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Posts tagged with "task management"

Things Introduces New Widgets and Scribble for Task Creation on iPad

I’ve used Things off and on as my primary task manager for as long as I’ve used Apple devices, which is just over a decade now. During that time the app has been remarkably consistent at supporting new OS features as soon as Apple launches them, and this year is no exception. In its latest update, Things has added new widgets for iOS and iPadOS 14 as well as a unique implementation of Scribble for creating new tasks. Apple Watch users will find a couple useful new complication options too.

On the surface, the update may seem simple and straightforward: new widgets, Scribble support, and new complications. But as the team at Cultured Code has done time and time again, their implementation of new OS technologies is thoughtful and even innovative, especially on iPad.

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Todoist’s iOS 14 Widgets Make Managing and Creating Tasks Easier than Ever

Todoist’s three new widget types.

Todoist’s three new widget types.

Even before iOS and iPadOS 14 brought a new form and function to widgets on Apple platforms, one of the tried and true widget use cases in previous years was task lists. Some of my most used widgets over the years have been those provided by my task manager, so I was excited to see the slate of new widgets Todoist has introduced in its latest update for iPhone and iPad.

Before detailing the new widgets, though, it’s important to state up front that for all the advantages of iOS 14’s new widgets, they bring a regression that negatively impacts task managers especially: widgets can no longer be fully interactive. In the iOS 13 widget for Todoist, you could check off tasks as you completed them without needing to open the full app. With the app’s new widgets that’s no longer possible, because the only interactions Apple currently allows in widgets is launchers into different parts of an app. The good news is that apps are allowed to offer both iOS 13 and iOS 14 widgets to users, so on iOS 14 Todoist users will find both options available. If you really need the old functionality it’s still available to you, there’s just no way to add a legacy widget to the Home screen.

That bad news out of the way, let me focus on how Todoist’s team has made the most of the new widget system in a couple key ways.

Let’s start with its basic Tasks widget. In iOS 14 you can configure a list of your tasks to appear in either a small, medium, or large widget. Each widget can be set to show tasks from your Today or Upcoming lists, or one of your projects, labels, or filters. Despite being unable to check off tasks from the widget, there are two advantages over Todoist’s previous widget: information density and the ability to create multiple widgets. Since Todoist’s developers no longer need to create large touch targets for users to check off tasks, the widget is able to display a bit more information than before. And you can now create separate widgets tied to separate lists of tasks, even stacking them if you’d like, offering a lot more flexibility than before.

Besides widgets for lists of tasks, Todoist offers two other widget types: Productivity and Add Task. The former displays stats relating to your task completion goals for the day and week, along with your karma score. I’ve never been big on tracking the number of tasks I complete in a given day, but the Productivity widget’s nice to have for users who care about those numbers. The Add Task widget, however, is exactly what I would want from every task manager.

Configuring Todoist’s Add Task widget.

Configuring Todoist’s Add Task widget.

Both the medium and large Tasks widgets already offer a button to quickly create a new task inside Todoist, but the dedicated Add Task widget is special because it can be customized to create tasks that have their metadata pre-filled. You can set which project and section the newly created task will have, its due date, priority, labels, and even the task name if there’s a specific task you commonly create. Once it’s set up for your preferences, the Add Task widget eliminates the monotony of filling in metadata over and over again for every new task. If you commonly create tasks assigned to a certain project and with a certain due date, the widget is now the quickest way to do that.

Add Task is only available as a small widget and as a result it can only have a single group of pre-sets for creating a single type of task, but that makes it a perfect candidate for stacking. Using a few different Add Task widgets for different types of common tasks you create and having them stacked will still provide a faster task creation method than having to enter the metadata over and over with every new task.


Todoist already offered the fastest task creation of any task manager I’ve used thanks to its natural language input system, but now with the Add Task widget it provides an even faster method. Todoist’s developers have clearly spent time considering the needs of their users and have built a suite of widgets that meet those needs well. The OS restriction against full interaction will hopefully be removed in the future, but even if it never is, Todoist has delivered value with its new widgets that more than makes up for what it lost.

Todoist is available on the App Store.


Due for Mac Modernized with New Design and Features

A full-fledged task manager is terrific for many projects, but if you dump your entire life into one, it can quickly become a cluttered mess. At the same time, if you’re focused on a big project, it’s easy to let everything that’s not in your task manager slip through the cracks. One strategy for attacking the problem that has worked well for me is using a separate, lightweight app for tasks like remembering to take out the garbage, pick up medicine at the pharmacy, or publish an article when an embargo lifts.

In the past, I’ve used Due on the iPhone and iPad for these sorts of tasks. There has been a Mac version of Due for years too, but it hadn’t been updated in about two years and was showing its age. However, with today’s update, Due for Mac joins the iOS version with a fully-modern design and slate of new features, putting it on par with the outstanding iOS version, which I’ve covered in the past.

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How I Use Custom Perspectives in OmniFocus

My custom perspective setup.

My custom perspective setup.

A few weeks ago, we released the latest product under the MacStories Pixel brand: MacStories Perspective Icons, a set of 20,000 custom perspective icons for OmniFocus Pro. You can find more details on the product page, read the FAQ, and check out my announcement blog post here. The set is available at $17.99 with a launch promo; Club MacStories members can purchase it at an additional 15% off.

As part of the release of MacStories Perspective Icons (which, by the way, takes advantage of a new feature in OmniFocus 3.8 to install custom icons with a Files picker), I wanted to write about my perspective setup in OmniFocus and explain why custom perspectives have become an integral component of my task management workflow.

