Sunday, August 29, 2010

I've Forgotten the Milk To Become a Producteev Todoist

A few years ago, like so many others, I discovered an online to-do-list/task manager called 'Remember the Milk'. At the time, it was one of the best I had ever seen as it offered more features than Google Tasks. A short time later, I discovered another one called Todoist. Instantly, I found Todoist much more to my personal liking as it allowed sub-tasks and generally just had a more attractive user interface to me. I promptly deleted my RTM account and began using Todoist exclusively (despite the fact that it did not offer reminders without paying for the premium version). Fast forward a few years to my becoming an Android based mobile device user. At the time I got my Motorola Droid, there was no app for Todoist. However, there was a pretty decent free app called Astrid that had the ability to sync with Remember the Milk. So, I again became a RTM user. As the Astrid developers continue to make improvements on the app, the more I like. One of the more recent updates to Astrid included the ability to not only sync with RTM but another online task manager called Producteev. I had never heard of Producteev, so I decided to check it out. I instantly liked it more than either RTM or Todoist. Using Astrid's ability to sync with both RTM and Producteev, I was able to quickly import all of my tasks and from there tweak them to my liking in Producteev. The UI in Producteev is more attractive than in RTM, and it also has the ability to sync with Google Calendar, which I'm still deciding if I like or not as it seems to have some odd quirks and bugs. At this point, the only advantage that Todoist has over either of the other two is the ability to create sub-task, which, for me, is useful for breaking down my Reading List as some of the books I own are omnibus editions or collections of short stories (see screen shots below for examples). Where Producteev really wins is the fact that it is in constant development and that the developers have created a forum for user feedback that they actually take into account when fixing existing features or coming up with new ones. As some of the features they have planned come about, there's little doubt that Producteev will become my exclusive task list tool (examples include sub-tasks and its own Android App). Below are screen shots of Producteev and Todoist featuring my Reading List to demonstrate the sub-task ability that I love about Todoist and am looking forward to in Producteev. Alas, I deleted all of my tasks from RTM before thinking to get a screen shot, but suffice it to say, it looked pretty much like Producteev except not as colorful.

So, as you can see from these photos, Todoist offers me the ability to take a single task (such as reading The Space Wolf Omnibus, which contains three separate novels) and break it down into its separate components. Producteev does not, at least not yet, but it is a feature that is planned for development. Notice also, that two other books in the list are actually compilations of short stories, so again, the ability to break those down into separate stories so I can keep track of my progress is very helpful.1 Other than that, Todoist's lack of reminders or calendar integration gives the edge to Producteev.

Another great feature in Producteev is the ability to create and manage tasks directly from my email inbox. For example, I use paperless online billing for everything these days. Instead of receiving a bill in the mail, I receive an email alerting me that my bill is available for viewing online. In order to create an action item in my Producteev To Do list, all I have to do is forward that email to and voila, the task is created in Producteev complete with the body of the email as an embedded note (the subject line of the email is what appears in the task list). I can also include things like 5*, ##Bills, etc to set the priority and tags in Producteev automatically as well as including the due date without necessarily having to log into Producteev to do so. So for now, I'll be using Producteev as my default task manager, with Todoist as a back up for breaking down larger tasks into smaller components. Remember the Milk will be, once again, forgotten.

Before I go, here's a quick comparison chart of some of the features of all three services. Please note that the features I'm listing here are probably not comprehensive and are ones that I personally am interested in, so don't be surprised if I've left something off.

Create Tasks Via Email Yes (RTM assigns a unique email address to each account) Yes ( Not that I can tell
Prioritize Tasks 1-3 or None (1 being the highest) 1-5 Stars or None (5 is highest, 1 is lowest in this case) 1-4 (1 = highest 4 = same as setting none)
Reminders via Email Yes Yes available in paid version only
Custom Tags Yes Yes Yes
Android App Yes, but only usable if you pay for Pro version Not Yet, but is being developed No, but there are some 3rd party ones
Astrid sync Yes (free) Yes (free) No
Sub-Tasks No No, but is planned for the future Yes
Multiple To Do/Project Lists (To Do, Reading List, etc.) Yes Yes Yes
Task Sorting By due date, priority or task name By Deadline, Label, Last Changed, Manager2, or Priority Manual sorting using drag and drop3

And, that's about all I can think of. I'll probably think of a ton of things I would've liked to have compared or commented on ten minutes after I post this (which I almost always do) but this will have to do for now.

~ JC

1: I also like to set reading goals, such as completing Chapters 1-3 on a particular day then 4-6 the next day, etc.,etc., so that's another example of how sub-tasks can be very helpful. Also, if you were to be writing a major paper for school, sub-tasks could be a great way of setting up your outline and tracking your progress. In other words, sometimes breaking up larger task into smaller parts can help keep you on track and make it not feel so daunting.

2: Another awesome feature of Producteev is that in the paid versions you can have multiple users per account. It's designed to allow groups or teams to assign different tasks and coordinate tasks when working on a project together. The ability to sort by who the Manager of a tasks is could be very useful if you need to see who's working on what at a glance.

3: I actually kind of like this feature as it allows me to move tasks that I've yet to give a due date to into the order I'd like to complete them. It's actually been suggested on the Producteev forums that it be added to their service as well in addition to quick sorting by whatever field.
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