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Action Lists: GTD/Toodledo iPhone app


Posted: Apr 27, 2009
Score: 0

Action Lists (App Store link) is a new task manager for the iPhone and iPod Touch that synchronizes with Toodledo and is based on the Getting Things Done (GTD) system popularized by David Allen. Action Lists harnesses the power of the GTD system with an easy to use interface that makes it fast to access the information you need when you need it. If you're not already familiar with the Getting Things Done system, you can check out the GTD Wikipedia article for a quick primer.

Action Lists is an app that was designed to be used on the go. Lots of little details help users "get things done." For example, the tab bar at the bottom of the screen contains all of your essential GTD lists and makes it convenient to access them without having to navigate back to a "root" screen to switch lists. Also, the context lists (or "action lists") filter the tasks that are displayed so that only tasks with a status of "Next Action" appear. This keeps you from staring at a host of Someday/Maybe tasks when you're hunting for something to work on in the five minutes before a meeting.

Action Lists has all the features you'd expect from a fully featured todo app including support for due dates, future tasks (set through a task's start date), repeating tasks, and task notes, but it's the details that make this an app worth using. Scheduling repeating tasks is flexible: tasks can be set to repeat every Monday, the last Tuesday of every month, or every three months. Never forget trash day or that furnace filter again! Of special note is the way that Action Lists handles future tasks. By default, a task is hidden if it has a start date in the future. That's great until the start date is reached. Most todo apps would silently slip the task into the appropriate list when its due to be started, but then the task is easy to miss. Action Lists allows the user to specify that tasks be placed in the inbox when their start date is reached. This increases the visibility of tasks that are due to be started, and is consistent with the "tickler file" described in Getting Things Done.

Having your tasks always with you on your iPhone is great, but sometimes its nice to enter your tasks using a full keyboard and a computer. Since Action Lists will synchronize over the air with your Toodledo account, that's not a problem. Through Toodledo, the tasks that you enter into Action Lists can be viewed, modified, completed and shared with others. And tasks that are entered into Toodledo through it's web interface (or through one of its many service connections -- like Jott) can be synchronized back to Action Lists so that they are always at your fingertips, whether in a business meeting with an Internet connection, or on a flight with your device in Airplane Mode.

All in all, Action lists is a great app if Getting Things Done is your todo system of choice. Action Lists is available for download on the App Store at a price of $9.99. If you would like to try before you buy, there's also a free version called Action Lists Lite (App Store link). Action Lists Lite has all the features of the full version, but is limited to only 15 tasks. For full details and support, visit Daze End Software.

Posted: Apr 27, 2009
Score: 0

Picked up the lite version this morning, and have been trying it out all day. Honestly, it is not my cup of tea, but it has some nice features that would probably appeal to pure GTDers (which I am not).

Good Stuff:
Simple clean UI focused on GTD uses
Nice use of Next Actions, and Inbox
Separate tabs for someday and waiting
Auto-sync (some 3rd party apps only have manual)

Less Good Stuff(IMO, remember I am not Mr. GTD):
No Tags
No times (start or due)
No subtasks

Overall, a professional looking app with some nice features that you may want to check out if you are serious about the "right" way to do GTD.

Posted: Apr 27, 2009
Score: 0

@software: FYI, The link to the Daze End Software site does not seem to be working. Maybe you are just setting it up? Sorry if I jumped the gun.

Posted: Apr 27, 2009
Score: 0

(Original poster, here. I messed up and posted under the wrong account originally...)

Thanks for the feedback, Anders. You're absolutely right that this app is focused squarely at GTDers. Toodledo already has a general purpose iPhone app; this was meant to fill a niche that I felt hadn't yet been filled.

Subtasks are on my radar for an upcoming version, as are tags. (Not quite sure how I want to handle them yet...) Not sure about the link to Daze End... It works for me.

If anyone has questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to post in the forums at Daze End Software.

Posted: Apr 27, 2009
Score: 0

Yes, the link is working for me now as well.
I think you are on to something with this program. I really like the way the Action Lists work. I guess that is sort of central to the whole GTD thing. One thing I did not check out; after a Next Action for a given project is checked off, is a new one automatically assigned? I think that would be an awesome feature for this app if it is not yet done. I have been incorporating some of the GTD methods into my system as I learn about the philosophy behind it, and I will definitely have to keep my eye on this app.

Posted: Apr 27, 2009
Score: 0

Can you explain your question/suggestion a little more? I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Right now you can have multiple tasks set to be a Next Action for a project, if you'd like. It's up to the user to categorize stasks as items for Inbox (equivalent to No Status in Toodledo), Next Action, Someday, or Waiting.

