producteev introduces subtasks

Producteev is an attractive and versatile web-based task manager that supports team collaboration across a range of platforms. It also comes as a free download for Mac and Windows desktops, Android phones and the iPhone. The iPhone app runs on the iPad, albeit in small screen format. Producteev is free for up to two users per workspace; $20 per month buys you unlimited user access for as many workspaces as you want. This independent review explores the Producteev browser app as a tool for individual task management.

Let’s explain the concept of workspaces first. When setting up your Producteev account you start by creating one or more workspaces. These are essentially task lists (like in Remember The Milk). You can use separate workspaces for discrete areas of your life, such as home and work (as in the screenshot below), so that you are not always confronted visually with absolutely everything you have to do as soon as you launch your task manager. An alternative set up would be to allocate a separate workspace to each of your projects, since Producteev provides no straightforward way of managing projects.

A slightly squashed-looking zengoat, but you get the idea.

Entering a new task is done by typing in the data entry field (see screenshot below). You can click on the icons underneath the box, or use keyboard shortcuts, to assign, label, schedule or star a task. The desktop version has a universal shortcut that brings up a quick entry panel from within any program. Producteev does not support drag and drop to reorder your tasks (except in calendar view), but lets you sort your task lists by title, priority, deadline, date created, last changed, workspace and task owner. In addition, there are useful predefined views in the navigation pane on the left.

Chunky colour-coded stars let you assign five priority levels (or six, if you count unstarred). The colourful labels are done well too. If you want to implement a Getting Things Done™ (GTD™) approach, you could use Producteev’s labels for your contexts. You can opt to have labels ordered automatically in the navigation pane on the left. This provides you with a powerful mechanism for letting Producteev highlight which of your GTD contexts require attention. One limitation of the labels is that they do not carry over across workspaces. I can see how that stems from Producteev’s focus on team collaboration, but it would be great for individual users if there was an option to toggle label carry-over on or off.

Clicking on a task in the centre window brings up a detailed task pane on the right hand side of the screen. This is where you can (re)schedule a task, set reminders, upload a file attachment or add a note for yourself or your team member(s).

The Producteev team introduced subtasks for Mac and iPhone in April 2012 and they are now reportedly working on rolling out the same functionality to Android phones and Windows. The introduction of subtasks makes it so much easier to manage projects. It is a brilliant move, which brings Producteev closer to Omnifocus and ToodleDo in terms of functionality.

Producteev poses a couple of challenges from a GTD perspective: there is no central inbox (though every workspace has its own), no inbuilt review mechanism (as in Omnifocus or Zendone) and no intrinsic focus on projects (though you can develop your own workaround by using either workspaces or labels to represent projects; and the nested tasks certainly help too). On the other hand, Producteev is more customisable than some of the apps that were custom-built with GTD in mind and this may make it easier to adjust the app to match your workflow.

Producteev has a couple of nifty features: it has a calendar view (like Firetask) that allows you to reschedule tasks by dragging and dropping, you can print off a task list, or export all your tasks as a csv file.  You can also select and change multiple tasks at once (like in Omnifocus). The ‘today’ view shows due tasks for every workspace and the ‘completed’ view provides a satisfying log of your achievements (like in Things or Nirvana). There is also an ‘overview’ that provides a sortable list of tasks across all your workspaces. There is an Outlook plugin and integration with email, Google Calendar and TaskRabbit. Producteev is stable and synchronises quickly and reliably with the (equally pleasing) desktop version and the mobile app. It also has a good search function (across workspaces) and a solid reminder function, which includes the option to receive daily emails.

Producteev is an amazingly good, well-designed and totally free app that is a pleasure to use. Its main limitations for me are that it does not run well on older browsers such as Internet Explorer 8, which means I cannot use it at work, and particularly that there is as yet no native iPad app. If you are at all interested, please visit the Producteev forum and add your vote here for the development of an iPad version. In the mean time, the Producteev browser version does run well on an iPad, using Safari, so this need not be a dealbreaker.

Have you used Producteev? Let us know about your experiences by leaving a comment below!

Producteev at a glance

Pros

  • free (includes the capacity to share your workspaces with one other user)
  • well-designed, colourful user interface
  • good use of areas, labels and subtasks
  • good integration of browser, desktop and mobile app
  • drag and drop calendar view
  • capacity to attach files

Cons

  • absence of a native iPad app
  • not project-centred (but there are workarounds)
  • labels do not carry over across workspaces
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