We’re all busy people. Probably busier than we would like. There’s a lot going on, coming at us from all different directions. We have multiple projects and tasks going on at the same time, and sooner or later, there will come a time when you’ll need to find a solid method to keep everything in order.
Luckily for us, there’s an abundance of task management theory and methodology available—and also a lot of associated software software to choose from. Dejumble is one such task manager, and we’ll be taking it for a spin today.
Design and Function
First worth mentioning is that Dejumble is a Menu Bar app. This is slight step away from tradition for this type of app, but it makes a welcome change. It seems to remind you that managing tasks is an aside to the real work you’re meant to be doing in dedicated windows.
I have to say, I wasn’t blown away by the design of this software. It certainly isn’t bad, and the visual design and layout does make sense, but the move away from traditional interface elements feels slightly unusual. For the most part, though, the design feels pretty well thought out.
The search bar is at the top and is an important piece of the software. It’s definitely easy to find and quick to use. Searching is contextual based upon your current position in the app. If you are viewing a certain project, the search will cover that project only.
The core parts of Dejumble are tabs directly below the search bar. The tabs are labeled Inbox, Projects, and Search. These are not customizable. You’ll spend a majority of your time on the Projects tab. This is where all of the actual project and task management happens.
The Search tab shows all of the tasks for every project. When used in conjunction with the search bar at the top you are able to search through all projects and tasks at once rather than on a project by project basis.
Below the tabs is the Smart Bar. We’ll get into this in more detail shortly, but basically this is a way to quickly filter your tasks.
Projects and Tasks
Dejumble uses the common project and task structure for the core organization method. Projects are created with tasks and sub tasks created within those projects. There is quite a bit of functionality in this area so I’ll just run through some of the capabilities.
While on the Projects tab you’ll see your projects as tabs along the left hand side of the application window. The active project will display as a lighter color and you’ll see all of the tasks associated with that project to the right in the main application window.
You’ll see indicators of tasks due today or overdue tasks on the project tab. The tasks are listed displaying their title and due date (if there is one) with a place to “check off” a task. The task will gray out when it is completed (checked).
At the bottom of the main application window are the functions to add, edit, and delete the tasks. They work exactly as their names would suggest.
Here is where Dejumble starts to really stand out. As you’d expect, when you create a task you must assign it to a project. On top of this, there are also some other less obvious things you can add to the task title help you better organize the tasks. I say “less obvious” because it did take a little research to figure out some of this functionality.
You are able to tag each task with one or multiple tags. You simply add a hash (#) sign in front of a tag (#home). These tags are very handy and can be used as essentially live filters. Click on a tag and all of the tasks with that tag will be shown.
You can also prioritize each task by including a ! followed by a number (1-9). So if you wanted to make something a 5 priority you’d include !5 in the title. The priorities will display in different colors. Green for the lower, yellow for the middle and red for the high priority. These can also be clicked on to use as filters in the same way as the tags.
Notes can also be added to any task. This works as you would expect—include whatever text you’d like as a note and you’ll see a small paper icon next to the task title. Sub tasks can be created within the notes section by using the dash (-) followed by the sub task text and then a blank line.
All of these functions are great, but they are a little tricky to figure out at first. I’m undecided on whether I like accomplishing these items in this manner, or if it would make more sense for it to be more obvious (i.e. choose a priority from a list, or a separate function to add sub tasks, etc.)
In the long run, the current keyboard-centric method is quicker in the end (after the user has become familiar with the app). There is something of a learning curve with this more advanced functionality and that may turn some less savvy users away.
The Smart Bar is an interesting feature that adds a level of quick organization or, more accurately, filtering. Dejumble comes with a few default Smart Groups. You’ll see one for All, Today and Important. These are basically stored searches or filters that can be quickly activated from the Smart Bar.
They are created and edited in the Dejumble Preferences.
The Smart Bar also houses a button to open a new task form.
One of the big features of Dejumble is that it can be paired with an iPhone application, or with other computers with Dejumble installed.
There is also an option to sync a project with iCal. This is very simple, and once implemented, a particular project’s tasks will then show up as To Do items within iCal. You can check tasks off within iCal and it will sync back with Dejumble, but it doesn’t appear like you can add any tasks or projects via iCal.
Dejumble is still in beta so, as of now, is a free download. There is an option right now to pre-order for $20.00 which they say is almost half off what the regular price will be ($39.00). The companion iPhone app is $4.99.
The price of $20.00 seems about right to me, but I’d say that $39.00 seems steep. Especially with the additional iPhone app cost. There are some free—or much cheaper and still very capable—task managers available, so I think they’d struggle to justifying that cost.
Overall, I’ll say that I think Dejumble is a good task manager. I’m not going to say “great”, primarily due to the moderate learning curve. I’m a bit of a geek and can usually figure out new software relatively quickly, but Dejumble had me stumbling around at first. I think that could turn a lot of people off from the get go.
On the other hand, once you figure out how everything works, the advanced organizing features can be really powerful. I expect they would only become more helpful the more projects and tasks you have to search through. I think the developers made a bit of a trade-off when designing. They certainly could have made it more intuitive to use those features, but it would make the usage a bit more sluggish. In a perfect world both methods would be available.
The syncing ability between the desktop application and the iPhone application is a great feature. It is becoming an expected feature of task management software. The iCal syncing, while nice, isn’t necessarily a huge selling point.
If you’re in the market for a task manager I’d say Dejumble is certainly worth checking out. Just make sure you spend a little time getting to know the advanced features so you can really use it to its full potential.