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Remember The Milk

 

It’s hard to work in the GTD (Getting Things Done) world and not at least HEAR of “Remember The Milk”. As one of the leading Web/GTD software products available, Remember the Milk (RTM) has an unrestrained community spanning the globe. Applications for RTM include the iPhone, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and all major operating systems. Before examining RTM, I had three questions in my mind: What makes it so popular? How well does it support GTD and TRO (Total, Relaxed Organization)? What does “Remember the Milk” mean?

Although I never did find out why they call it “Remember the Milk”, I did find the answer to my other two questions. So, after being subjected to a slew of tests, configurations, and enduring a great deal of poking and prodding, RTM has now been officially reviewed by The Resident Geek.

First Glance

The first thing I noticed when I started was how easy it is to get an account. I mean, how much easier does it get? Put a few lines of info in, press a button, and wham! Instant task list. The great part? It’s free! There is a pro account that can be purchased for $25 a year. This Pro account (besides making RTM mascot “Bob the Monkey” happy) gives premium email support for RTM plus the applications for the iPhone, Blackberry, and Pocket PC.
What does RTM support? Multiple tags for each task, priorities, due dates, recurring tasks, reminders and even a contact list.

User Interface

[rating:4.5/5]

Top Marks for design. It’s clean and fairly easy to navigate. I did get stuck several time trying to get to a specific view but it’s a great improvement over many interfaces I’ve seen.
What I like:

  1. The look and feel
  2. Easy editing of any task
  3. Searching is really easy

What I didn’t Like:

  1. Creating a task involves clicking on a button EVERY time.
  2. No way to highlight a task. You can only check the mark next to one. (Makes editing a selection confusing.)
  3. Checking multiple tasks does NOT let you edit them all together. You can only apply a given action.
  4. No default way to view all tasks with a given tag. You have to enter the Overview and click it, or create a new “Smart List.”

Fortunately, RTM has a list of hotkeys that can be used to better utilize the application’s functionality with minimal inconvenience. This list can be viewed at RTM’s Hotkey Reference.

All in all, it’s a great design. Pending the issues I mentioned, I’d give it a five star rating. Great work!

Features

[rating:5/5]

I’ve rarely seen an app so jam packed full of features. Some of the most notable include:

  1. Get your tasks each morning in a text message to your phone no matter where you are
  2. Sync with Google Maps to know exactly where you need to go for your tasks
  3. Manage your online tasks even when you’re offline (w/ Google Gears)
  4. Email your tasks to your RTM account
  5. Add tasks by calling 1-866-JOTT-123! (This was a big plus)

I really wish you could attach documents and other files to your tasks, but they don’t seem to support this. I guess this is something to keep our fingers crossed for.
All in all, I was very impressed by the features available for RTM. This is definitely my top online GTD app at the moment.

Compatibility

[rating:5/5]

Wow! RTM seems to sync with everything! Gmail, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and others. Although it doesn’t directly sync with iCal, you can subscribe to your RTM task list essentially achieving the same thing.
You can view your tasks from a slew of places. A mobile web version of RTM is available at http://m.rememberthemilk.com. Numerous applications for all kinds of platforms have been made to sync with RTM. Your phone, instant messenger, and Twitter account suddenly become virtual eyeballs for your task list.
By far one of the more compatible applications I’ve seen. My only big qualm is it’s inability to sync natively with Outlook and Entourage. (Entourage can sync with iCal which can subscribe to RTM and Outlook can sync through a mobile device that’s syncing with RTM but a “middleman” means middle problems.)

GTD and TRO Compliance

[rating:4/5]

You have to get a little creative to use RTM for GTD and TRO, but it does work. Although things don’t appear in the usual way, it works decently and conveniently for TRO as well as basic GTD.
Here is what to keep in mind when using RTM:

  1. “Lists” are not categories. They are projects. Use “Lists” to group your tasks together into a single project
  2. Use “tags” for your tasks’ categories, not lists. It’s frustrating to view your tasks by a specific tag but you can set up a new “SmartList” by searching for all tasks with your specific tag and then saving the search as a new SmartList. (Your tags also show up on your Overview Page.)
  3. For TRO, use the Due Date as your “Hard Reminder” Date and to set items as “Due Today”. Use Priorities for loose goal dates. (1=This Week, 2=This Month, 3=S/M)
  4. You can also set up a “SmartList” that will look for all your unprocessed items using this text as a search: ((priority:none OR due:never) OR (isTagged:false)) AND status:incomplete

The rest of RTM works beautifully with TRO and GTD. After a few hours, your don’t notice the complications. They’re minor issues that are easily worked around.
Does RTM support GTD and TRO? Yes!

Overall

[rating:overall]

RTM is an excellent tool for geeks and n00bs alike. It works well with almost all systems. It supports GTD and TRO principles and allows a flexible and dynamic interface to accommodate even the pickiest of organizers. This application receives high marks as a web based application. My hat goes off to the RTM team.

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Filed under: Software Reviews,Web — Tags: , — Kevin Crenshaw @ 1:11 pm

7 Comments »

  1. regarding your complaints on user interface:

    Most of the issues you cite are available through keyboard shortcuts:

    * ‘t’ will create a new task in the current view (if you’re in a smart list, the task will automatically get the smart list criteria)
    * ‘m’ will turn on multi-edit: you can select multiple tasks and then add tags, change the due date, etc.

    I’m not sure what you mean about not being able to view tasks with a given tag: there’s a box in the right-hand column that lets you click tags and bring up a search for each one.

    Comment by V — 2 May 2008 @ 2:59 pm

  2. Don’t get me wrong, RTM is an excellent product. There are just a few issues I have with the interface.

    1. Hotkeys take time to learn. Most people don’t want to spend what little time they have to learn them. I’m a geek and use hotkeys all the time but most GTD and TRO users aren’t Geeks. They’re average people trying to get the most out of their time. Hotkeys do NOT make an application intuitive, they only make things more accessible IF you already know it’s there.

    2. I’m referring to a list of tags that can be selected to view the items tagged as such. I’m aware of the box on the overview page showing tags and lists in it but the alternating size text and unsorted view make it difficult to find your tasks categorized as “Errand” if you have 50 categories.

    Thank you for your feedback. I’ll add the reference to the hotkeys in the article.

    Comment by Resident Geek — 2 May 2008 @ 5:47 pm

  3. It’s probably called “Remember the Milk” because you can use it to remind yourself to get milk while you’re out. That was probably the idea anyway.

    I could also be a feeble attempt to eliminate bovine abuse in dairy parlors, but somehow I doubt that.

    Comment by Nate C. — 2 May 2008 @ 6:35 pm

  4. I’m assuming there’s a story behind the name. (Something other than abusive farmers.)

    Comment by Resident Geek — 3 May 2008 @ 7:16 am

  5. I believe the name comes from this statement.

    “It’s one thing to write down that you need milk; it’s another to be at the store and remember it.”

    This statement is on page 45 of paperback version of GTD.

    Comment by remnant — 14 May 2008 @ 12:27 pm

  6. That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the comment remnant!

    Comment by Resident Geek — 14 May 2008 @ 10:13 pm

  7. Though admittedly accessible only through a Firefox Greasemonkey plugin and script (thus likely not very accessible to non-tech GTD users), the following discussion adds a lot to the organization of tags into project/context groups.

    http://www.rememberthemilk.com/forums/tips/2943/

    Comment by Chris Clearfield — 9 August 2008 @ 8:31 pm

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