After a couple of years as a mostly satisfied Android user, I recently switched back to the iPhone (the reasons might someday be the subject of another story). I was eager to try out location-based reminders, which reminded me of a stripped down (but easier) version of Tasker on Android. I liked the idea that I could use Siri to say, “remind me to take out the trash when I get home,” and I’d have a reminder added to my list in the Reminders app. Thanks to geofencing in iOS, that reminder would automatically fire when I pulled into the driveway. READ MORE
I’ve been a big fan of Toodledo ever since I first reviewed it back in 2010. Recently, though, I’ve been unfaithful. I’ve abandoned Toodledo as my task management app of choice, and moved on to OmniFocus. While there are some reasons not to switch, a few compelling reasons helped me to decide to make the move. Here are some reasons to switch, and some reasons to stay put.
OmniFocus is a fantastic GTD application, boasting many great features. One of my favorite features is the quick entry box. This allows you to tap a key combination to call up a task entry box. That entry box will hover over whatever app you’re using and then disappear after you enter your task and hit the Return key. The big problem is that OmniFocus is a Mac-only app. I’ve liked it enough as I tested alternatives to Toodledo, that I looked for a way to make it easier to implement in a world dominated by Windows. I found a very slick free app called Win2GTD that brings an OmniFocus quick entry box to Windows.
One of our readers previously wrote about Getting Things Done with 2Do and Toodledo. That great writeup focused on using Toodledo through 2Do, an iOS app. I have been using Toodledo ever since I first was blown away by it, although primarily through the web app (albeit via Fluid, a Mac app that turns a web page into a standalone application). Over time, I’ve developed a system of my own to implement some GTD methodologies within Toodledo. Here it is.
Some Mac task management apps allow you to use a keystroke to create a task from an Apple Mail message, and then have that task link back to the Mail message. This is particularly handy if, like me, many of your tasks originate from Mail messages. If you’re a Toodledo user, you can do this as well, although it will require you to purchase a third-party Mail plugin.
No sooner do we write about how to spruce up Toodledo with User Styles, than Toodledo goes out and spruces itself up with a new user interface. Earlier today, the interface was rolled out. The bad news? The interface conflicts with the user style I was using, and probably others as well. The good news? The default user interface is pretty nice on its own.
I love Toodledo. Ever since I crowned it my task manager of choice over a year ago, it has remained as one of the main tools in my productivity arsenal. Read our prior review for a look at why it stands as such a strong task management app for geeks. One shortcoming of Toodledo, and a factor that keeps many people from using it, is the user interface. To put it bluntly, it’s ugly. But it doesn’t have to be. With very little effort, you can turn Toodledo into a visually appealing productivity tool.
Producteev won me over a while back with the smooth way they integrate into your already established workflow. The pretty helped too — pretty is a necessity for me when looking at a task list — but it was the Google Calendar integration, and the ability to interact with and create tasks from email, IM, and more that clinched it for me. As a Gmail user, I have access to a nifty widget, and Google Apps users get even tighter integration.
Enough about me and my Google services, though! We’re here to talk about you — and did you know that Producteev has just launched an Outlook plugin that let’s you single-click emails directly to tasks? And that’s not all… they’ve also announced a two-way sync with Google Tasks, and have some native apps on the way! You like? Read on for details!
Outlook is powerful software, but it lacks mobility, which is a tough thing when you use it as your main task manager in this day and age. Producteev makes Outlook tasks portable by allowing you to take them to the cloud by way of a tightly integrated Outlook plugin. With the plugin, you can add emails to tasks in Producteev with a single click of the flag button, and with the integrated Producteev tab, you can assign it to others, add priority stars, etc. The plugin only allows you to sync with one workspace at a time, but you can choose for the sync to be two-way, Outlook to Producteev, or Producteev to Outlook only, and you can change workspaces right from Outlook, as well.
Here’s a link to the Producteev Outlook plugin screencast.
I was honestly under the impression that people cared about Google Tasks about as much as they do about Buzz, Wave and Sidewiki. Or Orkut. Apparently, I was gravely mistaken, as Google is invested enough in Tasks that they went through the trouble of launching a Tasks API at Google I/O this month. Producteev was right there with them, and has created a two-way revolving door with the in-Gmail task manager.
It’s a pretty cool integration, actually. It allows you to create tasks in Google and have them sync to your Producteev workspace where they will have their own label (the list’s name) automatically assigned. It also works the other way, bringing your workspace’s tasks into Google where you can quickly check on them and interact with them without leaving your email. Yayy efficiency!
