CUE iOS app - iPhone on wood surface

If you are like me, then you have found it becoming impossible to keep up with the daily barrage of emails, contacts, calendars, tweets, posts, files and more. It's Sunday, and despite my best efforts at zero-inbox, I've got over 30 unread emails in my inbox. There are a few updates — damn those little red circles — on Twitter and Facebook for my attention, and I’ve reserved Sunday for blog maintenance and responding to a LinkedIn request. Today is also a cleanup day in the Williams household and preparing a plan for next week. There a lot going on and keeping up with the when, where and the who can be quite challenging. Two developers, Daniel Gross and Robby Walker, had similar problems and decided to do something about it. Their solution is called Cue.

Cue is a free service that leverages the information in your email, contacts, calendar, and social accounts like LinkedIn and Facebook to give you a quick snapshot of your day. I've used it for several months, and I love it. I check Cue in the morning to see what's happening for the day. Cue also displays some necessary weather information so that I can dress appropriately. I've used the sunrise and sunset information to plan out weekend photo-shoots.

CUE iOS app - iPhone in hand

Creating a Cue account is easy -- all you need is an email address. You can do this on the web or via the well designed Cue app. Once your account has been created, you can begin linking your Gmail, iCloud, Google Calendar, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all the other online accounts that you depend on every day.

CUE iOS app - Linked Accounts

Once you've linked your accounts to Cue, the service starts pulling information from these accounts and uses algorithms to create a personalised overview of the events and activities of your day. Cue correlates information in your Gmail with your iPhone contacts, LinkedIn profiles and contacts, and Facebook and Twitter contacts. Cue then provides you with a dashboard view of your schedule and adds useful contextual information based on other data from your social networks and email. You can customise Cue to show as much or as little information as you want.

CUE iOS app - Customize CUE

For example, if I have a meeting Cue will connect that event with related emails, phone numbers, and addresses, even display a photo for the person with whom I'm meeting. If I've recently exchanged emails with a personal Cue will highlight that as well. Tap on a person, and you’ll always see the most up-to-date contact info along with any recent communications and the contact’s latest posts on Facebook and Twitter.

CUE iOS app - Notifications

Cue creates a comprehensive profile for each contact based on the information in your iPhones Contacts and Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. Cue also automatically removes duplicates, keeps phone numbers updated and creates new entries.

Cue enhances your existing calendar by automatically connecting your events to related phone numbers, people, and addresses.

Cue can also search across linked accounts to find the information you need. Perhaps you want to find out if you have an upcoming meeting with a contact in the next few weeks. You can search across your calendar, emails, etc. Because I've linked Cue to my online storage accounts - Dropbox and Google Docs - I can quickly search for documents relevant to the meeting I'm attending.

CUE iOS app - Settings

You choose which accounts to link, so Cue works for you. Since Cue is also a web service, some information is transferred to Cue's servers1. However, since most of this information is already in several cloud services, I felt quite comfortable using the service. I can unlink accounts at any time, from any device, and all data will be promptly and permanently removed from Cue. The service has an account deletion. Activate that, and your entire Cue account and all data are deleted from Cue's servers.

Most accounts can be connected for free. However, linking some accounts -- Yammer, Evernote, Google Reader, Tumblr and a few others -- requires a Premium account or can be unlocked by inviting your friends to sign up. A premium account is $4.99 per month or $49.99 for a year — a list of what's included for free shows below.

Cue Free

  • Gmail
  • Google Docs
  • Google Calendar

  • Google Contacts

  • Google Apps Mail

  • Google Apps Contacts

  • Google Apps Calendar

  • Google Apps Docs

  • iOS Calendars (iPhone App only)

  • Yahoo Mail

  • AOL Mail

  • iCloud Mail

  • Facebook

  • Twitter

  • Dropbox

  • LinkedIn

  • Google Reader - unlockable by inviting friends

  • Tumblr - unlockable by inviting friends

  • Pinboard - unlockable by inviting friends

  • Reddit - unlockable by inviting friends

The Cue web service while useable is not yet feature-complete. Some aspects of the service — e.g. events — are in beta. The web service might be useful for doing the initial links of all your services to Cue. A large responsive web page can be easier to use than the 4” screen on an iPhone when typing in email addresses and password.

CUE Web Service - MacBook

Summary

I struggled to write a summary of this app. Cue simply lets you know the what, who, where and when of your day. It’s the app that replaces the paper calendar on your fridge — the one with the PTA meeting, the band recital time, the doctor's appointment, etc. — but with more context to help you be productive. Download it now. It’s free in the App Store.


  1. Cue has access to a lot of personal information. To feel comfortable you might want to read their privacy and security statements. ?

I'm a big Google services user. I've had a Gmail account since the day the service launched and Gmail has been my default email address since. When Google launched the Calendar service I integrated that into my daily life. Google Talk hasn't taken over the instant messaging world but it quickly became my preferred client. With each iteration of the OS since Leopard, Apple has made it easier to integrate these Google Services, including Address Book into my Mac life. Apple's latest Mac operating system, OS X 10.7 Lion, has been out for some time and Apple has made significant changes to some of the native apps including Mail and iCal that make setup and use of Google services even easier. Let me show you.

