My Ideal GTD Software
Unless you’re obsessed with GTD software, this blog post probably isn’t for you. Move along. If the idea of breaking down several GTD apps and discussing their pros and cons sounds like fun, then this is the post for you. Read on…
What This Post is Not: Scientific – This post is based on my opinion. I have a considerable amount of experience with project management (PM) and as such I have strong opinions on GTD as I rely on it to stay organized from day-to-day.
My Addiction to GTD Software
I’ve been using various GTD apps over the last 10 years, and I always end up using an application that does most of what I want, but not all. Granted, that “most” has begun to get awfully close to “all” in the last few years as applications have begun to talk to each other via the cloud and APIs. However, the ideal solution is still a little ways off.
On my iPad/iPhone, I have over 20 GTD related apps. I consistently use two of those applications: wunderlist and Things. Both of these applications are near to being the ideal solution for my GTD needs.
This is long-time favorite app of mine for task management. I bought the app soon after it was launched by Cultured Code and have been using it until recently (more on that later).
Pros of Things App
- Fully featured GTD software with projects, scheduling, repeating tasks, tags, and areas of responsibility. It does almost everything you’ll need it to do.
- Though fully featured, the features don’t get in the way of you doing the most basic parts of GTD: adding things to a list, and checking them off.
- UX is very well planned out in this application. Most actions are intuitive and the learning curve is nearly nil.
- UI is beautifully designed, with very few areas for me to gripe.
Cons of Things App
- Developer communication is piss-poor. Sorry, I’m not pulling any punches here. It took months for Cultured Code to give any kind of clue as to their plans for syncing. Saying “we’re working on it” is unacceptable especially when you have people paying premium prices for your apps, when free apps are beating you on important features.
- Lack of syncing. Wifi only syncing and no real way to sync between installations on different computers is so annoying.
- Price… I’ve shelled out over $80 for their OSX, iPad, and iPhone apps and the service doesn’t match the price tag — sorry.
Why I Quit Using Things
I originally quit using Things because their app lacks syncing. In today’s world, this is a near-basic feature for people who are traveling and are not tied to a single desk with all their devices on the same network.
When I first realized that I needed to start looking around for an alternative to Things, I wasn’t really upset with Cultured Code… until I hit up their website to look for an update. Months had past since they had given people an update regarding syncing, and it was something that I know for a fact many people were getting impatient for.
It wasn’t until wunderlist was launched that I was downright pissed with Cultured Code. Here was a free application, launched with web-based syncing and a simple, clean, easy-to-use UI.
Recently, Cultured Code posted a blog post saying that they were working on syncing, but they clearly noted that they didn’t have a date laid down. I tweeted them and asked if they would be charging for the sync feature — we’ll see if they ever respond.
At this point, I’ve come to the conclusion that I quit using Things not because their product wasn’t good but because their customer service/relations completely sucked. You can only ignore your customers and pretend like we’re the best, so we don’t have to give a damn for so long before it comes back to bite you in the butt.
It took me 10 minutes to move all of my open to-do items over to wunderlist and I’ve been using it ever since.
That angst-ridden bit said, I do think Cultured Code makes a good product. If they can compete with other free offerings out there and can ramp up their communication/community efforts, I’ll more than likely give them another shot.
Update 2/5/12 : I recently joined the Things sync beta and am seeing some amazing improvements to the application.
- Syncing between iOS and OSX is flawless and beautifully executed.
- New features like the “Daily Review” is an absolutely genius feature.
This new-born GTD app, created by 6 Wunderkinder has become popular quite quickly over the last couple months. It hit Mac App Storm website, Twitter, and LeWebb, and people seemed to enjoy the simplicity and style of the application. I was drawn to this application due to its attractive UI and, more importantly, because it synced between computers and iPhone apps effortlessly.
Pros of wunderlist
- Similar functionality to Things App (Yes, this is a plus!).
- Simple GTD list making with the ability to schedule to-dos, prioritize tasks, and sort into projects.
- Customizable, attractive UI (you can change the background).
- Easy syncing between computers and apps.
- Again, a well thought-out UX. It has a very small learning curve.
Fix List for wunderlist
I’ve made a fairly extensive list of my gripes with wunderlist while keeping in mind that the app is brand new and still essentially in beta. I want these items to be considered by the devs and used to improve the app.
- Project list is on the left hand side, creating a huge scroll bar in the middle of the app. Please use a better scroll-bar or think about moving the project list to the left-hand side of the app.
- The title bar of the app is flat — no UI gradient like other OSX apps, it rubs me wrong. Remember, people who use your software are OCD! Tip: Look at Cultured Code’s title bar; it’s perfect!
- Capitalize the “W” in wunderlist. I don’t know if it has anything to do with your company being from Germany or if it’s some damn “hipster” thing, but for my sanity, please capitalize “Wunderlist”.
- Allow us to simply click a button and hide all of the “Recently done” and “Done yesterday” to-dos that we’ve completed.
- Needs a note’s field for each to-do so that you can expand your thought. Trust me, some people WILL need this.
- To-dos that are set for a future date should not show up in my current to-do list. Cultured code made the “today” list feature a must-have feature for GTD.
- 12/29/10 – The sorting on to-dos isn’t intuitive. See screencast (Screencast .swf file)
- 12/29/10 Change the scheduling functionality to be inline with their recent update. See screencast (Screencast .swf file)
Overall, I love wunderlist and I am really excited to see the updates that the developers have planned. Also, I’d love to provide them with feedback at any time (incase they read this) and want someone to test out new changes, etc — I can be reached here, here, here & here *wink wink*.
My Ideal GTD App
This is a continually updated list. In addition to my pro/cons lists above, these are some bullet points that I think are important to a good GTD app.
- My ideal app would have minimal learning curve. My mom should be able to pick it up and use it immediately.
- The app should sync, via the web (cloud), from day 1.
- It would have a drop box, or inbox for new to-dos that need to be sorted.
- Out-of-sight-out-of-mind would be the focus of the app for checked-off items and items scheduled for the future. I always want to see what I need to do today by default, not by having to filter my lists.
- It would have a web-app version that would allow me advanced backup and archiving of past tasks, as well as every-day management of my to-dos if I’m not near my devices where the app is installed.
- My ideal app would then have any native apps for OSX, iPhone, iPad, and Android systems, and the developers would never even contemplate Silverlight or Adobe Air to develop their applications.
- I don’t want to learn custom syntax in order to add a simple to-do.
An Assumption About People that Use GTD Software
I don’t think I’ve met a project manager who wasn’t OCD on some level. We like everything to be arranged in meticulous order. We straighten photos on the wall in other people’s houses. As such, we tend to like our tools to be clean, organized, and simple, and we are going to be the first people to notice if your app has the slightest inconsistency, or if the design isn’t polished.
The True Core of Good GTD Apps
To many programmer-types, polish and detail might be something that can be ignored as being secondary to functionality. While this is certainly true, those that use your product day-to-day will tend to focus on the details.
In a way, the functionality of a GTD app is simple. If the functionality of your application requires a person to think or focus on the actual functionality then you have –in a way– failed. If you are following true GTD method, then the act of creating a to-do list should be the easiest thing a person should not-have-to-think-about.
I apologize to those that will take offense to what I’ve posted. Many may disagree with me. However, I do hope that my feedback will help streamline someone’s application, and I’m happy to comment, debate, update, and revise this blogpost to truly provide quality.