GQueues Task Manager Review

For the past couple months I had been using Astrid as my task manager, and of course the second I really settled on a workflow that worked for me, Yahoo! went ahead and bought Astrid with plans to kill it. Thanks, Yahoo!

Anyway, while surfing around looking for a replacement I ran across a thread where a couple of people were talking about task manager I’d never heard of called GQueues. After a couple of days of using it, I was sold and signed up for the “pro” version that costs $25/year.

So with GQueues you create lists–which it insists on calling “queues” for some reason–which are then holding containers for tasks. Lists can additionally be organized within higher level folders. So, for example, I have a “Work” folder that has a list dedicated to things I need to get done at my day job and a list for the things I need to finish as part of a freelance project I’m working on.

For the individual tasks, GQueues lets you assign a due date, create repeating tasks, assign tags, add notes, etc. Pretty much what you’d expect from any task manager not called Wunderlist.

I tend to throw everything under the Sun into my task manager, so at any given time I might have 500+ tasks. GQueues has one of the better interfaces for only showing me the tasks I really care about right now. The system calls these “Smart Queues” and lets the user edit in fairly granular detail the criteria for what will and will not show up on them.

I have a pretty basic Smart Queue that simply shows me everything that is either due today or is overdue. GQueues then also organizes the resulting tasks by which list they came from, so I can quickly scroll through and differentiate the tasks I need to get done at work vs. the tasks I need to get done at home. If I wanted to, I could create a Smart Queue to just show me my work tasks that are due today or are overdue, or show me work tasks due today that are also tagged as being part of a certain project.

In general, this system is powerful without being overbearing or difficult to use.

The Android app works very well with only some minor gotchas. The major problem with the mobile app is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to change the font size of tasks, and task titles don’t word wrap. I tend to have tasks that are very descriptive and, therefore, relatively long. It is annoying to see only the first 3 or 4 words with the rest off-screen.

The other issue some people will obviously have is that at the moment the mobile app is only available on Android, though an iOS one is in development. Frankly, I wouldn’t use a task manager without a dedicated mobile app–in fact, I still prefer Toodledo¬†overall for task management but its web interface sucks and it leaves mobile apps up to other developers (which is why I finally gave up on it).

GQueues also includes what I think is a basic but absolutely essential feature–it allows you to export your tasks to CSV. I ran across a lot of task managers I loved and that had great features, but which had no way to move your data out of them or archive finished tasks offline. I cannot begin to express the utter stupidity of failing to include a data export option. I refuse to use anything that won’t let me export my data (so, we meet again, Wunderlist).

Finally, this is not necessarily a feature per se, but I really like how GQueues lets me implement checklists. I routinely use checklists for, well, routine tasks. I have a morning and evening checklist, for example, which I run through to make sure I’m not forgetting anything. I have checklists of weekly, monthly and yearly tasks so I can set up regular¬†procedures and then just run through them without having to devote much thought to the process.

A lot of the task managers I used were surprisingly unfriendly to setting up something like a morning checklist. From systems that waited until years after they were released in order to add repeating tasks (have I mentioned how much I despise Wunderlist) to others which had crazy, unpredictable behavior for repeating tasks on my checklists, I was surprised how difficult some of these task managers were to use.

GQueues exists at that sweet spot where it is simple enough that I could teach my 10-year-old how to use it, but it’s not so simple that you’re face palming because crucial features were left out in the name of “simplicity.”

GQueues is well worth the $25 annual fee for a “pro” account if you are an Android user, and definitely worth giving a solid look at for iOS users once the developer releases a mobile app for that platform.

RememberTheMilk.Com

A couple years ago, I wrote about My Life Organized as my task management software of choice. About 6 months ago, though, I switched to RememberThe Milk.com and haven’t looked back.

My Life Organized is still the best task manager I’ve ever used but: a) its a desktop application, and b) its Windows-only.

I’d tried out RememberTheMilk back in 2006 but came away unimpressed. They’ve dramatically improved since then. Using RTM’s tagging and priority systems along with a fairly powerful search-based lists that use Boolean operators, I can replicate in RTM what I was doing in My Life Organized. And thanks to a nice mobile version of RTM, I can access my task list easily on my Blackberry.

Treo + My Life Organized = Productive Bliss

For the past few months I’ve been using a Treo 700W and running the Windows Mobile version of My Life Organized on it. The result has been as close to productivity bliss as I’ve ever been.

Back in April, I lauded My Life Organized by complained about the price — $59.95 for the desktop version and $29.95 for the Windows Mobile companion version. But it was the only thing that came close to meeting my needs, and after several months of using both I can readily attest that the software has been more than worth the price.