Check out the quick screencast on the integration, below:
I advise you to be careful when using Google Tasks sync, however. It is, at this point, only designed to handle a connection from one Producteev workspace. If you use several workspaces concurrently, like I do in my Producteeev GTD setup, and you, say, I don’t know… connect them all… at once – well, let’s just say you will end up with an ever-growing and duplicating list of tasks as the workspaces sync them, and then re-sync them, one after the other, after the other, after the other. *grins* Thankfully, they all show up under one label and so were easy to delete.
If you do use multiple workspaces in your productivity setup, I recommend using only your most important workspace in Google Tasks sync. You could also use it for a priority tasks list, or to keep your Projects workspace handy at a glance.
Producteev hasn’t forgotten about the users out there who prefer native apps. They have had them in the works for some time now, and that awesome little tree is about to bear its fruit. A Mac app is due to hit the mainstream by the end of this month, and Windows will get a native app in mid-June. That’s straight out of the mouth (well… email) of Producteev founder Ilan Abehassera, so doubt me at your peril! Ilan also said that a fancy new Android app will be available in early June, as well.
Here’s a look at the Mac app (from the Producteev Blog):
What do you think of Producteev’s new integrations?
Continuing with our Reader Workflow showcase, we’re proud to present Nina Kefer’s second post in her GTD experiments series, Beauty and Brains: Getting Things Done™ In Style. In her last article, she showed us a particularly awesome GTD setup with Awesome Note and Evernote; focused on the iPhone, overall. This time around, she delves into a mobile frontend for Toodledo. Read on for Nina’s GTD workflow with the iPhone app, 2Do.
For an additional take on Toodledo and GTD, also check out our post on Getting Things Done with Toodledo using pseudo-GTD methodologies.
Beauty & Brains: Getting Things Done™ In Style, Part 2 – 2Do
In my last article I described my GTD system for Awesome Note synced with Evernote. If you prefer a tighter sync between front and back end, however, you’ll want to give 2Do a try. 2Do is an award winning productivity app that syncs with the task management website Toodledo as well as iCal and Outlook (via a sync helper). I use a PC, so iCal is not an option and I don’t use Outlook because it doesn’t doesn’t play well with Gmail, so unfortunately I had to make do without a desktop client.
The sync with Toodledo is pretty tight, albeit with some peculiarities. 2Do’s interface is designed to look like a colourful Filofax and comes with several pre-installed “calendars” or tabs, which are basically to-dos, projects and check lists that are pulled together in the “Today” and “All” tabs. 2Do’s tabs appear in Toodledo as folders and, as with Awesome Note, they can be easily renamed or replaced to suit GTD. They can also be moved up or down and assigned custom colours – I basically think of them as dividers in a lever arch file or personal organiser.
While Toodledo supports contexts, 2Do doesn’t out of the box, but this can easily be set up by creating tags for each context and then searching for each tag using the excellent built-in search function. These searches can be saved as tabs which will then sync to Toodledo as folders. Just like “normal” tabs, they can be moved up or down to whichever position fits best with your GTD setup. Note that tags cannot be created from scratch; you first need to create a task, then you can create the tags to tag it with.
For my to-do system I use a similar setup as in Awesome Note. Since 2Do doesn’t have a dedicated inbox, I first created a new tab called Inbox. I then created a Next Action tab as well as saved searches for all my context tags. That way I can collect all next actions in one tab, but filter them by context using the saved searches. Since these are the folders I check most often I moved them to the top of the list, so they are immediately visible on my screen when I open the app. Alternatively, you can create a dedicated “normal” tab for each context. Finally, I created Project, Someday and Reference tabs and moved all tabs in an order that suited me best. I then manually arranged the corresponding folders in Toodledo in the same order:
- @Waiting (these appear as tags in Toodledo)
- Next Action
2Do offers an almost bewildering array of features, but they are elegantly tucked away in hidden menus, so the interface never looks cluttered. When creating your tasks you have the choice between three different types – to-do, checklist and project – that can be assigned six different actions: call, SMS, email, browse, visit and Google. Call, SMS, email and visit actions can be linked to the contacts in the iPhone’s address book and a tap on a task containing such an action will bring up the contact’s phone number or email address or show the postal address in Google maps. You can then call, text or email them directly from within the app.
A long tap on a task brings up a menu that shows what you can do with that particular task: mark as done, defer to another day, copy, share (via email, SMS or Twitter), delete, add note, take or attach a photo, record and attach an audio file or assign a due date and alarm. There is a choice between email alerts and local alerts, i.e. a notification on the phone lock screen that works even if data roaming is disabled or the phone is in airplane mode. For local alerts, you can choose between receiving a push message only or a message plus sound, with a choice of different alarm sounds. A red badge on the app icon shows how many to-dos are due or overdue and within the app overdue tasks appear in red font instead of black.
