Apps take stress out of Xmas gifting
The New York Times
IT'S very nearly the season to be jolly - and to stress out about buying gifts and throwing parties.
Gift-planning can eat up a lot of time, of course. But apps on your smartphone or tablet can help with all sorts of seasonal tasks.
Santa's Bag is a smart shopping-list manager for iPhones, with a Christmas twist. The app allows you to put down all your gift ideas, sorted by the person who'll be receiving the gifts, and includes sections for you to keep track of spending.
You can enter photos of each person in your list, and keep track of which gifts you've bought and which are left to buy. The interface is slick and easy to use, and the ability to view your data as a list of gifts or by recipient could relieve some pressure during your actual shopping.
You can even set a passcode so prying eyes can't see what gifts you have planned.
But, while the app is free, it is ad-supported and the ads may annoy you. Plus, while the countdown to Christmas display in hours, minutes and seconds is cute, it could stress you out as the holiday nears.
It costs US$3 (S$3.80) for an in-app upgrade to ditch the ads and get extra features like Dropbox backups and the ability to archive gifts from past years.
RedLaser is another shopping app that is very useful. It's technically a shopping-support app.
You scan the bar code of a product you're interested in buying and the app works out where you are and delivers you information on the product, telling you if there's a better deal in a different store nearby or online.
You can even keep lists of products, so it's useful for shopping both for party food and gifts. It's free for iPhones, Android and Windows phones.
If you're planning parties or long journeys, knowing the weather forecast would be great. Though there are thousands of different weather apps, WeatherBug - a free Android and iOS app - is my recommendation.
It's easy to spot the information you need, and the app is jammed with data beyond temperature and wind speed, like dew point, humidity and a "feels like" temperature index.
Don't let commercialism and the weather get you down, as there are plenty of apps to put you in the holiday spirit.
For example, Christmas Radio - free on iOS and Android - is a simple and cheerful way to get Christmas music over the Internet.
The app is simple, offering a list of stations you can listen to and basic volume and play controls. As there are many different stations from around the world to choose from, it's easy to switch to a different channel if you don't like a particular song.
And it's free, though this means you have to click through the occasional advertisement.
If you need to keep your children occupied for half an hour while you get on with some planning, then the Toca Boca Hair Salon Xmas app is a great choice on iOS.
With great cartoon graphics and sounds, this app is all about cutting, colouring and styling either Santa's hair and beard or the needles on a Christmas tree. It's free and great fun for younger children. Just make sure they don't click on the prominent ads for other Toca Hair Salon apps.
For Android devices, check out Tappy Run Xmas Christmas Game. It's a simple game with cute graphics in which the goal is to guide cartoon animals through a forest to rescue Santa's stolen toy sack.
Here's hoping your seasonal stresses melt away like snow by the fireside.