Firetask: Another GTD Software Contender for the Mac

The market for task management apps seems to be one of the most active of all. There are so many variations on this theme that it’s very easy to end up spending more time on finding, setting up, and tweaking your tools than you do on actually getting things done.

It also seems that the quality of such apps is also steadily improving, as new contenders build on the success of older, more established tools, or learn from their errors or exclusions.

Today we’re considering Firetask for Mac, which promises to combine aspects of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology with more traditional systems using due dates and priorities to manage your task list.

Join us after the jump for a walkthrough of Firetask’s main features…

To Begin

Firetask began life as an iPhone app nearly two years ago, and this Mac companion is fairly new to the market. The first thing to observe is that the developers have spent time on ensuring Firetask looks good:

Opening Firetask

Opening Firetask

The main window is divided into two sections, with a list of Focus areas and additional ways of categorising your tasks in the left hand panel, and the rest of the window given over to your tasks. The uncluttered, legible design makes it very easy to get going with Firetask. And if you’ve used any another task management app, chances are that you’ll be up and running in a very short time.

It’s a pity, given that so many of us do dart around between task management apps, that developers don’t spend more time on exporting your tasks and making it possible to import from one app to another. Some apps do provide such facilities, but Firetask offers neither import nor export features.

Adding Tasks

So, since you can’t import, if you want to make the switch from, say, Things, you’ll need to manually transfer across your tasks. Happily, Firetask makes this quite easy to do.

As you’ll see in the screenshot above, just about everywhere you go in the app, you will find an ‘Add new task’ field. So, whether you’re looking at your list of categories…

Category View

Category View

… or your Someday list…

Your "Someday" List

…you can simply click on that line and start typing. Once you’ve entered the task title, you can set the task’s due date and priority. Some fuzziness is understood in setting the date: so ‘tomorrow’ or ‘Wednesday’ will work, but ‘next Wednesday’ won’t.

There is a dropdown calendar available to pick dates, but, curiously, it’s not visible when a line is selected, so you need to select another task, and then mouseover the new task in order to see the disclosure triangle and view the calendar. A priority can be set by clicking on the icon in that column and then selecting from a range between ‘Critical’ and ‘Trivial’.

There is also a Quick-Entry panel that lets you quickly add tasks to a specific project from anywhere in the app (initiated either from the toolbar or with the cmd+n keyboard shortcut). This is less useful than the system wide quick entry system in OmniFocus, Taskpaper, or Things, but of course it’s still welcome.

Projects

As with opening the Quick-Entry panel, adding a new project can be done either from the toolbar or via a keyboard shortcut.

Adding a New Project

Adding a New Project

From this dropdown panel, you can set all the parameters of your project, from title to completion date, category, and priority, as well as adding any notes you might need to refer to in relation to the project. Once your project is set up in this way, you can go about adding tasks by selecting it from the project list.

Sometimes you’ll find yourself working on a task and then realise that, actually, this one is a project, after all, consisting of several steps or sub-tasks. That’s where the ‘Convert to Project’ button on the toolbar comes in handy.

Categories

You may have noticed that all the tasks in the previous screenshots have little icons beside them. These are indicators of their category, and you can view all your tasks by category by selecting that heading from the left hand panel. This is a variation on the traditional GTD language of Contexts.

Firetask comes with all the standard GTD categories/contexts already set up, and you can add any others that you might need (as well as selecting a fitting icon):

Colourful Category Icons

Colourful Category Icons

Focus

This is a nice feature: in looking at your Today list, you can click on the word Focus at the top right of Firetask’s window to narrow your focus down to display tasks due only today and tomorrow, or due in the next 3, 5, or 7 days. You set the extent of your focused view in the app’s Preferences:

Adjusting Your Focus

Adjusting Your Focus

iOS Sync

Firetask on the iPhone shares the desktop version’s clear design – actually, I suppose it’s the other way around, since the iPhone app came first.

Firetask on the iPhone

Firetask on the iPhone

Setting up wifi sync between the two clients is extremely straightforward, and syncing works simply and well. Of course, only having wifi sync is limiting, since you need to be on the same wifi network in order to sync your tasks. Some people seem to be able to get on fine with this, though it’s one of the reasons that I have found Things unusable, and I know that many other users agree.

In Conclusion

Firetask is a very good looking application, and offers all the main features required from a task management app. Sync with its fine iOS companion works smoothly and without hitch.

At $49, it’s significantly cheaper than Omnifocus ($79.95), but less than a dollar cheaper than Things ($49.95). I recommend you download the trial version of Firetask and give it a go. It’s a very nice app, and if you’ve never used a task management app before, then Firetask will quite possibly do everything you need, and do it elegantly and well.

However, if you’re one of the many who have tried just about every GTD-type app around, then you might find it restrictive. Other apps offer more flexibility and the ability to set things up in more varied ways that might better suit your workflow. For all its good looks and smooth functioning, Firetask still feels like a young app, and it’s easy to imagine it gaining more depth in future releases.

Personally, I’ll be sticking with Omnifocus – it’s more complicated, sometimes to the extent of being downright frustrating, but in all my explorations of similar apps, I’ve not yet found anything that I consider a real contender. Add to the desktop app the very fine iOS versions, and though it’s expensive, Omnifocus still remains my app-of-choice.

How about you? What’s your choice in this category of app?


Summary

Firetask combines the advantages of classical task management based on priorities and due dates with "Getting Things Done" in a unique way.

