Handle: Could this finally be the ToDo app I’ve been looking for?
[This is a quick, rough post until I have time to format it and add images]
While I absolutely love MLO – the look and feel of the iOS and Windows apps are perfect, and the power is there – one thing that’s always frustrated me is the disconnect between the task list, and what my day looks like.
For example – my day tends to break into 3-4 chunks – morning, lunchtime, afternoon and evening. When I start the day, I have a reasonable idea of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing during that slot, and so I want to be able to scan my upcoming task list and drop the tasks that fit well into those slots.
For example, I’ve got meetings 9-10 and 11-12. For the 10-11 slot, looking at my upcoming tasks, I can see 3 I really need to do in that gap. In the spirit of prioritisation, I should be able to drag/drop those tasks into a calendar slot at that time, both providing me focus at that time, and holding a place in my calendar so that I can refuse any invites that come in for the same time.
It’s not just MLO – *no* ToDo app seems to do this. Almost all of them suffer from two key problems:
First, almost all are focused on a due date, including MLO. Fine – my report may be *due* Friday, but I want to work on it Tuesday afternoon, and have it ready early! But to bring it to focus for Tuesday, MLO demands I set the ‘due date’ as Tuesday.. and then it’ll appear in my iOS MLO app calendar view for that date. And if I fail to do it then, the re-scheduling of the task (and successive tasks) is fairly clunky. I can’t drag-and-drop it to tomorrow, or later, although I can click ‘next day’ (or Alt-+) in the Windows app. And, of course, I have to retain the real due date (Friday) in my mind, since I’m already (mis)using the due date field for something else.
A workaround I found in MLO, was to create contexts for each day and timeslice… !11 Monday morning, !12 Monday lunchtime, !13 Monday afternoon, !14 Monday evening, !21 Tuesday morning… etc. What that allows me to do, is to view my tasks, and then add the appropriate context to drop them into my schedule. I can view them grouped by Context. I can even (thanks Andrey!) drag-and-drop them from one context to another in both iOS and Windows, and they move from the old to new context such as “Monday afternoon” to “Tuesday morning”, which is fantastic! But it’s still not perfect, and I have to view it separately from my calendar.
The second problem is that most ToDo apps only allow you to select the day for a task (whether the due date or some other date). Sure, they’ll probably let you define a time for an alert or similar, but won’t let you drop the task into a particular timeslot in your calendar. So you still have to gaze at a homogenous list of tasks for ‘today’, and try to filter which ones you’re doing ‘this morning’.
But then… today……. I found “Handle”. (handle.com). FINALLY, after MLO, Omnifocus, Any.do, Swipes, Wunderlist, Clear, Habit, Toodledo…. (tried them all).. there’s an app developer which had the same idea. I missed the feature at first, but then found it.
Handle supports what I’m looking for via “Reminders”. They have a due date, and that’s a true due date, but it’s ‘reminders’ that I was looking for. When you set a reminder for, say, this Tuesday, it basically moves the task to that date. The task is no longer in your ‘Today’ view, but if you scroll down your ToDo list chronologically to Tuesday, then yep, there it is. So, viewing all your tasks, you can easily see how many you have fitted into each day.
Something it has over MLO, is that if you decide a day is looking a little crowded, you can hold-drag the task down to a later date in the chronological view. You can also manually shuffle the order the same way. It makes for very quick re-thinking and re-scheduling. MLO does allow manual ordering, but not manual scheduling.
It also supports true due dates. If you set a due date, you can see that property for the task, and it’ll appear in your calendar for that date. It imports and overlays the iOS calendar, with tasks appearing at the bottom (much like MLO’s iOS calendar view).
BUT… the best bit is the reminder scheduling. You think “OK, I think I’ll do this task tomorrow”. You swipe the task right to set a reminder. If you ignore the “today/tomorrow/next week” quick actions and choose “Custom reminder”, it then gives you a sliding day calendar view. You can see all your appointments and other todos in the day calendar, and as you swipe up or down, the day scrolls up or down underneath a static line, showing the time you’re currently selecting. It’s a beautiful kinetic effect, and lets you easily find a free slot. You then tap, and the reminder is *inserted into your calendar view at that time*. Hence, you’ve just scheduled a ToDo.
It’s not visible in the iOS native calendar outside the Handle app, but inside the app, you can see your calendar and todo reminders together on the same schedule. Sure enough, the report task now is sitting at 3pm on Tuesday afternoon, between two meetings. And then you can switch to “ToDo” view, and focus on completing the upcoming tasks one at a time. Of course, it also gives you an alert at the designated time.
It’s early days, but this really feels like the way I’ve always wanted MLO to work. I’ll stick with MLO as my main tool, as I need the hierarchies and dependencies, but I’m giving Handle a go for my family tasks, since we share a google account anyway and it’s a simpler app for my wife to use.
There’s a video at http://www.handle.com. They don’t show the scrolling time selector, but the key task management parts are at 26s and 47s in the video.