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T + G I F R

What Todo Indeed

· · Posted in Software
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You’d think the todo list problem was solved by now.

Email is solved. Google solved it. Srsly. If you aren’t using Gmail, what’s really stopping you? No, Yahoo! and Microsoft aren’t doing it better. Google wins.

Spam is pretty much solved. Google once again solved it by sheer volume, you throw millions of emails at a Bayesian filter with crowd sourcing (that little button in Gmail? that’s crowd sourcing) and it gets pretty damn smart.

Okay maybe I’m just being too picky. I want a specific type of todo list. Here’s what I’ve tried.


Tracks is a GTD tool. You have contexts, which is a place where you would do something. Laptop, phone, and home are all contexts. You have projects, which are small groups of things with an outcome. An example would be change oil in the car. You have actions, sometimes (probably more frequently), next actions. These are things you actually do. If you are going to change your own oil, your actions would be: Find out what oil I need, buy oil, change oil. Those actions would all be in the ‘change car oil’ project, and they might be in the contexts of ‘car’ (look in your vehicle manual), ‘errands’ (buy the oil at the store), and ‘home’ (in your garage).

I really like this system. And I really like Tracks. I have my own little instance hosted on Heroku, and it works pretty good, but lately it’s been giving me crap, and I hacked in iPhone support (read: completely gutted the mobile views to display iPhone happy stuff). It also seems to get kind of slow with a bunch of things in it.

Not a big deal. I could work on it more, speed it up, but frankly I’d rather be doing other things. It’s also on rails 2.2.2 and has a couple plugins being used that I think aren’t needed if it were running a newer version. Subsequently, the times I did tried to upgrade it and whatnot ended in frustration, because, like I said, I’d rather be fishing doing other things.

Ta-da Lists

Ta-da Lists is a 37signals product, and unlike their other excellent products, it’s totally free! It has some pretty nice features and is really fast since it’s so simple. Works great on the iPhone, etc, etc.

My problem is that Ta-da Lists is too simple. I don’t mind the single level organization of just having ‘lists’, but there is no due date support, and no way to attach notes to things, which is something I frequently do (research pickles, with a link to information about pickles). Granted this is by design, and as the simplest thing that could possibly work, Ta-da Lists is great. It’s super slick, but it’s just…not…quite…there for me. So close. It’s so nice though I want to like it more, but…alas.

Gmail Tasks

Gmail Tasks is what I’m on right now. It’s simple like Ta-da Lists, but allows for due dates and extra notes. There is an iPhone app that talks to it, and it’s pretty good. Worth the few bucks I paid for it.

Are you ready for this next part? You’re going to actually say to yourself, “are you fucking kidding me?”. First let me assure you I’m not, I’m probably just OCD or something.

It has empty tasks.

You’ve got to believe me! I’m being super serial! See that stuff on the right? That’s one of my lists with nothing in it, yet there is a task there. It’s so easy to create a task on the web side of things, they do it like it’s going out of style. There aren’t even any spinners or anything to indicate that it’s saving to the server or anything, shit just “happens”. I sort of like the lack of spinners. I just putter away and it works…I think. Then again, indication that it’s doing something is nice.

The empty tasks really kind of irk me. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

Everything else I’ve looked at is either too much (Basecamp, both in features and cost), too specific (Things for iPhone/Mac looks god, but I want a web based get-at-it-anywhere app), or just plain terrible.

So what else is out there? What am I missing? Is it just me? Am I just way too picky for my own good?