Task managers for academics

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Eric Durbrow

Nov 8, 2009, 7:18:21 PM11/8/09
to The-Efficie...@googlegroups.com
I have been reconsidering task managers for managing research,
writing, and courses. On the Mac, it seems OmniFocus, Things, and The
Hit List are most popular. Two questions:

1. Is anyone using the above Mac apps for managing academic workloads?

2. What are Windows and Linux users using?

Thanks for your suggestions and comments!

P.S. There are academic discounts for OmniFocus and Things.

Jeff Horn

Nov 9, 2009, 12:36:50 AM11/9/09
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I use TaskPaper. The other programs you mention were far too complex
and structured for how my brain works. I find a mix of tools is
complementary to the economic brain at least.

Something high-level to organize tasks, like a calendar, goal tracking
programs, and simple text notes fully searchable and the perfect size
for archiving. Good for the creative process when aided by computer
search. For projects and task lists, TaskPaper is the perfect tool for
me. That part is good for my linear brain.

Sometimes, if it feels right, each project gets its own TaskPaper
file, stuffed in the project folder. Then, I work on whatever I feel
like working on. Works for academia as I've experienced it so far.
Reminds me of Twyla Tharp's creative boxes.


As always, your mileage may vary. I've tried nearly every Mac to-do
application there is. I still enjoy trying new software, but in the
process I've learned what works for me. I only hope that it happens
faster for you than it did for me.

Best wishes,

PS - I'm pretty sure TaskPaper has a discount for academics. But it's
already priced at $25, so it may only be a few dollars off. If you're
looking for a free and open source alternative, may I suggest either
Beeswax or Org-mode for Emacs? When I was on Windows, I was very
partial to Tudomo. When I moved to a Mac, TaskPaper was a natural
replacement since it works much the same way.
Jeffrey Horn
PhD Student in Economics
George Mason University

(704) 271-4797

Gabi Danon

Nov 9, 2009, 12:52:14 AM11/9/09
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To answer your 2nd question- I'm using org-mode on Linux:
and would probably use it on any other OS as well.

Unlike other task managers that I've tried, org-mode is extremely
flexible- the kind of data that you enter into it is really up to you.
Since it's basically working within a text editor (emacs), your
org-mode files are just large, structured, text files (and not
collections of predefined fields)- which makes it very easy to work
with large amounts of textual information.

Of course, emacs takes a non-trivial effort to learn; in my case, I
decided it's worth the effort after playing with org-mode, and now I
actually use emacs as my main text editor for almost everything.


Emre Akbas

Nov 9, 2009, 1:00:32 AM11/9/09
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I use Gmail's Tasks plugin and a word document at Google Docs. 

stephen zhu

Nov 9, 2009, 8:47:59 AM11/9/09
to the-efficie...@googlegroups.com
base on Twitter, http://twitdone.com may be a good choice. 


Skype: stephen0928

Bill Harris

Nov 9, 2009, 8:59:05 AM11/9/09
to the-efficie...@googlegroups.com
Gabi Danon <gabi...@gmail.com> writes:

> To answer your 2nd question- I'm using org-mode on Linux:
> http://orgmode.org/
> and would probably use it on any other OS as well.

I've used org-mode on Emacs, and I like it quite a bit. I'm not using
it this year, but I wonder if I should.

BTW, I've been using Emacs since 1986 or thereabouts, and it's the most
effective way I've found to create and organize words on a computer. It
has a built-in tutorial and good, built-in help; I've not found it hard
to learn.

What I really like for organizing work (or most anything) is Lotus
Agenda. I still use it, but it is a bit hard to get stuff into and out
of old DOS apps.

Bill Harris http://facilitatedsystems.com/weblog/
Facilitated Systems Everett, WA 98208 USA
http://facilitatedsystems.com/ phone: +1 425 374-1845

Jeff Horn

Nov 9, 2009, 10:25:14 AM11/9/09
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> What I really like for organizing work (or most anything) is Lotus
> Agenda.  I still use it, but it is a bit hard to get stuff into and out
> of old DOS apps.

I use the DosBox emulator to play with Agenda. I never had the time to
learn how to use it well, but Org-mode seemed like a suitable

Also, Beeswax (mentioned earlier) attempts to re-create the Agenda
feel/functionality in a shell environment.


Task Warrior is also shell-based. Have a look at the interface for the
next version (seems Agenda-like).


And finally, the infamous todo.sh shell script.




Nov 8, 2009, 11:21:37 PM11/8/09
to The Efficient Academic
About a year ago, I tried Things for a few weeks, and I liked it very
much at first — it was my first task manager program. But a few things
annoyed me — the main one, if I recall correctly, was the
impossibility to create subprojects. Most of my projects are made of
sub- (and subsub-) projects. Also, I didn't like how tags mixed what I
wanted to be different categories (context, priority, time, etc.) And
I think I had trouble with the way it dealt with dates (repeating
tasks and due dates, I think there were sometimes mistakes and I had
to correct them quite often).

