The Chandler Project has a long history: it was started up in 2002, with backing from Mitch Kapor, as an attempt to create a cutting-edge PIM application. Over the years, the project became the butt of jokes for its inability to actually ship anything, and earlier this year Kapor pulled his backing. Thus I was quite surprised to run across the announcement, late last week, that Chandler 1.0 had actually shipped.
And you know what? It’s not bad software (though it doesn’t fulfill the original grandiose plans). The easiest pigeonhole to put Chandler into is “to-do list manager”; they call it a “note-to-self organizer.” If you take the time to download and play around with it (builds are available for Windows, Linux, and various flavors of OS X) you might even find that you like it.
The main unit of information in Chandler is the note; you can create new notes just by typing in the quick entry bar (you can also import .ics format calendars, or sync data with other applications in a variety of ways). Notes can have alarms and deadlines, and you sort them into “Now,” “Later,” and “Done” just by dragging them around. You can also create as many collections (like buckets or tags) for notes as you like (such as “Work” or “Home”) and assign notes to multiple collections with drag and drop. A single click will focus on one set of notes, so switching contexts if you’re into GTD-style management is trivial. In addition to the list-of-notes view, there’s also a calendar view that is similarly flexible.
You can also sign up with the free Chandler Hub to create an online version of your Chandler data. It’s simple to sync your local copy with the hub, giving you web availability of your data as well as offsite backup. Don’t trust their hub? No problem; like the rest of Chandler it’s open source and you can download a copy and run your own hub if you prefer. Once your data is on a hub, you can also sync it with iCal, Google, or other applications that support CalDAV. You can also use the hub to keep multiple copies of the desktop application synchronized. You even get URLs to allow other people either view-only or view-and-edit access to your data, restricted by collection.
Chandler also includes email integration; you can connect it to an IMAP server and manage the data by placing messages into special folders, or you can send notes and events via email.
I am finding a few rough spots in the 1.0 release, as you’d expect even after half a decade of development. The UI, though clean enough, ignores some of the native OS X conventions (a common issue with cross-platform applications). The outgoing email integration doesn’t seem to be working for me either. But on the whole, I like what I see here. I’m not sure I’ll be sticking with it, but the notion of easily synchronized tasks-anywhere with a desktop component attracts me.