Your favorite gtd apps

Last week, we asked:

What online productivity/organization application do you find essential, and why? What would you replace it with if it disappeared tomorrow?

I was surprised at how many people chose Google’s suite of productivity applications — Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, iGoogle, and so on. I hadn’t really thought of these as “GTD apps”, per se, but thinking about it, it not only makes sense, but I realized that for a long time I’ve use these as my primary GTD applications as well.

After some playing around with various GTD-based services on the web, I retreated to my trusty Moleskine and a Treo synced with Outlook. To be honest, though, I don’t use the Treo’s productivity apps very much — I find the thumb keyboard horribly uncomfortable and awkward to use, and the loss of integrated handwriting support (after I’d spent years mastering Graffiti) makes the built-in keyboard the only way of using the Treo on the go. Yes, I’ve used the third-party Graffiti replacements, and yes, I have an external keyboard, but neither works particularly well.

Which leaves me with the problem of how to get stuff done when I’m away from home — and I’m away from home a lot. Like a large number of lifehack.org readers, I too have built up a system on Google’s applications that is the backbone of my productive existence. I use:

  • Google Docs for writing (lately replaced with Buzzword, though)
  • iGoogle widgets for todo lists, file access (with, for example, Box.net’s widget), phone messages (using Callwave‘s widget), and of course accessing and creating documents using Google’s own Google Docs widget.
  • Gmail for email, naturally
  • Google Notebook for note-taking, but also for creating classroom presentations. I often have 5 or 6 videos, webpages, and other online materials I want to show my classes, so I use Notebook to capture and organize the links into the order I want to show them.
  • I don’t use Google Calendar, but I should — until fairly recently there was no good way to sync Outlook and Google Calendar, and there’s still issues when you add in the Treo (and while I don’t use the Treo much for lists and documents, I use the calendar function extensively — though I do most of my editing on Outlook, not the Treo itself).

Lately, I’ve committed to using Toodledo, which doesn’t sync with my Treo but offers a good mobile interface — and allows entry of tasks via Jott‘s Links service. Which means I can enter new tasks via Jott’s incredibly accurate speech recognition/transcription, overcoming the limitations of the text entry on the Treo.

Another thing I like about Toodledo is that I can set up custom folders, which allows me to categorize my todo list by projects (a lot of GTD systems are built around the idea of contexts, which isn’t as useful for me). And it also allows me to ignore my categories — I can organize by date and just see the tasks I have to do today, regardless of what project they belong to. I like that flexibility.

If Toodledo disappeared, it would be pretty easy to move to another online todo list manager. They all have strengths and weaknesses, but rarely anything that would prevent me being able to use just about any of them. Right now, Remember the Milk is looking pretty good. And I’ve also been looking at Sandy a lot — that could be a good replacement, though I’m not sure I want my email to become my todo list.

Lifehack.org’s readers described a bunch of interesting systems they’ve put together around the various Google apps, along with their tips for using them:

  • Mark uses Gmail’s “starred item” feature to highlight items that need action.
  • Miche describes Google as “my complete GTD system”:
    I use Gmail to receive my daily agenda, which I fill out every night before going to bed in Calendar, and GTDInbox to manage my tasks. iGoogle keeps my daily to-do and research tools. Notebook keeps my lists and snippets for stories. Reader helps me find stories, in conjunction with RSS feeds from Google saved searches.
  • miss_mary says she appreciates that she can access her Google apps easily, from anywhere — useful for a university student.
    I really appreciate Google calendar. Google calendar is very user friendly and you can also print things out quite easily. The reminder as well as the weather options of Google calendar are great also. It is very nice to use Google calendar to organise all of your obligations. And, you can also print out a daily guide to your day very easily.
  • And James Marwood offers a warning to Google users: put a backup system in place. Google accounts can be hacked, corrupted, or accidentally deleted:
    [R]emember that this is all dependant on that Google account and if you lose that, you lose everything else. This is VERY painful and there is nothing that really can be done other than starting again. By all means use Google but keep everything backed-up

Other apps that people recommended included:

  • Diigo: Social bookmark/clipping system
  • DropBoks: Online file storage
  • iGTD: Mac-based GTD system
  • Joe’s Goals: Goal management
  • Jott: Transcribes your voice messages into text and forwards them to email, SMS, and various web services.
  • Kalendra: PC-based calendar and contact manager
  • Netvibes: customizable homepage
  • Nozbe: GTD system
  • OmniFocus: Mac-based task manager
  • Plaxo: contact manager and synchronizer
  • Remember the Milk: Todo list manager
  • Sandy: Automated reminder service
  • Tiinker: RSS feed reader and recommendation engine
  • Todoist: Todo list manager
  • Toodledo: Todo list manager
  • Vitalist: Todo list manager
  • Wrike: Task and project manager
  • Zotero: Bibliographic reference manager

Many of these were named both as people’s every use apps and as replacements, which suggests that the field of online productivity apps has developed to the point where nearly every task is covered by several good, effective, and almost always free or affordable applications. There’s a wide variety of good substitutes for nearly every app.

That’s good news for people who, like me, dream of the day when their work is accessible from anywhere, on any computer. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about GTD 3.0

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