Programs: Agenda at once

October 15th, 2006 by jose

Agenda at once (AAO) is one more program to handled todo lists and calendar (known as personal information managers -PIMs-). The main difference is that in this one these two components are integrated and displayed simultaneously. You may be familiar with the day scheduler (yellow in the screenshot) if you have used outlook. The interesting thing about this program is that combines the hierarchical outliner (classical todo lists) with the calendar/scheduler view. You can drag and drop tasks from one to another, and that makes it easier to allocate times.

I think it’s perfect for implementing Mark Forster’s ideas for three main reasons. You can show today and tomorrow simultaneously, as it is the default in the scheduler. The fact that the day scheduler has a starting and closing time (of course) reminds you that your time is limited. There is no easy way you can overload your day if you see that the boxes you drag from your todo lists simple overflow the space allocated for that day:) . It’ll force you to at least guess how long a task will take.  I think it will appeal to those using index cards as the drag and drop interface is as close as one can get to the tactile feeling of those. You can rearrange tasks around in your screen as you’d do with index cards in your table (kind of).

good points about AAO

  • Can apply filters to schedule
  • Does both calendar (hard landmarks) and soft ones (the “by” concept, tasks with no date)
  • The scheduler can show today and tomorrow, perfect to fight the belief of having infinite time, and also perfect for implementing the ideas in Forster’s ‘Do it tomorrow’ book.
  • Hovering over the tray icon will tell you what’s to do today. Nice touch.
  • Best scroll of all applications tested (smooth, even with many tasks and large folded subtrees).
  • It has reminders (todolist didn’t).
  • Visual calendar, really flexible. You can stretch the borders of the area designed to the calendar to have 1, 2,.. n months displayed simultaneously.
  • AAO can be installed in thumbdrive, ini file
  • One can see time assigned for task visually (i.e., stretching the rectangle that represents the task in the scheduler gives you an easy way to allocating time estimated
  • It has recurring tasks. (todolist didn’t)
  • Has today, tomorrow filtering
  • No redefinable shortcuts, but it can be accessed through autoHotKey
  • You can see today and tomorrow at the same time (!)
  • Estimated time can be done by dragging
  • Year view possible!
  • Security. It has auto-minimizing: This option is useful if you leave your computer for a while and Agenda At Once remains visible on the screen. If you don’t access any of menu or toolbar functions in defined period of time, it will automatically hide to the system tray.

Comparing agenda at once to toDoList (my former favorite) 

  • TodoList cannot drag and drop to a calendar day (or hour of a day) because it has no calendar and no concept of ‘ hour of day’
  • TodoList cannot assign a particular hour to an event.
  • TodoList Is not compatible with autoHotKey (a key application to speed up repetitive things things in your computer)
  • Has no reminders, no recursion, no day planning
  • Is difficult to see what’s coming, what will take time imminently
  • Follows the infinite-time model, only limited by time estimation

Negative things about Agenda at once

  • Implementing GTD: there are no tags for contexts. Again, I do this by recycling the field ‘project’. I only have a few contexts: phone, shopping. The actual project structure is captured by icons determining urgency are confusing. I have set all tasks to the same urgency (ignoring it, as recommended by DIT), just to get all items with the same green ball icon.
  • Cannot change fonts in todo list
  • Scroll is jumpy when it gets to a part of the outline that is folded .This is a common problem with most outliners I have tried (MLO, ToDoList)… in AAO’s case, the scroll is the best overall.
  • When a task is completed, is moved either to the top or to the bottom. It’s very distracting! It can be solved by selecting ‘hide completed tasks’.
  • Unfortunately, it is very easy to make it crash. I have seen at least 3 different crashes.
  • No forum.
  • Developer is very responsive, but new releases are rare. Forget about the kind of activity in terms of implementing new features and bug fixing that you could expect from MLO or todoList. This program seems to have a small userbase, and I can understand that developer time goes to more popular/profitable software from the same house.
  • No extensibility (plugins)
  • The integration between the todo list and calendar is so-so. Here is why. The ‘by’ date is not synchronized with the date in the calendar. Obviously, if some task has a date set in the calendar, it should be completed ‘by’ that date.
  • Crossing out a task in the outliner (todo) will not cross out the task in the calendar/scheduler (why?) so looking at your scheduler will not give you any information about how well you are doing in terms of working to completion.
  • Changing databases is slow. If you use more than one database, expect to spend seconds looking at a frozen screen while switching.
  • Time estimation is limited to one day (i.e., not possible to have a task that lasts for more than one day)
  • No timer, no ‘estimated time’ field, so it is difficult to do good time estimation

In Summary

AAO presents a very innovative (and simple) GUI that solves an important problem: the integration of an outliner view (good for tasks without deadlines) and a calendar (good for tasks with deadlines, or fixed times… also called the ‘hard landscape’ in GTD terms).

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4 Responses to “Programs: Agenda at once”

  1. academic productivity » Interruptions: one of the costs of maintaining a time-management system Says:

    [...] These are tiny tasks. The problem is not so much the time it takes to do them, but the fact that they interrupt your flow. (see graph: the times *I* use the program are the green bars; they are spread all over my working day!). I have measured the time I spend on my current time-management tool, Agenda at once. Although it decreased with time of usage, the average is still quite high, at 11 about minutes and a half per day. I have also logged times when I was using MyLife Organized and ToDoList for about the same number of days (let me know if you want to see similar graphs) and the average times where 17:30 and 14:35 respectively. People using paper and pencil may think that they spend less time doing this, but as far as I know nobody has measured the length of the interruption of finding pen, agenda or paper, looking for the right place to annotate the task, etc. [...]

  2. SilviaNo Gravatar Says:

    I am using TR. So far, the best one for my needs.

  3. joseNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Silvia,
    I just checked thinking rock. Not my cup of tea, since all the calendar stuff has to be handled by an external application (but it is nice that it’s ical format).

    An interesting comment I saw while brosing for it:
    “the GTD model deals poorly with types of work that require hours upon hours of concentrated effort on a single action. If I’m writing a book or a long article, I need to sit down and write for long periods over multiple days or even weeks (“Write Chapter 1″ is not necessarily quick). The overall project may have multiple actions, but if a single action takes a long time, it’s entirely unsatisfying to have it in GTD, since it hangs out being uncompleted the entire time. ” (tidBits Review).

    I agree with that comment. GTD seems to help me to do all the little things (it’s a pleasure to cross them out) but the large items get stuck in a ‘pending’ mode for a long time. I’m struggling with this problem myself.

  4. JulieNo Gravatar Says:

    Yeah I agree all the calendar stuff has to be handled by an external application, but great ical format.

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