Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting Frutiger Font for Free [Typography]

One of my favorite escapades recently is to uncover the mystery behind some of the most well used fonts for Apple and Microsoft so that i can develop better UI for my programs.

And one of the good looking ones are Frutiger. Its old but it stands the test of time and it bears an uncanny resemblance or rather, Segoe UI bears an uncanny resemblance to Frutiger. There was a lawsuit coming their way for Microsoft when they decide to use Segoe UI as their main Vista UI font.

Frutiger is a sans-serif typeface by the Swiss type designer Adrian Frutiger. It was commissioned in 1968 by the newly built Charles De Gaulle International Airport at Roissy, France, which needed a new directional sign system. Instead of using one of his previously designed typefaces like Univers, Frutiger chose to design a new one. The new typeface, originally called Roissy, was completed in 1975 and installed at the airport the same year.

Frutiger's goal was to create a sans serif typeface with the rationality and cleanliness of Univers, but with the organic and proportional aspects of Gill Sans. The result is that Frutiger is a distinctive and legible typeface. The letter properties were suited to the needs of Charles De Gaulle – modern appearance and legibility at various angles, sizes, and distances. Ascenders and descenders are very prominent, and apertures are wide to easily distinguish letters from each other.

The Frutiger family was released publicly in 1976, by the Stempel type foundry in conjunction with Linotype. Frutiger's simple and legible, yet warm and casual character has made it popular today in advertising and small print.

A workaround for those who like this font is that you can get this font for free. Apparently,Frutiger is released as one of the reading fonts for Microsoft Reader (version 2.1). Thus this presents an easy opportunity to get and sample this font for free.

Just install the reader and you can find it in your control panel > font control.

[Get Frutiger from Microsoft Reader here]


Monday, December 22, 2008

Inkscape: Opensource replacement for Illustrator and Draw [Image Editing]

I am all for freewares since its the bad times and we should try to cut down on things that matters lower priority to us.

If you are a blogger and developer like me, you will appreciate well design open-source replacements like Inkscape. granted, many of these softwares do not reach the full capability of what Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw allows, for the normal folks like us what they offer should suffice.

Inkscape maintains a gallery at Deviant Art to show off work submitted by users, worth checking out if you'd like a quick peek at the capabilities of Inkscape. For more free image editing goodness, check out GIMP. Inkscape is open-source, with installation packages available for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux.

[Get Inkscape here]


Virtual Box new version supports 64bit guest OS [Virtualization]

VirtualBox 2.1

Now this is something new. I have been using virtualization technology for a long time and there are many benefits to this. Particularly, it enables me to try out different operating systems and not compromise my main desktop setup.

At work, we use it to simulate many clients to server setups,with limited physical hardware. But this release is quite good i feel.

Among the new features introduce:

  • Ability to load 64-bit guest operating systems on host machines running 32-bit operating systems
  • Experimental 3D acceleration via OpenGL on 32-bit Windows guest systems
  • Easier setup for networking on Windows and Linux host systems
3D acceleration! not sure if this is a first but maybe i can experiement by playing some 3D games in it.

[Download Virtual Box here]


Remember the Task [Remember The Milk]


I stressed alot that in task management, it is important to have easy assess to task list. Some one actually created this desktop client for remember the milk which i feel is very good as you can use alt-tab to bring your task list to view easily. 

The more easily you have access to a concise list the more you will fulfill them. Remember the Task is an Adobe Air Client (you need to have Adobe Air) that puts a streamlined view of your RTM tasks on your desktop. You can minimize it to the task tray or have it always glaring at you with the things you aren’t getting done.

[Check it out or download it at the Adobe Air Marketplace.]


GnuCash:Out with a new version [Personal Finance]

Times are bad and we all need to watch what we spent on and its a good time to thing about using one as it really helps in managing your budget, spending and investments.

GNU Cash is open source and it is very flexible. But what i don't like about it is that it is not as intuitive as those more popular ones, such as Quicken 2008, which I use, and Microsoft Money. do give it a try and you might be satisfied with this opensource software.

