nozbe and zendone revisited


Early in 2012 I reviewed Nozbe and Zendone, two browser–based task management apps that are steeped in David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology. Since that time, both apps have continued to improve. Nozbe has added new functionality and overhauled the user interface of its suite of apps. Just today they rolled out version 1.8. Zendone, which was still in beta at the time of my first review, has gone gold, produced apps for the iPhone and Android and added significant new functionality and polish to what was already an excellent tool.

Nozbe and Zendone are very similar. They are both developed by software developers with a clear commitment to GTD® and to ongoing quality improvement. They lead the field in terms of integration with Evernote. For what it is worth, I have tested 28 task management apps over the past two years and Nozbe and Zendone both figure in my virtual ‘top–five’. This is a gentle review therefore, a comparison of two very capable tools.

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set up a ‘waiting for’ perspective in omnifocus

Your effectiveness in getting things done is not determined solely by your own productivity—it also depends on the work of others and on your ability to manage and track their contribution. Not surprising then, that David Allen’s Getting Things Done™ methodology recognises ‘waiting for’ as a distinct work ‘context’. It is used to flag tasks that you are not able to complete yourself because you lack the technical expertise, the mandate, or simply the time or the interest. Whether your project is planning your gran’s 90th birthday party or delivering a major urban renewal initiative, it is crucial that you have a clear overview of all project tasks that have been delegated to others.

So how can you achieve this in Omnifocus, the legendary desktop–based task management app for Mac? I have been using Omnifocus since 2009 and I keep finding new ways of making the app work better for me. I also know from experience that newcomers can find user–defined views, which Omnifocus calls ‘perspectives’, daunting and hard to set up. This post explains how to set up an Omnifocus perspective that enables you to keep track of the tasks that you have delegated. Continue reading

facile things teaches you GTD

FT banner

David Allen’s Getting Things Done® is a broad approach to personal productivity that invites you to examine your aims and objectives at a number of levels. What is your vision for your life? What sort of a person do you wish to be? What are your long term plans? What about your plans for the next three to five years? Cascading down this hierarchy of priorities will eventually lead you to the level of projects and tasks: what action do you need to take next, in the physical world, to make your vision or dreams come true?

Many productivity apps that are inspired by David Allen’s GTD® approach conveniently ignore the broader dimensions of productivity and provide a tool for dealing with the mechanics of GTD: projects, contexts, tasks and, if you are lucky, a process that supports the weekly review, a key feature of GTD®.

You will find no such reductionism in Facile Things, the brainchild of Francisco Saez, a Spanish developer. Fire up the app in your browser and it will invite you to reflect upon your purpose, vision, goals. From there flow areas of responsibility, projects and finally, actions. The various dimensions of your planning can be accessed at any time by clicking the ‘perspectives’ heading in the menu bar. Continue reading

get it done

Every so often I return to Priacta’s interactive GTD software comparison table, which rates and lets you compare more than 160 productivity apps that are compatible with David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD®) approach. What made me notice get it done was the high score for GTD–compatibilty (6/10) it received from Priacta, placing this browser–based to do app almost on an equal footing with feature–rich ToodleDo. My interest piqued, I decided to check out the free 15–day trial version and share my findings with you. Continue reading

pagico’s productivity platform

Every now and then, good things can come from checking your Twitter account. The odd bon mot from the irrepressible Stephen Fry or, in this case, stumbling upon a little productivity gem. Pagico is the handiwork of a small development team based in Japan. The developers describe their product as ‘a comprehensive planner that manages notes, tasks, files, projects and contacts’. It supports individual planning as well as team collaboration and is available for Mac, Windows, Ubuntu, iPhone and iPad.

