After yesterday’s carpet-bombing of the various social platforms on the internet, I thought I might move on to ripping productivity apps a new one today. It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to task lists, and notes – I’ve carried a Filofax round with me for at least the last decade, emptied my head into numerous Moleskine notebooks, and have recently been indoctrinated into the Bullet Journal religion.
Let’s start with an admission. I use Evernote. I’ve used Evernote for a number of years. It’s filled with everything from information on past work projects, to snippets of programming, and unpublished blog posts. I have a love/hate relationship with Evernote though – because while it’s great at sucking content in, it’s terrible at exporting content out. If you add content to Evernote on the web, it gets formatted differently than if you add it via either the desktop or mobile apps. That kind of thing drives me insane.
I’ve toyed with Trello a number of times. If you’ve not seen Trello, it’s a web or app version of a t-card system. If you have no idea what a t-card system is, I now feel like I’m 150 years old. In the same way that you might migrate tasks around in a Bullet Journal, you can just drag them in Trello. Lots of web development teams swear by it. I see it more as a poor man’s Jira. Here’s the thing though – for day to day life, Trello doesn’t really work any better than a paper notebook. In many ways it’s worse, because once something is moved, you cannot see where it once was (but you can read it’s history if you’re really insane, and figure it out).
Before Microsoft acquired it, I tried Wunderlist out for a while, and quite liked it. It’s a traditional task list app, letting you keep track of lists of things you need to get done, tick them off, get reminders, and all the other things that every task list app in the universe has always done. After Microsoft acquired Wunderlist, development ground to a complete and utter halt. It was no surprise at all when Microsoft Tasks appeared a year or so later (and no surprise that it was dreadful either).
I suppose in many ways “Todoist” has taken over the “fashionable task list app” mantle – it’s available on all the major platforms, but stupidly missing obvious functions unless you pay.
At work I often use an online tool called “Basecamp” to manage development projects with clients. It affords shared task lists grouped into projects, where the client can tick things off, add their own tasks, and everybody receives automatically generated notifications that the system sends out from some kind of email gattling gun if you let it. Here’s the thing though – there are several versions of Basecamp. Basecamp 2.0 was (and is) brilliant – it does everything you might need of a project task management website, without really doing anything else. I suppose that’s why Basecamp 3.0 got invented – to redesign it into a massively inferior product that I hate with a passion, and that costs twice as much to use. Thankfully you can carry on using 2.0, so we have.
The same company that make Basecamp used to make an online productivity tool called “Backpack”. In my opinion it is STILL the best tool at what it did, even though it closed to new users perhaps a decade ago. If you imagine Trello, Evernote, Google Calendar, and Twitter munched into one portal for personal use, you just imagined Backpack. If anybody took it upon themselves to re-build it for the modern web, with a mobile app, they would become a billionaire within weeks.
So. I noodle around with all these tools – task lists, portals, note-taking apps, and so on – and I really only use Evernote. Everything else goes in the Bullet Journal at the moment, because it does all the same things, doesn’t go flat, and doesn’t require a monthly payment to unlock features that should have been in the core product.
Oh – I nearly forgot. I also use Dropbox, and Google Drive – but they’re more for keeping copies of files, rather than storing notes. I’ve played with transferring everything from Evernote into Google Docs in the past, but it insists on converting everything to traditional documents with pages – Evernote is far more like a continuous roll of toilet paper (and just as useful, probably).