iPhone productivity application reviewed: WhatTasks

The GTD galore is spreading along quite nicely, not only in a vertical direction, by reaching more and more adepts in its traditional western cultural space, but also in new spaces, some of them well over the Atlantic Ocean. One of these days I found the first Brasilian iPhone application which claims to implement the core GTD rules. The application is called WhatTasks and it costs 3,99 USD at the Apple AppStore (on the WhatTasks web page they are advertising a 4,99 USD price, but they also say that “international pricing is available”, so I guess I’ve been included in some kind of discount…). I’ve been contacted directly by the developer, Felipe Belo, a few weeks ago, with a polite request to tell my opinion about this. So, after I finally set up my new 3g iPhone – a white one, you can imagine that? – I thought I should give it a try.

The first thing to know about WhatTasks is that it comes in 2 flavors, a free, limited version, and a full featured version at the price of 3,99 USD. The limited version is called WhatTasks Lite and I installed it on my iPhone 2 weeks ago. What this application is doing is basically a list management. You can create as many lists as you want and add items to them. Once an item is done you can check it out. That’s basically all. It manages the “what” in your everyday activities.

But the real power of the application comes in the paid version (this is somehow predictable, if you ask me). The paid version also gives you access to the “when” and “where” of your activities. This is one of the core principles of GTD: you are doing actions in contexts and at specific dates. You are not just a robot which does everything as it comes, regardless of the specific time or place: you can group your spaces of action into contexts, and you can also group your doing intervals in time chunks: right now, tomorrow or even someday / maybe, if you are not sure of the exact schedule. By adding the “when” and “where” dimensions to the “what” of an action, WhatTasks really comes close to the GTD aware user.

And because an image can say more than a thousand words, let’s go through a simple visual drive-test of WhatTasks. This is how it looks when you’ll open it for the first time:

Yeap, I know, not much. Let’s start by creating our first list. Just hit the “+” sign in the left lower corner to start:

And here’s the main screen with the new list created:

Nice looking list, right? A part from the fact that is, errrm, how you tell it? … yeap, empty! So, let’s start adding tasks to this list. Again, by touching the “+” sign in the lower left corner:

I like the fact that I can chose a priority right under the task title. After I’m done with the title, I can put the task in context pretty fast, by choosing the “When”, a familiar and slick iPhone date picker:

and of course, the “Where” of the task, or the physical context:

As you can see, WhatTasks comes preloaded with a list of contexts – and some nice associated icons, too – but you can easily add your own contexts if you feel like. Now, with all the task information inserted, let’s look at it in our list:

Nice, right? My thoughts, exactly… Now, let’s take a closer look at the lower part of the screen. There are 2 areas which greatly helps WhatTasks to win usability points: the “What / When/ Where” icons, and the grouping / sorting / cleaning shortcuts. We saw above the “What” view, meaning the actual list of stuff, now here’s how the “When” view is looking:

It’s a clear overview of your near future activity, as you may see. It’s pretty easy to spot your workload in a second by taking a look at this, so I find it pretty useful. Now, the contexts, or the “Where” view:

One thing to be noticed is that in both cases, on “Where” and on “When” you can have free items, meaning items with no due date or with no context attached. This is good if you think at WhatTasks as a sort of archiving tool for small to moderated size collections.

But we can go even further with that, and try to organize the items even deeper by using grouping and sorting functions. Here’s how the grouping screen – the “QuickGroup” shortcut – is looking:

Neat, right? And now the sorting screen – the “QuickSort” shortcut:

I told, you, some important points for usability here. There is also an area in which WhatTasks tries to walk on the footsteps of some GTD classicals, like iGTD, and OmniFocus, and this is the “QuickClean” shortcut. Basicalyy, a task is not immediately deleted, and you can use the “QuickClean” shortcut to do this at a later time. In my case, there wasn’t any task to be cleaned, but the app still had the expected behavior:

All in all, I find WhatTasks to be a surprisingly clean and stable application for task management. The GTD steroids implant in the paid application definitely makes a difference, and, for the guy not interested in more hyped – and complex, let’s be honest – products like OmniFocus, WhatTasks may be an intelligent choice.

[tags]getting things done, GTD, iPhone, WhatTasks, time management, productivity, iPhone applications[/tags]

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