Friday, November 14, 2008

To-do list options for the T-Mobile G1 (Android OS)

I've found a couple of to-do lists for the Android OS.

First, I tried TooDo from Edouard Mercier. This was my first choice because it claims to be able to sync tasks with the excellent and very powerful online to-do manager, Toodledo, which I've been using for about a year now. (It also syncs with Remember the Milk, another popular online task management service that I have never used.) In addition to syncing with Toodledo, TooDo has some other rather impressive features, including the ability to detemine context automatically, I guess by using GPS. (Contexts are places you need to be do do certain things. "Pick up laundry" is a task that might make the most sense if your context is "Driving," while "Ask boss for raise" is something you'd do in the context of work.) Unfortunately, TooDo has some serious problems that, for me, make it just about unusable in its current form. I'm very impressed with the programming that must have gone into it. But it's too complicated. To make all the options for every task editable on the G1's tiny screen, TooDo has to use a very cluttered GUI, with icons and buttons whose purpose I have yet to figure out. It reminds me of one of those brilliant Windows apps with totally idiosyncratic GUIs that Mac users used to laugh at. The other problem with TooDo is that it doesn't appear to be stable. It keeps quitting on me, no doubt because syncing with Toodledo is difficult. I only use TooDo when I'm at home with a wi-fi connection, so I don't think this ought to occur. No other app I have on the G1 at the moment has quit on me as many times as TooDo. Still, the instability is an issue that I can be patient with, if the program works well otherwise. But as I said, TooDo is, in my own opinion, too complicated for a mobile device. But do check it out for yourself. There's nothing else as powerful for Android at the moment (as far as I am aware), and you may find that you love it. It has good ratings in the Android Market.

There are a couple other apps for Android that have the opposite problem: They are, if anything, too simple.

ToDoList is about as simple as it can get. The menu offers just one button: add task. Tasks can be given only one property, a simple name or description ("deposit check at bank"). Tasks are displayed in a simple bulleted list, showing the task description and, in smaller text, info about when the task was created. You can't sort the list and as far as I can tell you can't search it. Slow-touch a task and you get the option to cross it off or delete it. That's the app in toto. Fine for quick lists, or for a simple grocery list, but not good for anything even slightly ambitious.

QuickList is another simple app, although it does a good bit more than ToDoList. For starters, QuickList allows you to enter a task either from the keyboard or by using your finger to write on the screen. By "write," I really mean "draw." There's no text recognition going on here. But the GUI for writing on the screen is pretty well done. (Here's a video review on YouTube.) You're given most of the screen to write on, which is important because your trying to write with your finger, which turns out to be a pretty clumsy writing instrument. Of course, the scribble input option would be entirely unnecessary if Android provided a virtual keyboard. QuickList also lets you assign new tasks to colored labels. This is what makes QuickList much more useful than ToDoList. QuickList gives you five different labels to work with, and you can give them names of your own (for example, Work, Home, Shopping). You can then view the tasks for one label, or two labels, or all labels. This is a pretty basic organizational structure but it works well. It's a simple feature set, but even this little bit of organization makes QuickList much more useful than ToDoList.

Finally, I found what seems to be the nearly perfect to-do list for Android: Tag ToDo by Teodor Filimon. In Tag ToDo, tasks are organized by tags. As an organizational tool, tags are similar to labels in QuickList, but definitely not the same. For one thing, tags are just text, without colors. I have created tags for Personal and Work to start with and I'll probably add more later. There's an Add Tag command in the Menu and it looks like you can have as many tags as you like. Another difference between tags and labels is that, in Tag ToDo, you only see one tag's tasks on screen at a time. At the top of the screen there's a selection menu (the programmer calls it a "spinner") that you use to select the tag whose items you want to view. So tags, in a sense, are separate to-do lists. While you're viewing a tag and its items, Tag ToDo will give you some basic stats: a count of uncompleted tasks in the current tag and in the entire app. My only complaint about the way tags work with items is that, once you've created an item within a certain tag, you can't change the tag assignment. If you put a to-do item in the wrong tag, you'll have to delete it under its current tag and recreate it under the correct new tag. (Tip: copy the wrongly tagged task's description, switch to the right tag, make a new empty task and paste into a new task description. Don't forget to go back to the old task now and delete it!)

I've been speaking mainly about the way that tags work, but Tag ToDo has some nice features that are tied to individual to-do items. The most notable is the ability to attach a graphical note - a little sketch, for example, a simple map - to a task. My gripe here is that, when you view tasks in a list, there's no way to tell which tasks have graphical notes and which don't. Another nice feature in Tag ToDo is the ability to move tasks up and down. Well, this is done a bit crudely. The "push down" command actually doesn't push a task down, it pushes it to the bottom of the list. Still, it's more than you can do in ToDoList or QuickList, and it's quite useful.

So that's four different to-do list apps for Android, ranging from the extremely powerful and complicated (TooDo) to the absurdly simple (ToDoList) with a couple apps in the middle (QuickList and Tag ToDo). My strong preference is for Tag ToDo. It's not perfect, but it's pretty close to a model Android app, both in the way it takes advantage of Android's standard UI devices, and in the way it strikes a very nice balance between utility and ease of use.

About Me

I am an event photographer living in Dallas, Texas.