Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting Things Done: Mobile vs. Desktop Tools

Kevin Purdy over at writes that the right todo manager should be very quick. That is why he suggests using a text file as a to-do list.

Web Based is Always Slower?

Even if you have high-speed internet connection, working in the browser with a web app will always come short of well programmed desktop tool.

There sure is a point to this argument. However, it seems to me, that it is a lot about getting the user experience right. Even though your web app such as rememberthemilk (which I currently use) might be slower than a desktop application, the actual user flow might be done smarter and thus quicker. For example: I use the gmail widget of rememberthemilk, which let's me add todos on the fly in a very useful context, which is open all day long anyway: reading my emails.

faster input with rememberthemilk gmail widget

What about Mobile?

Another thing Purdy is not happy with is the speed on mobile devices.

I have tried several tools for capturing my tasks and todos and come to love the note taking android app It is free and the guys have put a lot of thought into the mobile interface. capturing notes todos tasks online and web

It is actually so fast that I use it for every mental note these days: One click to open, input with tag-capabilities, one click to save. Done.

And reviewing your notes in the browser is almost as easy. Due to a very clean and reduced interface.

Simple Setup, Availability and Backups

Purdy suggest todo.txt as his tool of choice. It works as a pimped-up text file with dropbox synchronisation (for more details check out his post).

I actually very much understand the idea of availability and backups as a reason to use a text file:

  • it is always available
  • it will never be out of date
  • you don't need support
  • choosing a reliable, long-lasting todo manager application requires a lot of trust in the company that builds and runs it
  • you decide on your backup strategy
  • it is free

However, I see some disadvantages:

  • setup is not faster: the whole idea behind web apps is to get rid of installation, syncing, back-ups and so forth
  • web apps are accessible from any browser on any machine with internet access and mobile devices
  • there is no possibility of interaction with co-workers, family or friends when working on your todo lists (assigning tasks, delegation, and so forth)
  • no visualization: in a well designed application the design actually helps you get things done. Through colors, shapes, graphic elements. A text file is just plain text with maybe some special characters.

Wrapping it up: Do the Right Thing!

I am not saying that a text file cannot be a great tool to some extent.

It always depends on your needs, your work flow and in the end discipline to use the tool. However, if done right, a web app can be a great tool to manage your todos, actually get things done and thus make you more productive.

So, what works for you? What kind of tools do you use? Feel free to share your experiences!

1 comment:

  1. If anyone is in the market for a all in one PIM, might I suggest dropping into when you have a moment. Although we are a web based solution, we have incorporate nearly everything but the kitchen sink!

    SlingPlan TEam