Posted: Apr 27, 2009
Score: 0

Ah yes, what I really meant is for each context per folder. It may not be true GTD, but I don't usually have more that one task set to Next Action for any given context within a folder/project. I think it would be neat if after I completed a task in project "A" with the context "phone", for instance, if the next task in project "A" with the context "phone" would automatically be changed to next action and Added to the action list. I guess the problem with that is that every active status in your app is grouped as a Next Action. As I said maybe it's not true GTD, but I would prefer an option to have active tasks that are not next actions. I suppose I could get around this by calling them waiting, as in waiting for me to finish the previous task in that folder. One of the great strengths I see in your app is the high level of focus it can provide very easily. I think what I have suggested, at least for me, would enhance that even further.

Posted: Apr 27, 2009
Score: 0

Trying to flesh out your idea a little bit... Suppose that Status=Active was used to indicate these active tasks that weren't yet a "Next Action". When a task was completed, it would look for another task with status=Active, the same context, and the same project to make the new Next Action. Am I describing your suggestion right?

If there were several of these active tasks to choose between, what criteria would the app use to select the one to make Next Action?

Posted: Apr 27, 2009
Score: 0

In my case, I would like it to work in the following manner:

Anything overdue or due today gets chosen from first. If there are multiple tasks in the project that are due today or overdue, or if there are none the selection goes by priority. If there is still a tie, at that point it could choose either as far as I am concerned.

An even better method would be if Tasks in a Project could be manually sorted, and the Next Action would be chosen by being the next task down the list with the correct context. I realize this would require additional views for Projects so it may be too much, but it would be a very nice way to do this.

Another feature I that I think would benefit users of this app would be an additional list in the Action Lists consisting of all Next Actions regardless of their context. This would be useful in case of a task with a missassigned or accidentally unassigned context.

Posted: May 11, 2009
Score: 0

Action Lists version 1.0.1 is now available in the App Store. New in version 1.0.1:

* A few bug fixes, including one that prevented synchronization with Toodledo when an Email Login or Password with special characters was used.
* A new checkbox for repeating tasks. This makes it easier to recognize repeating tasks on sight.

Posted: May 14, 2009
Score: 0

So the question everyone must ask is how this new app is better than the Toodledo app that costs half the price. Obviously everyone's perception will be different but a quick bullet list of Action List's advantages would be helpful.

Posted: May 14, 2009
Score: 0

There is a free Lite version which I tried, and you can see a brief review I wrote above (2nd post in this thread). In general, I would say this app is unique compared to all the other Toodledo syncing apps (Official app, Todo, Ultimate Todos, etc.). Action Lists does not try to be just another Toodledo app, it is designed for focus on contexts. Take this with a grain of salt coming from a guy who is not true GTD, but this app seems like the best suited app for a GTD approach to Toodledo. I can't seriously try it until it has subtasks, but it is a very interesting app.

I am thinking of writing a comparison review of all the Toodledo syncing apps since I have tried them all, and probably will do that soon, but this one is definitely unique. All the others, except Pocket Informant which has calendars, simply try to do what the official app does, and although Todo comes pretty close, none of the others manage to do it as well as the official app. Action Lists seems to come in from a different angle and do something pretty different.

Like I said, try the trial version. I wish it would allow more than 7 tasks to sync (PI lite gives you 15, and Todo lite allows 10 which I still think is too low), but you can still see how it is different.

This message was edited May 14, 2009.

Posted: May 14, 2009
Score: 1

Action Lists author here.

In general, I pretty much agree with what Anders wrote. Although I understand that comparisons between Action Lists and the Toodledo iPhone app are inevitable, I don't think it's a fair comparison. Toodledo is a very good general purpose app, but Action Lists is a specialized tool. Comparing the two apps is like comparing duct tape to invisible tape. Duct tape has a hundred and one uses, but if you spend most of your time wrapping gifts, you'll probably want the invisible tape on hand even though the duct tape could get the job done. Likewise, the Toodledo app will work well for a lot of people, but if you're one of those people who use the GTD system, I think that you find that Action Lists will prove to be the right tool for the job; making GTD easier, faster, and more efficient to implement.

My goal when I wrote Action Lists was not to be a competitor to the Toodledo App, it was to produce the best GTD implementation in the App Store. Action Lists does one thing and it does it very well. It strips out all of the clutter and presents a clean, easy to use interface that makes it easy to use the GTD system.

I'm not sure if I completely answered your questions, but I think it's at least a start. If you were looking more for a list of technical specs, I'll refer you to the homepage for Action Lists. You should find all the detail you need there.

If you have any other questions, feel free to post. I'll do my best to answer.

This message was edited May 14, 2009.

Posted: Jun 01, 2009
Score: 0

I have started using Action Lists following its mention on the GTD Times site. I love it!

I am trying to be as pure a GTDer as I can... and this app is perfect. It doesn't do more or less than it should. I love its clean interface and the ability to sync with Toodledo.