You can do double-entry accounting in GNUcash, with all the bells-and-whistles needed for a small business, and very professional reports. Among report types for businesses, you can produce statements of cash flows, income statements, balance sheets and more. You'll also find a lot of pre-built financial documents that are useful, such as good-looking invoices. GnuCash will track tax liabilities, and can even help track the age of receivables for depreciation purposes. You can also track accounts based on different currencies.

For individuals, the checkbook-style register in the program is a main area of interest, but GnuCash also tracks mutual fund, stock and other types of investment portfolios. You can do online banking, automate your scheduled transactions, and use pre-built reporting options to see graphically how your money is flowing each month.







Saturday, June 7, 2008

Advanced GTD with Remember The Milk

I guess alot of people will look at my review of my chosen project task management system and say: "It ain't so much GTD! It doesn't have projects, it doesn't have next actions!"

This post by Doug Ireton addresses opinions such as these and shows the kind of flexibility Remember the milk provides

Remember The Milk has all the features required to be a great web-based task manager for Getting Things Done (GTD) but its sheer flexibility means it can be daunting to build a well-oiled GTD machine. In this post I’ll show you how to use RTM Lists, Tags, Smart Lists, and Locations to create a full-blown project and task management system based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

A good GTD system should:

  1. Allow you to keep track of daily tasks (e.g. “pick up dry cleaning”) and projects (e.g. “create web site”)

  2. Make the weekly review as easy as possible, allowing you to brainstorm tasks for each project and identify Next Actions, Waiting-For and delegated tasks

  3. Separate tasks (a.k.a. Next Actions) into Contexts, such as Work, Home, Calls, Grocery Store, etc., so you only see the tasks you can do at any given time.

  4. Keep you focused on the most important tasks you need to do today

The GTD system has five workflow phases: Collect, Process, Organize, Review, and Do. By following the steps below to set up Remember The Milk, you’ll have a seamless system which supports the complete GTD workflow by getting all of your projects and tasks out of your brain into a trusted, organized system. More importantly, you will complete more tasks by working from your Smart Lists (saved searches) which display only the tasks you must do today separated into the appropriate context: Work, Home, Errands, etc.

The setup below should take about 30-40 minutes. Once you have it set up, a Weekly Review, adding tasks as you think of them, and occasionally adding/removing project lists will be all the maintenance required to maintain your system.

Create Lists for Personal and Work Daily Tasks

Start by creating two lists, “ps-Daily” and “wk-Daily” to keep track of day-to-day personal and work tasks, respectively. You’ll use these lists to track all of your miscellaneous, non-project personal and work tasks, such as “Pick up dry cleaning”, “Take Fido to vet”, or “Submit April cell phone bill to boss for reimbursement”. Only tasks not associated with a project should go on these lists. You will keep track of project tasks on separate project lists. (For now, don’t worry about the blue tags after each task in the screen shot below; I’ll address those later.)

Personal and work daily tasks

Create a List for Each Project

Next, create a list for each personal and work project you have (for example, “Buy House” or “Create Budget”). Don’t think of a project as a complicated team effort requiring a project manager. A project in GTD is any multi-step effort that is not easily tracked with a single task. For our purposes, a project should entail three or more tasks. For projects with fewer than three tasks, just create the tasks on your “ps-Daily” or “wk-Daily” lists. Prefix project list names with “ps-” or “wk-” to sort your personal and work project lists together with their respective “ps-Daily” and “wk-Daily” lists.

Project lists

For each project list, create a goal statement, preferably a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Creating a goal statement as an RTM “task” ensures you will always have your goal in front of you when you view your project list. For example, if your goal is to buy a house before summer, create a “ps-BuyHouse” list, with a goal statement such as “.. Purchase 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in Greenwood Park neighborhood.” Pre-pending the goal statement with “.. ” ensures it will sort to the top of the “ps-BuyHouse” list. All project tasks should flow from your goal statement.

Brainstorm Project Tasks and Tag your Next Actions with “na”

Now that you have created your project lists and written a goal statement for each list, each week (or as you think of them) you can write new tasks on your project list until you have captured all tasks required to finish the project. From this list of tasks, you will identify during your weekly review and tag with “na” the Next Action(s) with no dependencies. Completed tasks are automatically filtered out by RTM. Each week, as tasks you’ve completed drop off the list, you’ll identify and tag new Next Actions from the list.

