OmniFocus video is out

Omnigroup just posted a new video showing the main features of the forthcoming OmniFocus application. And it looks like they are doing almost everything right.

The two things I like the most:

Focus
Let’s you focus on a special project or folder of projects. Hides everything else you have entered in the app, so you cab concentrate on the task in front of you. Like a zoom lens on a camera. Very cool feature.

Project folders
You’ll be able to make folders of projects, grouping together projects. Put all your “home” projects in one folder, “work” in another, “you” in a third etc. It lets you organize your projects much better than just a long list of projects. It also helps you see the bigger picture. A silly example: Your “work” folder has 800 projects and your “home” and “you” folders 4…

Combine these two features, and you have a very strong tool to help you do what’s mos important right now. I have two major areas of responsibility at work now, and with the project folders and focus, I can hide the other half while I’m working on one of them.

Get me the beta, and I’ll start using this from day 1.

GTD mac app: iGTD

Bartek Bargiel is another one in the race for the best Mac GTD application. In good Apple style it’s called iGTD and has some very nice features (and some annoying shortcomings as well).

iGTD screenshot

The two things I like the most: Syncing and Quicksilver integration. Syncing worked flawless on my Mac. I had a few tasks in iCal already, synced from another GTD app; Actiontastic, which went open source some days ago. When I synced iGTD, it got these tasks from iCal with no problem.

And this is a good lesson if you are developing a Mac GTD application: Syncing with iCal. One GTD application that doesn’t have this is Midnight Beep Inbox. So there’s no way to get my tasks over to another app. Bah.

I also like that I can use Quicksilver to enter tasks into iGTD. And a nice menubar item with direct access to the app.

The date entry (for entering due dates) is very old fashioned. There’s no pop-up calender to click dates, and you can’t type “today” or “next monday” as some of the other apps can. It doesn’t even recognize 20.3.2007 as 20 March 2007, but as 20 March 2020. Weird.

So the race for the best Mac GTD app is still on. In my heat of possible winners are now five:

Actiontastic
iGTD
OmniFocus (not out yet)
Ghost Action
Midnight Beep Inbox

Which one do you like the best so far? I have big hopes for OmniFocus, based on the quality of the other apps Omni make. Of the other four, I think Inbox looks beautiful, but it’s soooo slow. The other three are great apps, and all have syncing that works. It’s too early to pick a winner for me.

Sean Tierney: Use your desktop as a matrix for urgency/importance

Urgency vs. Importance and the 5th system for scattered todos:

Mentally superimpose the above graph on your desktop (or if you really want, draw it as your background).

Drag the resources (URL locations, documents, graphics, audio files, forms, whatever you’re working with) to the appropriate quadrants on your desktop. URLs are the exact pages on a site with which you need to do whatever task it is. You can chunk a bunch of related items for a discreet task in a folder.

Now rename the filenames to “verb-noun” (ie. “handle tax returns” URL item links to the online filing page on the IRS.gov site)

I find Sean’s tip on using the desktop quite interesting. I drag stuff to the desktop all the time. I will try to organize them according to his tip for some time, and see if that make sense for me. And I think he is spot on when he says that…

Anytime you find yourself uncomfortable contorting your processes to match the latest and greatest productivity religion, I think that’s bad. Ultimately you should learn the fundamentals of various different productivity religions and pick and choose the elements that work for you and make your own.

But – and this is an important but – sometimes it’s better to just use a system someone has spend quite some time thinking about. And not start spending days and hours and months trying to tweak it into your the “perfect-productivity-system-for-you”.

Use Exposé

If you decide to use Sean’s tip, here’s a productivity tip to the productivity tip: Set up Exposé with the upper right corner of your screen to be “Desktop”. When surfing, just grab the link from the browser, move your cursor up in the upper right corner, and wham – all open apps and windows disappear. And you can put the url exactly where you want it on the desktop, on your new urgency/importance grid.

Program your own GTD app

Now you can, as Jon Crosby has decided to make Actiontastic free and open source:

The free (as in “free beer”) part starts tonight. The code (as in “freely available source code”) will follow when the overhead of a new team won’t crush the project under its own weight. Those with experience getting to 1.0 will understand what I mean.

