Friday, January 2, 2009

Electronic Getting Things Done



As promise, last night I stayed up until the wee hours obsessing over which software might best support me actually doing the tasks I need to.  I'm partial to David Allen's system of Getting Things Done.

Here's what I found.  First off, there are something like 100,000,000 pieces of software out the for supporting personal and professional productivity and at least half of those focus on the Getting Things Done system (GTD from now on). Woof. 

In the GTD arena there are a few big contenders: iGTD, Thinking Rock, Things, Inbox and OmniFocus.

After a few glances at the product websites and various review sites, I came down to 2 that actually interest me, Things and OmniFocus.  I'm going to think "outloud" here about the pros and cons of each in hopes of sharing information and reaching a decision about if/what software to try.

Here are some of the sites I gathered information and opinions from, in no particular order:


Things
Pros
- Visually, Things goes beyond pleasing to straight up sexy
- UI looks intuitive and system seems easy to learn
- organizing and classifying systems look flexible enough
- love the star system to tag items I need to work on today
- syncs to my iphone
- according to the things website, iphone Things is the most popular paid task manager in the App Store. To me this speaks of an effective program with most of the kinks already identified. 
- product support is highly rated
- costs $50 for the mac application and $10 for the iphone

Cons
- Things for the Mac officially releases in a few days.  Unlike my husband, I'm not in love with being an early adapter.  I prefer to let others find the bugs while I come into using a product once it truly works. Weird as this is directly in conflict with the iphone software.
- Scary known bug: occasionally the iphone app loses people's data, which should be fine because everything is backed up on their macs.  Except that when the iphone is plugged into the mac, it automatically syncs, losing all the data on both machines.  Now, they've found a work around, but honestly, I'm feeling a little freaky about dumping my brain into a program that has the know capacity to lose everything.

OmniFocus
Pros
- Pretty to look at.  Not sexy, but beyond good enough.
- The UI and system look sensible to me with only a smallish learning curve needed
- product information, help and support are readily available and great
- lots of features to support my recording and accessing information about what needs to be done and when I need to do it
- somehow the library/projects/subprojects/actions hierarchy works for my brain
- This paragraph on their web site soothes my soul, especially in light of the known bug for Things.
Data Safe: Trust Your System

You need to trust that the data you put into your task management system will be safe and always accessible. OmniFocus has been engineered with best-of-breed data integrity technology that is both blazingly fast and super reliable.


Cons
- expensive at $80 for the mac software plus another $10 for the iphone one
- some complain of the UI being clunky, with inconsistent short cuts on different pages.  This sort of thing can drive me crazy in an application I use all the time.

Conclusions
Having written all this down, here's my take:  I really, really want to buy Things.  It seems efficient, easy to use and elegant.  But the data-loss bug is a huge issue for me.  OmniFocus seems like a fine program, very usable and stable.  And it is hard to stomach buying "fine" at twice the price.

Both programs have a trial period.  I'm tempted to try Things and see how it goes, but I'm still getting hung up by The Bug.  What would you do?


6 comments:

Bill said...

I'd get Things, and don't put your whole life in it at the beginning. You'll build up trust. Now that they know about the bug they will redouble their efforts to fix it.

Carrie said...

I think I'd get Things but be uber-anal about backing up my Mac. Weekly if not daily. Then you should be able to bring the info on your Mac back form the dead so all is not lost.

By the way I had no idea you had an iPhone. Cool.

Qarin said...

I think you should consider the Hipster PDA :)

I'm getting an iPod Touch next week (holiday gift from a good friend), and am hoping it will Revolutionize My Life! Unfortunately, both of your solutions are out of my pricerange, so I'm going to continue to plod along without much of any Getting Things Done style getting of things done.

Anyway, following your research carefully.

Sara said...

thanks for the input. I've downloaded the trial. Interesting so far. I can see why reviewers loved the sub-projects feature in OF. I may have to try it, too, when my 6 day Things trial ends.

Can I just say my favorite part of this post is the dog picture?

Sara said...

Hey! I used and loved the hipster for years. Index cards and a binder clip took me a long ways. I still have a stack of "someday" cards around.

Somehow several years ago it all fell apart for me though. Right around the age Rosie learned how to open the clips and Theo decided he *needed* index cards for writing secret messages.

Thanks for the happy memories. :)

Jenni said...

I use and love OmniFocus, but Things is so pretty, I'm almost tempted to switch. I read the Things post about the bug. As I read it, syncing wasn't the problem, but installing the app update was. It seems like it's a one-time deal with making sure your backup doesn't get overwritten, not a worry every time you sync (they indicate that syncing will actually address the problem.) The one thing I like about OF that Things doesn't seem to do is wireless automatic syncing. My desktop and iphone installs both stay updated without my doing anything to make it happen.