Here we review My Life Organized(MLO), which takes a hierarchical task list and applies a Getting Things Done(GTD) interface. It supports multiple platforms, Windows, Android and IOS, but today I will be reviewing the Windows App. There are aspects of it that I really liked and the others……were excellent. Here’s the roundup.
There are many todo list, task management and GTD apps out there these days. But, surprisingly few of them have native Windows support. Bit of a shame really as there are many people who spend 8 hours a day in front of this interface so it would seem natural to have a native app. But no, in many cases a web browser must be used and in most cases the data will then be stored off site. Call me a traditionalist but I like having a local fast program that saves data on my computer. Such an approach may not be ideal for team collaboration where online services may be a more appropriate solution but for many people a single user application is sufficient for tracking their tasks. And, ladies and gentlemen, is where My Life Organized enters the picture. It offers a native windows app that saves your task information in a local XML file. That is not to say the data can only be accessed there, for it offers a variety of options for you to access it on multiple platforms. Let’s take a look at the program and the features in more detail.
The User Interface can be divided up into three main areas.
To the left we have views, whereby the tasks can be sliced and diced and viewed from whatever perspective you wish. For example, the next task by project, tasks by context etc. Additional tabs can also be created, each with a different view. For example, you may wish to have one tab configures by project, another by context and another for active tasks.
The centre region provides a view of the task and allows new items to be entered in a hierarchical form. This is pretty straightforward.
The area to the right allows for task information to be entered. This includes the usual splattering of task info such as start and due dates, comments, effort etc. This can be disabled should you want a clutter free view of the tasks.
Features and Functions
The first feature that needs to be highlighted here is the difference between the inputted tasks and the “Active tasks”. MLO takes all the stuff that you have entered, works it’s magic and tells you the tasks that you need to be doing now. It applies a series of rules to the tasks and the information about those tasks to work out the tasks to be done.
MLO also has inbuilt algorithms to determine a computed score priority. It takes the task importance, urgency and start/due dates and put’s it through some equations to derive the overall importance. There are some ways that the user can influence this task magic, such as adjusting the weighting associated to task priorities and timing. You may think this is more of an art than a science but to dispute that, here are the MLO equations – as shown in their help file!
If A <= 1025 then
x = LogN(1025, A)
Else if A > 1025 then
x = 1+(1-(LogN(1025, 1025-(A-1025))))
If B <= 1025 then
u = LogN(1025, B)
Else if B > 1025 then
u = 1+(1-(LogN(1025, 1025-(B-1025))))
For the current importance slider the value = A
For the current urgency slider the value = B
You compute x=importance and u=urgency with this formula
I can imagine most normal users will not require this level of detail but again I praise the thought that the developers put in here. The ultimate output from all of these equations is to rank the tasks in the Active To Do list according to the computed score. You can see this in action by moving the importance slider bar up and down for a task and you will then see it’s position on the table move up and down.
One interesting feature in the Windows App to enable context based task selection is the context calendar view. It looks like a weekly view from MS Outlook and it enables you to enter the days/times for each context.
So, you can highlight 8am to 5pm for the @Work context, 6pm to 7am for the @Home context. This enables MLO to determine, given the current time, which tasks to display as it already knows which context you should be in. When testing this I inadvertently highlighted the wrong indicated the wrong times I would be available by assuming that you indicated the time you were free as opposed to not free. The developers even foreseen my silliness and added an inverse button to immediately reverse the section. I think just another example of their attention to detail with this app.
Tasks can also be flagged as folders, projects or even goals. This enables the filtering options for those categories. For example, to view the next task for each project or to hide tasks labelled as a folder from view. This is simple done via a tick box for the task.
The search function is also excellent. It is accessible from the home screen. Simply start typing and all matching tasks will be listed. I find it to be fast and fluid.
Some other basic, but important features are also in there. Tasks can be dragged and dropped for quicker manipulation and also tasks can be archived enabling a smaller data file to be in active use.
I also need to give a special mention to the parsing function on the quick entry window. In addition to standard task entry using the main window, a small window can be opened from the Windows task bar allowing for quick task entry into an Inbox (or any other folder!).
This enables ad-hoc tasks to be quickly entered into the system without opening the program window and interrupting the current, on-going work. So, the point of it is understandable but the execution is even better. MLO will essentially read your task entry and use it to populate the task information. So, if I write “MLO – Publish this article tomorrow”, MLO will understand the task to be “MLO – Publish this article”, and enter tomorrow as the due date under the task information as shown below. It can understand times, contexts and other task information and even set reminders! When exercised, this can streamline the task entry process and make the overall usage of the program more efficient. My only wish for this would be an option to keep the dialog box on top of other windows to allow rapid task entry at any time, thereby saving a couple of clicks every time.
Tasks list updated from Rapid Task entry Dialog box
It is also possible to link files which is an invaluable feature as many tasks come with supplementary information. To add such links, one needs to right click in the comments field.
Platforms and Inter-operability
This review has focused on the native windows app of MLO but boy are there a plethora of other options to access it. Let’s go through a few of them.
In addition to the Windows app, MLO is also available on IOS, OSX and Android. I briefly looked at the IOS app and it also looks to be a competent solution. Data can be exchanged with the mobile apps in one of two ways,
WiFi Sync: When both the computer and mobile device are on the same wifi network they can be paired and with a click of a button on the mobile app they can sync their data.
Cloud Sync: With a paid subscription all devices can be synchronized.
It is also possible to synchronise your xml with a central database file for situations where a small local may wish to collaborate. This ideal when the central file can be shared over a local network. This seems to be an historical feature and MLO recommend the cloud synchronisation which seems to have superseded it.
These various synchronisation options can be configured under a saved profile.
MLO also offers MS Outlook integration whereby tasks can be exchanged between the two programs. I had one issue with this function though. The way I wish it would function is to sync the emails that require actions with MLO and when completed for those tasks to be marked so in Outlook. However, MLO seems to copy all it’s tasks over to MS Outlook which for me is overkill.
The windows app can be your for a mere $29.95 for the standard version and $59.95 for the professional version. The professional version adds some more advanced features such as task dependencies, custom views and reviews, context schedule.
I really get the impression that a lot of thought went into this software. My Life Organized takes a simple hierarchical task list and applies a lot of clever features. Perhaps even to the point of being a bit geeky – for goodness sake, they have logarithmic equations in their help file! But I am OK with that as I appreciate this attention to detail. It is a pretty comprehensive platform, spanning many operating systems. But, for full functionality a price must be paid. To buy into the Professional version you will be talking $59.95 for the Windows app, $14.95 per year for cloud sync to mobile devices, $19.95 for MLO for IPad and $24.95 for the Android version. Opting for the standard version will save you a bit of cash with the mobile variants being free.