For example, in the list below, I’ve identified five tasks for my “ps-BuyHouse” project. Only two of them are Next Actions with no dependencies, so I’ve tagged “Email friends…” and “Close unused credit card accounts…” with “na”. Once I’ve completed “Email friends for real estate agent recommendations” and have a list of agents to email, “Email real estate agents to set up interviews” is the Next Action and I’ll tag it with “na”.

Tagging next actions

In traditional GTD, you write down only the Next Actions during each weekly review so it’s easy to forget dependent tasks later on when it’s time for them to become Next Actions. In contrast, writing down all tasks as soon as you think of them allows you to freely brainstorm and keep track of all the tasks for a particular project on one list. Tagging the Next Action tasks on the list allows you to identify the next thing(s) you need to do to move each project forward.

Next you will use RTM Tags and Locations to label your tasks with their appropriate GTD Contexts. Then I’ll show you how to create Smart Lists (filters) to display only your Next Actions grouped by Context (@Home, @Work, @Errands, etc) for laser-like focus.

Use Tags and Locations to Create Contexts (@Home, @Work, @Web, etc.)

Contexts are one of the key concepts of GTD and allow you to filter your Next Actions so you only see the tasks you can work on at that moment. For example, when you are downtown, you can pull up your list of downtown tasks. On Saturday morning, you can look at your “@Errands” Smart List to decide which errands to do. At work, you only have to look at your “@Work”

Smart List.

Physical contexts such as “Home”, “Downtown”, or “Work” should be created as RTM Locations, which have the added benefit of Google Maps integration. You should create a location for each place you will be working on tasks on a regular basis. My locations include @Home, @Work and @Downtown.

Logical contexts such as “Web,” “Calls,” or “Errands” should be implemented using RTM tags. You create new tags automatically by typing into the “Tags” field on the Task details tab, separating multiple tags with commas. Some people go crazy with Context tags but I find the following to be the most useful: @web, @call, and @errand.

Task with context

The image above shows Task details with “@call” and “na” Tags and “@Work” as the Location. Even though this is a personal task, created on my “ps-Daily” list, I set the location to “@Work” since I want to make dinner reservations during my workday as soon as the restaurant opens.

Task cloud

Both Locations and Tags automatically show up in the RTM “tag cloud” (image above), so you have an easy way to display all the tasks for a given context just by clicking on the location or tag in the “tag cloud.” An even better way of seeing only your Next Actions by context is to create a Smart List for each context.

Create Smart Lists to Separate Tasks Into Specific Contexts

Your daily and project-specific lists support the first four phases of the GTD workflow process (Collect, Process, Organize, Review), getting all projects and tasks out of your brain into a trusted, organized system. RTM Smart Lists focus your attention on the final and most important phase: doing your tasks.

RTM Smart Lists are saved searches with an amazing array of search operators that allow you to filter and group your tasks in meaningful ways. Just as project lists are useful for seeing all tasks for a given project, Smart Lists can be used to show you only the Next Actions you need to work on at Home, Work, or on the web.

Errands Smart List

For example, the image above shows my “Errands” smart list. The List tab on the right shows what the Smart List is showing: tasks tagged with “@errand” and “na”. So this list only displays errands that are Next Actions.

Work Smart List

My Work Smart List is a more complicated example. I want it to show work Next Actions and, since I work downtown and run errands during lunch, any personal tasks which I need to do downtown, such as “Pick up dry cleaning”. The List tab in the image above shows the Smart List query: tag:na AND (location:@work or location:@downtown) AND NOT dueAfter:"2 weeks from today". I use the AND NOT dueAfter:"2 weeks from today" to exclude any tasks due more than two weeks from today to keep me focused on near-term tasks.

Notice that “Pick up dry cleaning” shows up on both the Errands Smart List and the Work Smart List since it is an errand and a downtown task. Smart Lists give me the flexibility of doing the task during my lunch hour at work, or on Saturday when I look at my Errands list.

