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Grocery Gadget - Shopping App - Features

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This is a three-part blog entry about Grocery Gadget, a Shopping List app designed to work across multiple mobile device platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Amazon Nook & Nokia) as well as collaborate and interact through a web based portal. This way multiple family members can share shopping lists. I will be describing the iOS version and specifically the iPad version, which is how I use the program. The functions will be similar on the iPhone and other mobile device platforms with the biggest differences being due to screen sizes or user interface differences. As a group shopping list apps can take a while to set up and tweak. Once you get them setup and use them a while they can reduce your time preparing a long shopping list to mere minutes. Part 1 of this entry will talk a little bit about my own history with this type of software and will describe some of the Specific features of Grocery Gadget. PART 2 will describe the setup process and PART 3 will discuss using the app, day to day to create lists.

HISTORY:
Back in 2009 I started using a shopping list app on my iPhone called Groceries, by Sophiestication Software. I had dabbled with some other shopping list apps prior to this, but had not found a good fit for me. Shopping List apps can be a very personal thing. Their method of usage can feel very natural or very clunky, depending on how your brain works and the design philosophy of the app. I found many of the shopping apps either non-intuitive or clunky to use. So much so that making a manual list was almost a better alternative. If something is difficult to use, you are not going to want to use it. The Groceries app by Sophiestication Software worked in a way I could relate to. Yes it took me a while to setup, but once I did making lists was a breeze. Sadly Groceries had a rocky road during it’s lifespan. The developer got a lot of hate directed her way when she “had the nerve” to charge for a full version update (IE v1.0 to v 2.0). I really don’t understand how some people’s minds work. They can pay less for a piece of very useful software, than they do for their daily coffee at Starbucks. Yet they expect it to come with free upgrades for life. The real problem came when an update totally changed the method of creating shopping lists. What had been a one or two taps became multiple steps. Something that had been working very well changed for the worse for no apparent reason. I stopped using the app and although some changes were made to fix the issues, the developer also stopped developing the program. She had taken a job at Apple and was ceasing all future development of her apps including Groceries. As I recall she made the final version compatible with iOS7, made it free and ceased actively supporting it. While making her apps free was a nice gesture, the app still didn’t work the way it originally worked. Also I didn’t want to stick with an app that would someday stop working with a future version of iOS. The handwriting was on the wall-time to move on. Periodically I would try it out 3 or 4 of the various shopping apps to see if there was anything that was good fit for me. The original version of Groceries had spoiled me. Many of the other shopping apps lacked features found in Groceries and/or they lacked the ease-of-use that the original version of Groceries had. Finally about a year ago I found the app Grocery Gadget, which eventually became my replacement for Groceries.

BIG PICTURE:
Grocery Gadget is intended to be able to be used on multiple mobile devices, by multiple people, using multiple mobile platforms. One thing that made the program very attractive to me was a free web-based portal that could be used to help with organization and managing lists across multiple devices. The web portal is where the data for your lists is stored and this information is available to be shared and synched with other people on your web portal account. While you can create shopping lists on a mobile device, the intent of the web portal is to make creating and managing these lists easier. Using the web portal you are using a full-size computer screen and a full tactile keyboard. This makes the data entry quicker and easier. The web portal also has some additional list management functions not available on mobile devices. The web portal also let you import lists from some other software. The intent is you do the hard core work on your shopping list via the web portal. You use your mobile device for final setup of the lists, shopping and making minor tweaks to the lists. Where I primarily use Grocery Gadget on an iPad, I do more editing of lists on the iPad and less on the web portal than most people would. I use the iPad version because the screen is easier for me to see, than a mobile phone. This is true both at home and at the market. At home I can use a Bluetooth keyboard to help speed data entry. If I were using the iPhone for my shopping, I would definitely make more use of the web portal. The software for iOS devices comes in three flavors: Basic, Free and Pro:
The free Basic Version lacks certain features such is the ability to scan barcodes, set up multiple stores and the pricing features are somewhat limited. Additionally shopping list are limited to 20 items per list.
The Free version has all of the features of the Pro version, but you will see banner ads throughout the app.
The full-featured Pro version for iOS cost $2.99.

