What I Use, and Why I Use It – SpeedTask

One thing I’ve noticed while cruising around the internet and the “personal tech” of Patrick Rhone, Shawn Blanc, and Ben Brooks is their common obsession.  Anyone who reads them regularly or follows them on twitter knows what I’m talking about. Omnifocus.  Now, I’ve never used the program, but it must be a pretty wonderful application to get so much free press.  Unfortunately, I’m a college student.  The high prices of all three versions (iPhone, iPad, Mac) put it safely out of reach of my finances for years to come.  So, I’ve decided to put together a series detailing my personal system for getting things done.  I mean that phrase in the loosest sense possible, since the GTD system has always been far too complicated for me.

First in my arsenal is SpeedTask.  I’ve never found a better app for quick and bare bones task entry and I’m surprised more people don’t use it.  When a prof writes a homework assignment down, I can whip out my iPod and record it in no time.  No folders, no due dates.  Until the last version, there weren’t even push notification reminders.  Just a way to record everything I need to do for the day.

The interface of SpeedTask is simple and familiar to anyone.  As far as I’m concerned, skeuomorphic apps are beautiful, and this one is no exception.  Sure, it’s overdesigned and busy, but I intuitively understand the clutter.  No one keeps a bulletin board perfectly clean anyway.  The box at the top allows for immediate text entry (in your choice of font, for all you who hate Marker Felt), and you can check off tasks by tapping in the box.  I’ve yet to find a more satisfying graphic than the red “DONE” that stamps your task when it’s complete. 

If you tap anywhere outside of the box, you access the settings for each task, which include a reminder and moving the due date forward or back one day.  Here’s where the UI starts to fall apart.  You see those tiny pickers to choose your time?  As you might think, they’re a pain to scroll, and they’re also in 24 hour time.  Not a big deal, but setting an alarm for 15:27 bugs me for some reason.  I don’t see why they couldn’t add a larger picker with all that space in the lower half and make notifications that much easier.

SpeedTask also includes a free cloud syncing option of questionable utility, but it’s there nonetheless.  You get a website to enter and view tasks, and it syncs to iCal (albeit as all-day events, not tasks.)  The real problem results when you enter an area with no internet.  On an iPod Touch, this is not an uncommon situation.  If you have syncing set up, the app just crashes helplessly while trying to connect.

So there you have it.  SpeedTask has earned its go-to spot in my list for one real reason.  It’s buggy and inefficient for entering complex lists, but it’s fast above all.  It looks nice, and it does what I need better than any other app out there.  But don’t worry, I have other ways to ensure I get my work done each day.