Recently, I also added a @Work-MIT Smart List to show only my Most Important Tasks. When my list of work Next Actions gets too overwhelming, I just work from this Smart List. As you can see in the table below, the @Work-MIT Smart List shows priority one and two work tasks due this week. Once I complete all tasks on the @Work-MIT list, I go back to my @Work Smart List.

Here are the Smart Lists I use on a daily basis. Notice that they all include “tag:na” to show me only my Next Actions.

Smart List nameSmart List Query
@Hometag:na AND location:@Home
@Callstag:na AND tag:@call
@Errandstag:na and tag:@errand
@Webtag:na AND tag:@web
@Worktag:na AND (location:@work or location:@downtown) AND NOT dueAfter:"2 weeks from today"
@Work-MITtag:na AND (location:@work or location:@downtown) AND NOT dueAfter:"1 week from today" AND (priority:1 OR priority:2)

Waiting-For and Someday/Maybe Lists

Some tasks are dependent on other people, but you still need to track them to make sure they are completed. For example, you may be waiting on a co-worker to finish the new logo design for the website project you are working on. Or you may be waiting on your tax refund deposit before you buy an iPhone. Or you might be waiting for a third bid on your landscape project before deciding on a landscaper. All of these tasks are Waiting-For tasks, and should be tracked separately from your Next Actions. Instead of tagging these tasks with “na” for Next Action, you should tag them with “wait” to indicate they are Waiting-For tasks.

Waiting-For Smart List

Any tasks you delegate to others should be treated as Waiting-For tasks and tagged with “wait”. I also tag delegated tasks with the delegatee’s name, e.g. “k” for my wife, “Aaron” for a co-worker, etc. The delegatee’s name tag, e.g. “Aaron”, shows up in the Tag Cloud so I can click on it and see all tasks I’ve delegated to Aaron. This is especially useful if I have an upcoming meeting with Aaron.

Smart List nameSmart List Query
Wait-Personaltag:wait AND NOT location:@work
Wait-Worktag:wait AND (location:@work or location:@downtown)

Finally to round out your GTD system, create a ps-Someday and a wk-Someday list to keep track of your personal and work Someday/Maybe projects, e.g. sail around the world, read War and Peace, redesign internal web site, etc. These two lists should be created as Lists, not Smart Lists.

Move any existing “Someday/Maybe” projects/tasks to these lists to hold them for the future. Be sure to remove any “na” or “wait” tags so tasks on your ps-Someday and wk-Someday lists don’t show up in your Smart Lists (e.g. “@Work”). You’ll need to review the ps-Someday and wk-Someday lists during your normal Weekly Review and move any Someday/Maybe projects and tasks that you are ready to work on back to the appropriate lists (and tag them with “na” if required).

Your ps-Someday and wk-Someday list are your trusted holding places for projects and tasks you want to put on hold but don’t want to forget about. Optionally you can also set a reminder on any Someday/Maybe projects if you want to be reminded on a specific date, e.g. six months from now. In this way, your Someday/Maybe lists can work as a Tickler file.

Other Lists and Smart Lists to Complete Your System

I use a few other Lists to keep track of things:

  1. an iTunes list of songs I hear on the radio that I want to buy

  2. a Books List of books to read, and

  3. a Lent/Borrowed List to keep track of items I’ve lent to friends or borrowed from friends and coworkers. Use the due date to remind you when to return them or go get them back.

Finally, I created a Work-WeeklyStatus Smart List to automatically generate my weekly status report of tasks I’ve completed in the last week. Now if only RTM would email my manager a nicely formatted version of this Smart List every week…

Smart List nameSmart List Query
Work-WeeklyStatuscompletedWithin:"1 week of today" AND location:@work AND NOT list:ps-Daily

Bringing it All Together

As you process your Inbox to zero every day, any longer-than-two-minute tasks should be added to the appropriate List in RTM and tagged. I move any project-related email messages to a separate email folder with the same name as my RTM list. When the project is completed, I just delete or archive the RTM project List and the corresponding email folder. If you use Gmail, I highly recommend the RTM Firefox extension.