The comments above comparing it to Toodledo miss the point, in my opinion. This is a clear, simple GTD specific app and for me it's ideal. Thanks

Posted: Jun 01, 2009
Score: 0

@carolynfrancis: I'm glad that you're finding Action Lists so useful. (Don't forget to post a review in the App Store!) And keep an eye out in the upcoming days for an upgrade. I delivered a new version to Apple yesterday, so I would expect it to appear in the App Store by this coming weekend. (But no guarantees -- Apple works to their own schedule.)

The big new features are landscape mode keyboards and support for subprojects, but there's a lot of other smaller features and usability improvements as well. I've already updated the web page in anticipation of this release, so if you want details you can look there. I'll post a full release announcement with details once the new version hits the App Store.

And just to head off the inevitable question: Subprojects in Action Lists are synchronized to Toodledo as folders not sub-tasks, so there is no limit to the number of levels you can have in a subproject hierarchy. At the same time, it also means that the subproject hierarchy is flattened out on the Toodledo side of the synchronization.

Posted: Jun 23, 2009
Score: 0

Action Lists version 1.1.0 is now available in the App Store. Version 1.1.0 is a major update including:

- Subproject support with unlimited nesting of subprojects.

- Landscape mode supported, including larger landscape mode keyboard.

- By popular demand, the task limit for Action Lists Lite is increased to 15 tasks to allow for more thorough testing.

- Task lists display the due date of overdue tasks in red for easier identification.

- Show Future Tasks setting is now individually definable for each tab.

- Added option to "gray out" future tasks so that they can be distinguished on sight from current tasks.

- Lots of usability improvements and bug fixes.

Posted: Jul 24, 2009
Score: 0

c e perry,
what if i use both duct and invisible?
would you warn against it because the syncing is liable to get tangled?

in a paying toodledo user. will action lists correctly interpret my subprojects?

have you not included reference status? reference lists are an important part of gtd for most of us i think. ex- checklists, such as packing list, preflight, etc.
not to mention other non-list ref material.

i like the interface, particularly the inbox, and forcing the views of next actions by context, and filtering out future and someday tasks from that context view.

i suggest you allow to switch off syncing at launch, and provide a button for manual sync. i live in a place where they charge me for every data access.

This message was edited Jul 24, 2009.

Posted: Jul 28, 2009
Score: 0

I don't know what "duct and invisible" means. Can you clarify?

Action Lists does not support subtasks. What it does support is local subprojects. The parent/child relationship between subprojects is not sync'd to Toodledo though. (Projects are sync'd to Toodledo as folders.)

Reference status is also not supported. Look for an announcement in the upcoming weeks about a solution for that problem, though.

Thanks for the complements and suggestions. If you have any other questions or suggestions, you can more reliably contact me on the Action Lists forums at http://software.dazeend.org

Posted: Sep 18, 2009
Score: 0

I'm happy to announce that version 2.0.0 of Action Lists is now available in the App Store. This version is a major update to Action Lists that improves synchronization with Toodledo, streamlines the interface to make data access and entry faster, and includes new features like the ability to email tasks and user selectable sorting of lists.

For more information about Action Lists, please visit its homepage at the Action Lists homepage.

Changes in version 2.0.0

- Refactored to comply with iPhone SDK 3.0. (iPhone OS 3.0 or above now required.)

- Major overhaul of syncing with Toodledo. Now, a full sync is done only on start up. As changes are made in Action Lists, those edits are pushed to Toodledo immediately (instead of waiting for another full sync on close). This should fix bug reports of tasks becoming orphaned from their projects/contexts.

- Tasks can now be emailed to others within the app.

- All lists can now be sorted alphabetically, by due date, or manually.

- New optional feature that moves completed tasks to the bottom of lists.

- Overhaul of task entry user interface. Removed lots of "Save" and "Edit" buttons to make task entry faster.

- Added toolbars to all main lists to improve usability and allow for expanded functionality.

- Changed context and project list views to display member counts on red oval (instead of gray) if any members of the context or project are overdue.

- Action Lists now reopens to whatever tab was visible on last close.

- Created option to show badges on the tab bar with task counts for Inbox, Waiting, and Someday lists.

- Made title cell in task detail screen expand to show full title without truncation.

- In Project View, made task rows show the task's status on second line of each row.

- Reduced the number of default tasks in the database.

- Lists automatically refresh after synchronization with Toodledo has completed.

- Many minor bug fixes and interface enhancements.

This message was edited Sep 18, 2009.

Posted: Oct 05, 2009
Score: 0

Seems like I just found a reason to finally get an Iphone in the end. Thanks again for the recommendations. Didn't know that those applications could so helpful.

This message was edited Oct 05, 2009.
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