There was a time when my desk was perpetually covered in Post-It notes. I used to have to write down every little task I needed to complete for a project, and then keep track of them in an admittedly chaotic manner. Fortunately for people like me, various methods such as Getting Things Done have inspired fantastic productivity apps that make our lives more organized.
Such productivity apps are a dime a dozen, but today we are going to be looking at two task managers that set themselves apart. Producteev and Wunderkit are two powerful task managers that offer a similar set of features. I’ve spent the last few weeks playing around with each of these apps, and we are going to look at how their features stack up against each other.
There are tons of task managers available for the Mac, but Wunderkit and Producteev set themselves apart as powerhouses for a couple of reasons. They both have incredible cross-platform compatibility, which leads to strong project collaboration, and they both have an expansive list of features that make them valuable tools for a wide variety of project types.
Wunderkit was created by 6Wunderkinder, the same company that brought us the wildly popular to do list manager Wunderlist. Wunderkit borrows a lot of the same visual theming from Wunderlist, and anyone who has used one 6Wunderkinder app should feel right at home with the other. It is important to point out that Wunderkit is still technically in beta, but for the purposes of this comparison of features, I believe that shouldn’t be a factor.
Setting up your accounts with both Wunderkit and Producteev is very easy. Both services have adopted very simple signup forms that avoid asking you extraneous information. They just want your name and email address. That’s it. Honestly, more apps and web services need to adopt this philosophy.
Producteev asks for some basic information, as well as your time zone. Wunderkit also asks for a minimal amount of information, but gives you the option to connect with either Facebook or Twitter to login. This was a harbinger of what I would soon discover is a major difference for Wunderkit: A more social experience.
After you signup with Producteev, you are given a clean slate with which to start. Wunderkit, on the other hand, helps get you going with two boxes in the main window. One shows you new users to Wunderkit, (which is completely unnecessary), and the other gives recommendations on who to “follow.” There is an interesting mix of people and companies that are listed, including popular websites and designers.
While these two apps have many similar functions, they approach the goal of task management in slightly different ways. Both Wunderkit and Producteev use what they call “workspaces,” which are convenient ways to organize any project you might be working on. Once you create a new workspace, you can keep all the tasks associated with the project within it.
If you’ve ever used any kind of to-do list on the Mac, then the format of both Producteev and Wunderkit for tasks will seem familiar to you. These tasks can then be tagged, given due dates, specifically assigned to contacts, and more.
Neither of these apps are meant for you to use without some help from friends or colleagues, (although you could use both as a to-do list if you wanted to), so Producteev and Wunderkit make it easy to connect with others. Once you are connected with another user, they can view the details of your project and help you complete the tasks associated with it.
“Adding” People vs. “Following” Them
I mentioned that Wunderkit is built to be a more social experience, and that is apparent even in the way you connect with other users. In a very Twitter-like fashion, you “follow” other users rather than form some sort of automatically two-way connection with them, (like on Facebook). What this means is that following another user allows you to see any public workspaces that they have setup, but they won’t automatically be able to see yours without also following you.
Overall, I preferred Producteev’s system for connecting with colleagues. At the bottom left of the window, you can select to add a teammate to your project. They are immediately emailed (and notified directly within their own app) with an invitation. Once they are listed as a teammate, Producteev makes it easy to assign tasks to them, as well as communicate from within the app.
My experience with connecting teammates in Wunderkit was not quite as smooth. Once you are notified that someone is following you, you have to take an extra step to follow them (if you choose). What gets a little confusing is that following is different than actually inviting them to work with you on a particular project. Furthermore, you don’t get easy access to your Address Book contacts. However, you do get the opportunity to use Facebook or Twitter contacts if you’ve already connected your account.
When I considered the reasons you might be using a task manager in collaboration with other people, I found Producteev’s system of adding contacts to be preferable. The Wunderkit process feels clunky, and the “following” concept feels unnecessary and gimmicky when viewing Wunderkit as a task manager.
However, considering the groups you can follow, such as developers of popular apps, I think the following system represents a fantastic opportunity for consumers to interact with companies and organizations. You can see what they are working on, as well as offer your input.
Wunderkit and Producteev utilize what is fundamentally the same window structure, but dress up their windows very differently. Producteev is more conservative with its styling, using the standard gray Mac window with grayscale icons. The left pane includes filters for viewing the tasks (which reside in the middle pane).
You can filter to see all tasks, the inbox, completed tasks, starred items, what is due today, and what is late. Beneath that, you can see the tags that are currently in use, and click on them lets you see anything associated with that tag. At the bottom of the left pane is an arrow that allows you to create new workspaces and labels, as well as create new connections with teammates.
The middle pane shows a list of all tasks for the project, and the right pane gives you all the details of the selected task. In this right pane, you can view pertinent information, as well as pass messages along to other teammates. I would have liked this communication feature to be slightly more robust, such as giving you better controls over the messages, like Google Wave (may it rest in peace).
Wunderkit’s layout is similar, but the design is much flashier. By default, it comes with the wood inlay background we first saw in Wunderlist, plus it packs a slew of other theming options. Along the left is a listing of all your workspaces. Conspicuously absent here is a way to view a listing of tasks that are due, completed, starred, etc.