FEATURES:
In this section I will cover some of the primary features of the program with some tips on how are you might use them.


FEATURES - Multiple Stores:
This app can be set up with lists for multiple stores and you can re-create the aisles structure within the stores. This does several things for you. Some shopping apps do not allow you to customize items on a per store basis. This means every store has the same items whether the store actually carries those particular items or not. Grocery Gadget allows you to assign items on a per store basis. This way you can have lists for Kroger and Lowe’s and you aren't seeing lumber at Kroger and flour at Lowe’s. This also makes it more practical to have lists for other stores besides supermarkets, since you can assign items on a per store basis. Once you have created items for one list, you can move copies of these items to other lists. This can be done via your mobile device. If you have a bunch of list items to move, the the web portal makes this task even easier. These items aren't just cloned copies. Once you have moved an item to a second store, things like the price, sales tax, coupon availability or location (aisle) can be changed to suit the differences at the second store.


FEATURES - Pricing:
One of the line items on your list is the price. If you take the time to assign pricing to your items, you can actually see which store has the lowest pricing (Free and Pro versions). In the “Prepare” mode, if you assign a price to an item found on the Master Favorites list across multiple stores, it will apply to all stores. If you apply a price to an item in the “Shop” mode where it is assigned to a specific store, the price will apply to that store only. The total for the items on your list appears on screen in the “Shop” mode. The pricing data actually appears in two forms at the bottom of the screen. You see a total for your list on the left side and a total for the items that are actually “Bought” and in your card on the right side of the screen. You are also able to put in data information for two different sales tax rates, which can be assigned to specific stores. Items can be designated as tax-exempt and this information can be applied on a store by store basis too. This could prove very handy if you live near the border between two states. The Pro and Free version of the app use color coding to help you see the lowest price when an item on your list is available across multiple stores. The store with the lowest price we'll display that price a green in color. Other stores with higher prices for the same item will display that price in a red color. In the “Truth in Advertising” department: I do not assign prices to the items on my lists. Prices fluctuate on a day-to-day basis and I really don't feel like constantly entering new price data. Your mileage may vary.

FEATURES - Coupons:
The Program has a wide range of support for the use of coupons. This ranges from simple memos written by you to remind yourself an item is on sale for this week to support for online coupon providers. If the online coupon provider you use and the store you use are supported you can have the app Match up your shopping list with the available coupons for that store. Once again other than typing the occasional reminder that something is on sale, I don't use the coupon feature myself. I will provide a link below to the iOS seven online manual which will give you an idea of how the coupon feature works if you are interested. Any items with coupon information associated with them display badge on the right side of the screen in list view.

FEATURES - Shared Lists & Push Notifications:
The web portal is the key to sharing lists across multiple devices and multiple users. It also gives you online backup for your lists. Creating a group account enables several features. If your mobile platform supports push notifications and you have them turned on for Grocery Gadget, you can be notified of changes to the list made even while you're at the store. So if your wife makes a change to the list while you were shopping, the list will be updated and you will get a push notification. Since the shopping list is shared, two or more people can go shopping together to save time. Grocery Gadget will help keep you from buying two of the same item. As people buy items and check them off as “Bought”, the shopping list will be updated to reflect this on all devices.

FEATURES - Customized Aisles:
The program allows you to create custom aisle names on a per store basis. These aisles can be sorted any way you want. They can be alphabetical, or you can arrange them in the order that you visit them in a particular store. In the “Shop” mode, the program can learn the way you shop. As you check off items in a particular aisle the program will learn this. After several visits you will be presented with the list for that aisle in the order that you typically buy the items. Having items assigned to aisles and being able to order those aisles in the way that you shop, is a very powerful feature. I took my iPhone to my “go to” supermarket and snapped pictures of the hanging signs identifying the aisles and their content. As I add new items to my shopping list I take the time to assign them to an aisle.

FEATURES - Categories:
You can assign Categories to the items on your lists. This allows you to sort these items by Category when you are in the "Prepare" mode. This makes creating the list faster sometimes than doing it alphabetically. For example if you are going to be buying a lot of produce, rather than going up and down the list alphabetically, you can sort by Category. This will group all of the produce category items together on the list, making these items quicker and easier to find.

