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“Hacking” Your Own “Apps”

HackThose who use smartphones regularly know that there are all kinds of apps available for doing all kinds of useful things. A large number of them are free (which can be a great thing for leaving yourself free to switch from one platform to another when your contract is up, as Ryan mentioned recently).

There are also, of course, a large number of paid apps for all the major platforms. If a paid app does what you need it to do, and does it well for what you consider to be a reasonable price, great! I certainly have a few of those on my phone, and they’re not sort of thing I could create for myself (Tweetbot’s an example; I use it daily, and it’s essential to my workflow). But I find there are other needs for which there’s a paid app available, but it either doesn’t do quite what I need, or it’s more than I want to pay when I could very easily create my own alternative.

To take an example: LifeHacker recently reviewed Spendee. It looks like a well-designed app, to be honest, and at $1.99 it isn’t horribly expensive.

Still, it was more than I wanted to pay for simple expense tracking. Plus, I need to keep track of a broader range of categories for reporting purposes than Spendee seems to manage. So I created a simple, cross-platform substitute for myself, using Google Forms. I only needed three questions on the form: one for the amount, one enabling me to choose the appropriate category from a list, and one for any additional notes or commentary that I might need at the end of the month or quarter. To get quick access to the form, I simply pinned the form’s web page to my home screen.

Do I get the fancy charts that Spendee provides? No, but I do get quick and easy access to the information I need, and am able to track the categories I need to report on with minimal fuss.

What about you? Have you ever created your own app rather than using something that was already in your platform’s app store? Let us know about it in the comments.

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by 77221056@N00]

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