Raven’s favorite project management tools
There’s anal, super anal and OCD anal. Raven has all three types of planners on its team.
Although our development team sticks with Raven partner Basecamp for select projects and OmniPlan for Gantt charts, we marketing and product dreamers can’t commit. Finding “the next best thing” is in our blood (and our job descriptions), and lately we have tested a variety of project management and to-do list tools.
We have a few basic requirements. We need a Mac-compatible desktop app, a complete iPhone/iPad app complement and, ideally, a solid Android app.
Formats: Online / Desktop / iPhone/iPad app / Print products
Details: Action Method was created by Behance, a company that touts its “products and tools for creative professionals.” Each team member has the flexibility to create projects, “action steps,” discussions and more. You can share an entire project with or delegate an action step to another team member.
Action Method also has areas for “Backburners” (ideas you want to follow up on, but not anytime soon), “Discussions” (messaging threads between colleagues organized by project) and “Resources” (where you can upload files that pertain to a project, if you’re signed up for Premium account). Frankly, we tried to use these sections a few times before reverting to email/IM for faster, simpler communication and DropBox for document storage. And is there any such thing as a backburner idea at Raven? At the rate we implement new features, I think not.
Tour: There’s a comprehensive tour of Action Method on their website. There’s one feature that I liked that’s not highlighted on the tour. With one click, people can print a list of all of the action steps you need to complete. And speaking of paper lists, Behance just partnered with Levenger to create an Action Circa notebook, which combines the best of two great products.
Cost: Action Method offers two plans: Introductory and Premium. The Introductory plan is basically a free trial; you can create 50 free action steps before you’re prompted to begin paying for the service. The Premium plan is $12 or $99 for one year, and you get unlimited projects, action steps, backburners, discussions and events, and you can upload up to 2 gigabytes of files and attachments per user per month.
Bottom line: This was the first team-based project management tool our marketing team tried. Three of us liked it enough to pay for it for about six months. Eventually, we gave it up because we found we never used more of the tool that the basic to-do list functions.
Formats: Online / Desktop / iPhone/iPad app / Android App
Details: Wunderlist is perfect for the minimalist who is just trying to stay organized, says Taylor Pratt, Raven’s vice president of product marketing. If you’re a white board/notepad type of project manager who is looking to take your lists anywhere—and I do mean anywhere, with all of the online, desktop and app options—you’ll want to check out Wunderlist.
Wunderlist has little to no learning curve. Normally, you’d spend a good chunk of your time trying to understand all of the little features of a to-do list app that you’d probably never use. Wunderlist decided to instead focus on the core features you need and present it in a crisp, elegant UI. You can categorize your to-do list, set due dates, invite team members to view your list (or share them on Facebook or Twitter) and prioritize tasks. What more do you really need from a to-do list app?
Tour: Wunderlist doesn’t offer much in the way of the tour, and they don’t need to. It’s that simple.
Cost: Free. You can set up an account to sync your tasks across multiple devices at no cost.
Bottom line: Wunderlist is free, easy to use, comprehensive and pretty. Taylor is someone who stubbornly used a notepad and whiteboard to manage tasks, but Wunderlist was an easy transition that he wishes he had made sooner.
Remember the Milk
Formats: Gmail / Google Calendar / Outlook / Blackberry / iPhone/iPad / Android / Online
Details: Often hailed as the best to-do list on the market (frequently by Lifehacker), Remember The Milk (RTM) is one of the easiest to-do lists to access. It integrates smoothly with Gmail, Google Calendar and Outlook. It syncs perfectly with your mobile device, and the UI is minimal with no sacrifice to functionality.
What’s nice about RTM is that it syncs with Outlook and Google Calendar. It’s surprising how few apps have that functionality (something we think is an important feature). You can also share your to-do lists with contacts you add to the system, subscribe to them and even email tasks to RTM.
Tour: RTM has a comprehensive tour that covers their best features. What they don’t highlight is that there are third parties who are pulling in RTM‘s API to integrate it into their own tools. A very cool feature.