You should also be doing a Weekly Review, which is probably the hardest GTD practice to do consistently. It’s the glue that holds your system together. Use your Weekly Review to brainstorm new tasks, identify and tag Next Actions for each project, move those tasks you’ve postponed 10 times to Someday/Maybe, create new Lists for new projects and archive or delete completed project Lists. You should also review your Wait-Personal and Wait-Work Smart Lists to see if you need to follow up with anyone.

Once you have written down your tasks and identified your Next Actions, you are ready to start working from your Smart Lists. Select the Smart List for your current context, e.g. @Work, and start working. You can do tasks based on what’s most important today, what you have energy for, what you have time for, or pick a random task. It’s up to you. Each task completed is another step toward completing one of your goals.

Remember The Milk is by far my favorite web-based task management app because it supports the five GTD workflow phases (Collect, Process, Organize, Review, and Do) in a seamless, automatic way. Its simple but powerful features allow me to focus on doing my work instead of endlessly fiddling with the system, moving my life forward, one step at a time.


Taskpaper: Todo List for MAC

MAC Only: Came across this really interesting desktop product. We are seeing alot less of desktop based todo list so to have something this good is abit rare.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog havea good review of Taskpaper:

TaskPaper's interface is simple and to the point, as is the structure of a TaskPaper file itself. You have projects, shown underlined and in bold, and under those projects you have tasks which, in turn, can have sub-tasks (as shown in the screenshot above). These tasks exist by themselves; there's no any way to link a task to another, or set a due date. TaskPaper's strength is that it lets you focus on crossing out those tasks instead of building a self-referential web of unfinished business which separates you from the cold, harsh reality of all the work you need to do.

TaskPaper's interface is simple and to the point, as is the structure of a TaskPaper file itself. You have projects, shown underlined and in bold, and under those projects you have tasks which, in turn, can have sub-tasks (as shown in the screenshot above). These tasks exist by themselves; there's no any way to link a task to another, or set a due date. TaskPaper's strength is that it lets you focus on crossing out those tasks instead of building a self-referential web of unfinished business which separates you from the cold, harsh reality of all the work you need to do.

That's not to say that TaskPaper doesn't have some features influenced by the cult of GTD and Web 2.0. Everyone's favorite buzzword is in full effect in TaskPaper: tags. You can tags your tasks by hitting a space and typing an '@' followed by whatever tag you want. If I had a task called 'Blog about cool stuff,' and I wanted to tag it TUAW I would simply insert a space and then type '@TUAW'. TaskPaper keeps track of all the tags you use, and offers to auto-complete tags based on that history with a helpful popup menu (pictured to the right).

I'm something of a tag curmudgeon, so it is odd for me to actually enjoy tagging, but TaskPaper has done the improbable: it's made me tag more. The tags, you see, aren't just there for fun. If you click on any given tag TaskPaper switches to a search view listing all the tasks that have that tag, no matter what project they're under. The built-in search view isn't limited to just tags, it can also be used to search for any text string. It'll look at all your tasks and return those that match, and it's fast (more on this in a second).

One of the most satisfying aspects of keeping a To Do list on paper is the act of crossing off task that you have accomplished. It makes you feel like you're earning your keep, and TaskPaper doesn't rob you of that. Once you've finished a task you simply click on the circle next to it, the circle fills in, and the task is crossed off. Some people might fault TaskPaper's default behavior of not automatically hiding completed tasks. Instead, you must manually Archive the tasks, but I think that is the right choice. I enjoy filling my task list with crossed out items; it makes me feel important, and gives me a sense of accomplishment (yes, I am a sad little man). Archived tasks are hidden from view, but still come up in search results.

Finally, let's talk file format, shall we? TaskPaper uses a fornat called 'TaskPaperDocumentType.' Some might be rolling their eyes and thinking, 'not another proprietary file format!' I'm happy to report that every TaskPaperDocument is merely a plain text file with a fancy extension (so one can associate the file with TaskPaper without having to open every text file it). If you were to open my TUAW To Do list in a text editor you would see this

That's it. TaskPaper is a custom viewer for text formatted in a particular way. Not only does this make TaskPaper both portable and extensible, but it makes it fast. Everything you do in TaskPaper happens instantly: searching, editing, opening a file. This app is smokin' fast.

