Run your family life, all from one app? Cozi promises you can

 mashable.com  12/8/2018 12:00:00 PM   Amy-Mae Turner

Welcome to Small Humans, an ongoing series at Mashable that looks at how to take care of – and deal with – the kids in your life. Because Dr. Spock is nice and all, but it’s 2018 and we have the entire internet to contend with.

Modern life in general can often be a logistical nightmare, but adding kids to the mix takes domestic air traffic control to a whole new level. The premise of an app built with precisely this use-case in mind may seem like a godsend for any Gcal-overloaded caregiver, but Cozi, which bills itself as an app that can "simplify" family life, also runs the risk of contributing to the problem it attempts to solve. 

If you're just about getting by with to do lists and gCal, do you really need a family organizer app in your life? Is the learning curve worth the end result? Join us as we take a tour of Cozi, try out its features, and test its functionality. 

Whether it's the right app for you and your family will depend on how many other services you already use and whether you want all your options in one place – and are willing to accept trade-offs for that convenience. 

No free lunch

Cozi is a free service, but the cost of this is agreeing to allow Cozi's parent company Meredith Corporation to use tracking technologies to show you personalized advertising while you're using the app and website. 

If you don't want to opt into this, you can choose to upgrade to a Cozi "Gold" account. This costs $29.99 per year for the entire family across all devices. Paying up kills the ads and gives you access to "premium" features. 

These premium features include a Birthday Tracker tool, a monthly scrolling view in the calendar on mobile, the ability to set multiple (rather than just one) reminders for appointments, the ability to import and manage a Contacts area, notifications of changes to calendar events and an improved "Shopping Mode" in the Lists section. Free features include the calendar, shopping lists, to-do lists,  a meal planner and recipes folder, and a journal functionality.

Getting started

We initially set up the free version of Cozi on desktop, preferring a larger screen and "proper" keyboard to do so, but there's no reason you can't get started straight from the app. It's available on the App Store and Google Play.  

As you sign up you need to give your family a name and chose a shared password that all Cozi users in your family will use. You can also select a family photo (but sadly no individual photos for each family member). 

Once you've created your Cozi family, it's time to start populating the service with your information. We're taking a look at each free Cozi feature in detail. 

To Do Lists

If you're the type that swears by a good old-fashioned "To Do" list being the crucial key to an organized life, you're going to love Cozi's offering. 

You can create one shared family to do list, separate lists for the adult users, or lists under headings of your choosing, such as "Household To Do," or "Work To Do." The lists you create can either be shared with everyone, or assigned to one user.  

On both the website and apps, creating and managing lists is simple. On the website, you access your "To Do" via the left-hand navigation, while on the app it's via the "Lists" icon at the bottom of the screen.

Simply click to add to the lists, then you can drag and drop to prioritize tasks. 

If you really want to drill down into organizing your to-dos even further, you can group tasks into headings. Headings are created by typing a list item in all capital letters. 

Furthermore, you can add tasks to your Cozi calendar by typing a date — in MM/DD format — before the task's name. This will then appear as a task on your calendar on the appropriate day.

Once a task has been completed, you can cross it off the list, then keep your list tidy by hitting the "Remove" option on the website then "Remove crossed off items," or by hitting the three dot menu at the top right on the app to chose to ""Delete checked" items.  

Shopping Lists and Meals 

Cozi's "Shopping" section doesn't offer any major bells and whistles, but is a good solid list creation tool. 

Accessed via the left-hand navigation on web, or via "Lists" at the bottom of the screen on the app, these lists work similarly to those in the To Do section, letting you add items by clicking or tapping. 

Your "Groceries" is the most obvious shopping list to create, and Cozi offers nifty auto-suggestion functionality so that possible items are shown in a drop-down list as you begin typing an item making for quick list creation. 

The "Meals" section within Cozi has boasts a comprehensive suite of tools for saving your own recipes, food inspiration and ideas. There's also a meal planning feature that's linked to your Cozi calendar and shopping lists. 

The Meal Planner helps organize family meals and lets other members of the family know what's on the menu. You simply enter your food choice in the slot for the appropriate day and it will then appear on your shared calendar.

We don't see all Cozi families using the "breakfast" or "lunch" slots every day, but the "dinner" planning functionality will prove very handy for many a busy parent.  

More usefulness comes when in a recipe card (that you can add to the app via URL or entering it manually) – if you tap the calendar icon, you can add the recipe to your meal planner and therefore calendar. 

In the "Recipe Box" section, when you create your own recipe cards, there is the ability to add notes to recipes as well as create tag words to help categorize your cards. 

Cozi offers a neat browser extension that lets you quickly add recipes you see online to your Cozi Meals section. Available for Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox and Chrome, the "Add to Cozi Meals" tool will save down recipes you like the look of quickly and easily. To find these extensions, go to the "Tips" tab at the top of the page when in the Meals section. 