Cost: RTM offers both a free and Pro account. The Pro account gives you access to better apps, additional features and priority support. It only costs $25/year, which as they point out, is only about $2 a month.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for more of an advanced project management system with a minimalist design, RTM is a good choice for you. We wish they had a desktop client and that collaboration options was improved, but all in all, it is a very solid and reliable app that is receives a lot of attention from their developers.
Formats: Online / Desktop / iPhone/iPad app / Android App
Details: Jon Henshaw, Raven’s director of product innovation, loves Evernote so much that he wrote all about it recently: “Evernote is my Everything.” Check out his post for details on all the ways you can use the software for project management and to-do lists, plus a several other features you probably didn’t know about if you already use Evernote.
Tour: Evernote has several device- and operating system-specific videos that give you an overview. Also, their Getting Started with Evernote guide is simple—though you’ll want to be sure to dig deep into the tool later to get the most out of it.
Cost: Evernote offers a free and Premium account. The Premium account is $45 per year (or about $5 per month), and it offers more storage space, PDF search, offline notebook usage and faster support.
Bottom line: When Jon’s in love with software, it’s worth checking out. He’s usually fickle, but he has no desire to break up with Evernote.
Format: Online / iPhone/iPad app (edit only) / Android app
Details: Google Docs is Google’s way of filling basic office document software needs (and by office I mean Office). You can create simple documents, spreadsheets, presentations or forms, and it’s simple to grant editing or read-only access to a file or a collection of files with others who have Google accounts. Raven uses Google Docs primarily to store documents that need editing by more than one person—we create them first elsewhere and then save them to Google Docs for sharing. A simple cut-and-paste job usually does the trick, although Google Docs allows you to upload .html .txt, .odt, .rtf, and Microsoft Word files.
“Comments” make Google Docs particularly useful for teams. Person A can add a comment to any document, which might include a to-do action for Person B. Person B can read the comment and click “Resolve” after they have taken the action. Person A gets an email that Person B finished their work. Also, you can also see, real-time, when someone with edit access to a document is writing or copying text.
Cost: Free. All you need is a Google account.
Bottom line: It’s free and simple and easy to access from any computer and most mobile devices. Its collaboration features are nice. And although it’s not billed as a project management tool, it is what Raven used—dev, support and marketing team members—to manage to-do lists for Raven’s new Unity user interface and website redesign projects. For heavy-duty spreadsheets or well-designed presentations, there’s no beating the Microsoft Office suite (or even Pages, Numbers and Keynote), but Google Docs is great for managing raw content across a team.
Formats: Online / Desktop / iPhone/iPad apps by third parties / Android app
Details: Todoist is my favorite project management and listmaking app. Its simple design and search filter options are reminiscent of Google apps, and the drag-and-drop functions make it extremely easy to organize workflow online or with the Mac desktop program.
In Todoist, you create projects and add tasks within them. Then you can assign priorities, create sub-projects, reorder your tasks or projects, email tasks to a project, check off what’s finished or print a list. Completed tasks are stored for reference later. Todoist’s Google Calendar integration is handy, too. If you sync your accounts, any Todoist task that you assign a date and time will show up in your Google Calendar.
The brains behind Todoist also created Wedoist, designed for teams. It needs a lot more love from the Todoist team before we’re ready to try it in a group setting.
Tour: Todoist created a short yet complete screencast video to show you the highlights of the tool. You’ll quickly see how simple it is to use.
Cost: $3 per month for a Premium account.
Bottom line: For individual task management, Todoist gets rave reviews from me—I’m telling everyone I know about it. I love that my Todoist tasks can be integrated with my Google Calendar, which everyone at Raven uses. There are Firefox and Chrome extensions/toolbars for to-do listmaking on the fly. And though the Android app is only so-so, at least I can review what I’m supposed to do at work the next day before I go to bed at night. That way I can dream up more great ideas to put on a to-do list while I sleep.