ten great apps for getting things done

podium2This is my second attempt at writing this post. The first time, in a quest for ‘objectivity’, I got bogged down in a treacly mix of scoring apps against criteria that were of my own choosing anyway. This time around I am opting for an unashamedly impressionistic approach: these are the task management apps I like best.

They are all compatible with David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology, capable of supporting basic to complex project management and with at least one mobile app (iPhone or iPad, ideally both). Despite meeting those criteria, Things, asana, FacileThings and several other pretty solid apps did not make the grade. Only ten apps will fit into a top–10 after all (I was reasonably good at maths at school).

My ranking is exactly that: a personal top ten, reflecting my preferences (I like a nice UI), my approach to productivity (David Allen’s GTD®), my hardware (I am a Mac user), my needs (as a sole operator I have no need for team collaboration features or enterprise–based software) and my experience (I have tested ~30 task management apps over the past two years).

Granted, my illustration is a bit of a spoiler, but please read on if you want to find out which other apps made it into my top ten. Continue reading

doit: a surprisingly good task manager

goatinverted When I tried out Doit at the start of 2012 I liked the way in which it had incorporated David Allen’s Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology, but the browser–based app ran so glacially slow as to be unworkable. Of late, I have come across so many positive comments about Doit that I decided to give the app another ‘go’ — and I am glad I did. Doit has matured into an attractive GTD–compatible task manager with email and calendar integration and supported by mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android. While the free version is quite robust, the premium version gives you lots of extra functionality for just $20 per year, including subtasks, a unique review function and the capacity to track goals. Check out the full review and the screenshots… Continue reading

total, relaxed organisation with donedesk

Why would someone produce an excellent browser-based productivity app like donedesk and make it available, free of charge, to individuals and teams alike? The key to answering this question can be found in the history and objectives of a company called Priacta.

Priacta focuses on time management training, coaching and software. They have developed an approach called total, relaxed organisation (TRO), which they see as building on the work of Stephen Covey (The seven habits of highly effective people) and David Allen (How to get things done. The art of stress-free productivity). Priacta presents its TRO model as an innovative workflow and time management system that can free up almost 600 hours per year. Their website outlines the differences between the GTD® and TRO approaches.

The folk at Priacta have certainly done their homework: one of the features of their website is an interactive software comparison table that describes the key features of more than 160 productivity apps and lets you compare them from the perspective of their compatibility with the Getting Things Done® (GTD®) and Total, Relaxed Organisation methods. The Priacta team did not stop there, instead developing a productivity app of their own. Enter donedesk (drumroll). Donedesk is free because Priacta expects to derive its income from training. There is also a more pragmatic reason: collaborating with others requires a shared software platform and requiring payment for an app would limit its uptake.

It is worth noting that TRO does not require the use of donedesk; Priacta delivers TRO training built around any compatible app that the client is already using. I am not connected in any way to Priacta but I like the integrity of a company that rates its own app, donedesk, a modest 5.5 on a (gruelling) 10–point scale. Asana, a very similar app, receives the same score. Priacta rates Omnifocus a low 3.5, citing the app’s lack of support for teams and collaboration, while the older but feature-rich ToodleDo scores an impressive 7.

Let us now look at what donedesk has under the bonnet.

Continue reading

getting things done with gqueues

GQueues is an attractive and powerful online task manager that integrates with your Google account. Its colourful and easy to use interface is built around folders that contain lists of tasks (called ‘queues’). You can drag and drop tasks, tag them and add notes or due dates. GQueues is highly customisable and can be set up to support a Getting Things Done™ (GTD™) workflow.

The ‘lite’ version of GQueues is free and provides enough functionality to be used for individual task management. The paid version costs $25 per year and adds full team collaboration, integration with Google Calendars and access to mobile versions for the iPhone and iPad and Android phones and tablets. Continue reading

what do you want from a to-do app?

Fools rush in, they say, where angels fear to tread. I thought I would create a diagram, using XMind, a free mind-mapping program, to ‘shortlist’ selected task management programs from a couple of user perspectives.

There are no winners: most of the listed apps have the capacity to boost your productivity enormously. Choosing a productivity app is largely a matter of personal preference – you have to feel comfortable with how data are entered, with the views on offer, with the workflow and the colour scheme. Some of that takes time; an app that dazzles you in the first week may feel suffocating and uninformative once it needs to handle a couple of hundred tasks.

You can question many aspects of my diagram. For example, most of the listed apps support various degrees of customisation; I have only listed omnifocus, gqueues and toodledo as being extraordinarily versatile in that area. For ‘bug free’ I have set the bar equally high.

There are also gaps in my diagram. I have not included apps that I have never explored (call me traditional), nor apps that are primarily geared towards note taking (such as evernote, that swiss army knife of productivity) or team collaboration (such as basecamp or flow). I have not included other parameters, such as whether file attachments are supported. There is only so much that will fit on a page.

My aim in posting this is not to provide complete or authoritative advice, but to provide a couple of pointers for people who are trying to find a task management app that may work for them. I would appreciate constructive feedback!

toodledo: weird name, solid app

In my student days, back in belgium, the citroen ‘deux chevaux’ (two horsepower) was known as the ‘ugly duckling’. It was weird and quirky (with the gear stick in the dash rather than on the floor) but it was cheap and reliable, a solid workhorse.

Toodledo is the 2CV of productivity apps: not much to look at, but it won’t let you down and has a lot of surprises under the bonnet.

To start with, toodledo is fully compatible with the ‘getting things done‘™ (GTD™) approach developed by david allen. Projects, contexts, priorities, tags, status, due dates, filters, locations – it is all there. It is also highly customisable: if you want to run toodledo as a simple task list, you can. If you want to track the time a task is due rather than just the date, or track how much time you have spent on a task, it will let you do that too. You just choose in ‘settings’ which fields you want to use and you can always revisit those decisions. Continue reading

nozbe launches desktop versions

Today marks the launch of new desktop versions for windows and mac of the nozbe productivity app. This post is a fully independent review of version 1.00 of the mac desktop version, which I am running on os 10.7.3  (lion).

Nozbe is the brainchild of michael swilinski of apivision, whose website describes the software as a ‘web-based time- and project-management application for busy people and teams’.

Nozbe has been available as a browser-based app for five years. More recently, the company released apps for the ipad and the iphone. The desktop version can be downloaded for free from the nozbe website. It works faster than the browser version and lets you work offline. Continue reading