Getting Things Done
Category: Blog

I’ve been working to find a decent task management app for a while now. My needs are fairly basic, but I’m picky about the interface and usability. Unfortunately, after testing numerous different products I’m stuck with one which has potential but isn’t quite there yet. Here’s a brief review of several of the different GTD / Task Management apps I looked at:

Remember The Milk

Website: http://www.rememberthemilk.com/

Remember The Milk was the only online task management app I spent any time investigating. It has interesting integrations with Twitter and a fairly easy to use Dashboard widget, but even that wasn’t enough to keep me hooked on using it. For a task management tool to be effective, IMHO, you have to keep “wanting” to use it and unfortunately RTM doesn’t live up to that for whatever reason. It does work very well for a close friend and former boss of mine, so if the “web app” thing works for your needs then please give it a thorough look over.

iGTD

Website: http://bargiel.home.pl/iGTD/

iGTD 1.x has one of the best feature sets of the apps I investigated. Quicksilver integration, Mailtags integration, and syncing with .Mac. It nearly has it all. All but a decent useable interface. Now in all fairness iGTD 2.x (alpha) seems to resolve that mostly (based on screenshots, not actual usage so I could be wrong), but it’s unfortunately Leopard only and my employer has chosen to not allow people to upgrade to Leopard yet (topic for a different post). Since my primary usage of a task management app is work related, this is sadly a blocker. I’ll have to reinvestigate it once I am able to upgrade to Leopard on work machines and hopefully by then 2.x will be out of alpha and I can give it a fair evaluation.

Omnifocus

Website: http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omnifocus/

Omnifocus is a new candidate to the GTD space written by the same people who wrote the amazing OmniGraffle flow chart app. While I feel OmniGraffle really sets the bar high in it’s space, unfortunately I haven’t felt the same about their other apps and sadly Omnifocus seems to follow that trend. The functionality isn’t there yet (it is in beta though) and the interface leaves a lot to be desired. I especially don’t like the way it separates everything into two different “views” and forces you to context switch between them. The quick entry box has a very unpolished feel to it and the way they force several concepts on you leaves a bit to be desired. The only real redeeming qualities of Omnifocus at this point is their recurring task support and ability to have emailed tasks show up in the inbox automatically (neither of which did I test), but even that’s not enough to save this app. Maybe once they get a few revisions under their belt I will feel differently, but based on the fact my issues are at what seems to be a fundamental difference of opinion of how to manage tasks, I am not holding my hopes up.

Inbox.app

Website: http://www.midnightbeep.com/

Inbox has a good feature set, awesome integrations into OSX (specifically Mail.app), and a very polished clean interface. So why am I not using it? This probably revolves around it’s extremely strict following to GTD principals and it’s inability to allow you to step outside those bounds. While I have read the book, agree with many of the concepts, I just am not ready yet to fit my structure system completely into it’s strict confines. If you are into the GTD thing hardcore and want to follow it religiously, IMHO, you have no better option available on the Mac than Inbox.app. It’s just not for me and thus I’ve had to keep looking.

Things.app

Website: http://culturedcode.com/things/

While it’s not the “best” app, I saved Things till the end for a reason. It’s still a very early release with a lot of missing functionality (syncing between multiple machines, more integrations with things like email and/or mailtags, no mobile/trouser mac ability, etc), but it’s clean interface and direction it’s going in make it my personal pick. Some initial observations:

  • Tags. Tags. Tags. It’s rare that a task fits into exactly one strict bucket/context for me, so the ability to use flexible tags is a big win for me. The way they are used and presented in the app is also a definite win as well. I’m hoping they keep expanding the use of tags more and allow things like project/area definition based on tags and the ability to search.
  • I really dig the way they implemented projects and areas. Kept it really simple and flexible. I would like the ability to split a task into a project (something which Omnifocus sorta did, probably others as well), but I’m sure it’s something on their todo list.
  • The concept of team collaboration. This isn’t fully implemented yet (well, really only a few hints of what’s to come shows through), but I like this idea. Being that a majority of my team is now using Macs as their primary machines, this is something which could come in very handy in the future.

My only hope is that they keep up the good work and also rapidly iterate on this. For the time being, though, it’s done a good job of holding my attention and I keep adding more and more tasks to it as I think of them, something only Inbox by MidnightBeep was also able to do (unfortunately it was the processing and completion of tasks which killed it as previously mentioned).

So Things is what works well for me, what works well for you? I’d love to hear your opinions, especially if you love an app not listed above! I’m always on the look out for the next great app, so please share your experiences.

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One Response to “Getting Things Done”

  1. Jeff Standen says:

    Hey Jeremy!

    I definitely find myself compelled to keep my Remember The Milk (RTM) lists empty. It’s too bad the app didn’t work out for you!

    If you dedicate one of your lesser-used browsers to RTM (e.g., Opera) it’s as useful as a desktop app in not getting lost in the Firefox/Safari tab shuffle while you’re working.

    If you set up one of their Smart Lists you can work until a specific list is empty (Today, or a particular project or context), which has to be the major requirement for me. An app isn’t helping me if it’s showing everything I’ve done, or will do tomorrow, at the same time as the tasks I have to do right this minute. As I mentioned in my blog post (that you graciously linked!), it’s a lot more motivating to work toward an empty list than a page full of check-marks.

    RTM does support multiple tags per task, projects (just add a new tab/list) and team collaboration. Unfortunately, their collaboration so far only allows sharing tasks with your contacts opposed to sharing your entire to-do list publicly.

    You mentioned their Twitter and iGoogle integration, but forgot to mention their iPhone (“trouser Mac”) interface — which is beautifully done:
    http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/iphone/

    They also work with Google Gears, so you could sync your laptop before a flight and knock off some coding/writing/thinking tasks on the plane.

    Maybe it’ll get another look from you down the road. I’m certainly a convert. ;)

    Good luck with Things.app!

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