What Makes a GTD App Great?

GTD ListFrom business professionals to stay-at-home moms, GTD has engulfed itself into the life of thousands of people. It’s a fast-paced methodology because it’s meant to fit seamlessly into your life – regardless of how busy you are or are not.

With that, there are developers out there writing desktop, mobile and web applications for personal productivity – and some directly for the GTD methodology. We have an exciting redesign coming that will launch our reviews of many popular apps, but in the meantime I have been looking over scores of apps and seeing many similarities, and some with pretty strong differences.

That’s not necessarily a surprise of course, but it does make me think of what developers are thinking when they sit down to write their applications. Are they taking into consideration the wave of GTD users, or assuming that most don’t incorporate the GTD methodology completely? It doesn’t really matter what the answer is, because there are strong programs out there regardless of what degree of GTDer and productivity-ninja you are. What I am curious about though, is what you’re looking for.

No really.  What makes a productivity app great to you? Have you thought about it at all? I have. For me there is one thing that matters most.

Flow – Maybe you can’t relate to this, but I live a pretty busy life and have a lot going on. That’s not complaint (there’s never really a need for that), but I say that to make the point that when I’m considering a productivity tool, I’m looking for something that will seamlessly fit into the flow of my existence. Something that I can use on my mobile, and sit down at my laptop and have everything there too.

With that “flow”, the other thing that is synonymous with that topic is ease-of-use. Call me minimalistic, but I don’t think we need to have a seven-step process to do something that can be accomplished in three, for example. So I like it when an app is simple to use too.

Personally, I’m a GTDer, so having it be fully compatible with the GTD system is a must.

So what are you looking for? Do you like the flow I explained? Was there something I didn’t mention that you think is even more important? Maybe you think I’m completely off here – let me know!  GTD Reviews is becoming the voice of what people want out of their productivity apps. That starts with you voicing your opinion.

  • Ready-Set-Do! Creator

    The basic criterion of evaluation for any GTD application or tool should be whether it is more effective in helping you get things done than the last tool you tried. There is also a big difference between that and whether it helps you get things better organized than the last application or tool you tried. Getting Things Organized is a necessary but not sufficient condition for Getting Things Done. Is it helping you get more done—with more peace of mind—and helping you become more present to the immediate situations you find yourself in? If so, it's a good tool; but alas, hard to quantify or chart.

  • Matt

    1. Seamless filesystem integration. I organize all my project files (an increasingly, everything on my machine is either 'project' or 'reference') and keep them up to date. I want my GTD app to know what files I've got in all my 'project docs' folders. Only a few apps do this at all, and none of em exceptionally well. Midnight Inbox does it best, IMO.

    2. Extensibility. Gimme some way to connect my GTD app to the rest of my appflow. Quicksilver/scriptability/API/export/import… something. Omnifocus does this great. Ideally, make it easy to develop add-ons or plug-ins. At some point I'm going to need to hook the software into Evernote/email/Firefox/OmniOutliner/Scrivener/TextMate, etc

    3. A community forum.

    4. The most minimal interface possible.

    5. Better quick input abilities. Either let me brainstorm in outline mode in your quick input widget, or let me type out an outline quickly somewhere else that you will parse and separate into projects and tasks. Better yet, let me brainstorm in Xmind and then import the file as a project tree. Even better– give me a mind map view inside the GTD app.

    6. Keyboard shortcuts for every routine task. Especially opening a quick input panel.

    7. Drag & drop/keyboard task-to-project-to-task promotion and demotion. iGTD did this best (r.i.p. sigh)

    8. Let me collaborate. Give me some way of tagging some projects as group ones to share with other actors.