March 9, 2010

Why I'm still crazy, an update

I wanted to post an update on my quest for replacing my paper-based planner with something electronic. After all, now that everyone knows that I'm crazy, I had to make sure everyone knows exactly how crazy.

I started off, very successfully, with Things on the desktop. I was in love. Data entry was quick and easy. The streamlined user interface, the general organization, flexible (hierarchical) tags, and project creation aligned perfectly with what I wanted. I spent about 2-3 weeks with Things, but ultimately I had some problems.

As I've said before, multi-machine sync is non-existant. I hacked a solution with DropBox, but every now and then I forgot to quit the app before I shut down my machine and had to go back and do it before I could run it anywhere else without possible database conflicts. Annoying. While I didn't buy the accompanying iPhone app, having to sync it on the local network while the app was running was a non-starter. When running out the door, I would never, ever, be able to do that, and that negates the entire purpose of having a portable app. The Things folks are still promising this is coming, but they have yet to ship it, so I can't rely on it.

As my free trial was winding down, I thought about taking some time and just writing my own based on Google's AppEngine. I wrote a long white paper of all the features I wanted (basically summarizing why I really liked Things), and just as I was starting to find other Googlers to help me in 20% time, I found Get It Done. It's a web-based version of Things, everything but the color scheme. Spot on. As a web app, my data is always available in the cloud. As a well-written AJAXy web app, I can use native-like gestures such as drag and drop to organize tasks and move items around.

One problem with Get It Done is that it's subscription ($40/yr). Cheaper than buying planner refills each year, but still a lot. I took advantage of the 15day trial and ended up making a lot of suggestions and reporting bugs. To my surprise, the developer responded, usually within an hour or two. Sometimes he even made minor changes I asked for on the website the same day. That's in direct contrast to the Things developers who rarely respond to the forums and don't seem to update the app that often. I figure if the developer is going to listen and be responsive, that's worth the subscription to fund future development.

I've been using GID for about a month now and while I like it, there are problems. I don't really like how projects are done. They're nothing more than tags, so to create a new project you have to add even more tags. There's no such thing as completing a project or being able to mark it as complete because it's not a real entity. Makes it hard to track completed projects. Speaking of tags, I didn't know how much I appreciated Things' concept of hierarchical tags until it was gone. In order to simulate it, I'm tagging each item with multiple tags which gets tedious and clutters the UI. There's also no way to filter on multiple tags. Finally, one of GID's greatest benefits - being a web app - is its biggest drawback. It's a web app. It's slower. It's clunky. Sometimes it feels really clunky. Entering data isn't as streamlined as a native app. While it does a really good job of emulating the native UI, it's got a long way to go to actually replicate it.

Things would be a slam dunk if only the data could be sync'd somewhere easily. I'll use GID for the time being, but I'll still be keeping an eye out to switch. Have I mentioned now nice the Things UI is?

Posted by pinkerton at 7:52 PM | TrackBack