Monday, February 15, 2010

Experiences using Toodledo

As part of my plan to evaluate the best GTD tool for me, this week was devoted to testing Toodledo. This is a short report on my experiences of this service.

In general, I found Toodledo to be very easy to use. The highlights were:
  • The web site itself is very fast and responsive and I had no problem figuring out how it worked.
  • Once I entered my tasks I could easily view my tasks, by a number of different views (e.g. by Folder, by Due date, by importance etc.) although it was some time before I found the search button because this feature is not as prominent as I would have expected.
  • I installed the ToodleDroid application on my phone and it proved very useful especially for reviewing my upcoming action items and in marking them done.
  • There is a Firefox add-on which allows tasks to be added via a simple right click option even when the Toodledo web site is not open.
  • It is possible to add tasks via email and Twitter. Although I didn't use these very much, I can see how they could be very useful for some situations.
  • Unfortunately there is no Notes plugin which allows me to drag notes emails onto my task list. This is disappointing because most of my task come from emails sent to me in Notes. Looking at the developer API, it should be easy to implement such a Notes plugin and if I was adopting Toodledo full time I think I would need to create one myself.
However, there were a few things that frustrated me about using this application. The biggest issue is to do with the calendar integration.
  • I know that David Allen is a strong advocate of seperation between calendars and task lists, but personally I like to have a single place to look to see "what do I need to do today".
    • With Notes this is trivially easy to get ToDos to appear on ymy calendar (simply a preference setting). Notes ToDos have an optional start date and an end date. By default Notes ToDos appear on today's calendar, unless they have a start date in the future. ToDos which have a due date in the past will be highlighted as overdue. If my list of ToDos for today is getting to long I simply drag and drop them on another date and the "start date" of the ToDo is automatically updated. As a general rule of thumb, when the number of ToDo's against todays date is getting so large that it is crowding out my calendar I know I won't get them all done and need to re-assign some of them to future dates.
    • Toodledo tasks have a range of date options as shown in the following screenshot - despite extensive experimentation I have not yet figured out what exactly the different options mean :-/
  • Toodledo offers calendar integration to both Google and Notes calendars
    • The integration with Google Calendar works, but it seems to assign tasks to a range dates based upon some algorithm that I have yet to figure out. In addition there seems to be no way to refresh the way my Toodledo tasks display on my calendar after I make edits - this might be making my confusion worse because my Google calendar is probably displaying details of my tasks based upon an out of date version of my task list.
    • The Notes integration works pretty much as expected with tasks showing up on appropriate dates. If I make changes to my tasks on the Toodledo web site I can update my calendar's display by hitting refresh (f9). However, Notes only allows me to read the task list - I need to visit the Toodledo web site if I want to update a task or even see further details appart from the task title.

Another minor issue is the fact that it is not easy to delete tasks. As I was moving tasks from Notes to Toodledo I often accidentally created duplicate tasks and I didn't want to make one of them complete because this would give me a misleading history. After some time I discovered that it you leave your mouse stationary above the "Done" checkbox in the web UI for a few seconds an additional menu would appear which includes the option to delete the task (see screen-shot) - this seems to be a pretty obscure place to hide this functionality so I decided to describe it here in case anyone else missed this.

My conclusion is that I think Toodledo could be an interesting system, especially if I could find a solution to the calendar integration problem. However, I am not yet convinced that I have found a killer application and so I will continue to test out other alternatices as outlined in my original plan.


  1. Hi Brian, some brief comments.

    My Toodledo tasks with dates appear as expected in my Notes calendar. Btw: I try to follow the advice of David Allen and only assign dates to tasks if it really is a hard deadline (instead of assigning dates in order to prioritize my tasks).

    With regards to the delete option: you can customize your "views" and add/remove columns - including a Delete option column. Go to account settings and edit "Fields/Functions Used".

  2. Thanks for the tip about changing the columns. It makes it much easier to see my task details

    If you don't assign dates to your tasks, how do they appear on your calendar? Do they appear under todays date or do they not appear at all?

  3. Tasks without dates do not appear on my calendar. This is per GTD guidelines as tasks with dates should only be used for hard deadlines - and not for planning/priority purposes. So I track all my tasks with no dates on the Toodledo web site and on my Toodledo iPhone app.