Pagico is a desktop app that has been around since 2007. It is rich in features yet also somewhat idiosyncratic. It took me a while to find my way around the app and how workspaces can be configured, but it was worth the effort. Pagico has some unusual features: it lets you manually rearrange your tasks on a ‘dashboard’ that looks like a Gantt chart; and it can turn your project steps into a slideshow. Pagico at times feels like a mix of IQTELL, OneNote, MS-Project and KanbanFlow. That is not to say, however, that Pagico is derivative; it has its own intrinsic logic and is an original, versatile and beautifully executed app, particularly on the iPad and the iPhone versions. Interested? Let’s have a closer look… Continue reading

ozengo’s top 10 tips for taming omnifocus

Finding a task management app that appeals and blends in with your working style can take quite some time. At some stage you have to make a choice, stick to it and make it work. Unless, of course, you really enjoy exploring new productivity apps. I find it fascinating that developers come up with so many different approaches to the questions of what do I want/have to do and what is the best way for planning and keeping track of all these activities.

While I have settled upon Omnifocus as my preferred task manager, I am virtually always exploring one or two other apps at the same time. Right now, I am tinkering with asana and Donedesk (if you subscribe to my blog you will be notified by email as soon as the respective reviews  go live). Part of the attraction of entering tasks in a brand new app is the sense of exploration, coupled with a feeling of control: those first fifteen tasks stand there, neatly lined up, tagged and prioritised. They signal the new you, who will wake up clear-headed, have days of stellar achievement and seemingly effortlessly accomplish life goals… Any new app feels sleek and fast, like a regatta boat. By contrast, your trusted old task manager, with its hundreds of tasks collected over the years, can seem like a lumbering nineteenth-century frigate returning from a long ocean voyage, slowed down by the shroud of built-up seaweed on its keel.

It is not a fair comparison of course. Most promising new apps start revealing their flaws or limitations once you have used them for three or four weeks. For me, my ongoing struggle with Omnifocus has been how best to filter the multitude of my tasks in the absence of tags and using only the tools that are provided in the app: perspectives, start dates, due dates and flags. In this post I want to share my learning and workarounds with you in the hope that you will try, or stick with Omnifocus, which I consider the best productivity app around for Mac users. I am not in any way associated with the Omni Group.

If you are not a Mac user, or you want to look further afield, I recommend Priacta’s interactive table comparing productivity apps that are compatible with David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD)® approach. Continue reading

things 2 and omnifocus compared

The choice between Omnifocus and Things has been a matter of discussion in the mac community for a number of years now. Each of these two task management apps has its proponents and detractors. For some, Things embodies elegance and Omnifocus complexity. However, users who have used both often keep shuttling back and forth, seemingly unable to choose between the two. When using Things they miss the hierarchy of subtasks and subfolders available in Omnifocus. After switching back to Omnifocus, they miss the simplicity of Things and the ability to attach multiple tags to a task. They find being restricted to using a single context in Omnifocus frustrating as it means, for example, that allocating a ‘waiting for’ context to a task means that the original context has to be removed first and possibly reinstated later. In Things you just add a ‘waiting for’ tag alongside your original tag(s). But what a pity tasks cannot be indented…

The recent release of Things 2 for Mac, iPad and iPhone makes it worth revisiting this discussion. Things 2 introduces a number of significant improvements, including cloud synching, a daily review system, improved date picking on the iPad and integration with Reminders and Siri. These new features are described clearly on the Things website; my aim in this post is to compare the current functionality and the respective strengths of Omnifocus and Things 2.

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IQTELL’s beta as a GTD-compatible task manager

In my previous post I introduced you to IQTELL’s virtual workspace, which brings together all your calendars, email accounts, contact information, tasks and notes into the one gargantuan browser-based application.

In this post I want to use a couple of screenshots provided by the IQTELL team to zoom in upon one of those areas and take you on a tour of IQTELL as a task manager. Continue reading

IQTELL’s virtual workspace: productivity heaven?

