Review: Remember the Milk
In this new age of web apps, the web-based to-do list manager has pretty much become a punch-line among developers. That said, today I’d like to talk about one I feel stands apart: Remember the Milk.
It was a little less than a year ago when I started looking for ways to use my computer to organize my life. It began with using a spreadsheet for the monthly budget and soon, I wanted something for handling the to-do list.
I researched the many, many options available and decided to give Remember the Milk a shot (probably because it seemed so quirky compared to the stiffness I felt looking at the others.)
When you first sign-up, you’re presented with four lists to put tasks in: Work, Personal, Inbox and Sent. The first two are self-explanatory, whereas Inbox is where tasks that you e-mail to yourself go before you categorize them. Sent is for tasks you delegated to other RTM users. A nice and clean organization system, in my opinion. You can also add your own lists (I keep a separate one for Articles and will also give larger features with a lot of interviews to conduct their own list.)
When I start using Remember the Milk, it was already pretty feature packed: A nice Ajax interface (complete with keyboard shot cuts), text-message and e-mail reminders of due dates and mobile access for any web-enable cell phone.
The latter part was a big selling point for me. In my first week of using RTM, I put in a “Mail package” task and in the notes section, typed in the address. Next day while at the post office, I just had to pull out my cell phone to see the address, mail the package and then mark the task completed.
This was a while ago. Since then, the Australian development team (which apparently includes a stuffed monkey) have added many more including one killer feature I’ll address briefly.
Integration with Google Calendar was added, which fixes GCal’s sad lack of task list. Once you add Remember the Milk to Google Calendar, you get a blue check-mark above all the dates. Clicking on this pulls up a list of tasks for that day, plus a spot to add new ones directly.
Then the ability to add tasks via Twitter was added. Though, I’ll admit I haven’t really played with this feature.
However, the feature that really pushes Remember the Milk over the top came in early December when they released a Firefox extension that adds a to-do list directly to Gmail. For me, who always has Gmail open in a separate tab this was amazing.
The extension (powered by Greasemonkey) adds a task box that looks like any other part of Gmail keeping your tasks in front of you with your e-mail, essentially turning Google’s web interface into Outlook.
Gettings Things Done
For fans of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, implementation in Remember the Milk is pretty simple. Create a separate list for each project and add the actions to it. The tagging feature allows you to add the contexts like @computer and @phone. Plus, the Sent list is already there for delegated tasks.
Everything I’ve talked about so far is available for free, but there is a premium membership available for $25 per year. Right now the only premium features are an iPhone/iPod Touch specific interface and syncing with Windows Mobile PDAs.
Right now I’m a free member, but I’ll upgrade the second they add syncing to my Blackberry’s task list.
I know, I’ve pretty much been raving so far, but nothing is perfect, so here are a few areas I feel Remember the Milks falls short.
First off, the mobile interface I mentioned earlier is a little on the clunky side when used on a regular WAP cell phone. You have to click through too many pages to do anything, which is not cool when your cell phone provider chargers you per page downloaded. It is much better on my PDA, which can handle drop-down menus properly.
While I adore the Gmail task list, it was really buggy when it was released. They got fixed quickly but there’s one thing I find very annoying. If you hide the box, the arrow you need to click on to make it re-appear is tiny. Even after asking on the forum why my task list had disappeared and being told to look for the arrow, it took me a while to find it.
Finally, I don’t like the counter that shows how often I’ve postponed a task. It looks like a “slack-o-meter”, there to taunt me and remind me that I’m procrastinating. But I think that complaint is probably unique to me.
Out of all the web-apps I’ve tinkered with in the past year, Remember the Milk is the only one that’s really stuck (assuming you don’t count web-based e-mail.) It’s also the only method of task management that’s really become ingrained in my routine.
Admittedly, when I first signed-up, I used it off and on but now that it’s in my face all the time thanks to the Gmail extension, it gets used pretty much everyday…even if it the daily use is only postponing actions.