This post, dear reader, commences as a tale of mystery. A dark tale of late night tweets and skype calls across the continents. It all started with a tweet inviting Ozengo to become a beta tester for something called ‘IQTELL’ and proposing ‘a private session’. Now Ozengo knew about cold calling, but was new to the world of cold tweeting. Or should that be #coldtweeting? Anyhow, Ozengo’s curiosity was piqued sufficiently for him to fire up his trusted mac to unleash some serious research upon this whole IQTELL proposition.
It turned out that the IQTELL crowd claimed to have developed ‘a single, fully integrated application that allows you to manage all your needs‘. Ozengo’s initial response was one of scepticism. Most things that sound too good to be true are just that. However, it being a cold and rainy saturday morning in Melbourne, Ozengo looked further afield and came across consistently positive comments about this fledgling beta on user forums. Could this be true, a browser-based application that provided integration with your email, calendar, contacts and Evernote? That was steeped in David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology and fully customisable?
Having signed up as a beta tester, Ozengo set to work, quickly and methodically, and this is what he discovered:
Setting up IQTELL is easy. The app guides you through importing email, calendars, contacts and notes. These are separate processes, so you can for example import just a calendar and add more data as you become more confident about trusting IQTELL with your information. Downloading your data can take a couple of hours, depending on the size of your database. Supported formats include Gmail/Gcal, Yahoo, Outlook, hotmail, AOL and iCloud. Importing notes involves giving Evernote permission to export your data (including folders and tags). All data are synched in both directions, with the exception, for now, of contacts — the IQTELL team is working on adding that functionality.
Security is an issue frequently raised in online discussions about IQTELL. People are understandably wary of putting all their personal data into the one electronic basket. The IQTELL website states that user data are protected using 128 bit encryption and SSL protocol and provides further information about security. I do not have the expertise to comment on the adequacy of these protections.
When you start up IQTELL you see the dashboard view (see screenshot below). The dashboard acts like a homepage, providing an overview of ‘next actions’ and a list of upcoming calendar events. The ‘watch list’ in the screenshot shows the default saved searches, and you can easily add your own. I find it a really useful feature. My watch list includes searches like pay bills, 15-minute actions and top priorities. The navigation pane on the left shows your active folders and applications. You can decide to show additional apps, such as Books or My Travels, which help you to manage your reading list and itineraries respectively.
The IQTELL calendar has a GCal ‘feel’. It has drag and drop functionality and allows you to set up reminders by email or text message (the latter in the US only).
Evernote’s elephant in the navigation pane opens up to show your familiar EN folder structure. Your tags will have been imported into the ‘My Tags’ folder, together with any tags you are using in other applications. It is not a bad idea to clean up your tag structure before you import data into IQTELL. You can link your notes to a project, an action or a tickler entry (and the entire note will show; not just the link). Like zendone, IQTELL supports two-way editing of notes in Evernote. IQTELL also lets you add reminders to your notes.
One of the most compelling features of IQTELL is how it helps you to process email. Again, because of the two-way synchronisation, your emails will show up with exactly the same folder structure as the app you imported them from; and any changes you make will be applied across both apps. The screenshot below shows the action bar above the list of emails. The delete, move, reply and print buttons are self-explanatory. The reminder button lets you attach single or multiple reminders to an email message — for example a reminder 12 hours before the due date, followed by three-hourly reminders after the initial reminder.
The most powerful button is the one asking you to determine whether an email is actionable. Its dropdown menu lets you attach an email message to a new or existing action or project; or to a calendar, tickler or someday list entry. For example, last week I received an email from my old university, advising alumni of the process for gaining access to e-journals. This is just the sort of email that might have become esconced in my inbox for a couple of years: too valuable to be deleted but not relevant enough to be actioned in the foreseeable future. With IQTELL I can attach this email to a task in my ‘someday’ folder. If and when the time comes to seek access to e-journals, all the relevant information is already attached to the task. GTD gold. I love IQTELL’s email processing features — ‘Inbox Zero’ has become a regular occurrence.
Tasks can have not only emails attached to them, but also files, notes and links to websites. In fact, there is so much functionality in IQTELL that beta testers are invited to an online training session after they have used the app for a couple of days. At first I thought that might have been overkill, but I did go ahead and enjoyed my skype conference call. IQTELL staff were courteous and knowledgable and genuinely interested in my user experience. The session gave me a better sense of how IQTELL can be customised to meet the needs of individual users. Need to keep track of prospects, classes or a music collection? There is a ready-made IQTELL form for each of those purposes that can be activated by a simple click on the workspace icon. When I pedantically pointed out that there was no ‘country’ field on the contacts page, I was shown how to add user-defined fields to the standard ‘forms’ that underpin the database. Serves me right.
In this post I wanted to limit myself to an overview of the IQTELL virtual workspace; my next post will put IQTELL’s task management features to the test. I can already say, though, that as a task manager, IQTELL delivers functionality akin to that of Omnifocus, but with greater ease of use, with full integration with Evernote and by means of a browser-based app that is not restricted to one operating system.
IQTELL is currently still in beta, with a release planned for later this year. A pricing structure is yet to be decided. IQTELL is compatible with any browser, though older versions of Internet Explorer are ‘not recommended’. In my testing IQTELL worked perfectly on Safari 5.1.7 but not all actions were available when I ran it on Internet Explorer 8. Mobile versions of IQTELL are currently available for iPhone and Android. The iPhone app runs well on iPads but a native iPad app is being developed.
Is IQTELL perfect? No, but getting very close. There are a couple of minor bugs. One involves a problem with the synching of Evernote tags under certain circumstances. I also had difficulty importing contacts from my mac and had to develop a workaround (involving Gmail as an intermediary). Contacts synching is still being refined, with two-way synching reportedly high on the agenda. IQTELL is still a beta version after all; and the product is obviously being constantly improved by an active and very responsive team.
The list of what is great about IQTELL is much longer:
- calendar integration + email integration + contacts + Evernote integration + to do lists = all your information in one place
- great tool for managing email
- GTD-compatible task management
- customisability: add fields to your heart’s content, change sequence of columns
- responsive team, active user forum
- one on one online training session for beta testers
- true integration across apps
I hope you found this post useful. If so, check back in a week or so for my overview of IQTELL as a GTD-compatible task manager. And leave a comment, if you like, to tell us about your experiences with IQTELL.
With thanks to the IQTELL team for preparing the screenshots used in this post.