I’m on record as saying the best organizer for the Mac is Microsoft’s aging but full-featured Entourage.
Between the simplicity of iCal, AddressBook, and Mail, there’s plenty of tools to help manage your life, projects, tasks, and daily schedules. Here’s a few more for less.
As Mac users, we cannot and should not expect Apple to provide a solution to all the problems, the spokes in our digital hub. Sure, Apple gives us plenty in iLife, and Mac OS X Tiger, but a robust developer community is required to fill in all that make our Macs the best personal computer.
Personal and business organization is one area that requires consideration from Mac developers. The problems are many. We’re busy. We need to track contacts, addresses, email, appointments, notes, projects, tasks, and much more.
Worse, everyone’s needs are a bit different, which requires the solutions to be flexible. What works perfectly for one person, might be totally worthless to someone else.
I like Microsoft’s Entourage because it works well at handling the basics; schedules, projects, tasks, email, notes, and it syncs well with Apple’s offerings; iCal, AddressBook, etc.
Even I’ll admit that for many, Entourage is a challenge, so complex it’s certainly not an application for the point and click crowd, not always for the faint of heart, a bit expensive, growing long in the tooth, and not quick to master.
Apple’s iCal scheduling metaphor is wonderful. It’s drag and drop easy, and highly visual.
It makes Entourage’s scheduler look positively Mac OS 7.5. Even the To-Do list is worthy, though it could be expanded and enhanced.
Between Apple’s iCal and Entourage, the needs for most of us don’t change much. Schedules. Contacts. Projects. Tasks. Email. Integration of all the pieces. Flexibility to make the same tools work in different ways for different people.
I view organizing tools from the standpoint of Projects and Tasks and integration. At the high end, there’s Entourage and Daylite. At the low end, it’s iCal, AddressBook, and Mail.
In between there’s a couple dozen Mac applications that pick up Apple’s slack and focus on Projects and Tasks; some even employ David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology.
Tera has designated April as organizational tools month so today we’ll look at a few more that might be what you need. With a few exceptions, the line up of applications between Apple and Entourage is thin and anemic, with more cool features lists than actual capability.
First up is CafeinaSoft’s MyProject, which uses a spreadsheet layout metaphor to capture and hold data for projects and tasks and other information.
The tool bar at the top lets you choose from Projects, Customers, Email, and AddressBook. Click the Add button to add a new Project. The fields allow you to add a Task, a Start and End date, Owner and Notes in the form of Comments.
MyProject lets you import Contacts from AddressBook, though not always successfully. Two crashes in three tries. In the Email section there’s a field for Serial Numbers. Explain that one to me.
Save your $14 for a lunch with a friend, or cough up a little more for another project manager sure to give you a completely different set of frustrations.
Easy Task Manager works on the Getting Things Done philosophy of context. Plan your Projects and Tasks based on the context of your work. Personally, I see plenty of promise with ETM, when it reaches maturity.
Yes, it’s at version 1.5, which should be mature enough to purchase and use without expecting problems. The user interface and setup metaphor is perfect. Select your Contexts. Create a Project. Assign Tasks to the Project. Even set up due dates to each task and sync them with iCal.
Great idea, right? An idea made better if the synchronization acutally worked. Your mileage may vary, but that’s an area that needs work.
ETM has a nice Notes and linking feature so you can bring in odds and ends information to help you keep track of, well, odds and ends.
Still, the trick here is fleixiblity and capability. From an experienced user, this kind of application needs certain basics to work perfectly, and enough flexibility to handle the many ways different users will use the tools.
For example, we should be able to set up a Project with a due date that syncs with iCal and notifies us when the due date is here and the Project isn’t finished. If we click a Project or Task as finished in iCal, it should show up as finished or completed in the Project manager application, right?
Tasks are usually what make up Projects, so those need to be linked to a due date and synchronized with iCal, perhaps even iCal’s To Do list. When clicked off in iCal, they get clicked off in the application.
Notes are a different animal, but there are basic organizational requirements. Notes should be able to be linked to Projects and Tasks (though not always). Notes must be able to be organized via folders and sub-folders. Notes must be able to hold text, formatted text, web page links, email links, links to other notes, photos, images, audio and video.
Organizing folders with notes and other content should be a simple drag and drop, similar to that found in Hog Bay Software’s promising Mori (which doesn’t have the links to iCal).
Between Apple’s iCal and AddressBook, and Microsoft’s Entourage, there are a couple of dozen applications, most in the $10 to $60 range, and most are incomplete. Some focus Projects and Tasks. Others focus on Notes. Some link to iCal and AddressBook, most don’t.
April is yet young, so coming up will be reviews of additional Project, Task, Notes, and Schedulers which rank between the expensive and full-featured, such as Entourage and Daylite, and the basics provided by Apple.
What about you? What do you use to handle the basics? Projects, Tasks, Notes, Schedules.