One of the most useful things technology can do is help organise your life. For two decades professional people have used PDAs, Treos, BlackBerry’s etc. to hold contacts, notes, appointments and email. But in my experience, prior to the BlackBerry at least, these devices were more of a time sink than an actual productivity tool.
Take the Sony P900i. I paid around £500 for one back in 2004. At the time it was the dog’s dangly bits and was regarded as one of the most advanced smartphones in the world. It had contacts, documents, calendars and all that jazz. It was also monumentally shit. I hate the Symbian OS at the best of times, but I really hated the P900i. Doing anything on the phone was a massive ball-ache. Nothing was intuitive and every time I tried to live with it I returned sheepishly to my Filofax.
Symbian was no better when I returned with my N95. Sadly Nokia make great hardware running shit operating systems.
I like the BlackBerry. I had an 8800 and still use an 8900 Curve. They’re great phones and genuine productivity devices. The menus are easy to use and simple, email handling is second to none, and every time RIM revs the OS it gets better. I do actually store notes and use the calendar on the BlackBerry.
BTW. I was never a Palm user. My uncle is. He’s always used Treos and currently has the Pre, which I tease him about (it’s a girl’s phone, it even has a mirror on the back for applying your lip gloss). Palm devotees swear by their devices, but I can’t comment.
My point, if I ever get there, is that finally smartphones are useful in getting things done.
One piece of software I like a lot is TaskPaper – for both Mac and iPhone. It comes from the excellent Hog Bay Software, who are, last time I checked, 103 different kinds of awesome. WriteRoom, Hog Bay’s no-frills text editor is where I write everything (I’m writing this post in WR), and now TaskPaper is also a “use every day app”. In fact, TaskPaper is one of only two applications (the other being Tweetie) that I launch at login on my Mac.
TaskPaper is a sort of text editor with smarts. It creates simple to-do lists.
On the Mac you just hit ⌘ ↵ and you have a new task. Hit ⌘ D and the task is marked done, struck through and dated. Simples. The iPhone app also has a great UI.
Like all the best software, TaskPaper is clean and simple but actually quite powerful. Tasks can be structured in “projects”, which allow you to filter the UI to your specific requirement. Also everything can be tagged, which adds an extra dimension for effective search/filtering.
TaskPaper will basically be whatever you want it to be. You can ignore tasks and use it as your main notepad if you want. Since using TP I’ve hardly had need to open Notational Velocity/Simplenote – my usual Mac/iPhone note taking solution.
Oh, did I mention that (also like Notational Velocity & Simplenote) TaskPaper will sync beautifully between your Mac and iPhone? Just install Hog Bay’s free SimpleText software to your Mac and then make sure your TaskPaper or WriteRoom (it works too) document is saved in the SimpleText folder. Login using your Google account and bingo – your iPhone tasks/notes are synced between devices.
At work everything uses Outlook Exchange. All meetings, projects and tasks are managed in Windows, so I’m stuck in a Microsoft hell when it comes to GTD. But at home – whether it be writing projects, planning a photo shoot, jobs around the house, or getting my personal shit together – I use TaskPaper. And yes it works beautifully. 🙂