Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chandler: integrated information manager / organizer

A Java- based, cross organizer available for MacOSX, Linux and Windows, Chandler
aims at being an integrated approach to information management. Its quick Entry Bar with smart date parsing lets you enter everything from ideas to reminders and meetings, so you can efficiently capture any thought. Triage Lists let you manage everything from deadlines and meetings to drafts and ideas. Incorporated tickler Alarms to auto-re-focus deferred items to NOW, and a wealth of sync tools for Calendaring | Organization | Web Access | Sharing. See the short video description to the left.

Some of Chendler’s features include:

Integrated Calendaring
Manage, preview and add to your Calendar, without having to go to the Calendar:
  • Schedule Tasks on your Calendar
  • Turn Reminders into Events on the Calendar
  • Prepare for Meetings by tracking them from the Triage List
  • Preview what's on your calendar in the Mini-Cal Preview Pane
  • Create Events from the Quick Entry Bar
Each Collection comes with a Calendar View so you can easily maintain multiple Calendars.

Rich Calendaring Features
  • Color-code and Overlay multiple Calendars
  • Recurring events
  • Time zones
  • Alarms
  • Day, Week and Month Views
  • Mini-Calendar with Busybars and Preview Pane
  • Share your Calendars or Create a Group Calendar

Flexible Organization
Organize information into Multiple Contexts By project, by people, by importance, by status, on your calls list, on your calendar, on your task list, on your spouse's task list...
  • Gather Notes and Events into Collections you define
  • Drag and Drop them into as many Collections as you see fit
  • Triage items in each Collection into NOW-LATER-DONE sections.
  • Easily maintain a Calendar for each Collection
  • Star important Notes and Events
  • Filter your collections to see only Starred Notes and Events

Back up and Web Access
  • Access your data from the web thru Chandler Hub
  • Sync Chandler across multiple computers
  • Sync your Apple, Google and Mozilla Calendars
  • Add new items to Chandler from iGoogle
  • Set up Chandler IMAP Folders to download email

Sharing and Collaboration
Share collections to:
  • Share your Personal Calendar
    • Maintain a Group Calendar
    • Collaborate on Drafts
    • Maintain Checklists together
    • Brainstorm as a group
  • See who's done what in shared Collections
  • Share Calendars with Apple iCal, Mozilla Cal users
  • Subscribe to Google Calendars
  • Give others access to collections from the web
  • Send Notes and Invitations to others by email...
  • Edit and re-send sent items with Updates
Chandler Desktop is free and it is available in English, German, Finnish, French, Swedish and coming soon in Portuguese. Find out more in the product tour and the comprehensive documentation and help in their website.

Some more GTD applications

Here is a handful of GTD applications that I've recently heard of and I'm about to try.

TaskFreak! is a simple but efficient web based task manager written in PHP that you can install in your server, single or multiuser.

TaskStep is an open source, PHP-powered web application designed to help you organize your ideas and responsibilities.It is a simple and elegant way to keep track of what's on your mind.

Combining a functional, attractive interface with familiar task-tracking methods, plus a sprinkle of GTD, TaskStep will let you get over the hill of managing your todo list and well on your way to actually getting things done.



Taskwriter is a streamlined approach to GTD organization. In this case it is a hosted (free) service: it shows careful attention to user interface design and principles of simple contextual productivity. Check it out for an simple online solution with zero learning curve.

Similar to Taskwriter: Simplegtd, again a free hosted service with ease of use and focused interface.

And, don't forget all the programs and services linked in the sidebar -->

Thursday, June 11, 2009

GTDAgenda


GTD Agenda is an online organizer based on the GTD method. I have had it listed on the sidebar for a while, but I haven't tried it out until recently.

You can try it out or sign up for a basic or a premium (pro) account here. Unlike other applications commented here before, this is a paid service, starting at $4.45/month for the basic plan.


Extra care has been taken to provide a frawework consistent with the GTD method, with:
  • Goals to concentrate your effort and move you in a direction;
  • Contexts where or how a task is accomplished. By default, GTDAgenda comes populated by just a few contexts, but it is very easy to add as many new contexts as you need. You usually prefix them with the “at” (@) sign to keep them grouped together;
  • Projects sets of actions, that map to one of your goals;
  • Tasks and Next Actions break out each project into specific actionable items;
  • Schedules
  • Checklists in weekly, monthly of year frames, with priority scale;
  • Calendar for important reminders, you can also use it as tickler file. It can be hooked to an online iCal calendar for easy synchronization with other calendars or online organizers.