FEATURES - Multiple Lists:
The ability to have multiple lists is intended to make your shopping easier and more flexible. You can have different lists, with different types of items for different types of stores. You can also have list for several supermarkets which reflect their pricing and the actual items that store specifically carries. You can also have fixed lists or flexible lists. For example my parents have one supermarket they use for the majority of their shopping. They go to a different supermarket to buy a half a dozen items each week. These are items their primary supermarket does not carry. They could have a flexible list for their primary supermarket with all of the items they buy there. This list could be flexible where they have the program uncheck the items and remove them from the list each week. The list for the second store can be permanent. When they're done shopping, they simply have the program uncheck “Bought” items. This does not clear the list because it will be the same the following week.

FEATURES - Bar Code Scanning:
This feature proved less useful than I originally hoped for. You are able to add items to your list by using your mobile device’s built-in camera to scan the barcode. This will then present you with the information about the item. This would be one way to quickly build up a list of items you typically buy. Originally I thought this might be how I would enter data into the program. The problem is when you scan the item, it is listed by manufacturer and then product type. Some of the additional information is not always presented in a consistent format from product to product. I found it took more time to scan the item and then edit the information to get that information into the consistent format I use. I like having my list organized with the general category first followed by more specific information. I want to see “Tomato Paste - Muir Glen” and “Tomato Paste - Hunts” not Hunts Tomato Paste and Muir Glen Tomato Paste. The way I do it, the items appear together on the list making it quicker and easier to find. When adding items to list, I often visit my supermarket’s webpage and pull up the webpage for that specific item. All of the information I need to enter into Grocery Gadget is there. By manually entering the information, I can enter it into the program in a consistent format that I use for everything. In the long run this just makes it easier to find. TIP: One thing I do use the barcode scanning for is to add items for future shopping lists while at the store. There may be items I see at the store that aren't in the software yet, but I know I will use these items in the future. I will use the barcode scanner to scan those items. When I get home I will use the web portal to make the changes to those items to get them consistent with the naming conventions I use. By using the web portal I am able to sort by “Order Added”. This way, the items I just added at the store will all be at the bottom of the list and easy to find and update.

FEATURE - Photos:
The software allows you to use your mobile device’s camera to attach a picture to a particular entry. There are some limited editing tools where you can enlarge and/or crop the image. In the list view any items that have an attached photo receive a thumbnail so you know there's a photo associated with that item. I don't use this feature myself, but if I ever see an item where a picture of it would be handy to have in the future I will take advantage of it. I can see a couple good uses for this feature. Recently I was looking at a line of injector sauces where the manufacturer had about a dozen different products. The names and the descriptions were quite similar and the main distinguishing feature was the label of the jar. It would definitely be worth attaching a picture of the jar label to avoid future confusion. Where the software can be shared across multiple devices, you may run into a situation where one family member is the primary shopper in the other one is an occasional shopper. Adding some pictures here and there might help avoid confusion on the part of the occasional shopper. TIP 1: The software allows you to add existing photos two an item. Your supermarkets webpage often has product shots of the the various items they sell. Using these photos could save you the trouble of taking pictures at the supermarket or in your pantry. TIP 2: The developer suggests only using photos where truly needed to help conserve on memory.

PART 2 of this blog entry will discuss the setup process for Grocery Gadget and in PART 3 I will describe using the app for shopping.

SOME RELATED LINKS
Here are links to the other two blog entries in this series about Grocery Gadget. There are also links to the Developer’s website and the user guide for the iOS 7 version of Grocery Gadget.

   GROCERY GADGET - SHOPPING APP - SET UP 2014 Blog Entry about setting up tp create a Shopping Lists in the Grocery Gadgets app.
   GROCERY GADGET - SHOPPING APP - USAGE 2014 Blog Entry about creating a Shopping Lists in the Grocery Gadgets app.

  GROCERY GADGET WEBSITE
  GROCERY GADGET QUICK GUIDE - iPHONE / iPOD TOUCH VERSION Although this is iOS 7 Version, it will give you an idea of the features of the program, how to set them up and how you use them.

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