Vincent Danen picked his favorite productivity tools and made them all work together between his Mac, iPod Touch, and BlackBerry.
I'm a big productivity buff, so I have a lot of tools that really benefit from talking to each other. At the same time, if there is something in a tool that I dislike, I tend to not use it if I can find something that does the whole thing better. Failing that, I try to create a workflow that allows me to use the best bits of the tools that I like and try to find a way to make them all work well together. If your New Year's resolutions include getting more organized, you might want to see if my solution will work for you, too.
For contact management, OS X comes with Address Book and iCal. For me, these programs are too simplistic, yet they are a necessary evil in my workflow. They are the bridge between programs that I do like, however, and a way to get information where it needs to be. For instance, my daily workflow depends on a few tools that need to be able to talk together:
- Daylite for contact management and relationships, calendar (see "Get to know Daylite CRM for Macs")
- The Hit List for task management
- The Missing Sync for BlackBerry to get contacts, calendars, and tasks onto my BlackBerry
- Spanning Sync to sync contacts and calendars to GMail
These, along with Address Book and iCal (and the OS X sync services) get all of my disparate pieces of information to talk to each other. The end result is that I can have this information in my Google Apps account, on my BlackBerry, and via Daylite Touch on my iPod Touch. While it may sound as though this is a complicated setup, it works very well and quite seamlessly if you're willing to invest in the up-front "cost" of setting it all up.
The integration of Daylite and Address Book/iCal is quite straightforward and this integration lets me get contacts and calendars onto my BlackBerry and GMail. The weakest link of this setup is the task management. Ideally, I would prefer to use Daylite to manage the tasks as well, but the task management in Daylite is not nearly flexible enough to handle how I process tasks, so I never used it — the end result is that tasks were never available to me on my BlackBerry, which is less than ideal.
The Hit List, on the other hand, does the job well and as a result, I can now take my tasks with me, without scribbling on a sticky or printing out a list. The other nice thing is I can check off a task on the BlackBerry and it will sync back the other way, eventually marking the task as complete in The Hit List.
The Hit List provides the ability to sync tasks with iCal as TODO items, which in turn are synced to Daylite as tasks. Unfortunately, not all of the data I would want is there: iCal doesn't understand time estimates so that information is lost. The fact that you have to link a list or tags with a calendar is also a bit of a short-coming but not as bad as it sounds:
Daylite categories are synced to iCal as calendars so a category of "Home" in Daylite creates a calendar called "Home", which we can then map to the tag "@home" in The Hit List. The Hit List provides very flexible support in how you can map tags to iCal calendars so getting the tasks properly categorized is doable.
One downside is that items synced to Daylite are prefixed by the list they belong to. For instance, if you have a list in The Hit List called "Home Stuff" that contains a task item named "Feed cat" with a tag of "@home," in Daylite the task will show up as "Home Stuff: Feed cat @home." This makes for excessively-named tasks in Daylite, but also provides the opportunity to create smart lists in Daylite that filter based on strings in the item. For instance, in Daylite you can create a smart list with the rule: "Title" matches the rule "begins with" and the string "Home Stuff:"
While there is some shortage of information being passed back and forth between Daylite and The Hit List — largely due to limitations in what iCal supports and understands — the fact that the two can sync together and that Daylite can provide a reasonable representation of The Hit List's data is quite nice.
Throw in the fact that all of the syncing between everything is automated, and that means that within a minute or so of adding a task to The Hit List, it shows up on my BlackBerry and iPod Touch, making the relatively minimal amount of up-front work required to get it all working entirely worth it. Especially when you consider that there is no iPhone app for The Hit List yet, and that iCal on the iPhone does not show tasks, this is a great way to get task information on your iPhone/iPod Touch.
Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.