So I tried a few others, and I quickly adopted OmniFocus. I like that,
unlike Things' tags, it clearly distinguishes context from other
categories, for example. And you can create as many sublevels to a
project as you want. More than a year later, I'm still completely
relying on it for all my to-dos, and it's one of the few apps for
which I paid.


Michael P.

Nov 9, 2009, 2:08:19 PM11/9/09
to The Efficient Academic
I recently purchased ($13) Check Off from http://www.secondgearsoftware.com/checkoff/
. It is a very basic task manager program which is another option.

Lalit Ramchandani

Nov 9, 2009, 4:53:32 PM11/9/09
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I use Natara Software's Bonsai - an outliner program to place all my projects there (based on GTD philosophy - anything that requires more than one action step and takes more than 2 minutes).

I organize the next actions of the projects based on contexts and use the filter to view contexts wherever I am at. 

Outlook functions as a calendar with day specific information entered as tasks. This morning I just finished entering the due dates for my bills :-)) which I've found works better on a calendar than as a reoccuring task because often my day goes on without having a chance to look at my tasks list in Outlook.

Lalit "Lit" Ramchandani
Master of Accounting Student

Graduate Assistant
School of Economic Development
Georgia Southern University


Nov 9, 2009, 5:18:21 PM11/9/09
to The Efficient Academic
Hi, I have tried Omnioutliner, Things, iGTD and more recently
doit.im .

But about 6 months ago I have started using emacs with orgmode in a
dropbox fodler (http://www.getdropbox.com).
It turns out to be a very good solution for me:

1) I use linux and osx and I have computers at work and at home. So I
have emacs and dropbox installed on all
of them. This way the files are always synchronized and I can quickly
edit them from anywhere.
2) I am doing a phd and orgmode is the only GTD application that lets
me write math equations within the notes (xemacs even has inline latex
previews). You can also use bibtex and export to pdf or latex.
3) Org mode has a tone of very useful features: Remember, time
tracking, tagging, TODO system, and more importantly hierarchies.
4) Combined with dropbox, you can even share some org files with
friends. Since orgmode is textbased I also want to look at how to use
svn or bazaar with it.



On Nov 9, 7:08 pm, "Michael P." <mpitkow...@gmail.com> wrote:
> I recently purchased ($13) Check Off fromhttp://www.secondgearsoftware.com/checkoff/

John Vining

Nov 9, 2009, 6:47:58 PM11/9/09
to The Efficient Academic
I use something sort of like what is outlined here:

It's in gmail, using multiple inboxes and a lot of labels. I use
labels instead of superstars. I have one for each context, and I star
message which still needs something from me. The labels tell me what
it is the message needs from me, and the "quick links" allows me to
look for context-specific tasks, e.g. is:starred label:computer will
bring up my computer tasks. This also means I use a lot of filters.
So, if I send a message to johnvinin...@gmail.com, it will
automatically mark it as computer, star it, and take it out of the
inbox. It works well for me, and it's multi-platform.


Lalit Ramchandani

Nov 9, 2009, 8:16:28 PM11/9/09
to the-efficie...@googlegroups.com
To add to my previous email I was using GTDInbox (soon going to be called something else) for my online emails that become projects. The downside is I am using two project mgmt. systems 1 being Bonsai, the other being GTDInbox....Soon going to bring them in together.

P.S.: I am on Windows PC

Frank Niessink

Nov 10, 2009, 3:49:09 PM11/10/09
to the-efficie...@googlegroups.com
Hi Eric,

2009/11/9 Eric Durbrow <dur...@gmail.com>:

> 2. What are Windows and Linux users using?

I can recommend Task Coach (http://www.taskcoach.org), which is an
open source and free task manager for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and
iPhone/iPod Touch. It supports hierarchical tasks and categories,
notes, and effort tracking. It's aimed at people that need more than a
simple list of todo's but less than a full-blown project management
tool. Full disclosure: I'm the lead developer for Task Coach.

Regards, Frank

Bill Harris

Nov 11, 2009, 2:00:06 PM11/11/09
to the-efficie...@googlegroups.com
Eric Durbrow <dur...@gmail.com> writes:

> I have been reconsidering task managers for managing research,
> writing, and courses. On the Mac, it seems OmniFocus, Things, and The
> Hit List are most popular. Two questions:

Perhaps I should note that I've tried several automated tools, including
several in Emacs (org-mode and diary, and I now see that Emacs gnus has
nndiary [I do everything else in Emacs and Gnus; why not manage tasks?])
and Partners Planner inside Lotus Agenda , but I've been happily using
my Hipster PDA for the last 9 months.

Geekier students give me knowing looks when they see it.

Dave Gifford

Dec 23, 2009, 10:34:13 AM12/23/09
to The Efficient Academic
Try my TiddlyDu3 personal organizer and NoteStorm to taking and
indexing notes: http://www.giffmex.org/tw/tiddlywikicentral.html

They are free and you may download as many copies as you wish. They
are for use in web browsers, though IE requires some tweaking to get
them to work right.


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