My Life Organized is essentially a hybrid outline/database program. Like most outlining programs, you can view all of the tasks you need to do in an outline format. Create parent, sibling and child tasks, reorganize them, etc.

Like a database program, My Life Organized lets the user enter a great deal of data about each individual task. For the Getting Things Done crowd, it lets the user define and then assign contexts to each task. There are also fields for date when the task is to be started, when it is due, how important it is, and a text field for any notes.

Where this all pays off is My Life Organized’s ability to let me then view subsets of my outline based on my criteria. For example, when I have an hour to devote to updating my website I can have it show a list of all of the tasks that are assigned to the web category sorted by their due date. Or I could have it show by the importance or urgency I’ve assigned. That might sound fairly trivial, but My Life Organized is the only Windows app I found that came anywhere close to being able to do this.

Putting that capability on the Treo is just killer. I probably go to My Life Organized on the Treo a dozen times a day looking for what I need to do next. The program nicely keeps track of the number of things I’ve finished so far that day, giving me motivation to get that number as high as possible.

I haven’t exactly turned into Superman, but the program has definitely improved my productivity and aided greatly in tracking everything I have to do.

I’ve also definitely used it to get everything I need to do into the program and out of my head. At the moment there are 1006 tasks in my My Life Organized to do list. Since I’ve got the program on the Treo, I simply make a habit of adding a task to the list the second it enters my head that I need to do it and it’s not yet on the list.

Finding a Decent Task Manager

It amazes me how difficult it can be sometimes to find a piece of software that will perform the functions I need. This week I must have spent 8 hours researching different software packages to manage my growing to-do list.

Now admittedly, my to-do list requirements are probably a bit more stringent than most people’s since I literally have thousands of to-dos in dozens of categories, and subcategories.

The main sticking point, however, seems relatively trivial especially since it fits so well with the Getting Things Done method that has been embraced by so many people.

Basically I have this list of thousands of tasks, and I need the ability to go in to my lists every morning, mark the tasks I want to concentrate on that day, and be able to see a list of just those tasks. Sounds pretty trivial, at least to me, but it’s amazing how difficult it is to find a program that will do this well.

After downloading and installing about a dozen different programs and trying another half-dozen web-based applications, the only program that even came close was My Life Organized which appears to have been developed specifically with Getting Things Done in mind.

But, alas, even My Life Organized isn’t perfect. First, it lacks a calendar feature, and it would be nice to have a calendar and task system integrated. But I can live without that.

The second thing is the price — $59.95. And that price apparently will not include the upcoming PocketPC edition.

Damn, that’s expensive even for me. But it’s important enough that I’ll probably pay it — the software does exactly what I need, unlike practically everything else I tried.

Agenda Fusion 7

Developer One has finally managed to release the initial version of Agenda Fusion 7 for the PocketPC. The PocketPC aftermarket organizer field is pretty much between Agenda Fusion and Pocket Informant. Many longtime Agenda Fusion users, including myself, believed that AF had fallen behind Pocket Informant both in features and speed. I was close to switching, but the promise of a version 7 had me hold off and I’m glad.

The major improvement with the initial release of version 7 is a Projects view, which addresses the major complaint I had about Agenda Fusion, which was its lack of any sort of hierarchical system for organizing tasks, appointments, etc.

See, thanks to Conversant I already have the habit of tagging everything with ludicrous detail. Agenda Fusion fed that need in an organizer since it lets you create categories and assign multiple categories to tasks, appointments and contacts. I’ve got about 50 different categories.

It also has an excellent filtering system so I can create a filter, say Office Computer, which will show all of the tasks that I need to get done that can be done on my office computer. This sort of context-based task tracking is something I stole from Getting Things Done, and I love it. I also have categories and subcategories for my various websites and weblogs.

But dammit, sometimes I also needed a straightahead hierarchical view of my tasks. I got to the point where I was maintaining some tasks in both ListPro — a nice, advanced list/outline software — and in Agenda Fusion. The new Project view in Agenda Fusion takes care of that. I can create “projects” in an outliner and then assign existing tasks, appointments and contacts to them. So I can quickly switch between a project-based view of my tasks and appointments and a simple flat context-based view of my tasks and appointments (for a bit of context, I’m very anal and have about 700-1000 tasks at any given moment).

The UI for the Project view — especially adding tasks, etc. to it — still needs some work, but even in its early stages Agenda Fusion 7 really takes the software to that cliched “next level.”