Friday, April 15, 2016

Wired: It's 2016. Why Can't Anybody Build A Freaking To-do App?

Wired had a good article recently about why can't anybody build a decent freaking to-do app. This one resonated with me because it's been a point of frustration for years.

Remember the good old Franklin Planner? It was very useful. With a two page per day format, you had your calendar and task list on one side, and your notes on the other. It was a really good format, and yet nobody has been able to replicate it in software. I've tried Franklin Covey's "Plan Plus" software in the past. It sucks.

Building a decent productivity app obviously has some large challenges. For one, it needs to work on multiple platforms. Some people can pick a single platform and dedicate their entire lives to it. Not me. I jump phones left and right. Since about 2010, I went from an iPhone 4 to a Galaxy S3 to a Nokia 920 to an iPhone 6 to a Note 5. I liked the Nokia except for one thing: app support on Windows Phone is abysmal. Even if the app exists, it never gets updated. If it does get updated, it's stupid features. "Kindle update: share your place in your book over Facebook with your friends!" Screw you, Amazon, just let me highlight and make notes. And make a Kindle app for a non-Android or iOS platform that doesn't suck. Kindle for Mac is useless. Kindle for Windows 10 crashes too often for me to tell if it's useful, but I'm assuming it's useless. I've bought more than enough Kindle books and other products through Amazon to justify you spending some time working on updating the Mac and Windows Kindle apps into something that works.

I often hear about some new app that's supposed to be THE SHIT, but it turns out to only work on iOS. That's fine for simple things like "Take out the trash", but if I'm in a big planning session, I'd rather be sitting at my MacBook Pro. But I'm not willing to get some uber-productivity app for only the MacBook Pro, because I can't carry it with me everywhere.

Most productivity apps I encounter are a single feature. It's either a calendar, or a to-do list, or a note app. Why can't we have one with all three in the same place? But no, I have to keep my calendar in Google Calendar, my notes in Evernote, and my tasks in something else; currently Nozbe. And I have to switch between all three while I'm trying to plan or even figure out what I'm supposed to be doing.

Google rolled out tasks in 2008, and hasn't touched them since. Not a single update. I know Google used to allow employees 20% discretionary time. Many of the great Google services came out of that discretionary time. I haven't seen any in years. Do they still have it?  Are they all doing space and robotics now, rather than trying to improve Google services?

Heck, if Evernote could just introduce a new pane that syncs with Google Calendar, that would be good enough, I think, as long as it works offline.

Pocket Informant has tried to be what I'm asking for, but in some ways it's too complex, and lacking in others. The last time I tried to use it, you could only assign one context to a task. And when I tried to add an appointment, it never synced to Google Calendar.

My wife ALMOST had me convinced to go back to the Franklin Planner, except I went to an appointment with her and she forgot her paper calendar, so she couldn't see which day was best for an appointment. I said "I'm just going to stick with something that works on my phone. I always have that with me."
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