2Do uses two types of tags – word tags and people tags, the latter linked to contacts in the iPhone’s phone book – which make tasks easily traceable via the search function. You can also search by key word and date range, and searches you do frequently can again be saved as new calendar tabs, so in the future you only have to tap on the tab to bring up a search result.
Tasks can be sorted by status, priority (none, low, medium, high, star), due date, note, URL, alphabetical or manually. As in Awesome Note, you can sort each folder in a different way. The Today tab shows all tasks due today and additionally there is a focus button that can filter out to-dos that don’t fulfil certain requirements, e.g. due date or level of priority. Individual tasks can be moved from one tab to another with a few quick taps. Switching to landscape view in any tab brings up a calendar showing all tasks that are due in the current month. Finally, there is a nearby tab that alerts you when you approach a location connected with your task, but I don’t use it since it uses GPS and therefore guzzles battery.
Tasks, Subtasks, and Sync with Toodledo
I Get Things Done in 2Do in pretty much the same way as in Awesome Note: my Inbox and Next Action (and context) tabs are reviewed daily and Project tab weekly. As with Evernote, you send emails to Toodledo to create a task; you can specify folder, priority, due date and time, tag, repeat, and attach the body of the email as a note.
2Do supports subtasks, so there is no need for workaround like there is in Awesome Note. Each subtask can be given its own tag, due date, alarm, action and attachment and can be moved out of the project and into the appropriate Next Action folder, right from within the main task menu (parent and subtask can’t be in different folders). Alternatively, if you have created contexts tabs from saved searches, adding the appropriate context tag (@PC, @Contact, @Errands and so on) will make the subtask appear in that tab, with the project and folder name still visible. Finally, if you assign a due date, the task will eventually pop up in the Today tab. However, be aware that subtasks are a premium feature in Toodledo and in order for them to sync between 2Do and Toodledo together with their parent task you need a (paid) Pro account. In free accounts, subtasks sync separately from the parent task.
Tags, due dates and notes sync to Toodledo, but photos, location maps and audio files remain locally in 2Do as Toodledo only supports notes. However, this has the advantage that these files are available for offline use on the iPhone.
There is a reason why 2Do was voted Best iPhone Productivity app: in combination with Toodledo it offers pretty much everything one could wish for, except the option to sync your tasks with the iPhone calendar. It is quick and easy enough that you barely have to use the web, yet the sync with Toodledo is tight enough to be able to use both apps more or less interchangeably. Don’t be put off by Toodledo’s less than slick appearance either. It is a powerful and highly customisable task manager and there are a number of Stylish and Greasemonkey themes to pretty it up.
What are your thoughts on GTD in 2Do and Toodledo?
Nina lives in the UK and works in Financial Services. A frequent international traveller, she has extensive experience of managing life on the go. A trip to Japan opened her eyes to the possibilities of mobile phone technology and she has been attempting to achieve a similar level of connectivity ever since. This is her first technology article.
Up Next: Part 3 – Springpad
We like useful tech here at 40Tech, and spend a fair amount of time talking about productivity related apps. We’ve written more than a few posts talking about ways we’ve used tech to make our busy lives a little more sane, and a little while back, we asked people to show us their own workflows. We wanted to see how our readers integrate tech into their daily lives to keep them productive. We received some comments on the post, some notes on Twitter and Facebook, and even had a few email conversations with folks, and have decided to feature a couple of the more involved methods.
Today’s feature, by freelance graphics and web designer Chase Mann, involves a GTD process that includes Evernote, Outlook, Microsoft’s OneNote, and a few other choice bits of technology:
Getting Things Done (GTD) with Evernote, Outlook and OneNote
I’m a freelance graphics & web designer that uses a tablet pc. In short, these are the tools that I’ve found work best for me:
- Moleskin notebook & pen, Smartphone with Evernote app.
- Dropbox to automatically sync all client files and research folders.
- Outlook for Contacts, Calendar & Tasks. (connected with Gmail).
- OneNote as my written-note capture and Working space (on my tablet-pc) with a GTD Notebook for current Projects.
- Evernote as my magic, portable filing cabinet & reference library.
- I use Outlook Journal for time tracking from this article by Jim Boyce.
- I setup Outlook & OneNote for GTD from this article by Michael Wheatfill.
- I setup Evernote for GTD from this 40Tech article by Bobby Travis.
I then tweaked all these programs and setups to better fit my workflow needs.
The GTD Workflow
I begin my GTD workflow by keeping my Moleskin notebook and Android phone as my immediate capture devices, which I then process into my Evernote Inbox notebook. Because I have design software on both my desktop and my tablet pc, and I’m constantly making changes to client files and gathering research resources, I use Dropbox to have the most updated client files and research folders automatically synced between all of my devices.
