Web apps I use: My new assistant Sandy

Web apps I use: My new assistant Sandy

Update [11/25/08]: With sadness I report that the developer of I Want Sandy is shutting down the web site as of December 8, 2008, making much of this moot. I will migrate to Remember the Milk, a very fine service I was using before Sandy, but which has not historically had as many features. I hope they add them in over time.

I’m constantly looking for better ways to keep track of all those errands and to-do lists that crop up both at work and at home. I’ve tried paper planners, productivity manuals, little notebooks, software calendars, and web applications. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

My latest all-around efficiency keeper is a new web application called I Want Sandy. The eponymous “Sandy” is your personal girl Friday, a digital secretary, what they called an intelligent agent back in the ’90s. Sandy communicates with you in plain English and keeps track of anything you tell her to do.

For example, I can tell Sandy, “Remind me to stop at the grocery store today at 5pm.” And then at 4:45, you receive a reminder. But that’s just the beginning. While you can give Sandy instructions from the I Want Sandy site, you can also send her instructions via email or even through Twitter.

You can also CC Sandy on emails to others and she will pick up your instructions among the rest of the conversation: “Sandy, remind me to call John Miller on Friday.” You can also tag your instruction, like so: “Remember Melanie’s birthday is August 2 @yearly @birthday” and now it will make it a yearly reminder and put it in the yearly and birthday categories on your I Want Sandy account page.

If Sandy sends you a reminder and you decide you can’t deal with it now you can reply, “Remind me to do this tomorrow.” You can also set recurring events, such as “Remind me to take out the trash every Tuesday afternoon.”

And can also have Sandy remember other information such as phone numbers, addresses, and serial numbers.

Importantly, it does it all in plain English. I have yet to have it mangle any of my instructions. The beauty of the system is that I don’t have to do anything special or adapt my own workflow. I just keep working in all my usual places— email, mobile phone, and so on— and Sandy works to accommodate me.

I don’t know yet if Sandy is my perfect assistant, but she’s pretty good so far.