Monday, May 21, 2007

Ah, the confusing categories we place software applications into

Thanks to a kind reader who provided quick feedback to me regarding my maiden attempt at comparison reviewing I’ve already made a few changes to the table.

The crossing of boundaries for strict categorization is going to be an interesting issue going forward with this venture. It was pointed out to me that Midnight Inbox is really a GTD* application. As such, it probably shouldn’t be in the running as a prime candidate for an “organizer” software review.

Here’s my sticking point, and why I’m leaving it in the chart (for now), it covers enough of the features of some of the others I compared that I still see it as a possible contender as an organizer too. I guess you could call it's task management capabilities a bonus in that case. Ultimately it will depend upon the direction of app development by Midnight Beep Softworks whether I pull it when I finally take on a review of time/task management applications.

I hadn’t really been aware of the “Getting Things Done”** action management method before this and certainly hadn’t associated any Mac applications I had seen with it. However, amusing to me — at least eventually — was that when I was testing out Midnight Inbox it kept popping up the default “are you shaving a yak?” dialogue box, Wha? a yak? — it drove me nuts for a bit! My husband can attest to this, I was talking back to it after the 6th or 7th time it popped up. "Yes, blast you, I'm on task, go... away...!!" [click on Yes! um, er, NO! ...again!] d-:

I was flitting off to websites, opening the other apps to compare features, moving over to Dreamweaver to edit the HTML table and all the while this silly box was popping up asking me whether I was doing what I was supposed to be doing or had I gotten distracted from my active task. Obviously none of the other apps were doing this, they weren’t designed to keep the user on task. Now I get it!

To finish working on my review I eventually dug into the preference settings on each of the programs and, lo-and-behold, there was the toggle for “remind me I might be straying off task” or the "Two-minute yak timer".

Ah, sweet relief. I shut it off. Now, don’t get me wrong. I can certainly see the appropriate use of this being very effective under the right circumstances or for the right type of person. I, however tend to multi-thread when I work. I have lots open, I switch between projects and I get a lot done that way too, and usually done well. That warning box just became a fly I had to swat to keep doing what I was doing (on task too, ironically ;-). I was glad to see that it was an option not an unrelenting “feature”.

I may have opened up Pandora’s box for myself with this first review. Now I want to do the next level of organizers such as SOHO Organizer, DEVONThink Pro or Pro Office, and any others that fit that category. I want to review a plethora of other “categories” of software that deserve comparison reviews to enable better choices based on our own needs, wants or work styles.

If there’s a category of software that you think is crying out for a comparison review with 5 or more apps that seem to handle the same task(s) let me know. If it isn’t already on my growing list for future review I may end up adding it as well.

Btw, having now looked into more of the “time/task management” offerings that follow on David Allen’s methods I’m actually going to steer clear of a comparison at the moment. I’ll save that for a couple weeks when I really have the time to focus on such broad a category of potential candidates for review (apps, plugins, add-ons — this will need some sorting out).

*abbreviation trademarked by David Allen & Co.
**also TM David Allen

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