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If you’re in charge of organising your family, you’ve probably realised that having great tools at your disposal goes a long way. Calendars, to-do lists, shopping lists, project planning: all of these need to be managed well so that you can co-ordinate the needs of each and every family member. And that’s a tough ask of any app.
Ideally, you need a system that’s easy to use, reliable and easy to share with the family. Everyone needs a way to get the information in and out of the tools when they need it. So, which tools are the best? After hearing rave reviews about Famjama and Cozi, I decided to take a look.
Famjama is an online organiser, with a smart mobile site with support for both Android and iOS. So, you can stay organised whatever device you and your family members use. When you sign up, you list all the members of your household, caretakers, and family friends so that everyone can access the site and manage things. As per most computer accounts, privileges can be managed individually, so that scheming kids can’t delete their chores and the technologically inept can’t accidentally delete things. Each person is colour-coded to make it easy to see what’s going on in the calendar and to-do lists. Famjama also lets you nominate how each person will be notified of upcoming things, be it on mobile, email or Facebook.
Famjama covers all the day to day things such as shopping, calendars and to-do lists. Calendars are similar to Google calendars, with calendars individualised and colour-coded for each family member.
To-do lists are divided into your own to-do items and your requests for others. The requests will show up in the relevant person’s to-do list, and it shows who made the request. Shopping list items can be categorised to make it easier to manage and mark as complete when done. Shopping categories such as Clothing, Home & Garden, Sports & Toys, and Grocery & Pharmacy are suggested. The Famjama smart shopping list automatically generates discount coupons (when available) for things you are planning to buy.
If you have caretakers who are willing to use the Famjama system too, you can add notes for them, including emergency numbers, details of where you will be, meals and snacks that will be appropriate, any allergies, and house rules, bedtimes, etc. The caretaker can also leave notes for the parents about how well-behaved the kids were.
Less important, yet interesting features are Famjama’s Groups & Teams, and Friends. Essentially, you can use the Famjama system to write short announcement posts with links and pictures. This can be used as a sort of internal, private blog. Groups & Teams lets Famjama users create a mailing list for their various activities. If you put a message on the Family Announcements system it will pop up for all members using Famjama, so everyone will see it.
In short, Famjama does everything you need it to do. The mobile site is fantastic, but it would be even better to have the iCal sync to Google Calendar. The To-Do/Request system is a piece of genius, as it allows kids to make requests of their parents in a way their parents will notice as they go about their business. Famjama is really worth checking out.
Cozi is a well-established site, so it’s had time to polish up and push the boundaries of what it offers. The main website offers interesting articles to read, example lists, calendars and all sorts of useful tips. Cozi makes it easy for you to get started, by letting you pick items from their pre-prepared to-do list library. This is a huge time-saver and stress-reliever!
The main thing to remember when setting up Cozi is that you’re using a freemium model. The paid version is $29.99 per year, which isn’t a lot for all it offers. Cozi Gold adds things like extra reminders, shopping mode on mobile, meal plans and removal of adverts. It’s not essential, but you might be tempted in the future.
Calendars in Cozi are fantastic. You can colour-code each house member, import Internet calendars, and export calendars you create in Cozi. This means you can share a read-only feed of the calendar, not enable two-way syncing with shared calendars. In that respect, Cozi could be made better.
You can import iCal feeds into Cozi, so if there are some family members who already have Google calendars they update, you can just import them to share with the rest of the family. You can also add your local public holiday calendars, school holiday calendars, club calendars etc. As for the use of calendars in Cozi generally, you can enter appointments using natural language, which makes it easy for anyone to use.
Shopping lists, meal planning & to-do lists are a huge part of organising a family, so it’s good to see them well implemented in Cozi. It’s easy to reorganise all your lists into groups, mark tasks as complete, delete, and more.
Cozi also has a family journal, which can be synced to Facebook in order to share posts. The simplicity of it is a timesaver — simply upload a picture and write a few notes. You get to keep them all together in Cozi and share on Facebook.
Something that really puts the icing on the cake for Cozi is the weekly agenda emails. It’s a fantastic way to remind yourself to pay attention to your family’s calendar and tasks, then make sure it all happens during the week. For someone like me, who already uses Google Calendar, my favourite to-do list apps and more, this is one of the big reasons I would bring information into Cozi. That and the great mobile apps (for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and m.cozi.com) and the fact that you can keep all of your family planning in one place.
Which One Is Your Choice?
In the end, despite Famjama being a fantastic tool, I have decided to stick with Cozi. It comes down to useability and the general feel of the website. Cozi isn’t cluttered up with tools I won’t use, and gets straight into the things I will use. Also, since I already keep Google calendars for the adults of the house, it makes sense to maintain them and bring them into the system, rather than recreating them in a family app. In this respect, only Cozi will do.
More Family Organising Apps
Some other apps complimentary to Famjama and Cozi are Life 360, AboutOne and Doxo. All of them focus on different sides of family management, so are well worth looking into. For instance, Life360 is all about location information and sharing quick messages with a circle of people in your family. Meanwhile, AboutOne focuses on important documents and Doxo is all about receipt collation. You might also like to check out some Android apps for keeping your house organised and doing chores.
What do you use to keep your family organised? Which are the features that make your favourite apps perfect?