Try Doodle to Schedule a Group Meeting or Sign Up Volunteers!

Have you ever set up a group meeting, whether in person or via videoconferencing, but found it cumbersome to find a time that works for everyone? Or maybe you want to solicit volunteers for an event? There’s a neat online tool that makes such logistics easy: Doodle. You can use it for free (with ads)—even without setting up an account. Or, if you want to eliminate the ads and get support for calendar syncing, deadlines, reminders, multiple users, and more, there are paid Premium plans. You can use Doodle in a Web browser or download the Doodle iOS app.

Determine Your Poll Type

Setting up a Doodle poll is easy. The first step is to figure out what sort of poll you want—a time poll or a text poll. A time poll is best if you want to let your respondents vote for specific dates and times. Use it when you’re trying to determine if the club Zoom call should be Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and at 11 AM, 3 PM, or 5 PM on one of those days.

In contrast, a text poll lets your respondents vote on anything. For example, you could use a text poll to see where a large group would like to have a party (your house, the park, a favorite restaurant), or what sort of food people want for lunch (Thai, Mexican, Ethiopian). You could even use a Doodle text poll to see who among a large group of volunteers can help at a series of 5K races.

Set the Poll Options

After you click the big red Create a Doodle button at the top of the Doodle Web page, you work your way through a four-step wizard. The first step merely asks for the title of your poll and an optional location and note.

The second step is where all the magic happens. You have three choices here: Month, Week, and Text. In Month view, you get a calendar from which you can pick days and optionally add times. Month view is best for picking the best day for a picnic, for instance, and the time would be the same regardless of which day is chosen.

Week view is the most common way that people use Doodle, because it’s how you choose times for a meeting. Just drag a box out for each proposed time period. If you make the box too big or small, you can resize it from the bottom, and you can also drag boxes to different times. To delete a box, hover over it and click the X that appears in its upper-right corner. Note that if you’re creating a poll for an event you need to attend, it’s not worth including dates or times when you can’t make it.

With a text poll, you can enter anything you want for the poll options. In the screenshot, we’re using Doodle as a volunteer signup sheet.

Once you click Continue, you move on to the Poll Settings screen, which provides four useful settings:

  • Yes, no, if need be: Select this option if you want to allow your participants to have a “maybe” or “if it’s absolutely necessary” or “you can twist my arm” option. We’re fond of this option because many scheduling questions don’t have a simple Yes/No answer.
  • Limit the number of votes per option: An example of where this option is helpful is if you want only so many people to bring a main course, salad, or dessert to a picnic—otherwise, the menu can get out of balance.
  • Limit participants to a single vote: Employ this option to prevent people from signing up for multiple options.
  • Hidden poll: By default, the results of Doodle polls are visible to everyone who has the link, which is usually good. Select this option to keep people from seeing each other’s votes.

The final step just asks for your name and email address, after which Doodle displays your poll so you can share it and vote in it. Before you do anything else, click the Copy button in the Invite Participants box and paste it somewhere for later reference. If you have a Doodle account—free or paid—you can also have it send email, but we recommend sending the email yourself instead so you have complete control over the message.

Now it’s your turn to vote. For each option, click once for Yes (a green checkmark) or twice for Maybe (a yellow checkmark). Leave a box blank to vote No. If you need to edit your votes afterward, you can do so (click the blue pencil icon that appears next to your name) if you were logged in to an account when you voted or if the Web page remembers you.

Solicit Votes

Remember that link you copied a minute ago? Now’s the time to send it out. The beauty of Doodle is that you can send it to as few or as many people as you want, in any way you want. You could message it to a group of friends, send it to the office email exploder, post it in your company’s Slack, publish it to a public mailing list, or even post it on Facebook or Twitter. Other people can share it as well, if you’re trying to cast a wide net.

Doodle polls don’t have any security beyond the obscurity of their URLs, so if your poll is at all confidential,  make sure to tell people not to share it further.

Pick a Winner

If you’ve set up an account, you’ll receive a notification whenever anyone votes in your poll. You can also load the link you shared at any time to see how the votes are progressing. In our Month poll, three people have voted, and you can see that June 13th and June 27th are the most popular work, so you get to choose.

In the Week poll, it’s obvious that there’s only one option that works well for everyone, June 12th at 9 AM. However, you can see that June 12th at 2 PM is possible, in case something changes and you need a backup time.

Finally, in our text poll looking for volunteers, there’s no “winning.” The poll results merely tell you who can work at which races, and if you only need three volunteers for each race, you’re all set. However, you can also see that you may need to line up another person in case Rashid Cookie ends up bailing on you.

Although the results are usually perfectly obvious, you can click a red Choose Final Option button if you’re the poll creator and are logged in or remembered. That identifies the best choice, although you can override it with a click, and closes the poll so no one else can vote. If you’re logged in and have connected your calendar, you can add it directly from the results page. We usually announce the final choice however we shared the poll link, and anyone who wants to see the voting results can load the poll again.

