as that. Give it a try and see how many of the small details it manages to take care of for you in your life. Never again will you forget a birthday, miss a meeting, have a messy address book, or have disorganized receipts. You now just have to teach it how to make coffee and take shorthand, and you’ll be all set.
Download: EasilyDo (free)