Beyond just planning what to cook, there's the ability to add a recipe's ingredients to your "Groceries" (or alternative) shopping list. Simply click "Add to Shopping" when in a recipe card and you'll get the option to add those ingredients to your lists. 

What all this clever functionality means in real-life context, is that parents or caregivers who are splitting the cooking vs. the grocery run have a relatively smooth way to make sure all the items needed for dinner actually make it on to the list.

Journal 

Another extra that sets Cozi apart from more basic rival offerings is the "Journal" feature. 

This could potentially be used as a digital diary, but Cozi's intention is that you create an online scrapbook of family moments that can be shared just among your immediate Cozi family, or with wider family and friends. 

To access your Cozi journal on desktop, simply look to the left-hand menu. On the app, the Journal can be found under the Family tab at the bottom of your screen. 

On the website, you create new Journal entries by clicking "Jot down a moment." In the app, it's via the plus icon to "Add story." You can select photos (sadly, not video) from your computer or phone camera roll and add text. The date will default to the day you add the content, although you can manually change it to an alternative date.  

Once you've created an entry, you can easily start to share your family moments. On the website, select "Share our journal." This takes you through the process to share your content with others through a few different methods. 

You can email your journal or share it via a custom URL that anyone, not just Cozi users, can view. The URL can be something easy to remember like "http://family.cozi.com/yourfamilynames." However, if privacy is important to you, then Cozi will generate a random string of characters for your family's URL that's impossible for anyone you don't share the link with to guess.

There are also further privacy options to consider. You can hide your children's names in the photos' captions. The example Cozi gives is by opting in to this functionality, "Today Henry had a great day at the park," will show to others as "Today H had a great day at the park." 

The online journal isn't the prettiest looking service, but it's the content your family and friends are going to be interested in, and Cozi certainly delivers the functionality that shares it.  

It is worth noting though, that you cannot download your Journal data in the event you decide to stop using Cozi, so it's a good idea to ensure the images, etc, that you share via the Journal functionality are backed up elsewhere. 

Deleting your Cozi account will permanently delete your account data – everything from photos to recipes to calendar entries. In some way it's comforting to know your data will truly be gone, but since Cozi is a service that duplicates and combines many other services you likely already use, it may deter some people from signing up if you you know all your effort is gone if you change your mind.

Calendar 

The calendar is the heart of the Cozi service and as such it's a fully featured and intuitive tool. The first thing you'll notice is how you can use everyday language to create calendar entries.

On the website, this means typing "7:30 Theatre tomorrow," for example, will add that event for the following day. Entering an event then typing "every weekday" or "every Wednesday" will create recurring entries.  

The default setting is for all family members to attend events, but if you start your entry with names, it will add the event as just the named family members attending, e.g., "Jane/John Ballet 11.00-11.45 Sat."

Alternatively, if you double click on a day, a pop-up window will appear which you can populate with appointment information. On mobile, you add new entries via the plus sign icon at the top right of the page. 

As you create calendar content, you can select who gets reminder notifications, add locations and notes. Different family members get a different colored dot, so you can more easily see who is doing what and when. You can click to view the calendar for all, some, or just one family member. 

Another super useful feature is that Cozi can send you, and any other family member with an email address, emails with your family’s calendar events. You can choose to get these agenda-style emails every day, once a week, or both.

Finally, it's worth noting that the Cozi calendar can be integrated with other calendar services such as Google and Apple Calendar and Outlook. Cozi offers full, detailed instructions of how to share appointments from other calendars to Cozi or share appointments from Cozi to another calendar program in a read-only format. 

It's a simple process, albeit one that has to be done on web. To see your Google Calendar data in your Cozi calendar for example you simply open gCal, hit the "Settings" cog icon, select your calendar under the "Settings for my calendars" header on the left of your screen, then again on the left, click "Integrate calendar" then copy the long URL that appears on the right under "Secret address in iCal format."

Now, head back to your Cozi calendar online, click "Set up," then "Internet calendars," then "Add an internet calendar" then paste the URL in the box. 

From now on you'll see your Google Calendar entries in your Cozi calendar. 

Cozi or no?

If you already use an online calendar, a to do list app and have digitized your recipe collection, then getting Cozi to pull it all into one place is a no-brainer. The integration between the to do lists, recipes, shopping lists and calendar is pretty seamless and could make life a lot easier for busy parents. 

Another area where Cozi comes into its own is the sharing functionality. If you are co-parenting, having this app and website as a central resource that you can both update and refer to anytime, anywhere is truly useful. 

There's no such thing as a miracle cure for how manically busy, stressful and crazily chaotic modern family life is, but using Cozi should go some way towards being a tonic to help. 

Read more great stories from Small Humans: 

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