## System Preferences ##

The simplest method to setting up Google services on OS X 10.7 is via the _System Preferences_. OS X Lion System Preferences has a new option called _Mail, Contacts & Calendars_ under the _Internet & Wireless_ section. Select it.

Screen Shot 2011 09 03 at 10 13 56 AM

## Mail, Contacts & Calendar ##

This section reminds me a bit of the Mail preferences pane in iOS. From here we can set up various email and calendaring services from Yahoo, AOL and others. To setup a particular service, click the _Add Account…_ button and select the icon for the service. In this case, we are setting up Google services so select Gmail. NOTE: This is the same way to set up Google Domain services.

Screen Shot 2011 09 03 at 10 14 25 AM

Once you select Gmail you will be prompted to add you Gmail (or Google Domain) username and password. The username should be you complete email address. After entering your credentials click _Setup_.

Screen Shot 2011 09 03 at 10 14 56 AM

You may have to wait a few seconds while your Mac connects to Google's service.

Screen Shot 2011 09 03 at 10 15 52 AM

Once complete you will be presented with a screen to confirm which services you want enabled. As you can see below, I've selected all of them including iChat. Click _Add Account_ when you are ready to go ahead.

Screen Shot 2011 09 03 at 10 16 05 AM

The process for adding Google Domain accounts is similar. You should now be able to use your Google Contacts via the Mac Address Book, your Gmail via Mail.app, and your Google Calendar via iCal. Any changes to your Google Calendar or Contacts will be sync to your Mac and vice versa.

## Final Notes ##

My wife and I each have Google calendars and quite often we have a need to view each others calendars. Google Calendar enables us to make all or part of our calendars sharable for ease of scheduling. I'm involved in a number of social clubs and I have subscribed to their published calendars. The process above will only sync the default Google calendar to OS X. To enable syncing for any subscribed or share calendars you'll need to follow a few more steps.

Launch iCal and select Preferences from the file menu. Select the _Accounts_ tab, the select the Gmail account, and then the _Delegation_ tab. After a few seconds a list of shared and subscribed calendars should appear. Select the check boxes next to the ones you want to view in iCal then close the preferences window.

Screen Shot 2011 09 03 at 2 19 16 PM

Google provides a method for accessing their Gmail service via the IMAP protocol. IMAP is a standard protocol for accessing email but unlike POP3 the email stays on the remote server. With POP3 you are limited to reading your email from one location. With IMAP the email stays on the server and you can read it from any computer. IMAP is the method I use to access my Gmail in Apple Mail. If I read an email in a web browser then it is marked as read on the server and in Mail.app. The iPad also has support for IMAP. Google provides no instruction on how to access the calendar service via the iPad but setup is fairly easy.

Google provides a method for accessing their Calendar service via the CalDAV protocol. CalDAV is a standard protocol that allows access to web based calendars from desktop clients like iCal. From iCal I can create calendar entries that appear in my Google web calendar and vice versa. The iPad also has support for CalDAV. Google provides no instruction on how to access the calendar service via the iPad but setup is fairly easy.

Setup Mail and Calendar

Add AccountsTo first thing we need to do is launch the Settings app on the iPad and click the Mail, Contact, Calendar tab.  We will be presented with several options but we are going to select Gmail.

Google Apps MailEnter your email address, password. The Description field is optional but go ahead an enter something to identify the account especially if you have multiple email account.  Then select Next.

Verifying Google Apps CalendarYou will get a message that your account is being verified.

Google Apps EmailIf your user-name and password are correct, the iPad will login you in and return you to the Mail, Contact, Calendar tab. You will now see a list of your mail and calendar accounts. Select the Mail account you just created (this is why it's important to enter something in the Description field). We are going to ensure that we are communicating securely with Google's servers.  Select Advanced?
Use SSLSelect the switch to ensure that SSL is enabled. SSL is a encryption technology that ensures that the communication between your iPad and Google's servers stays secure. Select "Done" and your mail account will be setup.

IMG_0015Email setup is now complete. Now for calendar. Back at the Add Account screen, select Other. From this screen select Add CalDAV Account.

Google Apps CalendarEnter www.google.com for the server and then add your Google Apps email address and password. If you have a Gmail account enter your email address.  Select None.  You don't need to add anything under Advanced so just go ahead and select Done.  Once your account information is verified you will be returned to the main Mail, Contact, Calendar tab?

IMG_0012You should now be able to sync your calendar and email with Google's services.

What about Contacts?

Neither Google nor Apple provide a way sync Google Contacts with the iPad directly as we have done above with Mail and Calendar.  However, all is not lost.  Apple provides a way via iTunes and setup is easy.

Plug in your iPad and then select it in iTunes.

Picture 1Select the the Info tab.  Click the Sync Address Book Contact check-box.  Then select the All contacts radio button.  Next, select the Sync Google Contacts check-box and click the Configure button.

Google Contacts Login infoEnter you Google ID and password and click OK.  Then click the Sync button and iTunes will sync your current Google Contacts to your iPad.  Each time you sync your iPad, iTunes will sync your any changes to your Google Contacts to the iPad Contacts.  Changes to iPad Contacts are synced back to Google Contacts.

Conclusion

I love Google Apps and I am excited that I can check or update my mail, calendar or contacts from anywhere - a browser, my Mac, and now, my iPad.  I have also written articles on how to sync Google Apps with Mail, Calendar, and Contacts with your iMac.