No one has embraced productivity expert David Allen’s approach to managing projects and tasks with more enthusiasm than geeks. Since Allen released his book Getting Things Done (GTD) a number of apps designed to put his ideas into action have followed. Leading the parade is OmniFocus, which encourages users to get “stuff” out of their heads and into their computers and devices where it can be organized, reviewed and acted upon with clear intention.
Now, a new kid based on the GTD model has arrived on the block. The app is Task Office Pro and it’s aimed at small business owners who might not need or want all the features that OmniFocus offers; but who would benefit from using a scaled down, less expensive version.
While Task Office Pro is, at the moment, an iPad app only, its developer has ambitions of creating companion Mac and iPhone versions. For that reason, and a few others that I’ll get to later, it’s still a work in progress. But by releasing an iPad only app now, the developer is tapping into a growing trend. More and more, people are using tablets to work on outside as well as in the office.
As iPad apps go, Task Office Pro is attractive and well laid out. Too bad it isn’t always as user friendly. The start point for first-time users is the welcome page, which features three buttons. The first button provides access to a help document. The second one leads to a variety of sample screens populated with information. If the help document doesn’t answer all your questions, playing with the sample screens offers another route to figuring out how things work. The third button takes you to the app’s home screen.
The left side of the home screen features a searchable, scrollable list of activities organized under categories such as “Today”, “Tomorrow” and specific dates in the future. The right side provides the current day view. Each item in the view appears in a bar colour-coded to match the category it falls under. This arrangement makes it easy to tell at a glance what mix of activities you have planned and how much of your day is committed to them.
Four more buttons along the bottom of the screen provide access to the app’s other key activities. The second button, for example, takes you to another split screen that lists all your projects on the left side and the details of any one of them on the right. Details include the project’s name, status, related tasks and linked people as well as a “pipeline” that fills in to mark your progress as you chip away at project tasks. As you would expect, you can also set start and end dates, using a fussy rolling-date style picker.
The third button takes you to Contacts. On the left side of the screen is a scrolling contacts list. On the right is a well laid out work area where you can input and review individual contact information, including assigned tasks and project links. Task Office Pro gives you the option of adding contacts manually, or importing them from your iOS contacts list. You can send an email directly to a contact from this screen. You can also place contacts in different categories such as friend, competitor and client. And, you can filter contacts further by assigning them to lists of your choosing. This is a great feature, but, unfortunately, it isn’t easy to use. Either the procedure has to be simplified, or users need to be given more detailed instructions.
The fourth button along the bottom of the screen takes you to the Task screen.
Once again a scrollable list on the left side lets you choose a variety of ways to view tasks. For example you can look at all the tasks scheduled for specific times, review them by category, or look at those that remain to be done, or have been done. (Task Office Pro saves a task history.) Each task can be further sub-defined as a to-do item, an appointment, or an email/call. You can email contacts directly from the Task Info area.
The fifth and final button takes you to a calendar, which can be viewed in day, week or month view. When a task is marked as done, it’s crossed out, but remains on the calendar. You can review all tasks from the calendar, tap to make changes, and send emails from them. The app’s drag and drop feature also lets you rearrange tasks easily.
Task Office Pr