If you’re looking to make sense of your busy family life, Cozi can help. This free service provides a family calendar, a shopping list, and messaging online or via a downloadable program. It’s low on features, but the ones it has are excellent and easy to use.
Incredibly intuitive interface. Everyday language support affords an easy way to set up your calendar. Creates collage screen savers of your family album. Offers a calling service that reads you your shopping list when you’re on the go.
Lacks the versatility and sophistication found in most other tools of its kind.
Cozi is a free, easy-to-use service that offers a shared family calendar, lists, and messaging to keep your busy family organized. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I would have said the very idea of a shared family organizer program oozes dorkiness. My mom would’ve had as much chance of convincing me to sign in to a family scheduling network as she would of convincing the family to wear matching sweaters and fanny packs on vacation. Imagine my surprise when I checked out Cozi.com‘s family collaboration program and found out it was actually pretty cool.
Cozi is available as either a downloadable or a Web application. The downloadable program can, of course, be used off-line and has a few more features than the Web version, such as a collage screen saver. Both versions are focused on helping families manage the chaos of family life. Cozi geared toward people who value an easy-to-use organizational solution more than the latest, greatest technology. Hence Cozi doesn’t have the advanced features you’d find in a full-fledged Personal Information Manager (PIM)
Getting started is easy: After signing up, you enter the name, e-mail, and cell phone number of every family member using the account and set a family password. Cozi can sync all computers in the household on that account, so any changes made on one computer will be reflected on all of them.
I love how easy everything on Cozi is to use. The service features a blocky but polished and intuitive interface built with AJAX. To set an appointment or event on the calendar, simply click on the calendar, type up your note, and you’re done. Cozi’s cool Everyday Language feature makes it even easier. Instead of having to click through the calendar to find the date, then clicking on the date and writing your note, Everyday Language programming can understand and translate most notes you’re likely to write. For instance, say you want to schedule a doctor’s appointment for August 3. Simply type “Aug 3 Doctor’s Appointment at 4pm” and Cozi posts a note reading “Doctor’s Appointment” on Aug 3 at 4 p.m. in your calendar. Cozi can even work with phrases like “tomorrow” and “next Tuesday.” The service figures out what date tomorrow or next Tuesday is and posts your note accordingly.
The same goes for recurring events. If you want to make sure to remember your weekly PTA meeting, for instance, just type “PTA meeting every Thursday” and Cozi posts a weekly reminder every Thursday in your calendar. This works if you want to schedule an event every day for a given number of days, every other day, every 14 days—you get the picture. It’s very versatile. Every member of your family has his or her own color coding, so you can easily tell which events belong to which family member. You can also send your appointments to your cell phone as a text message to check your schedule on the run.
The Shopping List feature lets you build your grocery list by adding ingredients from a supplied list. The ready-made lists contain only items you’d find in a supermarket, but you can create whatever kind of list you’d like and just type in items yourself and title them however you’d like. You can then send this list as a text message to your cell phone, or you can call a Cozi call center and an automated operator will read your list to you. Cozi’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system reads items using a text-to-speech system that mimics actual speech. It can handle most words you throw at it but has difficulty with more obscure words. This read-back feature is handy if you find yourself shopping without your list or want to check if anyone has made any changes since you last checked it.
Cozi can also serve as messaging central for your household. You can send messages to family members’ e-mail accounts or cell phones with the Messages Box on the home page, but only the downloadable version of Cozi allows you to send mass messages to everyone on your Cozi account. The downloadable version also creates a Cozi Collage, which makes a screen saver by creating a collage of your family’s photos. The collage guesses which photos go together and is pretty good a creating coherent collages. These screensavers will also display reminders for upcoming events posted on your calendar.
Cozi’s Outlook integration intelligently synchronizes your work schedule with your family schedule. It adds to Cozi only those appointments that would be relevant to your family. For instance, if you had lunch meeting at noon in your work schedule it wouldn’t show up on your Cozi schedule. However, if you have an overnight flight out of town in your work schedule (or any other appointment outside of work hours), it’s automatically posted to your Cozi calendar. It’s a great way to keep you out of trouble if you’re the type who forgets to tell your spouse ahead of time when you have to work late.
This is the collaboration application to have for organizing your family life. It has simple, intuitive functionality that suits its family target audience perfectly. The thing is, the software is so focused on family use that using it for anything else would be awkward. There are more sophisticated services out there, such as AirSet.com, that can organize your family life, personal life, and business life all in one place. Cozi would be inappropriate for business use, for instance. Still, knocking Cozi for focusing just on families is like slamming the Lifetime network for its lack of testosterone-laden action movies. Cozi caters to its audience’s needs very well. It may not provide the versatility of more advanced organization tools, but I haven’t seen any tool that matches Cozi’s ease of use. Cozi is a strong choice for people looking to bring order to their family life.