Opening up this project for community participation is the best possible thing that I can think of doing for its future. Great things are on the horizon for that sweet intersection of the web and the desktop. I would rather discuss them openly and collaborate with other like-minded people than hide any of the details just to make another $29 shareware sale. I am not opposed to the idea of shareware in general and have purchased quite a bit of it myself over the past year. It’s just that shareware isn’t the right path for Actiontastic.

It will be very interesting to see what this leads to. I like Actiontastic. It’s fast, clean and solid. Download the latest non-expiring version here.

OmniFocus icon

What do you think of the icon draft Omni has posted for OmniFocus?

OmniFocus icon draft

I’m not sure. I think the other Omni icons are way better. Here they are, presented with the three “main” competitors OmniFocus have:

GTD apps

If I were in charge at Omni, I would have followed the style of the two other apps, a slanted document with something in the lower right corner. A checklist with a magnifying glass was my first thought. The color is ok, so keep that, but change just about everything else. Maybe keep the clip, which looks good.

The other three apps all look great when they are this big. At smaller sizes, Ghost Action look the best. Clear and simple. Actiontastic is a little to complicated for smaller sizes, but the concept is fun: Hit those tasks with a hammer.

OmniFocus out soon

I think OmniFocus is pretty close a release. This is the status message GTD guru Merlin Mann of 43 Folders sported yesterday:

OmniFocus soon?

“That thing you want? It’s almost done, I swear.”

Could be he’s knitting some amazing productivity wool socks for his friends… But I think it’s OmniFocus he’s referring to.

GTD app: Ghost Action

The race for the best Mac GTD app is still on! A new app is in the race: Ghost Action.

Ghost Action screenshot

(Ghost Action screenshot. The app looks slightly different than this screenshot, as I use Uno).

I still have big hopes for OmniFocus, but Ghost Action looks clean and simple, and very similar to Actiontastic. It looks like it’s made using technology by Omni, the same way Actiontastic does.

Ghost Action syncs with iCal (both ways), something Inbox doesn’t do yet.

I had some problems when entering text into new actions. The text just disappeared after hitting Return. This happened twice on about 20 actions. I’ll try it out for some days. One “fun” thing is to see what happens with tasks already in iCal, synced from Actiontastic. Do the two apps live nicely together?

OmmiFocus is progressing

The race for the best Mac GTD app is still on, and today we had a new version of Inbox (1.0.5) out, and yesterday OmniFocus showed the first screenshots of upcoming GTD app OmniFocus in a get-together at MacWorld in San Francisco. TUAW has one (heh, one???) screenshot, which looks promising. I’m sure Merlin Mann will put up more details soon.

Update Nope. He didn’t.A bit strange that Merlin just qoutes TUAW, when he is actually working with Omni on the project.

Chinese Democracy Syndrome

Gus Mueller writes about programming on his site, about how some programmers wants everything to be perfect before they ship something. There’s a whole lot of wisdom in what he says, and not only for programmers:

…I think sometimes developers can get caught in a trap of trying to make things too “perfect”.

“Like Chinese Democracy” Kirstin said.

To which I replied- “That’s the perfect analogy. I’m going to blog that.”

In case you haven’t heard of it already, Chinese Democracy is an album that Axl Rose, the singer of Guns N’ Roses, has been working on for a very, very long time. The hold up is because he wants to get everything “perfect”. So it never ships.

First-time sex

Merlin Mann has been talking about something similar in a podcast he called First-time Sex & the Beauty of 1.0. Quoting Merlin:

Everybody is so busy making things perfect the first time around, that you never actually make anything

Yup. That’s now officially declared the “Chinese Democracy Syndrome” (or CDS for short). Trying so hard to get version 1.0 perfect, that it never ships.

