Wasting time figuring out how to be productive
November 24, 2010 9:43 AM   Subscribe

A task management app (web or Mac) that's a step up from "basic"?

My short list of features seems common-sense to me, but I'm slowly going insane wading through a cornucopia of apps, none of which seems to satisfactorily fulfill my list.

- Basic hierarchy + subtasks.
For example-- Level 1: Area/Folder = Work. Level 2: Project = Job search. Level 3: Task = Get references. Level 4: Subtask = Contact Dr. Z for permission. (This is where Things, RTM, and Teuxdeux fall short; subtasks are a paid feature in Toodledo.)

- Sorting ability -- by due date, or project, or area.
I love the simplicity of Gmail Tasks, but the inflexibility in viewing just kills me. I'd like a way to view multiple lists simultaneously, where everything is sorted by area like work or health (ideally by toggling them on/off like in Google Calendar). But I'd also like a way to sort chronologically and see all the tasks due on a specific date, even if they're from different areas.

- 2 priority levels. It's either Important or not. I just need a star/flag/whatever.
- A few catch-all buckets (e.g. "This Week" or "Someday") for tasks that I'll assign in the future.
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Not ugly (Toodledo, I'm looking at you)
- Gmail and GCal integration so that I can keep everything together and streamlined would be a huge bonus, but not a must.

Features I DON'T need: tags (if there's already a folder/area level), search, contexts, anything GTD-related. Something like Omnifocus would be overkill.

It seems that these apps for the iPad are right about where I want... just a step up from basic, and cheap. There has to be something similar for the Mac/web... right?
posted by amillionbillion to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I personally adore Omnifo—

> Something like Omnifocus would be overkill.

Oh. Are you sure? It can be complex, but only as complex as you want it. The philosophy is that you can use it as you see fit and make use of as many or as few of its features as you want.

It really does meet all your other requirements. It's GTD-oriented, but again, you can just opt not to use the GTD stuff if you don't want to (but I think you'll find the Project/Context thing quite useful in reality).
posted by henryaj at 9:51 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm with henryaj, OmniFocus will do what you want and the rest gets out of your way (I don't use the contexts), but I've heard plenty of good stuff about Things as well.
posted by Remy at 10:13 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

It doesn't have any calendar stuff, but TaskPaper can handle the rest and is rather flexible.
posted by ignignokt at 10:15 AM on November 24, 2010

The Hit List, currently (warning: possibly perpetually) in beta, may be close to what you're looking for.
posted by mkultra at 10:18 AM on November 24, 2010

I think I've tried pretty much everything out there and kept coming back to the admittedly ugly-ass Toodledo, paid version for subtasking. Nothing else has its range of customization, so you can get rid off any fields that you don't use and focus on the ones you do, and the tab settings give you instant sorting by area, due date, or any folder system you devise. If they hired a designer for a couple of weeks it would be, no contest, the best todo software there is, especially as it syncs with lots of mobile todo apps as well (the dealbreaker with HitList for me).

If Toodledo's ugliness is your only barrier, you CAN deuglify it considerably, it takes about 15 minutes if you want to try it:

1. If you use Firefox, install Stylish, which lets you impose your own look on webpages, I believe Chrome has this plugin too.
2. Install "Toodledo Clear". It's a really nice user-made style that's pretty clean, you can even use the little green arrow on the upper left to open and close all the options down the side.
3. If you don't like the background (I didn't), you can make it plain white by going into stylish --> manange styles --> toodledo clear --> edit, and change the line

background:#fff url(http://blog.discoveryeducation.com/fred_delventhal1/files/2008/03/riptide-background839091636-aqua-1680x1050.jpg) repeat 0 0 !important;


background:#fff repeat 0 0 !important;

So it will look like this. There are several people trying similar fixes, you can find them in the forums usually headed 'userstyles'.

If you know CSS you also play around with fonts etc. Someday I'll beautify this style further (and redesign the logo, at least for my own eyes).. if I ever get to the bottom of my todo list.
posted by Erasmouse at 11:11 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you tried the 37 signals stuff?
posted by empath at 11:13 AM on November 24, 2010

If you're going insane wading through lots of stuff and none of it seems to fit your wish list then it might be time to relax a few of your constraints.

I'm another Toodledo paid user. It's the only thing that I found that lets me easily work the way I want to, esp in terms of being able to organize tasks into an area/project/task/subtask hierarchy while being able to easily look at everything there is to do sorted by timeline as well.

For me an esp big deal is that in any project there are lots of things that are "on ice", and it needs to be very easy to move things back and forth between the timeline and the icebox.

In my way of working, some of the things that didn't seem to be so important at first turned out to be really useful. For example, being able to save a search that checks if I've assigned due dates to everything that is not flagged as being on ice.
posted by philipy at 12:05 PM on November 24, 2010

I second ignignokt on TaskPaper. I used OmniFocus for almost a year but after switching to TaskPaper I've been much happier. OmniFocus is over-featured for my workflow and I spent a lot of time filling in task metadata that I really didn't end up using and more time waiting for the iPhone app to respond.

TaskPaper has been solid on Macs, iPhone, and iPad. Syncing is easy via the SimpleText app.
posted by moak at 12:10 PM on November 24, 2010

I use RTM because of its simplicity, and as you mentioned it seems to meet your requirements except for (a) subtasks and (b) not ugly. I've gotten around both of these problems by (a) using tags, and (b) the A Bit Better RTM Firefox/Chrome extension. The other suggestions in this thread look fantastic too, but just wanted to mention that some of the tools that you've discounted may be more powerful than they seemed at first. Best of luck!
posted by sesquipedalian at 1:20 PM on November 24, 2010

I use CheckVist. I'm not sure it hits all of your wants but I've usually do two or three levels in the hierarchy, it sorts by due date, the interface is very simple and it has keyboard shortcuts galore.
posted by bluesapphires at 1:34 PM on November 24, 2010

Things is pretty good. I use it and I thinks it's well put together. You can't really do deeply nested task lists like an outliner though.
posted by chunking express at 8:05 PM on November 26, 2010

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