My projects tend to be mostly digital so I rely heavily on email communications (and some telephone conversations), but I tell all my clients that I prefer email so we both have documented project conversations. Outlook has quickly become my main communications & scheduling hub. Once I am referred a potential client, I setup a meeting to discuss project needs via whatever medium they prefer. I always take notes during the conversation and then email a copy to the client as my first follow-up step. If the client chooses me for the project, then I make new notebooks in both Evernote and OneNote specifically for that client and that project.
As I have time to sort through my inboxes, I’m able to organize and set tasks up as Projects. All Projects get their own notebook created in OneNote. I also attach that notebook to all possible related contacts in Outlook.
Why the heck would I use Outlook? I love the integration of Outlook and OneNote (2010 versions). I like being able to take an email about a client meeting and actually turn it into a task AND an appointment on my Calendar. I love being able to set reminders on tasks and calendar items too. It’s my tickler system. Easy.
As I process emails, they either get turned into scheduled tasks, flagged with a reminder tickler, sent to Evernote as reference, or sent to OneNote for current working projects. A major benefit of sending an email from Outlook to OneNote is that any attachments on the email show up as attached files in OneNote. How cool is that?!
From the beginning, I had decided that Evernote would be my magical, brain-dump, inbox, filing cabinet. My very own research and records department that I can conveniently carry around in my pocket and access via a variety of mobile options. I setup Evernote using Bobby’s article with some tweaks to better suit my workflow.
Since Evernote came out with sub-notebooks, I find it easier to use those on my Android phone. I created a “Clients” notebook with sub-notebooks for each client by name. “Inbox” is my default notebook and “References” notebook, because I like moving items out of the Inbox notebook as part of my review process. I also created a “Coffee” notebook because I’m heavily involved in the coffee industry.
For all of my own personal projects, I create “@Project-name” tags to easily find them and I created a “!clients” tag for quickly marking items for later processing into the actual client’s sub-notebook. Since I really don’t use Evernote for my GTD (I prefer Outlook and OneNote for that), the only other tags I used were Bobby’s suggestion of Reference Materials, with a “folder” tag for each letter of the alphabet … which I further break down into actual tags. So A, would also have Apple, Art, Amphibians, etcetera … whatever tags make the most sense to me when I capture the item.
I do most of my project research via the internet and send pages, selections and images to Evernote with the !clients tag into my Inbox notebook for later sorting. Next I sort through my research materials and send selected items over to the project’s notebook in OneNote and create a mood-board page so I can mix and match items organically and scribble notes wherever I feel like it.
OneNote is my working desktop so I try to keep it tidy by not using it as a reference tool, even though I could. The reason I prefer OneNote over Evernote for projects is because with a tablet PC I have the freedom to scribble hand-written notes anywhere I like in OneNote — then I can right click them and convert them into typed text. I also keep a section called “Scribbles” in each Client’s section group so that I can scribble notes and ideas as they hit me, then I convert them into tasks or reference material during my daily review of projects. I try my best to stay organized as I go so I have less processing to do during reviews.
One extra thing I did with OneNote was to setup a Clients Notebook where I created a section-group for each client with a Projects section that has pages and sub-pages for each active project I have with that client. I have an All Projects section in my GTD Notebook that lists all my currently active projects which has a wiki-style link to the Client’s section-group, and the specific Projects section for that client (and vice versa). This way I’m able to move around quickly within OneNote. I have To Do lists in each Client section-group and have those wiki-linked to a main To Do list in my GTD Notebook. I also set up an Archives section in each of the Client’s section-groups where I send the individual projects when they are totally complete. This way I only have current working projects in the active Projects section of both my GTD Notebook and my Clients Notebook.
Another reason I prefer to keep Evernote for reference and OneNote as my Projects organizer is so I can use the power of tags in each program respectively. I like being able to list all my tags across all notebooks in OneNote and know that they are project-related.
When I’m looking for a reference item, I know to just search by tags in Evernote and copy/paste only the necessary bits I need (instead of entire articles or web pages) over into OneNote.
I do a daily review each morning so I can make new daily lists, and I do a Sunday morning weekly review. I do mine in the mornings so that I’ve not got a lot on my mind when I’m trying to go to sleep at night.
So that’s my current workflow – thought it is still developing and being refined. I’m curious if someone has done something similar, but with Google apps or other free apps?
Chase Mann is the owner of Aim It Media, a creative design and marketing company for entrepreneurs and small businesses. You can connect with him via his many comments on 40Tech, or catch him on Twitter as @AimItMedia, @MyCoffeePro, or @Creativarty