What should a good ToDo Tool do?

About a software – and what you would need it to do so you think it would be useful for you

After trying out many different ToDo tools, I found that none of them makes using these tools fun. I don’t have a mac, otherwise I would certainly use something like “Things“, as the introduction movies look pretty nice and simplicity defines the software.

Nothing on the PC? Well, not entirely: we have A LOT of REALLY BAD solutions for Windows. Firstly, Outlook. This one is too simple, and office is high priced. You cannot organize ToDos with Outlook. Then an unlimited number of applications that fill your screen and give you 1 million buttons. Require about 10 hours to use first time. Missing a good PC-ToDo-tool, I looked for web applications. Toodledo is a nice service, but the interface just sucks. And you won’t use a bad interface anymore, as we’re living in modern times where usability engineeriing is reality … sometimes. Additionally, the web-software needs me to keep an eye on the browser everytime, which I just don’t like. If I want to get things done, I shouldn’t need the browser for that as we all know where that leads (youtube).

Therefore, I only depend on the iPhone-“Todo”-app, the only one thats pretty much usable. Sadly, I don’t have a 3GS, and the 3G needs about 5-8 seconds till I can see the screen and the app is started, so thats not perfect too. I often let this app run at work, but seeing the screen still takes 3 seconds.

So, what would you do? Usually, if you want a certain software-tool that exactly fits your needs, you just try out some, and after you didn’t find what you were looking for, you just use the next best thing OR just decide to throw away the idea completely. Well, that is, if you’re not programming software. So I decided to write down some requirements and asked at Abelssoft (the company I work at) if we could do something like this. Well, we could try :-)

So I’m asking you: What is the most important requirement, a todo-tool should fullfill, so that it would help YOU? What we found out is that it needs to fullfill the following:

  • easy to use, intuitive to use
  • small, compact interface thats in the background, popping up from time to time to ask if you still do <this>
  • tells me what I should do next
  • rapid way of adding new todos (and a rapid way of setting importance, due dates and stuff)
  • only necessary properties of todos (some want projects, some categories, everyone contexts, some tags, some planned time…)
  • good organisation of todos (projects? recurring todos? inbox?)
  • good filtering (if I search something, I need to find it instantly)

We had another giantic list of things that COULD be nice, but we’ll be trying to keep it sleek. And we found out that most people have very different ideas, what a todo tool should do more than the above. My boss wants project planning stuff like how much hours will this item take (I won’t want this). I want it to be able to synch to my iPhone (others don’t use iPhones). Some want dependencies between single todo-items (like this one can only be ready after another one), but how can you build this in without blowing the tool up to one of the complex tools already available? Some want projects while others find them confusing. Some want time-management-functions inclused. Some want further project-planning stuff like delegating ToDos or connectors to projectmanagement solutions like JIRA included. Choose and divide, young jedi.

Also, the GTD-philosophy seems to get in the way sometimes. For example, “Folders” don’t make any sense to me when you have contexts. They’re some kind of tags gone worse. That said, I like tags more. For these and some more reasons, I’m not sure if we should follow a certain philosophy (like the 30-year old GTD), as these were born in times when computers were not that essential in people’s everyday lives.

What do you think? Which feature would let you use a ToDo-organizer?

, Posted Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 under Projekte, Usability.


  1. This is just a test comment. I wanna see how it looks like with the new design.

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