This applies to other things than software, like complex projects. I’m working on a presentation on something that’s quite difficult to explain to people. And I found myself planning and planning and researching, and not working on the actual presentation. Gus talking about CDS made me think about what Merlin said about the first draft, and now I’ve put together a really bad version 1.0: Fonts, colors, facts, timing and length – everything is bad. But it’s version 1.0 and it’s so much easier to fix version 1.0 than making it (this does not necessarily apply to building houses, bridges and spaceships, I must add…)

The secret of Google and VG

Loving the beta-version is also one of the key ingredients of Google’s success: They make a 70% good product, get it out to people, tag it beta, and let it improve by getting feedback from users and their own experience with it. In Norway the tabloid VG is the biggest website, far ahead of the others. They do the same thing: Get things out. Sometimes they fail miserably, sometimes they score big successes. They would never have known if they just kept the projects on the harddrives, tweaking and tweaking them.

GTD online

There’s a race to be the best Mac GTD app. And the race is certainly on with the online versions too. I’ve looked at Tedium before, and Vitalist (or should I spell it “Vital!st” – nah… that looks like spam…) is similar to Tedium.

Vitalist projects screenshot

(Screenshot of Projects pane when adding a new action and assigning it to the @mac context)

I like Vitalist. It’s nice, clean and easy to understand. It needs to get a bit faster and responsive, as I had to wait a bit every time I entered something (even on a fast Mac and a very fast line). It should be as fast as the pages on Flickr when you update them.

There’s also a few things I see already (it’s a beta) that needs to be fixed:

I couldn’t find a way to edit contexts. I added contexts as “@online” and “@mac” but Vitalist added a “@” itself too. Easy to fix I guess.

Vitalist contexts screenshot

(Screenshot of contexts with @@)

There’s no “Forgot your password” so be sure to write it down. This is something beta sites often forget.

The biggest “problem” with online GTD solutions is – as always – what do you do when you’re NOT online?

I’m online most of my time, but I couldn’t use a system where I’m not able to at least see my tasks even when I’m offline.

Sync to iPod?

One way to solve this is syncing with iPods. Like the excellent Mac OS X software Actiontastic (still in beta) does. Check a button and all your projects and tasks go to your iPod as notes. You can’t edit them but you can see them and – most important of all – DO them!

I think there are three ways to sync online GTD tasks to an offline device: A standalone program, a mobile phone (not a cell phone) or an iPod. Making a standalone app is not something I would expect most online systems would do, as this would be just as much work as the online system itself. And people would compare their offline app with other specialized GTD apps like Actiontastic and Inbox.

Syncing to mobile phones would be perfect for most customers, but there are so many different phones. A total mess to make something that just works.

Syncing with iPod is an easy and consumerfriendly way to go.

The beauty of Christmas (and holidays)

I was looking through my contacts pictures of Flickr today, and saw this picture by Mary-Anne. The text under it reads…

My sister is visiting from halfway across the country. I asked her how long she’s staying. She said “Till Sunday.” And I realized… that meant absolutely nothing to me.

This is a good thing. A thing worth celebrating. I had (for that brief time) achieved a state of blissful disconnection from the Real World… to the point where I truly had no idea what day of the week it was. Woo hoo. Here’s to holidays from clocks, calendars, and duties of all kinds.

That is the real beauty of holidays: A “blissful disconnection from the Real World” – what a wonderful expression. And having “…no idea what day of the week it was”.

Thanks, Mary-Anne! You put words on something I have been feeling the last days.

Syncing Google calenders and iCal

Oh joy! Spanning Partners are soon launching Spanning Sync, which is a system preference for OS X that let you sync Google Calenders with iCal.

Spanning Sync

There’s a screencast showing how it will work. And it does exactly what I need it do.

Edit Google Calenders in iCal

So now I can make a shared calender in Google Calender, subscribe to it in iCal, edit it in iCal, and sync the changes right back to Google. Wonderful!

My next question is obviously if several people can edit the same calenders? I would guess this is possible.

But does Spanning Sync keep track of things, so if I edit a calender in iCal, and then try to sync it back to Google Calender, Spanning Sync will warn me if the calender has been changed between this and the last sync.

The screencast is also available at Google Video. And there’s a Google Group for discussion and feedback to and from the developers.

