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Taska: an iPhone task manager with class

Updated 9 June 2010

Taska (version 1.0.6 as of this writing) is a new GTD oriented task manager for the iPhone and I must say I'm impressed. Indeed, I'd say that of the task manager apps I've tried (including Pocket Informant, ToDo, ToodleDo, GeeTasks, FocusTodo, SmartTime, Things, Nozbe, 2do, and at least a dozen others), Taska takes the cake for combining great interface design, broad functionality and flexibility.

Taska implements all the fundamentals of GTD in a clean and appealing package. But its real power comes from the range of functions it offers and the clarity of it's interface. And it throws in some very pleasant extras. All for a reasonable $4.99 CAD.  You can see screenshots of the app at its makers' website.

Here's a list of my favourite features of Taska, in no particular order.

Smart task creation. Tasks are filed intelligently no matter where you are in the app. If you're in a project or context, the task is associated with the project or context; if not (e.g. at the home screen) then it goes into the Inbox. And if it has today as a due date, it also gets added to the Action list. Upcoming tasks are automatically added to the Next list.

Repeating tasks. Many task managers implement repeating tasks, but Taska offers some novel ways of setting the repeat interval: every X days, X days of the month, and days of the week, measured either from the task's due date or actual completion date. This offers surprising variety from a very few unconfusing alternatives, which is a sign of superior design.

Task horizons. Taska let's you set a "horizon" on when a task will appear in your Action list. Unset by default, this is a useful feature for some kinds of tasks that need a bit of lead time, like taking out the garbage, something I do first thing in the morning before checking my tasks for the day (and sometimes before I'm fully conscious).

Repeatable due dates on projects. Some of my projects have no particular deadline - ditto for the tasks in that project - but I want to work on them regularly, say once a week or so. In Taska, you can put a repeating due date (see above) on the project itself. This means I can be reminded of having to work on specific projects without having to manage due dates for each of its tasks individually.

Checklists. Sometimes, a group of items are best represented by a checklist, which is much easier to manage than a list of tasks. In Taska, you can add named checklists to both projects and contexts.

Superior sync. Taska syncs with the free Toodledo service and with your desktop Mac. Of particular interest is that checklists will sync with a free Toodledo account (Toodledo's own checklists feature requires a premium Toodledo account).

Geolocation for contexts. Taska can use your iphone's GPS to associate a location with a context, so that you can use contexts to sort your tasks according to where you are. While this feature really doesn't do much for me personally, I can see how others might find it immensely useful.

Tags and filtering. While tagging and filtering by tag (and contexts too) is a fairly common feature, Taska has a very clean and easy to use interface for tagging and filtering.

Batch edit. This is a power-user feature. You can select a collection of tasks and perform certain operations on the lot with just one or two taps. Very useful when you're reorganizing your tasks.

Really nice look and feel. While this doesn't really affect it's functionality, good look and feel is important to useability. Taska uses colours judiciously, and it's icons are crisp and not faddish. Generally, Taska goes for a minimalist look (which I personally prefer) that keeps your attention focused on the tasks and not on all the pretty bits.

Lists as well as projects and contexts.  (UPDATED) I'm still not sure why the lists are there, but I assume if I plated with the app enough, I'd figure out why they're there.  Besides contexts and projects, Taska has lists.  These are displayed on the main screen, whereas projects are all kept in the Projects list and contexts are accessed by a special menu button on the home screen.  It took me a while to figure out what lists were for, but I finally got it: they're arbitrary containers for projects, tasks, and checklists.  This turns out to be quite useful for me.  Instead of having a regular project just for those one-off work-related tasks that don't really belong in any project, I can just put them in a list called Work, along with all my work projects and checklists.  And having these master lists visible on the home screen is also quite convenient.

This isn't a complete list of what it can do; it's just the stuff I think is particularly useful.

Of course, no app is perfect. Taska has a couple of rather obvious shortcomings that could be easily addressed and would increase its useability substantially.

There should be a universal Home button on every screen. Sometimes, I've found I have to tap the Back button far too often to get to the home screen, which is a pain.

There's no rapid-add function to quickly add several tasks or checklist items. To add multiple items, you have to tap +, then enter the task, then Done, for each task entered. It should be possible to add several tasks in succession once you've hit +.

And my personal pet peeve is the lack of support for events (calendaring). This one would be a major change, but I just can't understand why one would use a task manager and not be interested in having events also managed in the same app.

(UPDATED) There are also some quirks in Taska that feel more like bugs (some more obvious than others).
  • There is an option to hide completed tasks immediately.  Sometimes this works; other times it doesn't.
  • Some items in the Action list have a little Next icon by them, while others have the name of the project.  I think items marked Next are marked that way because they do not have due dates.  This means that, for such tasks, you can't tell what project they're part of.  It would be better if that little marker always showed the name of the task's project or list.  That way, things marked Next would be obviously items not associated with any other project or list.
  • The Next list seems to contain all tasks not in Someday (including Action tasks).  This isn't very useful.  I think Next should contain only the first task in each project or other "collection" that isn't already in Action or Someday.  Perhaps there could be a setting that let's users set how many "next tasks" from each collection should be shown.
  • Manually ordering tasks in lists or projects doesn't always work.  And sometimes, the app crashes when trying to reorder tasks.  This isn't a very big deal because reordering isn't an operation that should cause data loss.  Still, any crash is annoying if not stressful.
  • Also, you can only partially reorder the Next list manually.  I haven't figured out what the criteria are that define if a task can be reordered and, if so, where else in the list it can be moved to.  The Next list should be reorderable completely.
  • You can attach a note to a project, task, or checklist.  But with checklists, the note isn't visible when looking at the checklist contents.  To see the note, you have to tap the checklist itself (as if to edit it).  It makes much more sense to show the note at the top of the checklist, followed by the checklist contents.
Still, as task managers go, Taska is, by my reckoning, the cream of the current crop. And seeing as it's only at version 1.0.6, there's reason to be hopeful for lots more interesting stuff in future versions.

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