Simplify it! Producteev for Mac edition

Every day millions get things done by the venerable to-do list. Many are turning to software tools to track tasks, whether on the desktop, handheld, or on the web. The staggering list of to-do software inelegantly demonstrates this (MacUpdate Productivity Category).

Enter Producteev for Mac , which bills itself as “the best interface you can hope, from a simple to-do list app.” Who can resist with a claim like that? Although overall wonderful, here are some annoyances that could be improved…

Producteev Version 1.0 (1.0.211) really does have a beautiful interface, with three vertical panes outlining tasks grouped by status or labels, the list of tasks, and a details panel. Prioritizations are shown by colored stars, which give great visual feedback for urgency.

No “Click-and-drag” ?

I bypassed the manual and easily started making new tasks right away. After making a pool of various tasks I made a group of labels in the hope I could easily assign tasks to different labels. Not so! I couldn’t simply drag them to different “work-groups” or categories because drag-and-drop only reorders filter items!. Labels and work-groups had to be assigned one-by-one for each task through the task interface. GTD fans will be disappointed, as the inbox in Producteev seems not to facilitate quick assignment to workgroups or labels.

Not only was there no drag-and-drop available for bulk task assignment, but the interface is designed in a 2-tab format, where the left-most column either shows filters for task status and labels, or selects which work-group (category) of tasks are display in the right two columns. This means you can only view tasks for one work-group at a time, and prevents the possibility of even dragging tasks from one work group to another.

Click+Dragging and drag-and-drop are so ubiquitous on the Apple platform I found it amazing this hadn’t been implemented at all in this freestanding application. Even Adobe AIR applications widgets and apps do click+drag reshuffling!

Here’s how it could work:

  • Include Work-groups above the filters.
  • Enable drag-and-drop for tasks!
    • Select a group of tasks and drag to a work-group for them to be assigned.
    • Select a group of tasks and drag to a label to assign the label to the tasks.
    • Drag a Work-group to a task to assign that task to the workgroup.
    • Drag a label to a task to assign it.

Labeling with fewer clicks

Each task can be assigned multiple labels (essentially tags, or keywords) for quick retrieval. Adding labels to a given task felt clunky, however, requiring multiple clicks to something that could/should be achieved with simple click or click-and-drag of a label to the task, or vice versa.

Here’s how it currently works:

Below is the Task Details pane:

Click 1: “Add a Label”. This brings up the floating labels dialog, nicely appointed with a color header to differentiate between the title and labels, and then the color-coded labels in the white region:

Click 2 (or more): Click on the pre-defined labels to add them to this particular task:

Click 3: Clicking “Save” to retain your label choices or “Cancel” to exit the dialog entirely:

Here’s how it could work better

  • Eliminate the “Cancel” and “Save” buttons entirely. Click a label and its added. Need to get out? Click outside the dialog box or hit “escape.” If this isn’t intuitive enough, a simple “X” close button could be added and closing the dialog saves all selected labels.
  • Enable drag-and-drop for the labels in the left-most column (not shown). Drag the label to the task, and also permit multiple tasks to be dragged to a label to have that label assigned to them.

Final comments

One final recommendation I’d make is feedback on application buttons. The top of the application has three graphical buttons resembling a notepad, a trash can, and the earth, but lacked any sort of hints or popup hover text to indicate what they really mean. The first two are easy, but does the earth mean sync? Sync to web? Upload to web? Send via email? It’s the little touches that show how thoughtful and attentive the designers are. Button hints, even when the button’s purpose is obvious, are still required, especially considering users with special needs.

Producteev has a lot going for it. A simple interface with subtle shading and use of color to emphasize purpose, priority, and categories are great features. Syncing with the web also has its benefits. The issues I raise here are rather small UI issues which can be easily addressed and improve the overall user experience. Hopefully they will be addressed in future updates!

Kudos to the whole Producteev team!

...and now

  • Be considerate
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  • Be clean
  • Be kind


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