Interesting online GTD system

Tedium is a new web-based GTD system. You can access your lists from a modern browser on all platforms.

Tedium tasks

Simple interface, but maybe too simple for my taste? Not sure yet. I think the tasks should have had more importance (in style), and the buttons under them be less visible. But I must admit they have great taste in colors. 😉

It worked flawlessly in Safari on Mac and Firefox on Win XP. Dragging things around works and editing is fast and responsive.

Todos kan be tagged with tags, which can be used like David Allen the way David Allen suggests you set things up with contexts.

Tedium tags

You can also set dates for tasks that need to be done before a certain date.

You can sign up for a free test account but I couldn’t figure out if it was always free, or if there was a fee after some time. Data can be exported out of the system. They haven’t got around to write an export feature, but they will send you your data if you cancel the account.

Try it out! I wish there were an offline system to go with it, but if you’re always online and trust Tedium to also be, this could be your next way to get things done.

The race for the best Mac GTD app

The Omni group is planning a GTD app, which will be called OmniFocus:

It has a name. It has a team of engineers working on it, a user interface guru mocking up modes and widgets for it, and a product manager whose Herculean job it is to herd this whole mess towards an elusive ship date.

Great! If it’s only half as good as OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle, it will be better than all other GTD apps out there.

At the same time, Midnight Beep has a new beta of Inbox out (previously on Brilliantdays). Inbox looks amazing, and Omni is known for their clean and good-looking UIs. So if you want to get things done on the Mac, there’s no excuse anymore.

Also see previous posts in the GTD category, and especially “Getting things done with automator and spotlight”.

Update
And now it turns out that Ethan J. A. Schoonover – who makes Kinkless – is developing OmniFocus with Omni. In “Hold breath. Exhale. Focus.”, Ethan explains that …at some point it became clear that the next logical step would be to consider Cocoafying the whole shebang. And continues:

Having the chance to take everything I’d been thinking and working on with kGTD and see it turned into something bigger and better and brighter is like making a doodle on a piece of paper, handing it to da Vinci and seeing it turned into a full color oil painting. Even better: it’s like Da Vinci letting you sit around and gab at them while they do this and ask for “a bit more cobalt-blue in the sky” and “a few more peasants in that bit on the left”.

And what’s more: Productivity guru Merlin Mann is in on the team: Mostly I just stand around like a fat man at a construction site, drinking coffee and shouting pointless suggestions. Ethan and OmniGroup listen patiently, sometimes complying with my random requests, and that’s all the pay I could ever hope for

Two modest guys, eh? I think OmniFocus will be my third most used app in no time… And it will be really interesting to see how Inbox works when it’s finished.

New Mac GTD app: Inbox

Midnight Beep has a beta of a forthcoming Mac GTD app; Inbox.

Inbox by Midnight Beep

This looks very promising! Khoi Vinh of Subtraction asked for it some days ago:

It surprises me, actually, that no one is working on a proper, Cocoa-authored desktop application that is a fully-fledged, elegant version of kGTD.

“Elegant”. Exactly. I want the apps on my Mac to look fantastic. Nothing less. And Inbox looks fantastic. It looks like something Delicious Monster would have made, and that’s a big compliment in my book. If you have a look at the personal site of Hans Hansen of Midnight Beep, you’ll find an genuine interest for both technology and art. He has several sites, even one for gaming and one for “all the art and all the crack in the heart of San Francisco”.

Which is in a bit what Garr Reynolds in Presentation Zen talks about in his latest post:

However, it’s increasingly clear that logic alone is not a sufficient condition for success for individuals and for organizations. “Right-brain reasoning,” then, is every bit as important now — in some cases more important — than so-called “left-brain thinking.

Spot on. So I’m always excited when I find people that are able to geek and enjoy art, and not just stay on one side of the “fence”. Garr’s post is worth a post of it’s own. But then again, so are all his posts.

For now, I’m going to take Inbox for a test run, put lots of stuff in there, and start reporting back to Midnight Beep and to you what I think.

Previously

You may also want to have a look at “Getting things done with Automator and Spotlight” and the Getting Things Done category in general.