Say Hi to Doris, Your Task Management Assistant

26 Comments

A while ago, I wrote about Planzone, a collaborative project management app, and how it allowed me to organize and manage all the pieces and players of two major projects I have going on. I have the free plan, which includes two projects. But I also needed something that would help me manage my most chaotic project (the one called “My Life”) and keep track of everything else: a to-do list for an upcoming trip, personal and professional side projects, those brilliant ideas…I know you know what I’m talking about! All the things that float around in your brain, coming and going whenever they please, popping back into your head at 2 a.m. or, when you’re in the shower, which is really not helpful.

dorislogoJust when I needed her most, along came Doris, a free, web-based task management app developed by Seagull Systems originally for their internal use. (Disclosure: Seagull Systems has done development work for one of my projects.) Doris, their personal assistant, turned out to be so helpful that they dressed her up, in the form of a nice UI, and decided to let her help the rest of us get organized, too.

I’ve tried several task management apps and never found one that was quite right. Producteev is a very nice option, but it has more features than I need. Remember the Milk never did anything for me, though many swear by it. I’ve even tried digital Post-its for my desktop. (Don’t go there. They’re cumbersome, harder to deal with than paper Post-its, and very slow to load.)

I was most struck by the simplicity of Doris. I have little time or patience for steep learning curves, and there is literally none with this app.

Once you create an account (just two fields), the first thing you’ll want to do is create groups (one click) for your to-dos. I created one of for WWD article ideas, and one for side projects, among others.

dorisshot12

There is no need to set due dates or priorities. Nothing else is required beyond creating groups and adding tasks. You place groups in any order on the page by dragging them. Within a group, you can drag tasks up or down in the list, and you can drag tasks from one group to another.

How does this help you get things done? You simply check your Doris page every day and drag urgent items from their group into the “Today” group. Then you check them off when they’re done and they go into your “History.” There’s a “Tomorrow” group by default, but you could also create groups for next week, next month; whatever you need.

I really wanted simplicity, and that’s what Doris offers.

Doris is still in beta. I provided my feedback right away and said that I would like to be able to collapse groups individually. They responded by saying you can already do that, just by clicking on the group name, and that they’ll be sure to make that more clear. Seagull Systems are constantly improving the app, so do share your feedback: it could have a real impact.

She’s currently available in English and Russian but, pretty soon, approved translators will be able to log in and translate the whole app in 20 minutes or so via a GUI. In the near future, you’ll be able to share tasks with contacts and set Doris up to send you e-mail status reports if you want them. And you’ll soon be able to synch Doris with your iPhone. Look for her in the app store any day now!

Have you tried Doris?Are there other task management apps that work for you?


26 Comments

Neosix

Doris is really great service. But every time I want to see my tasks, I have to go to web site. For me this is not practical. So I use desktop application “VIP team todo list”, and it’s great.

techandlife

I’d like to thank Demian at Doris for quickly sorting out the password issue with the program. I’m now fully password protected.

harryche2008

@demianturner Goalsontrack has a report page that can show exactly that kind of graph. It can show the amount of time you spent on goals, or different categories.

demianturner

@harryche2008 this is a very interesting point. We very much intend for Doris to be able to track and manage *meaningful* information. We believe the history page a good start for being able to review what you got done during a specific week, but I’d be more interested in graphs that gave feedback like, “in march, 30% of your time was spent in work-related activities, 20% with cultural stuff”, etc. If this info is not meaningful I agree it’s pointless.

harryche2008

Pamela,

I think the thing about it is that many of us keep to-do lists and working on them, without knowing clearly what we have accomplished by completing all these tasks.

That’s the original idea about GoalsOnTrack, so that you work only on those tasks/to-dos that move you forward on your goals, otherwise todo lists or not don’t make much a difference.

demianturner

Hi again, I should have introduced myself, I’m Demian Turner and have been working together with Dmitri Lakachauskis to bring you Doris :-)

@techandlife : just to clarify, of course your Doris account is totally private – what happened is your ISP or spam service blocked the email that was sent to you with your generated password. No one else can see your TODO items or anything else related to your account.

If you want us to reset your password please get in touch: [email protected]

demianturner

Hi guys, sorry for slow response, here goes:

@techandlife – the forgot password functionality works fine, as does all emails sent out from our system, but it’s possible your ISP is blocking our mails or they got stuck in your spam folder. If you have probs re-logging in, please email [email protected] with your username and the password you want

@Ryan Duff we’re not going under anytime soon because we’re self-funded, no investors in the equation, and our only running costs are minimal hosting fees

@Leslie we’re keeping track of all requested features and will basically implement the most popular ones, time-permitting – stay posted and we’ll announce the requested features on our blog

@Joff – a feed is an interesting idea, we personally just keep the browser open due to the way the TODO data changes, RSS feed I think would be less useful, we’ll listen for more suggestions

techandlife

Pamela, Thanks for responding to my point on passwords. I understand from their blog that this will probably be in the release version:

We launched a password protected version of Doris today (Oct 1st 2008) to select members of the Seagull community. Pre-alph – please help us crush any critical bugs before we release!

It’s not really a problem for me – I don’t put anything sensitive up there.

Pamela Poole

Hi harryche2008. Interesting idea. I hadn’t seen to-dos plus a goal tracking feature. Potentially very useful. My problem is, and maybe other web workers have the same issue, that my priorities change incredibly fast and even sometimes just disappear. I rarely end a week with the same priorities or goals that I started it with. It can be exhausting, but it keeps things interesting, that’s for sure.

Pamela Poole

Hi teamriptide.

Toodledo looks nice too, especially if you need a few more features. It’s a good thing there are so many options, since we all have unique needs for workflow and organization!

Pamela Poole

Hi Joff.

I was using a very limited iGoogle to-do gadget too and was really happy to make the switch!

Pamela Poole

Hi Leslie.

Good idea! I hope some devs somewhere pick up on it.

Pamela Poole

Hi Ryan.

Since they haven’t put all their eggs in this one basket, and they’re a viable development company with clients in addition to their own projects, I think they’re a pretty safe bet!

Pamela Poole

Hi techandlife. Be sure to let them know if you have password issues! They’re very responsive.

teamriptide

I still like Toodledo for this type of task management, especially since they have a timer associated with the tasks. For collaboration, Basecamp is my choice, although Planzone seems interesting.

Leslie

I’m looking for a To-do ap that I can text my to-dos to (sms). Jott allows me to call. Google Calendar lets me text events. But I want to text to-dos. Any ideas?

Ryan Duff

Nice. Free utilities are great, but how long before they run out of cash and resources and go under like Sandy?

techandlife

Looks interesting. Nice and simple. I didn’t like Remember the Milk either so I signed up. Hope they can roll out the password facility soon.

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