omnifocus versus hiveminder: round one

The first thing I really had to do in order to start giving Hiveminder a try was to load in all my tasks from OmniFocus. This was a little tedious. Unluckily for me, I missed my bus home on Friday and had to kill four hours at the office, waiting for the next one. I used some of this time getting things loaded into Hiveminder and then cleaning up the data I’d loaded.

I had already created one or two tasks, and it was pretty easy. It became ridiculously easy, though, when I switched to using the AIM interface. Basically, I started to send messages to a contact in Adium saying things like “release new CPAN::Mini [perl CPAN::Mini]” and “write Oma a letter [due: tomorrow] [writing].” Every once in a while I’d commit my list of events and the bot would tell me what I’d just done so I could spot mistakes.

I said that I needed my entry method to be quick, require only one field, and allow some more. Hiveminder’s AIM bot (it speaks Jabber, too) was all of these things. It let me set more fields more easily than OmniFocus quick entry, and lacks only a global hotkey. I’m sure I can fix that with Quicksilver or something else.

I had a good dozen projects set up in OmniFocus. Hiveminder doesn’t really have a concept of projects, and I didn’t miss it at all. Tags were enough. I don’t need a project for App::Addex tasks, because I can just tag those things with “App::Addex.” There is a system for task dependencies, but I’ve barely used it so far. Right now, all my projects are just tagged tasks. Maybe later I’ll create ordering, but for now there was no need.

Once I was done with task entry, it was time to review my tasks and figure out which ones were actually on my agenda for the short term. I looked at doing this on the web, and it was immediately clear that the interface was about what I expected, but that it was going to be a real pain in the ass.

Of course, the bot does reviews, too. See, the AIM interface isn’t just for creating tasks, it’s a complete interface to quite a lot of the features of Hiveminder. I said “review” and we got to work. The bot showed me each task in my list and I hid it, scheduled it, or did whatever else I had to do. Forty minutes later, I was down to ten things to do on my list. Last night I did another review, which took much less time.

It’s hard to explain how good the AIM interface is. When a task came up in review I could say “hide until Thursday” or “due by tomorrow” or even “++” to set the task to a high priority. The bot is really fast.

Paul Fenwick made an excellent slidecast about Hiveminder that introduced me to a number of neat tricks.

So far, the todo view I get is just fine. I say “todo” and the bot lists task ids and descriptions. The web view is a bit more informative, but not much. I think I’d like some more information-rich reports, but for now I’m writing off those desires until I feel like I’m actually missing something by not having them. I am ever in favor of avoiding features that I only think I want.

I haven’t given much time to testing the existing offline methods, yet. That includes printing, saving to a text file (which can be edited and re-uploaded), syncing to iCal, or anything else. I’ll try those later in the week. The ability to get at tasks on the web or by AIM really means that I can get at my todo from anywhere that has a computer I can use. What really remains to be seen is how well I can prepare myself for working on my Hiveminder tasks while in the jungle.

I haven’t done much with any of the collaboration features, although I’ve got some ideas for doing so in a fun way. I’ll write a bit more about that once I’ve done it.

As things stand, I’m not sure whether OmniFocus has anything on Hiveminder. Its GUI is much, much faster than the Hiveminder web interface, but I don’t plan on using the web interface very often at all. Also, a very very fast interface to a significantly reduced set of features isn’t clearly all that valuable. The best place to compare them may end up being in my ability to build more software on top of them.

It might be a good test, except I think Hiveminder is likely to win by default. It has a real API with pre-published client libraries. OmniFocus has (ugh) AppleScript hooks.

Written on February 19, 2008
🏷 hiveminder
🏷 omnifocus
🌀 productivity
🏷 review