You can view the dashboard of each workspace individually to see a timeline of all activity, but if you have a lot of workspaces, that would mean separately checking each one every time you log in could become a chore. Furthermore, information on each workspace’s dashboard doesn’t get filtered in any way, it’s just a chronological record of anything that’s been done on this workspace. I didn’t find this design to be particularly useful.
You can click on the check box at the bottom of the left pane to see your tasks, but this is a disappointingly limited display when compared to Producteev. Tasks are added within the main window, but you aren’t guided through the process of adding additional information like you are with Producteev. The bottom also has a place to enter new tasks, and a place to see recent notifications (more on that later).
I think that Producteev has a more efficient layout. The folks at 6Wunderkinder certainly know how to design a beautiful interface with stylish, bold design. For me, Producteev’s more subdued design not only meant fewer distractions, it also meant a more efficient use of space that could pack more relevant information into each window. Both of these apps can go fullscreen in Lion, so things never felt cramped in either app, but Producteev feels more thought out.
When you are ready to create a new task in Producteev, you click on a button and an input window pops up. First, you name the task and give it a star if you would like. These stars are used, presumably, to denote priority. I would have liked to see a little room for customization of the stars. You can’t change the colors or the scale which, by default, is 0 – 5 stars.
Next, you choose which workspace to put it in. The design choice here seemed like a bit of a head scratcher to me. Rather than have a drop down menu with all the workspaces you have set up, there is just a list that shows everything at once. I imagine with large lists of workspaces, some users may find this to be a frustration.
Next you choose who you want to assign the task to. Here you’ll find all your Producteev contacts. A feature I would have liked to see here is a way to pre-group your contacts. Say you have different divisions in your company and you want to assign a task to a group as a whole rather than choose an individual. Then you could let them decide amongst themselves who would take responsibility. Rounding out the input options for tasks are deadlines, labels, and a place to attach any relevant files. All of these final inputs are pretty straightforward.
Entering tasks for Wunderkit is very similar. You get a new window that pops up just like Producteev. From there, you can enter the task name, add a due date and labels, and add a team member. If the person you want to add to the task is not already invited to your workspace, you can’t add them. If you realize this once you’ve started creating the task, you can’t add them to the workspace within this new task window. You’ll have to close out of it and add them, which disrupts your workflow.
Additionally, if you try to just type their name in, Wunderkit doesn’t search your contacts from other workspaces. For instance, my friend Charlie was already added to another workspace but not the one I was creating a new task in. When I typed his name into the “assign” field, Wunderkit didn’t bother to recognize that he was already a contact elsewhere.
Unlike Producteev, Wunderkit doesn’t have a system in place for ranking the priority of tasks. You can mark it as important, but there is no sliding scale of importance.
Wunderkit and Producteev are both very good about alerting you about tasks, perhaps to a point of overkill. While this is a review of the Mac apps, I also installed their respective iPhone apps as well just too see what they were like. Whenever I got a notification of, for example, a new task being assigned to me, I would get a Growl notification on my desktop, a new email alert, and my phone would buzz. You can, of course, customize the settings for these alerts, but both these apps make sure you’re never out of the loop.
The main window of Producteev has a small globe icon that will open up a separate window with all of your new notifications. You can also access this window by way of a menulet (which you can disable if you prefer). The menulet turns orange when you have unread notifications. Growl alerts are great here because of the detail they offer. Rather than a generic message saying you have a new alert, they are quite descriptive. Additionally, the dock icon displays a badge with the number of notifications. All in all, Producteev makes sure you don’t miss anything.
Wunderkit utilizes notifications in pretty much the same way. However, Wunderkit gives you much more control over them. Producteev lets you choose where notifications remain, (for instance, you can control whether or not the dock icon displays a badge), but you don’t get any control over what notifications you get in the first place, (you simply get a one for everything that happens). Wunderkit, on the other hand, lets you choose what you are alerted about.
Producteev’s pricing is based on the number of users who can access each workspace. You can use it for free, as long as you have only two users per workspace. If you want more than two people on a workspace, (and for any serious uses, you probably will), you enter a tiered pricing schedule. This starts at $20 per month. That price per workspace goes down the more you buy. For example, buying five unlimited workspaces will run you $62 per month.
Wunderkit’s pricing is much more straightforward. 6wunderkinder has said that it wants Wunderkit to be free when it leaves beta. There are going to be new features that will be introduced for “Pro” users, and having that special account will cost you $5 per month.
I think the biggest negative for Wunderkit is the lack of a centralized hub for viewing all your workspace information. Your homepage doesn’t give you a display of tasks due today, in the next week, etc. That feels like an important feature for a task manager to have if you plan on using it to organize important business. Wunderkit doesn’t have much room for customization or tools for power users. There is a shocking lack of keyboard shortcuts for even the most basic functions, such as creating a new task. Even the “⌘ ,” shortcut for the preferences pane doesn’t work.
After using both of these apps, I think it’s clear that Producteev is more polished. The interface is more professional looking, and there are a number of features that make it more appealing to anyone whose task management needs are more serious. That said, it is important to remember that Wunderkit is still in beta, and many of the complaints I had about it may still be addressed. The biggest complaint I had about Producteev is the lack of customization for notification types. Wunderkit, in that regard, beats Producteev handily.
If I was a business looking for a solid task manager, I would choose Producteev. However, Wunderkit’s social integration and lower price make it a solid choice for families or friends who need a way to plan activities or collaborate on non-work related things.