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Phoenix Forward

5 time-saving apps to simplify your life

Mobile apps that can effectively discipline your kids, repel bugs and drive your car for you are probably still a way off, but you can find plenty that will make your life easier today. Here are five you might not have considered that are designed to handle chores and tasks for you in new and efficient ways:

MyFitnessPal
MyFitnessPal

Among the scores of fitness-related apps out there, this one stands out from the pack, according to Yolanda Gilyard, area chair of mathematics at the University of Phoenix Shreveport-Bossier Campus.

“MyFitnessPal [helps] me maintain my daily calorie count and flexible schedule,” Gilyard says, noting that the app works far better than other fitness apps she’s tried. “I enter my food intake in real time, and I can still meet the demands of my unpredictable workday and family responsibilities.”

The app is most useful in helping you determine how much exercise you need, as well as healthy choices when grocery shopping. You can also set weight-loss goals, and the app tracks your progress automatically.

Best features: “The app tells me [that] I need to insert a quick 30-minute workout whenever I go over my daily [calorie] goal,” Gilyard notes, which is handy when she wants to indulge in a treat. Not only that, but it can scan bar codes on food packaging for instant calorie information and also has a robust built-in food database.

Cost: Free

TaskRabbit

This mobile version of the popular Web-based errand service will help connect you with freelancers who can do everything from picking up your groceries to babysitting and home repair. Currently available in nine major U.S. cities, the service is expanding rapidly.

TaskRabbit uses GPS technology to connect you with vetted contractors in your neighborhood, and also suggests pricing for different types of tasks based on local averages.

Best features: The app includes automated task lists, voice recognition software and status updates.

Cost: Free

Contraction Master

Don’t want to fumble with a pen and pencil when awaiting your bundle of joy? Popular among expectant mothers, their partners and doulas — professional labor coaches — Contraction Master times and tracks contractions automatically on your mobile device and tells you when it’s time to go to the hospital.

Available for iPhone® and Android™ gadgets, this app suite isn’t just for labor; it also includes functions for your pregnancy, delivery and postpartum recovery process.

Best features: Look for workout programs for safe pregnancy and after-delivery exercises, along with a tool for tracking breast-feeding sessions.

Cost: Free

kidzTimer

If you want to limit your kids’ computer time but aren’t available to police their online activities 24/7, Treg Gardner, an information systems specialist and area chair for the IT program at University of Phoenix, recommends that you try this parental-control app, available for Mac® and iPad® computers.

Best features: What makes this app great is that it’s fully automated and doesn’t require monitoring. “The parent sets the time children are allowed to spend on the computer,” Gardner explains. “Once the time is up, the computer locks, and a password is required to get back in.”

Cost: $6

Spanish Anywhere

Need Spanish language skills for your next trip, but don’t want to spend time studying vocabulary and grammar? Then try this portable Spanish-English translator.

Accessible on all mobile device platforms, the app can help you with common Spanish phrases on the go. Look for an audio function that teaches proper pronunciation and tools for verb conjugations, business Spanish and vacation travel.

Best features: The comprehensive dictionary and phrase list works without an Internet connection, which is great for use in remote areas with unreliable Wi-Fi networks.

“I used it on my last trip to Mexico,” Gardner says. “It was way more convenient than a phrasebook or [taking a class].”

Cost: $8

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Android is a trademark of Google Inc.

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