Thanks to the use of plain text you can create or consume TaskPaper formated text in a number of interesting ways. The Hog Bay Software site lists a few options, including:

* A TextMate Plugin
* An open source web app
* a Vim syntax file
* A script to export your Ta-da lists to TaskPaper

Ahh, the power of open formats (and the minty fresh taste of plain text)!

Just in case you couldn't read between the lines of this review, I heartily recommend TaskPaper to anyone who is looking for a simple app to track To Do lists. This app isn't for everyone, as Merlin Mann points out, but it will cover the vast majority of people's needs.

TaskPaper is available at an introductory price of $18.95, and there is a free trial available. Check out the release notes and see what TaskPaper can help you do today.

[The Unofficial Apple Weblog | Read more... | Taskpaper]


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Remember the Milk integration with Google Calendar

Integration with Google Calendar

The difficulty in coming out with a good todo list is that many people have very different tasking habits.

Some people might be comfortable seeing their task as actual dates like on a calendar. RTM integrates with Google Calendar such that it adds a small icon on top of each day and you can:

  • Review your tasks for the day
  • Add new tasks and edit existing ones
  • Easily complete and postpone tasks
  • Review your overdue tasks
  • Optionally show tasks with no due date
  • See where your tasks are located on a map
See your tasks in the real world

Thanks to the magic of Google Maps, they have made a mini version of the Locations feature available in Google Calendar. The map shows where your day's tasks are located in the real world, so you can see what's nearby or on your way, and plan the best way to get things done.

[Special Calendar for Remember the Milk]


Saturday, April 26, 2008

My To-Do List setup: Review of Remember the Milk (RTM)

I started out planning my tasks on a Windows CE PDA, which i find was a really useful tool. I used Pocket Informant, which gradually moved towards more GTD. However, it still revolves around single tasks and no sub-tasking and working with categories.

I changed my phone to a Windows Mobile Standard one, which essentially is pretty crap as a task manager if you ask me. The to-do management function is more limited then on the pocket pc.

Having been using to-do list for about 8 years, I realise that effective to-do list hinges on several factors.

  • You don't always check your lists. You can still live your life without your to-do list. I don't always check my list even when i have a pocket pc. That is because I won't always have it in my hand. I don't always check my smartphone because i can't bring my camera phone to my office!
  • to-do list serve as a set of tasks at a certain context e.g. home, office, on-site
  • to-do list serve as a list of task when working on a certain project e.g. programming a software change, auditing a specific company. It enables you to concentrate on this and not be distracted by other tasks. This IS where your productivity is being rewarded! Work => Compensation.
  • You got to be comfortable with it. It has to be flexible and for me i demand one more thing, it cannot be too shabby looking.
Having said all that, I thought i found a pretty all encompassing tool with My Life Organized. It is really good if you ask me, the main good points being:
  • Places. Enable you to switch to where you are at and what are the tasks at hand. You can even set Places within Places.
  • Projects and sub-task. Some tasks are list of actions towards an objective. The outlook task list is unable to do this. I wonder why microsoft is so slow to adopt this!
  • Thumbdrive. You can mount it on the thumbdrive and bring your list and program anywhere to run it.
  • Intuitive priority sorting. You can change the way you sort the tasks based on importance or due date.
  • Good looking interface.
What got me off it was that, i had to plug in that thumbdrive, which to me is one more layer of hassle. I want to start work straight away and not constantly look at where my thumbdrive is. Added to the fact that my thumbdrive is encrypted and you get a good picture.

If i get a pocketpc again i might switch back to this, its got a pocket pc version and its pretty darn good if you ask me.

Remember The Milk

In the end i began to find a good clean and nice looking web-based to-do list that serve my needs. I don't wanna spend so much time on this but all of them have their plus and minus points.

In the end i stuck with Remember The Milk. Its developed by these Australian guys that piece together a javascript mayhem of a program.

In this article i will show you what is good and bad about this offering.

The look

When you first signed up and start using, you will be brought to this overview page. If you ask me, the color is pleasant on the eyes and so is the font color. RTM have a setting that enables you to go to the to-do list section and skip this portion if it is really useless.