7
  • http://www.d3.lt Zy

    What I miss from all those ‘task-n-to-do’ apps is: sync with a shared server like database, which could be seen by other peoples. Would be very handy.

  • Smash

    Argh…. and only sync via wifi? as things… where is the news?
    I use EasyTask Manager is not perfect and graphic is not cool but i able sync via internet and wifi…
    If I don’t have any device i can use site web to add my task…is simple…

    • Neal O

      Exactly, just as Things, no OTA sync = no use!

      I’ve landed now with TaskSurfer for Mac and Toodledo on iOS. At least all three devices (Mac/PAD and Phone) just stay in sync. Might just be tempted back to Things if the developers EVER get sync sorted.

  • http://twistereli.com Eli

    I tried many apps and tested them for an extended period, but I always return to Things.

  • podosenov

    Looks not bad however Things looks more refined. If only someone Things was platform-agnostic and syncable as Evernote it’d be priceless.

  • http://About.me/bdouglass Braden

    It is goof to be very difficult for a company to unseat the GTD nerd heaven that is Omnifocus. However, any one of these competitors could grab the huge amount of casual users by just announcing and sticking by a OTA sync. Get rid of this same network mentality. Simply offer WebDAV for starters and walk their hands through a Swiss disk setup. Build in a competent backebd to sync with as revenue occurs and then release an update that seamlessly moves the existing Swiss disk users over to your server and bam!

    I do realize it isn’t that easy however these companies must know that their is a tremendous market for this type of seamless syncing

  • whitney

    ahh! another one!!

    added to my productivity bin: decrease productivity by reviewing another darn GTD app.

    • podosenov

      spot on!

    • http://www.nicktoye.co.uk Nick Toye

      Don’t review it then.

    • Mnanda

      Exactly! Grrr… I’m like Goldilocks with GTD apps: Omnifocus, too complex & ugly, Things, no nesting, The Hit List, no development…

      Why can’t someone just GET IT RIGHT?

  • David Ferguson

    Why are all these task management apps so expensive? Is the code written in some ancient, lost language that only a few know that make the app shit gold?

    • Michael C.

      Agreed. At least Things sports a snazzy interface. This looks like any other iTunes clone of an app with large icons, etc.

      I think it’s just that seems to be what the market will bear and so people price it as such… else we might assume it is “cheap” (in the pejorative sense).

    • http://nataliaventre.com Natalia Ventre

      I think the price is fair, I’d like it better if the price was lower, but it’s an app for everyday use, I spent more in a game that I play just a couple of hours on weekends.

  • steelie

    Unless I’m doing something wrong, this app appears to have ZERO drag-n-drop function. I’ve run into the same thing on two different Macs and if this is the case for others, and not just a “bug” that only I am running into, then I think you’ve way overrated it at 7/10. 2/10 at best.

    This app is borderline useless for me.

  • http://www.infrasoundkids.com L1

    How do they justify these prices for GTD apps. Most of them are priced ridiculously for what they are.

  • T4

    Wow – The icon is like a complete copy of the ‘Things’ icon!

    • Me

      I thought you knew. Imitation is the best form of flattery. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/sulcalibur Suleiman Leadbitter

    There is no quick add in this app. No ctrl + space to add a quick to do or reminder whilst in another app. You have to have the app running and selected to add a task, and the pop form is nasty.

    • LO

      The global quick entry shortcut is CMD-CTRL-.

      And yeah, the quick entry window ain’t pretty.

  • http://fairheadcreative.com Adam Fairhead

    The first one out of this and Things that takes Evernote’s approach of offering a web interface too (for total syncing joy) wins, in my opinion.

    • StephenESC

      Perhaps we could just plead with Evernote to build an awesome task-management app within their joyful syncing system. ☺

    • StephenESC

      …or rather “build task management into their current apps” would be more-better.

    • http://www.infrasoundkids.com L1

      Well it’s not going to be Things. there Update time is awful. We’ve been waiting nearly 2 years for cloud sync and they can’t communicate to their customers let along release the update.

  • DavidZ

    I’ll stick with TaskSurfer. OTA sync, (via Toodledo), and it has a quick entry hotkey. Many commented on price, but I bought it last week for $29US. It used to $39, so maybe it was on sale (web site doesn’t say).

  • Dan

    If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this web-application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    Comes with a mobile version too, and with an Android app.

  • Sushi

    I also don’t think that Firetask is making the way into my Application list as it lacks of internet sync. I am still waiting for The Hit List to launch their iphone-app and leaving the beta period regarding the desktop-app.

    But today I heard about a new player in the GTD arena, that is offering internet-sync and – soon to release – an iphone app: wunderlist (by 6wunderkinder from Berlin). check it out: http://www.6wunderkinder.com/wunderlist/

    • http://www.koi-community.com Goran

      I use KOI Tasks, a great alternative to Omnifocus, Things, Wunderlist and Firetask!
      KOI has a Desktop App (and is a real App) which works on both Mac and PC and it syncs OTA with iPhone and Android!

      What I like most about KOI is the possibility to add attachments to tasks and the html views it offers
      .
      You can create tasks and projects, by drag/drop emails from either MacMail or Outlook into KOI. This is really cool, since I know can manage all my tasks on my Office PC, Home Mac and on the road with my iPhone or iPad.

      You can download the Apps at http://www.koi-community.com

      KOI is actually also an Austrian based company just like Firetask. It will be interesting to see how these two companies fare in the future – gotta be some local competition going on over there!

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