Let me clarify upfront, however, that this article isn’t meant to be a primer on custom perspectives in OmniFocus. If you’re not familiar with this functionality, I recommend checking out this excellent guide over at Learn OmniFocus; alternatively, you can read The Omni Group’s official perspective documentation here. You can also find other solid examples of OmniFocus users’ custom setups around the web such as these two, which helped me better understand the power and flexibility of perspectives in OmniFocus when I was new to the app. In this story, I’m going to focus on how I’ve been using perspectives to put together a custom sidebar in OmniFocus that helps me navigate my busy life and make sense of it all.

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Directive: A Terrific Way to Manage Recurring Maintenance Tasks

When I look back at the apps I’ve used over the last several years, there is an unmistakable ebb and flow between generalized apps that try to do and be everything and those that don’t. The former type has the benefit of reducing the overhead of having to track data in multiple apps by centralizing it. However, the focus of the latter often allows them to fulfill a particular need better than a general-purpose app ever could. Directive, a new app released today by LittleFin on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, is a perfect example of a thoughtfully-designed, focused utility for managing recurring maintenance tasks.

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Todoist Introduces New Upcoming View Across All Platforms

Popular cross-platform task manager Todoist is introducing a new Upcoming view today that serves as a replacement for the previous Next 7 Days view and adds greater functionality to it with a new calendar element and by offering access to all future tasks.

If you’ve used Next 7 Days in the past, or even the Scheduled view in Apple’s Reminders app or Upcoming in Things, you’ll feel right at home in Todoist’s Upcoming view. It’s essentially an endless list of all tasks with due dates, divided by day. One detail I appreciate is that even days containing no assigned tasks remain visible in the view, whereas in Reminders, for example, Scheduled only shows days with assignments. I could see this bothering some users, but for my needs it’s great because it allows easily rescheduling tasks by dragging and dropping them on to any day I’d like; if only the days with existing tasks were visible, that wouldn’t be possible. It’s just as well-suited for creating new tasks, since you can drag the add task button on to any day you’d like.

Besides providing access to all scheduled tasks, rather than just the next week’s worth, the main change with Todoist’s Upcoming view is the new calendar element. Similar to the Forecast view found in OmniFocus, this takes the form of a row lining the top of the screen that displays the next week’s worth of dates. A small dot indicates whether a day has assigned tasks or not, and you can swipe left to page through future sets of days. You can also tap the month/year button in the top-left corner of the calendar row to bring up a scrolling month view for the sake of quickly navigating further into the future.

The Upcoming view isn’t exactly world-changing, but it is markedly better than what it replaces, and if Todoist were my primary task manager it would absolutely be the view I spent all of my time in. I love the ease of seeing all my tasks in one place, rescheduling them via drag and drop, and the added utility of the new calendar row. Everyone’s task management needs and preferences are different, but if it were up to me, every task manager would have a view that works like this.

Todoist is available on the App Store.



Things Debuts Modernized Apple Watch App

The Apple Watch has come a long way in five years, and apps are only starting to catch up. Many Watch apps received the majority of their development attention with the first or second versions of watchOS, before the days of LTE service, independence, and SwiftUI. Those early Watch apps were hamstrung by OS limitations, but in the last few years as the platform has evolved, most apps never adapted to what’s possible now.

Things 3.12, releasing today, exists for just that purpose: it addresses the task manager’s former Watch client shortcomings, making it a truly capable companion for Things on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

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The New Fantastical Review

The new Fantastical.

The new Fantastical.

Over six years after the debut of the second major iteration of Fantastical – version 2.0 for iPhone, which I reviewed in October 2013 – Flexibits is introducing a new version of their popular hybrid calendar client/task manager today. The new Fantastical1, available today on the App Store, is a single app that runs on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

In many ways, the new Fantastical is a distillation of themes typically found in the modern productivity app scene: the app is free, and the developers have switched to a subscription model to unlock a variety of premium features. Fantastical Premium – the name of the new service – costs $4.99/month or $39.99/year and brings a collection of brand new functionalities, integrations, as well as enhancements to existing features. Users of Fantastical 2, regardless of the platform they were using, get to carry all existing features into the new app for free, and can try the Premium service at no cost for 14 days.

I’ll cut right to the chase: I’ve been using the new Fantastical for the past few months (hence the inclusion in my Must-Have Apps story), and it’s become the only calendar app I need, offering more power and flexibility than any alternative from Apple or the App Store. The free version of the new Fantastical – effectively, Fantastical 2 with a fresh coat of paint and some smaller bonuses – is a capable alternative to Apple’s Calendar app, but the Premium version is where Flexibits’ latest creation truly shines. At $40/year, Fantastical Premium may be a big ask for some users, but as a busy individual who deals with teammates all over the globe and likes Fantastical’s new features, I plan to subscribe.

In addition to the unification of the app across all platforms, design changes, and new premium features, which I will detail below, Flexibits has devised one of the most reasonable, generous upgrade flows from the old, paid-upfront app to the new, subscription-based one I’ve seen to date. There will be backlash from folks who are against subscriptions on principle – a discussion that is beyond the scope of this review – but I believe Flexibits has done a commendable job granting existing users access to all features they’ve already paid for, while replacing Fantastical 2 (the new app is an update over the old version) with something that is faster, visually more attractive, and potentially more useful.

With the new Fantastical, I’ve replaced a series of apps I was using for calendars, calendar sets, and time zones, and integrated everything into a single dashboard, kicking Apple’s Calendar app off my Home screen in the process. Even with a few shortcomings and system limitations, the new Fantastical is, at least for me, the non plus ultra of calendar apps at the moment.

Let’s dig in.

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