The Main Task window

The main task window shows you what needs to do.

The lists

You can make numerous list for different purpose. RTM comes with its set of default list but many of them you can delete it at the [Settings] link.

How do i make use of this? Basically, this is a combination of my places and projects section. I usually do things either at home or at work, so those are the important places that i have tasks. Having me face one list enables me to concentrate on the tasks at hand and not be bogged down by disruptions. In a sense these places are projects in itself, so this list section is actually my projects.

If a work task gets big enough such that warrants it to become a project by it self, i will append a P in front and create a new list.

The trick here, is always monitor your projects and make sure you do not have too many of them! If you have too many its either you are overworked or you are fragmenting too much. Always close a list when there isn't anymore items on it.

Smart Lists

You might have noticed that there are some list that are blue in color. Blue color lists are Smart Lists. these smart lists are actually specific searches that you will reference to quite frequently. You can even have Smart List searching Smart Lists!

From these search criterias enables you to create custom lists. Some good ones i can think about:
  • tasks that can be performed and finish in 20 mins.
  • cross tagged tasks that are due within 5 days.

A good list that i show here is a list with 2 tags. If you want to create a list that shows your next action and when you are at a computer, you can search for these 2 tags and save a list out of them titled Next Actions at a computer.

Ease of using

The strength of remember the milk lies in its ease of use. Firstly lets take a look at task entry. You can click on [Add Task] for task entry, but a better way after using for a while is to remember the keyboard shortcuts.

I find it simpler to just type [t] to enter a task, [s] to enter a tag, [d] to enter when the task is due and [y] to enter notes.

the complete list is here: [RTM Keyboard Shortcuts]

The due date entry is one of the most intuitive i have came across yet. After you enter a task, type [d] to let you edit the due date straight. Here you have a few options. If you remember the date 3 days later you can enter it in this format: 6 May or 6/5 or 6 May 2008.

However i think most of you will only remember you are gonna do this task by "next friday". RTM enables you to do that and came up with the date quite accurately!

Looking at the menu you will see that you can enter the length taken to finish the task, though i think no one will actually use this.

However, repeatable task is a very useful and frequently used function. This is good for a weekly report reminder that you will always do. Same as the due date, there are many intuitive entry you can do.

You can enter [monthly], [2 week] or [3 day] and it will recognise it.

Setting priority is easy as 1,2,3 literally. You can use [1] , [2], [3] to assign the kind of priority you require. I don't normally use priority. when i use it, it is to highlight something that is extremely important.


Tags are what i used to manage my contexts in GTD sense. Here you will see that I have assigned tags based on where i am, what state of freedom i am in.

I have also created a @next_action tag so that i can always change what is my next action to perform.

I don't always religiously assign these contexts. If i am at work and there is definately a computer, then i don't use the computer tag. I seldom use the @home as well.

What is most useful is the @delegate and @waiting_for tags. It enables me to know which tasks i am waiting for completion from colleagues as well as customers.

The @contact tag is also good as i can bring up a list of people i need to contact through email or phone.

RTM remembers your tags, which means once i key in "@" it will bring up the whole list of contexts. Very useful. You can edit the tags at the [Settings] as well.
Location, Location, Location

RTM has this integration with Google Maps that shows you your task on a map. I really dunno how useful this is but anyway some of you guys might want something like this.

Taking Notes

RTM enables you to have multiple notes. Key in [y] and you can start entering the notes.

The Cloud

This i feel is one really useful feature. whatever your List, Tags and Locations will go into this cloud.

It is very useful to see where you have the most tasks and it is an indication you better focus some efforts to doing that. Making that cloud smaller is a measure of your productivity as well.

Another bonus is that you are able to publish this list for people to see your task and share it with friends and colleagues.

How useful this is would depend on the kind of collaboration level you require at work or at home.

I don't share my list because non of my friends uses this.

Integration with Google Calendar

The difficulty in coming out with a good todo list is that many people have very different tasking habits.

