eloping with firetask

Firetask is a promising GTD-based productivity app with the simple ‘feel’ of a traditional to-do list. It has a well-designed beautiful interface and enough functionality to give well-established apps like things and omnifocus a run for their money. I have reviewed the mac desktop and the ipad apps (both version 2.2); there is no windows version.

While firetask is not perfect, it has almost done the unthinkable: prised me away from omnifocus. It has been like a suitor in a jane austen novel: maybe not the most sensible and respectable choice, but irresistible because of its colour and freshness. I want to spend time in the app, and that is a feeling I haven’t had with omnifocus for a long time. So, after a brief stint with the trial version, I decided to throw caution to the wind and to elope with firetask. Will it end in tears?

Well, so far we are still in the honeymoon period. The ‘today’ view below is the only screenshot from the iPad version in this review. Like the desktop version, it gives you a clear overview of tasks that are due, well – today, as well as the next action for each of your active projects. There is also an alternative view that shows you actions by due date.

the 'today' view in firetask for ipad

You can add new tasks by clicking on the ‘+’ button on the ipad version; the desktop version provides the choice between a quick entry button or a keyboard command.

While firetask is compatible with david allen’s getting things done™ (GTD™) approach, there are a couple of quirks. For example, in addition to the in-tray, firetask provides a ‘scratchboard’, an electronic scribble pad that lets you jot down quick reminders and short tasks. This is the sort of thing that I imagine would make david allen frown, as one of the principles of GTD workflow is that you collect all incoming tasks, ideas, notes and the like in one place – not two – before reviewing and prioritising work. I am currently using the firetask scratchboard as my de facto inbox.

the firetask scratchboard view: handy to use, but doubling up on the in-tray function

One of my favourite views is the category view, which is like ‘contexts’ in GTD-speak. You can customise this view, selecting as few or as many categories as you like. The app provides some 30 colourful icons. As an aside, the ozengo nerd award (ONA) goes to whoever designed these icons: granted, they are pretty, colourful, crisp – but not a single one of them represents a person or a team. Please poke your head out of the window, folks: there’s people out here.

the firetask category view - lots of eye candy

I like the ‘project’ view below better than the corresponding views in omnifocus or things, though much of that comes down to personal preference. You can specify parameters for the entire firetask project, as well as for individual tasks. The colourful icons help to provide a visual clue as to what needs to be done next.

the firetask project view

Clicking a task once will mark it ‘in progress’; click once more and the squiggly line changes into a tick. Firetask also supports drag-and-drop and has a button that lets you convert a task into a project.

Like things, firetask keeps a log of completed tasks, which can be a gratifying or horrifying sight – depending on how your day has been. As in omnifocus, a task can have only one context in firetask – the things tagging approach works better in this regard.

An area of strength is the many places where you can review your work. In addition to the project and category views, firetask provides a calendar and an ‘organise’ view. They allow you to reschedule tasks by dragging and dropping and can both be filtered by project.

the firetask 'organise' view; this is where the in-tray trumps the scratchboard

The major weakness of firetask at this point is its lack of integration. There is no capacity to attach a file to a task; and no integration with email or evernote. There is no browser version. Synching occurs via wifi and/or cloud synching. The latter is still at beta stage and I have not tried it.  I have experienced a couple of minor bugs with wireless synching, with a task not being synched, or with a task deleted from the scratchboard ending up in the ‘today’ view after synching. More significantly, once a due date has been set, it can be changed, but apparently not removed, not even by dragging the task into the ‘someday’ view. I would also like to see a more comprehensive search function (at present, command + F lets you search within the active task list).

Firetask has much of the look and feel of ‘things’ but, on the whole, is a stronger app in my view because of its superior date selection and more informative, less cluttered views. It beats omnifocus because it is so simple and intuitive to use and because its attractive user interface does not detract from a solid project management approach.

The firetask desktop app costs $39.99, the iPad version $10.49 and the iPhone version $6.49. You can download a 14-day trial version if you are interested in exploring this app further.

Firetask at a glance:

Pros:

  • colourful, simple interface
  • strongly anchored in GTD approach
  • several ways to review and reprioritise your tasks

Cons:

  • poor integration with email or evernote, no file attachments
  • minor bugs

Postscript:

I have now used firetask for a full three weeks and the synching errors have become more frequent. Scrolling has also become slower as the list of tasks grew; and just now the desktop app became non-responsive. I had to ‘force quit’ but the app will not restart.  Hm, not what I would call ‘a trusted sytem’. Let’s see whether omnifocus will have me back…

ozengo, 20 April 2012

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7 thoughts on “eloping with firetask

  1. Any further news on firetask? I still think it looks like the most GTD-oriented app of them all because of its ability to force your focus on one context at a time.

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    • Thanks for following up, Craig. I managed to get my data back after installing the latest versions of Firetask: 2.3.1 for the desktop and 2.3 for the iPad. The whole episode has left me a bit wary about using the app though. I have been exploring GQueues over the past couple of weeks. It is a free app that had not really been on my radar but I am finding it easy to use and quite powerful, including from a GTD perspective. Keep checking my blog for a review of GQ in the next week or so.

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    • I haven’t gone back to Firetask (yet?) so I cannot comment on current stability. My current favourites are Omnifocus, GQueues and two apps that are still in beta: Zendone and IQTELL. All of them have been reviewed on this blog.

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  2. 2Do is interesting. I feel like the desktop app is actually a lot better looking than the iOS version. Right now I am love/hate between Firetask and Things, with a lean towards Firetask because I like color.

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