As you can imagine, Doodle’s Premium plans add quite a few more features, and they may be worthwhile if you end up using it regularly. However, for quick scheduling of group meetings or lightweight polling, you can stick with either the free account or use it without even logging in. Give it a try next time you need to poll a group!

(Featured image by Doodle)

How to Load the Desktop Version of a Web Site on an iPhone or iPad

Some Web sites have separate desktop and mobile versions, each theoretically providing the best browsing experience for its platform. Unfortunately, mobile Web sites sometimes leave out necessary features or hide content. That’s especially annoying if you’re browsing on an iPad, where the desktop site would work fine. If you run across such a site while browsing in Safari on the iPhone or iPad, you can ask for its desktop version. Press and hold the Reload button at the right side of the address bar, and then tap Request Desktop Site. If the site allows such a request, as do Wikipedia and the New York Times, the desktop version loads (to read the small text, you may need to pinch out to zoom the page).

 

Adjust Web Site Behavior with Safari’s Site-Specific Settings

Although macOS 10.13 High Sierra was light on new features, it did bring one welcome addition to Safari—site-specific settings. Imagine that you regularly visit a blog that you prefer to read using Safari’s Reader view. Rather than invoke it each time you visit, you can now set Safari to use Reader automatically on that site. Similarly, if there’s a site whose text is too small, Safari can remember your page zoom setting for that site. Neat, eh?

Here’s how to make the most of Safari’s site-specific settings. First, load a site whose settings you’d like to customize. Then, choose Safari > Preferences and click Websites in the toolbar. You see a list of general settings in the sidebar at the left, followed by any plug-ins you’ve installed. For each setting or plug-in, you can set what happens when you visit the site you just loaded—or, if you have a bunch of sites open in different tabs, you can customize the behavior for any open site. Here are your options.

Reader

Reader view displays an article as a single page that’s formatted for easy reading, without ads, navigation, or other distractions. It’s such a significant change that it’s off by default—you enable it by clicking the Reader button to the left of the URL in the address bar. To turn it on for all of a site’s articles, in Safari’s Websites preferences, select Reader and choose On from the pop-up menu next to the site name.

Content Blockers

Another way of seeing fewer Web ads is to install a Safari content blocker. Choose Safari > Safari Extensions to open Safari’s Extension Gallery, and then scroll down slightly to find the page’s Search field, where you can search for blocker. There are lots—look for one like Adguard AdBlocker that supports Safari’s content blocking API. Once you’ve installed one, select Content Blockers in the Websites preferences. By default, Safari blocks ads on all sites, so choose Off from the pop-up menus for sites whose ad content you want to see.

Auto-Play

Little is more annoying than sites that play a video when a page loads, distracting you from the text you want to read. Even worse are those sites—Macworld, we’re looking at you—that auto-play videos that aren’t even related to the page. Safari squelches auto-playing videos by default, but for sites like YouTube, you might want to allow videos to play. You can also choose to stop only videos that have sound.

Page Zoom

It’s easy to hit Command-Plus to zoom in on a page, increasing the text and graphics proportionally, but who wants to do that every time you visit a page sporting barely readable words? With the Page Zoom setting, Safari will use your preferred zoom every time you visit a particular site. In fact, you don’t have to do anything other than set a zoom level with Command-Plus when you’re viewing a site because Safari remembers it automatically, as you can see in the Configured Websites section for Page Zoom. To tweak it manually, choose a zoom level from the site’s pop-up menu.

Camera & Microphone

Apart from Web conferencing services, you’re unlikely to run across many sites that want to access your Mac’s camera and microphone. That’s why the Camera and Microphone settings default to asking you whenever a site wants permission to record you. If you find it irritating to be asked constantly by a site you use often, choose Allow from the pop-up menu for that site. And if a site asks repeatedly but you never want to allow it, choose Deny to stop the prompts.

Location

Most Web sites that ask for your location want to determine how close you are to particular stores. If that’s information you’re interested in sharing, let them see where you are, by all means. And if you’re using a mapping service that wants your location, it’s entirely reasonable to set its pop-up menu to Allow. But if a site keeps asking and it feels creepy, set it to Deny.

Notifications

Are there sites whose new posts you’d like to know about right away? If they support Web notifications and you give them permission, they can post push notifications that appear on-screen and in Notification Center, just your other notifications.

The Notifications preferences look different from the others because they show only sites that have asked for permission in the past. Safari remembers your choice, and if the site gets annoying later, you can always take back permission by changing the Allow pop-up menu to Deny. And if you never want to be prompted for push notifications—they can be distracting—uncheck the “Allow websites to ask for permission to send push notifications” checkbox at the bottom of the pane.

Plug-ins

It’s impossible to know what plug-ins you’ve installed, but Safari is configured to make sites ask for permission to use a plug-in each time you visit. That’s the safest setting, but for any given site and plug-in, you can use the pop-up menu to give the site access (choose On) or not (choose Off). And if you can’t even remember what a plug-in does, you can deselect its checkbox to disable it.

That’s it! Some of Safari’s site-specific settings work without any interaction from you, such as your page zoom and notification preferences. Others require a tiny bit of configuration, but that’s a small price to pay for the Web working more the way you want.