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Getting Things Done on a Mac Ιουνίου 11, 2007

Posted by PPKP in Non-Greek, Tech stuff.

Ok, I’ll write this in English, it might be useful to a larger audience.

Lately, I’m always busy and with ever-growing todo lists. Most of us are. I’m also a person having trouble organizing himself around tools which are supposed to address the lives of busy people. As such, my todo list effectively resides in my head only, which is becoming more and more of a problem — this model just doesn’t scale and I’m missing deadlines (usually those which hurt the most, i.e. paying the bills and taking care of tax office matters). I’ve been trying to use PIMs such as iCal, and although I’ve been used to keeping my appointments and trip info there, I just won’t put my todo items in it (or any other PIM). It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I always skip that in the frenzy of constant context switching that I live in lately. My problem is the process of collecting the information, keeping it organized, and planning hierarchically tasks around it.

Mind maps are great for brainstorming, but that’s just as much. I bought Novamind, which has loads and loads of functionality, and the worst interface ever. I’m not joking, it makes your brain hurt — sometimes your eyes too. It will also give you RSI as it requires n^2 mouseclicks for anything but adding nodes, but you have no option if you want to do serious mind mapping under MacOSX.

So I need other tools. A friend mentioned the uber-hyped GTD acronym yesterday, so I set out to eventually have a look at GTD tools and see if I can use one of those. I still haven’t read the bible, but I’m about to order it. Apparently, my view is that of a completely inexperienced GTD methodology user (i.e., not a user at all :-)). But then again, maybe this is good, as I’m naturally looking at what makes sense (to me, at least) when thinking out of the GTD box.

I had a look at the following:

  • iGTD: This is what I eventually settled for. You can’t beat the price (free) and it seems to be the best compromise between functionality, stability and the interface part. It’s bothering how you can’t reorder your lists after you construct them, but I guess it’s not a huge problem. I’d also like to see some connectors so that I can just add email messages, text files, notes etc to the Inbox. There’s a QuickSilver plugin for this reason, but I’ve converted to Butler nowadays since it supports Greek input (which QS doesn’t).
  • Actiontastic: This is quite good actually, it was my second choice. Its interface is very clean, and it just works as advertised. My grievance with it is that it does not support hierarchical projects/contexts, which I feel that I need. I don’t know if that’s a part of the GTD methodology, but I was always thinking hierarchically and I can’t change that now. Actiontastic is open-source.
  • Midnight Inbox: This is visually very appealing, and it has some fantastic functionality in the sense that it automatically retrieves new content from your mailbox, bookmarks, desktop folder etc and adds it to your inbox for later organization and processing. However, it’s so terribly unstable that I just won’t pay the money for software which crashes this often.

I didn’t try EasyTask Manager (I read somewhere that it has problems when syncing with iCal, which is a «must» for me as I’m syncing my PDA-phone with iCal), GhostAction (I don’t see how it’s so different from Actiontastic which is free), kGTD (I understand it requires OmniOutliner Pro which I don’t own, and it will be superseded by OmniFocus). I’m eagerly waiting for OmniFocus, for two reasons: a) the video at their site has convinced me, and b) I own OmniGraffle and it’s by far the best design software I’ve seen. I’ve also tried other pieces of software OmniGroup have written, and it plain makes sense, so I really trust these guys.

Now on a slightly relevant topic, I also need an information manager, and that’s just as important. I understand that SOHO Notes (which I didn’t try) has quite a few stability problems in its latest version, but as I said this is just comments on the web and I have no personal opinion. DevonThink Pro which is supposed to be the heavyweight of this arena didn’t impress me when using it. I found it hard to add files and couldn’t find my way around adding video/audio or even bibtex entries which are supported according to the feature list. Quite certainly it’s just a matter of looking at the manuals, which I don’t have the time to do. It’s also somewhat expensive, so I checked the free (for personal use) Journler, which is indeed really great. Journler actually has some GTD functionality built-in, but it doesn’t really qualify. It’s information management functions however, are excellent, so I was immediately sold. I was also about to test Yojimbo but a) it seems too restrictive with its fixed categories, and b) I read a comment online quoting that it doesn’t scale well, so I just discarded it.

So for the time being, I’m with the two free solutions (although that wasn’t my main criterion, but rather their functionality): iGTD and Journler. I am waiting for OmniFocus though, and may convert from iGTD when it’s available. Of course, until then I may decide that GTD does not work for me 🙂

I’d love to get your feedback, so please go ahead and comment (keeping in mind the disclaimers in the text).

Update: As also mentioned in the comment below, indeed iGTD can sort lists as per the user’s wishes. Also, I also gave DevonThink Pro another shot, to be more fair (and also because the friend who started this insists he will buy it due to its multi-db functionality, which Journler does not sport). So it was quite easy eventually to add multimedia and other sorts of files (and I didn’t even have to read the manuals :-)), *but* there’s a limited amount of data types supported. This has to do with the view/preview functionality, apparently; However, this is a show-stopper for me. What I want to do is to be able to add to my notes any kind of file, and let the OS handle it. I don’t care about previewing — although I understand others do. Ideally, I’m looking for an application to which I can add abstract content (text, any kind of files, and any kind of links, e.g. to local or remotely-stored emails, URLs, etc) and then link these entries to tasks in my GTD application, probably through AppleScript. Then the GTD app would sync with iCal and allow me to track my tasks wherever I am, as I can already sync my PDA with iCal. My mailbox (with the attachments included) have been my ToDo list for years, and although I want to change my methodology, I don’t wish to shift the paradigm.

Update 2: Ok, I just found out that you can add all kinds of stuff to iGTD: Files, emails, links, etc. I’m totally sold!!!



1. Bartek Bargiel - Ιουνίου 11, 2007

» It’s bothering how you can’t reorder your lists after you construct them, but I guess it’s not a huge problem.»

yes, you can 🙂 please go to the View menu and click the «Toggle natural sorting» option. More here:


2. PPKP - Ιουνίου 11, 2007

@Bartek: Yes, yes, I was about to write an update when I saw your message 🙂 So indeed I figured that out, list re-ordering with iGTD is possible.

3. Nova-Mind v4 « Οι άλλοι - Ιουλίου 23, 2007

[…] 23, 2007 Posted by PPKP in Non-Greek, Tech stuff. trackback I recently referred to Nova-Mind, in a post about the GTD methodology. Back then I rumbled about how notoriously bad Novamind’s interface is. Today I upgraded to […]


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