Torsten Curdt’s weblog

The quest of the perfect GTD tool

Frustrating this is – there still is no GTD tool that fits my needs. Let me give a quick (very personal) comparison of the tools that are currently available on the Mac. Please let me know if I have been missing out on one.

While all are great in their own unique way they do always miss out in some essential aspects. At least some that I consider important. But let me give a quick overview of the tools I have looked at

EasyTask is simple. Easy as the name suggests. Unfortunately the task interface is (while simple) not very good for inputting many tasks quickly. The fact that you cannot show tasks that are “on hold” and the missing notion of “waiting for input” is the final turn off. It also does not accept dates like “tomorrow”.

Is it a mail program? Is it a file management application? Who knows. It comes with tagging and smart folders. But it surely is not what I am looking for.

The interface is pretty much exact the opposite of EasyTask. It has many bells and whistles. Too many for my taste. In fact I find the interface quite confusing. It crashed on me a couple of times on Leopard.

Comes with an updated interface. It’s much simpler but still has a long way to go. Action status has been removed completely, instead it comes with tagging now. But in fact it’s really too early too judge …and too early to use.

The new Inbox from TeamBeep comes with the most fancy interface. Not that I am a big fan of the wood style, but it surly looks much slicker than the other competitors. It’s still an alpha version and so again a little early for a review. Inbox goes a step further towards the “one inbox” idea. It aggregates information from different data sources like Apple Mail or files from certain directories. This is a great idea but I am skeptical about how well this works in real life.

I almost fell for it. It has the usual simple Omni style interface. If you have used OmniOutlineer you will feel at home. (If you are OK with their custom control’s behavior) It’s simple yet powerful. It does not really interfere with your personal workflow. But I am still missing some features. There is for example no notion of “waiting for” or “delegated”. A big plus: it’s now also available for the iPhone.

Again a product that is not released yet. So far the interface looks simple and easy to grasp. The most compelling of the contestants. It features tagging and is easy to use. While it really looks promising I wish they would get their act together. I know they are also working on an iPhone version …but please – could you first finish this one? I know many people that are waiting for a proper release. Please don’t forget to add a “delegated” and “waiting for feedback” status and filtering.

A desktop java app. Apple-Q. No need to say more.

A couple of people have pointed me to different GTD web applications before. While the apps might be great – they are just not for me. I need to be able to put down some thoughts and don’t want to depend on a network connection for doing so. So what do I want?

I want an application that comes with both. Desktop and iPhone client. Both sync my thoughts without any thrills. I want to clearly see what’s due today (and this week) and for what I am still waiting on input for. It should preferably auto detect and change contexts similar to Marco Polo. And scheduling needs to be well integrated with iCal. I want to be able to just type away on actions and would like to be able to link mails and other resources to it. (Not getting corrupted when I move them around on disc). It would be great to analyze and show related action similar to those “related posts” plugins in a blog.

This is all possible. I just haven’t found it yet. I am intrigued to start with something like that myself. But I am sure people are working on the next best GTD tool already and will have quite a head start on this. Couldn’t just one do it right? I am happy to pay for it.

  • I like your overview - and your attitude. I too have been looking for a good implementation of GTD for the Mac, but even 8 months later, there still isn't one.

    I am always astonished that otherwise well thought out and complex applications are made by people who seem to lack a basic understanding of the actual details of GTD -- applications like Things, Omnifocus, and Nozbe all lack a Delegated/Waiting status ? Hello, that is one of the basic fundamentals of GTD -- it's like they didn't even read Allen's book.

    The only - ONLY - app I have seen that does it correctly is ThinkingRock. It is beautifully thought out - but, alas, as you mentioned, coded in Java....

    Personally, I need something that is on the desktop and syncs both to the web and to the iPhone. But so far, nothing. It's sad that applications like Things and Omnifocus, which has some nice touches in them, fall down on such basic, simple things.

    Still questing...
  • @Carl: GTD and multi-tasking is really orthogonal. In fact GTD will help you to concentrate on the one thing and not lose oversight of the whole picture.
  • Carl
    Send yourself an email if it's a really important thing. And stop trying to multi-task!

    "There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time."
  • Might be worth a look at http://monkeygtd.tiddlyspot.co...

    It is "web-based" in that it's JS-driven & uses the browser for its interface, but it works entirely locally, and saves its state to one HTML file that you can cart around as you need.

    It doesn't quite fit me yet, but it's quite close to what I want.
  • @Brett: (Mis)using a context was also what I did for the "waiting". But it's kind of interesting we both ended up using the same ugly workarounds. For me this hints that this should be supported by the application. Thanks for the write up. Really interesting to see all the different approaches.

    @Mari: Thanks for the pointer. Except that they totally got the notion of "context" and "project" wrong (at least when you log in as guest). But it does look nice. But as said: web applications just don't cut it for me.
  • Mari
    You might give a try to http://www.taskwriter.com
    It's really fast, you can easily input many tasks...

    Downside is that it is still missing some features...seems that guys are still working on it.
  • The thing about any of these is that none will ever perfectly fit what you need - you generally have to fiddle to a level you feel comfortable and work with that.

    For me, that was with Omnifocus. I use the "waiting" context for waiting and delegated in some cases, I use particular-person contexts for things that I can actually do something about with a given individual at a certain time (like following something up, discussing something with them). I "tickle" the waiting tasks with the due date if it has an actual due date, or the weekly review. I use start dates for things assigned to people for the first time I expect to follow them up to reduce clutter, and then use a daily review of all available tasks for people (daily communication). My daily routine is the "due tasks" perspective, then the "daily communication" perspective, then the "flagged" perspective (projects I've already started and want to finish in the current week). But that's me :)
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