List making is one of my great passions. Over the years I've used diaries, Filofaxes and all manner of computer applications to store my tasks and reminders. I find I can't live without the comfort of knowing that everything is filed away in the pipeline and will appear on the appropriate day of action. OmniFocus has long been my mainstay for project management, task listing and everywhere-availability. Synchronisation via Mobile Me ensures that Mac, iPhone and iPad applications are constantly updated. OF is just so useful that the data file can rapidly grow in size and this can slow down synchronisation.
Despite being quite satisfied with Omni Focus, I'm a sucker for new applications that show promise. Listening a Mac Power Users podcast from David Sparks and Katie Floyd I heard Paul Kent, organiser of the MacWorld 2011 exhibition, enthusing about yet another iPhone to-do list manager called 2Do from Guided Way Technologies Ltd. Now iPhone to-do applications are ten a penny in the App Store and most of them aren't worth a penny. But I am happy to say that 2Do isn't one of them. Here is an iPhone task manager with hidden depth and a very attractive, intuitive interface. In fact, if you aren't spoiled by OmniFocus or Things, it passes muster as a project manager and GTD (Getting Things Done) power house. I can see why Paul Kent is so bullish about it.
2Do (£3.99 in the App Store) is a stand-alone iPhone and iPad)application with a colourful, attractive UI which can sync with iCal (or BusyCal) via MobileMe. First, though you need to buy the addition in-app MobileMe Sync module which costs an additional £1.79. 2Do imports all your iCal calendars and arranges them as tabs to the left of the main screen (they can be hidden). Since my all my calendars are organised as GTD contexts such as @Home, @Office, @Errands and so forth, there was instant familiarity when I opened the app for the first time.
Items can be entered as simple ToDos or as one of two types of nested folder devices called Projects and Checklists. Initially, both look the same – a top item with the ability to quickly add check-box items. The difference is that Checklists are simply lists of items that can be marked done one by one; Project items, on the other hand, can be assigned due dates and other attributes common to top-level items. It's a simple and effective way of avoiding top-level clutter and achieving a basic level of project management. Checklists are ideal for stuff such as packing lists, grocery lists and so forth. When items are marked done they move down to a separate Done section and can be resurrected by unchecking the box (this is excellent for grocery lists, for instance, where you can keep a full list of all possible items and uncheck the ones you want to buy on any given outing).
One of my favourite features of 2Do is the full integration with Address Book. All tasks can be assigned one of six fixed actions – Call, SMS, Email, Browse, Visit, Google – and all then give you the ability to link to a contact, URL or place. If you add the Call action, for instance, a telephone icon appears by the side of the task and clicking on the task takes you direct to the address book. SMS and Email work in the same way while Visit allows you to enter a contact, the current location or a specific address. This is a supremely neat way of handling the sort of tasks you do daily while out and about. The application is location aware and you can set up favourite locations (bank, grocery store, etc) and 2Do will remind you of any actions that are scheduled for that location when you are nearby.
Almost everything in 2Do can be customised and I would recommend reading this list of tips from the developer's web site.
This is an iPhone application with real hidden depth. It supports notes, tags, repeat todos (with flexible options) and does a comprehensive job of managing your daily schedule. The view perspectives include All items (which can be arranged in a list showing today, next seven days, future and undated), Today, Done and Starred. You can look at individual contexts (your iPhone calendars) arranged in order of availability and of course, you can add more tabs. By default the main view includes the context tabs down the left-hand side of the screen but this column can be hidden with one tap.
Synchronisation with MobileMe is a manual action – pressing the sync button and waiting for connection – but you can also set 2Do to sync on opening and on exiting.
All in all, I have come to rely on 2Do for those actions that don't requite the project-planning power of a big beast like OmniFocus. And the iPhone UI of 2Do is far superior to the rather lifeless appearance of OF. (Note, though, OF for the iPad is far superior to the iPhone app and it is only a matter of time before the iPhone version gets updated to match).
The one big snag with 2Do is the lack of a desktop application. The developers say this is way down the list of priorities so I don't think we can hope for an OS X version anytime soon. At the moment, then, we have to rely on synchronisation with iCal (or BusyCal) and suffer the rudimentary options.
.This works well in practice (but with limitations, see below), and I use the month or week view in BusyCal to move tasks around to appropriate days. Somehow it is more intuitive to do this on a full calendar than by selecting a date in a pull-down calendar as you have to do with OmniFocus. I also use BusyCal for quick entry of tasks which then migrate to the iPhone and 2Do. There is something rather nice in seeing your daily list of tasks in the same place as your appointments.
But there are some problems caused by the limitations of iCal. In particular, repeating tasks do not appear to sync correctly – they appear in iCal as one-instance tasks. More annoying, though, is that any project or checklist entered as due in 2Do appears as individual items in iCal, thus cluttering up the daily views. There is a straightforward workaround for 2Do projects. Leave the project header undated and assign due dates to individual items within the project. If you then set your iCal to display only dated tasks you will find the Project sub-tasks appearing correctly on the due dates. With Checklists, where all items follow the due date of the main Checklist, there is no ready solution.
As a desktop power app for 2Do sync, therefore, iCal is a flop. However, if you want to do most of your fiddling and task housekeeping on the iPhone, 2Do is one of the best apps I've encountered so far. And iCal does offer a convenient way of viewing what has to be done, arguably easier than having to consult a separate application such as OmniFocus.
If this post has grabbed your interest and you would like to read more and see further screenshots, have a browse through the reviews here. If you've got this far, you are a dedicated list keeper and you could do a lot worse than invest £3.99 speculatively in downloading this great app. I'm sure you'll love it and will rush to add the MobileMe sync option.