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:

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zendone: ‘a beautiful productivity tool for getting things done’

Zendone is an elegant new productivity app that provides seamless integration with evernote and google calendar. It is so new, in fact, that it is still in beta; the version I tinkered with was 0.7.5.

the zendone homepage with its slightly steampunk bumblebee

Setting up your zendone account involves providing an email address and creating a password. You are then ready to use zendone as a straight task manager. The multiplier effect for this app, however, comes from combining it with evernote and google calendars. Preparing your evernote account for zendone integration involves setting up a default folder in evernote called ‘@inbox’ and another one called ‘archive’. The zendone preferences pane and some preloaded ‘tutorial tasks’ guide you through this process. Zendone also creates new calendars in a nominated google calendar: one for each area of responsibility (e.g. work, home) and one for completed tasks.

Any tasks that you create in, or email to your evernote account, appear in zendone’s inbox within seconds. The inbox is where you collect and process your tasks. They can be delegated, allocated to a project and given a context, a tag or a completion date.

elephant meets bumblebee: a task created in evernote shows up in the zendone inbox

The user interface is clean, elegant and logical. A limitation with how you describe tasks is that the repeat function at present only provides ‘every‘ as the frequency option. I would also like to see an option to restart a task from its completion date (you make a mortgage repayment every month but you may decide to clear your gutters after three months). There is also no option to enter task duration (like in omnifocus or toodledo); and the absence of that parameter means that you cannot bring up a list of brief tasks (though creating a context for these could be a workaround). The zendone team appears to be thorough and responsive and I hope that these minor issues can be addressed in the final version.

The next phase in David Allen’s Getting Things Done™ (GTD)™ process involves reviewing and organising your tasks. In zendone, new tasks are added at the bottom of the respective list. I could not find an option to sort tasks automatically by due date, but you can drag and drop them to sort them into an order that makes sense to you. The navigation pane can be hidden from view and you can click underneath a project list to show completed actions for that project.

The zendone ‘review & organise’ pane. Note the filters in the navigation pane on the left.

The main functionality I miss here is the capacity to have nested tasks (as in omnifocus, toodledo and todoist) and the capacity to save project templates or to schedule reviews (as in omnifocus).

The ‘do’ view is again clean and uncluttered. You can choose to see all your priority tasks (marked with a chunky big star) or only those of a particular area of responsibility (such as work or home). You can also filter tasks by context. No demoralising sea of red here: overdue tasks have three discreet red dots in front of them. Two panes at the bottom of the screen can slide open to show recently received and/or completed tasks.

Zendone’s ‘do’ view.

There is much to like here and the app keeps getting better: the zendone team rolled out functionality improvements twice in the four days it took me to review the app and write this post. This is a great app if you want to add a productivity dimension to your evernote and/or your google calendar. Zendone is a delight to use even though its functionality is more limited than that of omnifocus. On the other hand, it is easier to pick up than OF. While omnifocus is fairly expensive to buy, zendone will not be a free app – there is talk about a ‘reasonable’ monthly fee.

Personally, I find using a calendar for task management suffocating (but you can disable the evernote and google integration if you wish). The main dealbreaker for me is that zendone will only run on ‘a modern version’ of chrome, safari or firefox. For me, that means I would only be able to use the app at home. It won’t run in safari on my iPad 2 (OS 5.0.1) and at work the network is still using internet explorer 6 (mordac alert for all you dilbert fans out there).

Finally, I just wanted to make clear that I have no commercial interest in zendone (or omnifocus) and that I am not an expert in productivity apps – just an interested user. And to you folks out there at zendone: congratulations on your achievement and please feel free to post a correction in the comments section if I have misrepresented any aspect of your work.

Update (28-09-12)

Version 0.8.0 of zendone was released in July 2012, rolling out some significant enhancements:

  • actions can now be grouped in the ‘review & organize’ view
  • a ‘next task’ filter enables you to view only those tasks that need to be completed in order to move each of your projects a step forward
  • you can now bring up next actions in the ‘do’ view and decide which ones to add to the starred items of your focus list
  • zendone now has a fast and accurate search function.

You can find more detail about these changes on the zendone blog.