is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
For months now, I’ve been using the superb Kinkless Getting Things Done system to manage my to do lists. I like it a lot. It’s a beautiful hack of the excellent-in-its-own-right OmniOutliner Professional that uses ingenuity and a healthy dose of AppleScript to turn that program into a fairly robust expression of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” philosophy of personal time management.
Yet it’s still a hack. Ethan J. A. Schoonover, the author of what᾿s commonly abbreviated as “kGTD,” has done a tremendous job of turning OmniOutliner into a malleable repository for categorizing and manipulating reminders and to do items. As good as it is though, I’m rarely able to forget its limitations when I’m using it; the fact that OmniOutliner Pro wasn’t conceived from the ground up to handle this kind of data and the way users interact with it is often too easy to see.
All I Want Is a Database and a Whole Lot of Cocoa
What it needs, more than anything, is a true database running behind it. Without that, there’s the unsightly reality of an essentially disconnected series of flat file lists; mark a task complete in one area, and it remains unmarked in another unless you synchronize the file. And believe me, I have to deal with script-powered syncing enough to know that I need as little of it as I can manage in my life. The lack of instant coordination across all the various ‘views’ of my to do list is less than ideal. And occasionally kGTD will mark completed tasks as incomplete all over again, which is confusing and disorienting.
It surprises me, actually, that no one is working on a proper, Cocoa-authored desktop application that is a fully-fledged, elegant version of kGTD. Schoonover has done such a remarkable with this solution that no further imagination is necessary in crafting an interaction model for a truly purpose-built version of the same functionality; just make it work like kGTD and hook up a database to the back-end of it, is what I’m saying. If there ever was low-hanging fruit in the market for productivity software, this would seem to be it.+