Kickoff: A Native Collaboration App for Small Groups

Kickoff certainly had a bumpy launch a few weeks ago. The app got so many downloads that their server broke within a few hours of launching, and, as a result, many users where seeing problems with the app, such as crashing or no syncing between accounts. Then they got some unfortunate news that no developer would ever want to hear: Apple rejected the app when they tried to update it. The reason? It was a subscription service and was therefore not allowed in the App Store, despite being approved twice before.

This was surely an unfortunate time for Kickoff. Still, those guys wouldn’t take no for an answer. They have taken it all on the chin, as seen on their blog, and they now offer it as a direct download from their site.

So, has the team learned from their mistakes? Have they made the app more solid and robust to handle all of their traffic? Most importantly, should you invest your well earned money into their service? Read on after the break to find out.

What Is Kickoff?

Kickoff is a collaboration tool for small groups; providing a dashboard showing the overall activity, notes, todos, files, and a private/public chat with your co-workers. It is free for the first 15 days but does require a monthly subscription thereafter if you wish to create projects. The plans are €19.99 per month for up to 4 people, and €49.99 per month for up to 15 people. Fortunately, you only have to pay if you want to create projects, and it is free to join as many projects as you want.

Getting Started

I am going to tell you now that this app has very much been taken care of. They have released frequent updates that have eliminated all of the launch issues and now the app is running perfectly (at least for me). When you start your first project you are presented with your Dashboard, which shows a visual representation of the activity going on in your project. It’s great for keeping track of what’s happening if you’ve been away and if your colleagues have added anything new to the project such as Notes, Todos or files. You can also see if there are any new coworkers that have joined you. Simply clicking on the activity will bring you to that specific update, which is very intuitive and easy to use.

Functionality

At the bottom left corner you will see an Instant Messages section, where, rather obviously, you will be able to IM people. This is a remarkably useful tool when working on a project with a group of people; the Meeting Room sends IMs to everyone in the project, while private chats can be held by clicking on an individual’s name.

As we have seen, the chat client includes drag and drop. However, it also works elsewhere within the app, such as when dragging documents into the Files section or attaching them to notes. This is an exceptional display of good functionality when the user can figure out how to work parts of the application without having to learn anything new.

Every part of the app is very intuitive. Adding notes, files, todos, and even coworkers is just a breeze, by either pressing the + button or cmd N. This works unanimously throughout the application. What’s more, within the Todo section you can create ‘projects’. For instance, ‘Development’, in the screenshot above, has multiple Todos within it to organize them hierarchically. This is another small yet amazing detail that can create a world of difference when you have many todos.

There is also a fantastic search feature which allows users to search within the entire project or specifically within other areas of a project, such as the Notes for example. What are those images on the right of each todo you say? Well, they are a great feature that allows you to assign a Todo to a coworker. Brilliant when the amount that needs to get done is tremendous and each person knows exactly what they need to do!

In Kickoff 1.2 Todos have been updated so that they can now have comments and attachments incase the specific task needs more that just one line – a great free addition to the app.

 

Design

This application is very beautiful in its minimalistic way and the app has been trimmed of all unnecessary weight. The new version that came out for Lion has gone even more minimalistic with colorless icons to match the OS and a few minor alterations (the reason the screenshots are the old version is that they have not been updated on the website yet, and while I could show my own screenshots, they do not show nearly as much detail or highlight all of the features)

The only real difference design-wise with new Kickoff version

If you are often impressed by the designs of apps, then you are surely going to like this one. It has a very native feel to it, but with some slight alterations that make it feel as if Apple had designed it. For the most part, Benjamin can be given the credit for this. Overall, this is a very high quality app that is lovely to use.

Improvements and Alternatives

As with any app there is room for improvement. Kickoff suffers from what nearly all 1st generation software suffers from: tiny bugs. For example, after adding a coworker, sometimes it doesn’t show they are online until you restart the application. In addition, there are occasionally some graphical issues. Generally speaking, this is just nitpicking and all I would like to see is a more robust app that eliminates these; with all the work the guys behind Kickoff are putting into it, I know these bugs will be fixed soon.

Private rooms would be an appreciated addition to the app. This function would be nice in that it would allow you to invite only certain members of the Project to see certain notes and files. However, I do realize that this can simply be done by creating a separate project for those people, so it may not come to fruition.

The fact is that you can get many of these features for free if you look around. Evernote, Dropbox, Skype, and Google Docs would most likely allow you to work on a project with others, for free. However, if you have ever worked on a project with multiple people you will know that you don’t want to be switching between 4 or 5 different apps to see what’s new here and check out a new image upload over there. This app does cost more, but for what you get there is really no proper alternative for me, and, as I already mentioned, it’s free to everyone except the project creator. There are alternatives like Basecamp, but that’s a web app and it lacks the beautiful design and implementation that Kickoff has, as well as the IM feature and I have tried it before and I think for not only the quality, but also price, Kickoff is the best option.

Conclusion

You can most likely tell by now that I am greatly enjoying this application. I agree it’s a hefty price to pay if you are the one creating projects, but in my honest opinion it is worth it. The way you can assign Todos to certain people, add files for all to see in real time, as well as instant messaging all within one sleek application just makes me so glad that I found it.

I have been using it for a project that I am currently undertaking and I feel very fortunate that this application came out just as I was starting to plan the project. It has almost everything I need to be able to work on my project with my fellow coworkers, and it has made life very much easier for all of us.


Summary

A collaboration tool for small groups that makes the entire process of working in a team a breeze (well as much as an app can). It may be considered expensive, but it is worth it if you are serious about collaborating with a group.

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  • http://christopherbloom.com Chris Bloom

    For the price, I would rather get a copy of ActiveCollab – it’s web based, so cross platform as opposed to this which appears to exist only as a native Mac app. Only thing AC lacks compared to Kickoff is chat, but I think there is a module for that. Plus it has plenty of extras.

    • http://www.splitanatom.com Hammy Havoc

      Agreed in full, we’re big fans of ActiveCollab at Split An Atom, but lately we’ve been wishing we had native applications for OS X/iOS that could utilise the database.

      I’m not a fan of web applications, but ActiveCollab is rather great.

  • http://www.mindarin.com Fred

    Unfortunately it’s too expensive.

    • Egg

      Agree.

  • http://www.carlzetterberg.se Carl Zetterberg

    Is it possible to group To-Do’s in a better way than shown at their webpage?

  • Bob

    Does anyone know of an app like this that has Notes + To Do features that is meant more for one person with a great GUI?

  • Arnoud

    I’m missing Flow (getflow.com) in the list of alternatives. It’s also a group-based to-do app. Web-based with a fantastic interface, an iOS app and in a similar price range ($10/m or $100/y).

  • http://www.godthanks.tumblr.com Renzo

    something alternative to PC…
    please!!!!

  • WPHead
  • Fabian Henzler

    kickoff is really nice!
    R U spending some plans…? =)

    • Toby Seers

      I for one am :)

  • Dev

    I think podio.com is the best for project management, similar to facebook, excellent UI and have many apps to empower the work flows.

  • http://www.petshopboxstudio.com Kuswanto

    KickOff is a beautiful app. But the price is deal breaker for the rest of us. Refusing yearly membership also a big disappointment. Many comments on blog post always mentioned about the price issue. Looks like KickOff won’t listen.

  • AK

    If you are not lucky enough to get a collaborator who is also walled inside Newton’s garden, you better convince them to be so rather get an app that is cross platform.

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