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I've just switched from PalmOS (Tréo) to webOS (Palm/HP Pré), and surprised that there are some issues, where we've step back.

On PalmOS I was using DateBk, where todos appeared above the calendar in day view:

  • when the todo has no "due date", it appears on every day, with a small mark that it has no deadline;
  • when the todo has a "due date", it appears on that day and some (configurable) day before with a small number, which shows the number-of-days-until-deadline;
  • when the deadline is over, it's marked also with some character.

I think, it's perfect. There're no sharp border between todos and appointments, other words, they play on the same scene, I think it's a mistake to separate them.

There's a nice screenshot of it, which shows the power of it:

................................................. DateBK4 screenshot

The first item is a simple todo ("Finish Status Report"), the second one ("Phone Harry...") is a todo with alarm (it has clock icon on its right side), the third is a daily notice ("Daily Journal"), which is just appears on a specific day, the fourth ("Staff meeting") is a regular calendar entry without alarm, the fifth ("12:00 Call for...") is a calendar-todo entry (it can be checked or striked out, depends on setting). There is a small confusion: the todos on the top (square checkbox, without time) are std PalmOS todos, which appear on the PalmOS built-in todo app, but the timed ones (round checkbox on right side of the entry) are handled by only the DateBK (the built-in todos have no timestamp). Also, round checkboxed todos can be added without due date, then they appears at the top with round checkbox on their left, and has some extra options compared to std todos, DateBK calls them "floating" - thats a little confusing. The figure above contains no such floating item.

So, as figure shown, it's a good idea to mix the items, even terms (see "todo with time" or we should call it "calendar entry with checkbox", at 12:00). But it's only my opinion, and implemented by a discontinued program for a discontinued platform.

So, the question is: what is the best way to handle appointments and todos? Separate them? Create a common term with a common property panel? Have you ever seen an app (on any platform) which solves this issue such a natural way that you don't even think of it? Which is your favourite todo app, and how does it handle todos/appts? Have you ever seen an app, which is not too good overall, maybe you don't even used it, but it contains a great idea in this topic?

How should you organize todos/appts, if there would be no constrains? E.g. I wanna write all things down to a paper, which an OCR should scan and create todo/appt items automatically and send it to my phone's calendar.

(Prepare yourself, I've some other questions in todo/appt topic.)


I got some favourite app answers on Twitter (edit: and from comments):

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I would like to add thoughtbox.es to that list –  TomvB May 5 '11 at 8:37
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Nice question, looking forward to the discussion! There's also goodtodo.com (e-mail-based), toodledo.com (web-based and with some collaborative features) and todotxt.com (basically a text file with some tools built around it) –  Jan May 5 '11 at 9:51
    
Okay, but before creating The Ultimate Complete List Of Todo Apps, you should say some words about them, why do you like it, what does it differ ones you've rejected. –  ern0 May 5 '11 at 12:43
    
I agree, will stop posting new links ;) My biggest pain point is that for todos, you don't only choose the tool you're most comfortable with, you're effectively locking yourself in because there's no standard, and hence no interoperability whatsoever - everybody does their own thing. –  Jan May 5 '11 at 12:59
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I love the typo in "Remember To Milk"; is that a TODO list app for farmers? ;-) –  Jonas Kölker Feb 6 '13 at 20:34

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I agree that they're related. Maybe it makes sense to think about them in an object-oriented model with inheritance: find out the common ground, define a parent "class" and have both only implement the differences. For example, you could treat the title and description text somewhat similar, but their time constraints are vastly different.

I currently mostly use Things on my iPhone and Mac, but would like to also have a web-based version of my list and ideally a Windows application as well. Collaboration features would be cool too. Currently, my best option seems to be migrating (i.e. copy-pasting) my whole database to a web-based service like Toodledo and abandon the comfort of native applications. This is somewhat frustrating though.

I'd love to see (and could also help work on) a comprehensive definition of what a todo is, what properties it can have and what it should do, and then create an open format. We have this for calendars and contacts already, but AFAIK not for todos.

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I believe that todo and appt have a common ancestor - if we talk OOP -, which is quite fat, I mean it has lot of own (implemented) properties and methods (alarm invocation for example). The other thing: I can't accept online-only todolists (and calendars), I need even edit them offline, on-site. (OT: it's an impossible mission to take a sneak peak into my celndar during a phone call.) Uoh, Pandora's box is now open. –  ern0 May 5 '11 at 13:11

One thing struck me:

Have you ever seen an app (on any platform) which solves this issue such a natural way that you don't even think of it?

I haven't. Maybe I'm being too pessimistic, but I suspect that it's a really, really hard problem to get right. Essentially, the task is to remind you of the things you have previously told the software you want to do, when and only when you can make use of those reminders.

I'm familiar with David Allen's GTD system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done). He recommends looking at the upcoming week's list of TODOs once a week, at a fixed time, and decide in one session what needs to be done about each item. The reason is that making decisions is rather expensive and you want to avoid it.

That's why you want to see reminders only when you can use them: otherwise you have to sort through the reminders and reevaluate each of them based on whether you can act on them; also, you'll be reminded about the things you should get accomplished but can't act on, which is draining and makes interacting with your reminder system less than rewarding, which means you're (at least more) likely to not do it, which means you can't rely on getting reminders through it, which in turn means you have to also store that information somewhere else---your head. Which defeats the purpose of using a reminder system.

You might like GTD. It won't completely free you from thinking about how to manage your TODOs, but at least it'll help you think about how to manage them in a way that requires less thinking from you.

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