I want to create beautiful checklists.
January 24, 2011 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Is there a program to create checklists similar to those used by aircraft pilots?

Pilots go through these during many stages of the operation of an aircraft to make sure they dot every i and cross every t.

I could write my own website, html templates or Word documents to achieve this, but I believe that there should already be a solution around since I think that it is a common problem.
The best case would be a web application that could be used with a browser but would also provide a nice printout if necessary.
I'm looking for a program or a web application that I can host myself. I do not want something in the "cloud".

Just as an example: Ideally it would be no problem to create a new user with just a single click and entering the username. But in reality not everything is automated and in addition to the computer account I have to make sure that the user also gets a phone number, a phone, etc. This and similar tasks I usually do without fault, but it would be much nicer to make sure by ticking off a checklist.
Since there are many such tasks and they can change and sometimes new ones are added a program/web application helping me to easily create such checklists would be very welcome.

Bending a solution such as queXML into shape would be overkill, a mere word processor template underwhelming. Open Source would be preferred but I am also prepared to pay for a solution. Any suggestions?
posted by mmkhd to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have used shopping applications on my handheld (first HandyShopper on PalmOS, now Shopping Manager on webOS) for just this sort of checklist in the past. In fact, I use Shopping Manager almost exclusively for checklist purposes rather than to actually shop for things.
posted by grouse at 9:00 AM on January 24, 2011

Response by poster: Interesting grouse! But I would also have to think about buying the phone to use it :-)
(No Android, webOs, iOS available.)
posted by mmkhd at 9:06 AM on January 24, 2011

I would think there would be desktop shopping applications available as well.
posted by grouse at 9:12 AM on January 24, 2011

Response by poster: That's true, grouse. But I haven't found a nice one yet. And I would prefer something that produces something more similar to an aviation checklist. (If nothing comes up, I will take on the task of creating a css stylesheet, but I would need a really long time before it would look good...)
posted by mmkhd at 9:18 AM on January 24, 2011

Why not use software for aviation checklists? The one that comes first to mind is Foreflight Checklist, an iPhone product. A quick Google search turns up Pilot Pocket software. What I haven't found is a good Word template or the like for formatting a checklist. Most pilots I know use pre-made checklists from the manufacturer or else CheckMate Aviation. Alternately, you may find some useful examples at Free Checklists for Pilots.

The book The Checklist Manifesto about using checklists in other professions is middling-popular right now. There may be software to support the reader community. See, for example, Project Check.
posted by Nelson at 9:34 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: How embarrassing, I never thought of checking aviation links for a checklist software. I thought they were all pre-made by the manufacturers.
posted by mmkhd at 9:37 AM on January 24, 2011

I just finished reading The Checklist Manifesto as mentioned by Nelson, and the crux of the whole book is that you can't just slap together a checklist and have it work. The airline industry in particular, but also construction, finance, and healthcare have to put a lot of work and testing in to make sure the checklists will work well. This involves making them short enough, ridiculously clear, and designating whether it's a checklist to confirm that you did all these things vs. to instruct you what to do step by step. With all this complexity, I highly doubt that a responsible person would create software for the reader community to create checklists -- the point of the list is to distill all the expert human knowledge into a tool, and a computer can't do that for you.

If you're just looking for something that will put an empty checkbox in front of each item on a list, I don't really get why a word-processor template is underwhelming -- it seems like it would be perfect. Perhaps you could specify more clearly what you're looking for. Is this really just a question of formatting?

FWIW, Gawande in The Checklist Manifesto describes the airline checklists as large type, usually less than 10 checklist items on a page, collected in a 3-ring binder. Is that truly what you're trying to approximate?
posted by vytae at 9:42 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

the point of the list is to distill all the expert human knowledge into a tool

Or an individual (i.e. the OP) wants to distill his or her own domain-specific knowledge into a convenient, pragmatic tool.
posted by zeek321 at 10:17 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Good point, vytae. So to clarify: I phrased my question a little broader than my ideal solution, so that I wouldn't miss any useful answers by defining a too narrow scope (but hopefully not beeing to broad).
What I really want is a web application, that I can host an modify on my own server. I want to easily create a list looking similar to the ones used in those 3-ring binders, so that I can print it out on a single sheet of paper and sign it. I would also like to have the ability to check my list online and save it, so I can review it later to find out if I made a mistake and can refine my checklist. (No digital signing of the online version necessary.)

I want to do this, because there are some system administration tasks that I do not have to do often but which require some attention, because there are a lot of little things to miss.

None of this is in any way life-threatening or essential but it would be nice to have my sh things together on the first go. A side benefit would be to hand off the list to help another knowledgeable person who does these things even less often than I do.

Even with more scripts to automate the tasks some more, a checklist would be useful.
It is precisely because of the difficulty of creating good checklists that I want to invest so little time into the design of the checklists themselves.
Right now, I use a wiki software and make do with bulleted lists. But those just don't look nice and do not give me the satisfaction to place a neat checkmark into a box right next to an item with a flourish.

And thanks for bringing The Checklist Manifesto to my attention. I didn't even know cheklists were en vogue!

There is a lot of satisfaction in defining a recurrent task well. It helps other people to do the task, it helps you to define and understand the task and it helps to optimize the task. Even though my office, kitchen, car and living room are a mess, I like to keep my mind tidy.
(This is my task. There are many like it but this one is mine. My task is my best friend... and so forth :-) Going all manic here and scaring my office mate.)
And thank you zeek321 for saying it much more concisely and sounding way more sane.
posted by mmkhd at 10:21 AM on January 24, 2011

just came on here to mention two points. 1) the author of The Checklist Manifesto openly admits that the book is an outgrowth of an article they wrote for the New Yorker, so I'm going to (really) enjoy reading the article as a free taster! secondly, this topic of checklists reminds me of a particular section of Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink that went over the revolutionary checklist developed at Cook County Hospital in Chicago that deliberately gathers less data in a simpler thought process and results in a higher likelihood of detecting early-onset heart attacks.

all of that to say: i was almost going to barge onto here and harrumph about how some fields are irreducible, the role of erudition, analytical thought, and experience can't be replaced by a checklist! then i realised that i already knew i was full of crap. mmkhd, i think you should seriously consider making what you need. there are way too many to-do-list makers on the internet, but i can't think of anywhere which elevates checklists into a more prominent, perhaps social, role. imagine; a wiki-fied checklist for all your office needs, shared amongst office colleagues, refined collectively! maybe i've gone a step too far, but it sounds so enticing..
posted by asymptotic at 12:20 PM on January 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: There I go, just wanting a tool to help me remember some nitty-gritty details and asymptotic transforms it into a vision of office automation!
Either we're reinventing the original purpose of computers or we're trying to construct something that passes the Turing test here.
Looking at asymptotic's links, I realize that my checklists are just like those on-line to-do lists, which I do not like at all. THE HORROR!
All I wanted was to remember that when I
__1. Create user in Windows
I also have to
__2. Create email account in mail system
__3. Allocate a phone number
etc. (and also a bit more complicated than that. This is just a trivial but representative example.)
And all this is supposed to not to look like a shopping list but more like the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist
In Addition to that I would like to fill out/save my checklists in my intranet or print them out.
This was the third time that I tried to explain what I want, you must all be bored to bits.
There is nothing like it, there's only shopping lists and I have to roll my own.
Thank you all for participating. I won't be marking a best answer, but I favorited those that helped me realize my folly.
posted by mmkhd at 3:04 PM on January 24, 2011

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