Some people might be comfortable seeing their task as actual dates like on a calendar. RTM integrates with Google Calendar such that it adds a small icon on top of each day and you can:

  • Review your tasks for the day
  • Add new tasks and edit existing ones
  • Easily complete and postpone tasks
  • Review your overdue tasks
  • Optionally show tasks with no due date
  • See where your tasks are located on a map
See your tasks in the real world

Thanks to the magic of Google Maps, they have made a mini version of the Locations feature available in Google Calendar. The map shows where your day's tasks are located in the real world, so you can see what's nearby or on your way, and plan the best way to get things done.


All in all i have shown you why i like this offering so much. Its easy on the eye, serve my needs as well as offer alot alot of flexibility.

I will add on to this document so as to make this a very complete list so stay tuned to this.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Voo2do: Project Based ToDo Organizing GTD

Surprised i didn't discover this sooner but better late then never. I'm always fascinated by getting things done todo lists that are able to break tasks into projects and subtask.

Lets just say that there are tasks that constitutes a number of actions and you have to account for that.

Breaking it down well will enable you to realise your objective better.

What makes voo2do different?
Unlike most online to-do lists, voo2do tracks priority, due date, and time estimates for each task. There is no notion of "lists" in voo2do— tasks can be grouped by project, but you can view and edit a bunch of projects together. Voo2do supports some basic sharing of tasks.
The user interface for Voo2do is really kiddy and not much AJAX used from what i observed initially. When i first register and logged in, it doesn't even bring me to the Dashboard!

One aspect of Getting Things Done is that of using context of where the task and projects will be operated. Voo2do will enable you to do that and customized it in alot of ways.

The unique thing about this context inserting is to enable groupwork. I guess this is to facilitate collaboration but i will leave this to later. Adding a simple context is simple.

Next we can enter with our tasks. The crucial thing here is that before you enter your task, you got to make sure you select the context that you want to perform this task at. It seems like i have no way to change the context later.

There are alot of things that you can enter for the task. I realise that you don't have to specify a project which means you can keep track of tasks straight away.

Voo2do do not control how you enter the priority which is strange cause i dunno what i should be putting in there.

Another aspect that Voo2do is different from many is that it takes the same ToDoList concept of keeping track of how long you spend at a task. There is a timer that you can do that. Very interesting but whether it is useful to you is still a debate.

Adding a new project is done at the Project tab. Its easy but i don't think you can specify it on another place. It will immediately go to the Active Projects section.

U can then add the tasks to the project at the Task tab. When you key in "c" it brings up a project that was created. The funny thing is they way it keeps in a small box. I wonder how that would be if you have more projects.

It is during close review that you realise that there are some bad points about Voo2do. First off, it doesn't differentiate much from Reviewing task and editing task. Look at the projects! Its difficult to tell with the small box given during review.

Secondly, if you are looking for something that can create sub projects such as My Life Organized, then this one wouldn't do that as well.

When you complete a task, normally for a web based todo list, you would expect it to be moved to the completed section. Not so. You would need to click save to update the page.

There is a note review tab that enable you to view all your notes at a glance. Voo2do gives you a fair bit of space judging by the lengthy note i written.

The deadline review tab enables the user to see at a glance what is due. Many todo list does that so this is no different. It enables you to view by context.

The collaboration tab is where Voo2do tries to value add. Basically you are able to let other people see your task list and you can set password for that. Perhaps this is useful in a certain situation but i think there are many ways to share this with colleagues.

This to me applies well if you wanna let your mom see what things you will buy when you go to work so that she knows you are helping her buy it.

Your partners sees this!


Note the best list i found but it should appeal to some. The biggest problem i have with it is the design of it.

Features wise it is pretty useful. But My Life Organized beats this fairly well.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Google: ToDo list finally?

The rumour mongers are having a field day. TechCrunch reports that reader Nicolas Hoizey noticed a blog post on the official Google Docs Blog today written by Andrew Cheng, a Google Marketing Manager. Hoizey sent them the NetNewsWire screen shot above.

This may sound exciting to some but the realm of todo list and such is pretty populated. If google were to integrate this together with its other offering such as the calendar and reader, it will still need to offer something that improves our productivity.

Knowing google, i would be expecting the same kind of interface, a whole lot of labels usage and probably an inbox todo concept.

But seriously, i don't expect anything concrete here.


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