There is a someday / maybe folder and an Archive / reference folder, but they don't seem to appear in the sidebar. (only contexts and next actions are listed there). However, you can access these folders in any of the items you add to next actions or projects. A workaround to have a list of those missing items could be to create a “project” for each category named respectively someday/maybe and archive.

Whenever you need a list of actions, goals or any other item, you can print it out or send by email.



GTDAgenda provides mobile access in a specific url (http://gtdagenda.mobi/) and it can also be integrated with Twitter.

For team / collaborative organization, you can invite other users to get them into your contact list.

Support options
You can browse or participate in the forum, request support by email with an online form. It is advisable to read first some of the help articles and usage examples. The help is comprehensive and you will find specific articles like Use Gtdagenda to implement Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen, Make Gtdagenda a part of your 7 Habits for becoming Highly Effective, How to implement Zen To Done (ZTD) with Gtdagenda, How to use Gtdagenda for the Gym, How to use Gtdagenda for School or How to use Gtdagenda for Software Development.


What could be improved?
  • Include more pre-filled contexts by default and example database files, so you can customize and start using it faster.
  • Print options are a bit limited. You should be able to customize the printouts.
  • A private RSS for any of the lists or queries in the organizer would be great for those who keep an eye on their RSS reader.
  • An export / import utility to have your data backed up, or transferred to and from other desktop or mobile applications.
  • The look of the application. This is a very personal opinion, but an appealing interface encourages you to use the application and enjoy more the task of getting organized. A suggestion: include different skins and theme switching in future updates of GTDAgenda.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Task Merlin: advanced GTD organizer


For your personal organization a very basic program might be enough, but some eye candy and extra features won't hurt. I have recently heard about TaskMerlin, a Windows application that fits the bill, from simple to-do lists to complex collaborative project management. As a bonus, it looks really great —this really helps making your organisation more attractive.

When you start TaskMerlin you are welcomed by a Tip of the day, a good way to learn its features and how to use bit by bit:


The program interface is divided in five panels and a common icon / menu bar on top. This is the default view, but you can activate or deactivate the separate panels as you wish:



The top left window is a folder structure where you access your documents and folders. If you open the included example file, this space includes an Inbox, where any thought can be temporarily captured, waiting for processing, a Projects folder with topic or place subfolders, where you save your current projects, an Archives folder for reference, storage, ideas that you set aside, etcetera, and finally a Trash Bin. Of course you can customize all these folders or rename them at your convenience.

Once you open a Project, the second panel, top right, presents a list of the different tasks and action it includes. The data associated to each task is comprehensive, but you are not required to introduce all the possible fields: type, context, status, priority, summary, progress, assigned to, due date...



You add new tasks, actions, projects or items like research, purchases, information, events, administration... right-clicking in this top right panel. The list of possible items has been thoroughly populated for you, so it's very likely that you'll find exactly the specific item you need to add for any project, be it purchasing something online, doing maintenance work on your terminal or whatever task you might think of:

The bottom left panel lets you filter and one-click access to your saved items, based on their associated fields. For example, you can get a list of what you have to do today, next actions, what needs to be done in a specific context...

If you need to create a filter, TaskMerlin provides a step-by-step wizard that will guide you. This Wizard will pop up when you hit the "new filter" icon on the Filters panel:

In the bottom centre panel, the contents of notes, actions and other items are displayed. Unlike other utilities of this type, TaskMerlin provides a rich text editor that gives you a fine control of the appearance of the notes, including a mini text editor. These notes can also include pasted objects, links, time stamps...

The last panel, on the bottom right side of the window, is a properties panel called Document. It displays all the characteristics of a given item. The sheer amount of information you can associate to any item may look overwhelming, but it just means you can choose whatever information you really need and leave the rest.



My overall impression is of a well-designed and robust program that offers very advanced capabilities, and goes hand in glove with the GTD methodology. Yet at the same time, you may choose to use a subset of its features and a simpler interface, hiding the panels you don't need.

The program requires Microsoft .NET framework and it is available at the moment only for Windows Vista, XP, 2000, Server 2003/2008, Me, 98. There are two editions, one personal and one professional version, plus an evaluation version. A comparison matrix is available. All of them can be downloaded from the TaskMerlin website.

1000 Heads: the book

1000 heads, my illustration book

My artwork at Flickr

Inspiring books for the creative type

My GTD (Getting things done) illustrations

I conceived this blog basically to share my visual side notes of the Getting things done process. My most recent posts about GTD software and related topics have “masked” the original posts.

You can access most GTDrawings in the archive of december 2005 and january 2006.

Here's a miniature with most of my sketches: this is what you will find, commented and in larger sizes, in those previous posts.

See also the article about GTD drawings.

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