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The Right App to Get Things Done

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

One of the things that people usually find out about themselves in college is that accomplishing what you set out to accomplish is not easy. In fact it can be terrifyingly frustrating. So when David Allen created his methodology called ‘Getting Things Done’, it became an instant hit. After publishing a book in 2002, the man has been doing seminars, giving talks, and generally living the good life. His methods have been especially popular with IT professionals, which has inevitably led to software implementations of the GTD methodology. And now with the advent of smartphones, even more smartphone apps have been created to help you follow his ideas on your phone. But with popularity comes imitation, with imitation comes choice, and if you want to get or buy one of these applications the choices become more difficult.

Let’s say you want to get into the digital GTD world. You’ve got a smartphone, you’ve got a computer, and you regularly access the Internet. Without looking at any of the possibilities, you can start off by imagining that the best type of ToDo list application would be one that you can access on your phone, on your computer, and on the Internet as a web application, just in case you are away from your computer and your phone’s battery has died. Also, this type of setup makes sense from an information technology perspective, because the standard rule of data preservation is that if it doesn’t exist in 3 places, it doesn’t exit at all. That’s why companies always want local data, an off-site backup, and a second off-site backup in another location. Ideally, at least each company should, but some value their data more highly than others. But ideally, in order to be proof against almost all accidents, you should have data in 3 places. Also, it would be great if it’s all not too expensive, or perhaps even free. And since you’re just starting out on this GTD journey, it would also be good if there were a set of simple applications, nothing too fancy. Given these ideals, one can then go out into the world and search for the perfect GTD application.

Doit.im

The first stop in this journey could very well be China. Even though China is not well-known for its software applications, one intrepid company, Snoworange, located in Hangzhou, China, has built a GTD application for a wide variety of platforms called Doit.im. You can find the web application at www.doit.im, which is the launching-off point for everything else. Doit.im has applications available for the iPhone, Android OS, iPad, Windows, Mac Mini, and the Web. The only way you could be left out is if you were running Linux.

It is rated with 4 stars in the Android marketplace. The white and light-blue color scheme throughout the application is pleasing to the eye. It seems to be quite well-designed, with a simple interface that belies complexity beneath. If you are a new user, the simple Add Task box is easy to use – just type a short line and you’re done. The web site also gives a quick rundown of the GTD methodology in 4 easy steps, which helps even a novice GTD user to get started. If you want to learn more about the GTD methodology and use contexts or projects, those options are also available to you. You can also forward tasks to contacts that you have in the application. All the information syncs between your computer, the web site, and your phone seamlessly. Finally, the best part is that it’s free.

ThinkingRock

But if China isn’t your style, or you use Linux, perhaps you might find yourself eyeing an offering from Australia-based Avente. Their ThinkingRock application is also touted to be a GTD system. In fact, their web site, trgtd.com.au, has the tagline “Trusted System for GTD.” The web site isn’t as polished as Doit.im, however, they do offer versions for Windows, Linux, Mac, iPhone, and Android OS. Also, unlike Doit. im, the data only exists in two locations – on your computer and your phone. The phone and computer can only sync through a wifi connection. The ThinkingRock team recommends using another program, DropBox, to back up data and synchronize it between multiple computers. The phone has less functionality than the full desktop version as well. It is limited to viewing the data and collecting new thoughts, which is the ThinkingRock’s term for adding to-do items. The web site is quick to point out, though, that it is not just a to-do list. It emphasizes total life organization complete with goals and long-term projects. It is not free, costing US$40. Also, if you want upgrades, you should pay a membership fee of $10 per year. The Android and iPhone apps are free, but do not work without syncing with the desktop application.

Nozbe

If Australia or China are not close to you, or you prefer green to blue, you might want to give Nozbe a look over. The claims for this US-based company are the same as the others – it follows GTD concepts to simply get everything done that you need to. The software offering started out as a web-based application at first so its web site is very robust and Web 2.0-decorated. The software itself has all the bells and whistles that you may have come to expect from a GTD-based web site, such as projects, contexts, and next actions. The Android app looks functional. Nozbe Desktop, the desktop-based Nozbe client, is currently under development for Windows and Mac. One extra thing about Nozbe is that it integrates with a host of other web applications like Evernote, Gmail, Dropbox, Google Calendar, and Twitter. So if you use any of those other online applications regularly you can squeeze some more functionality out of Nozbe. However, all of this is not free either. It comes in three packages. For a single user you can pay US$9.95 per month. A team of up to 20 users can get 10 GB of storage and pay US$49.95 per month. You can try it out for 2 months without paying, in a limited fashion of 1 megabyte of storage and 5 maximum projects.

So in the end, it comes down to how much money you are willing to spend, and what color scheme you would prefer. If you use Linux, of course you have a much smaller selection, but otherwise all three of these should satisfy you on any platform.

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