Don’t turn Agenda into a do-it-all app

@Tomeranaray

I hope very, very much that Agenda has learned lessons from decades of approaches by sophisticated companies with similar or exactly the same goals.

Please don’t fall in the various flavors of trap that IBM, Google, MSFT, others have had: Don’t aim for then brute force entrench folks to having to use your app for everything.

While it may be necessary, desirable, generous whatever to have bells and whistles and provide feature-adjacent capabilities - while you are a seminal product, basically pioneering a new category of app (sure, built on the shoulders of others before you, but that’s how we progress), if you take an approach that you are going to handle functions like calendaring, messaging, project management, etc. and aren’t willing to apply your clearly topnotch, creative, out-of-the-box minds to actively prioritize and enable ways to not just allow but empower people to take be able to work with other tools and so have an a la carte approach to best usage of Agenda - using it perhaps as their master hub for features X,Y and Z but using other tools in certain conditions for their own reasons rather than yours, you’ll just mediocre your way to AOL, MSFT, etc. Do-it-all apps are great for some, and it might be crippling or just suboptimal to many if you didn’t provide what you all consider to be a baseline set of capabilities, but if that’s ALL and ONLY what you provide and allow, that’s a mistake.

I’m making a worst case assumption, you guys may have no such thoughts. That approach comes at a cost to everyone and the overall effect is net negative.

Reality: Grunts like me still, in the 21st century, patchwork together efficient workflows

Real and Highly Plausible Use Case for Others:
I find I can best save time on email, for example, by separating the functions of writing the emails, presenting emails, processing emails, etc.

Fantastical has an awesome built-in feature for quickly converging on meeting times for groups of folks. Great experience for everyone. They crushed it. Well almost, they don’t allow old fashioned structured data (form filling whatever) they only allow you to use this feature using their “natural language” processing. No notation ability to just flat specify who’s invited, or any details. So I’m still wasting time trying to understand how to just phrase the “natural language” so that it sets up the parameters correctly - baffling to me. I am struggling to understand how to simply specify an email, a solved problem like from the 1950s or whatever, because they gate me at their “natural language” interface. So I have to deal with a garbled pre-filled email I then manually field-correct. Still worth the functionality. Then, as others have pointed out, they butcher the normal way of storing email with undocumented Airmail folders, etc. People found out when weird behaviors were (inevitably) found when using other email clients for your mail.

They are guaranteeing you will pay a punitive price if you ever migrate away. Anyway, digression sorry.

Anyway, when I want to create an email with that feature I’ll use Fantastical as the client to do the send. And it’s a calendar, not even an email client. Mail is lame but it’s the only client that matches gmail’s sophisticated boolean algebraic operations on incoming mail, which are critical to being able to start triggering behaviors to process the mail. I like Airmail so it’s my preferred reader of emails but there must be preprocessing by Mail.

I don’t send emails from Airmail because they’ve made the calculated decision to only make available email IDs using their proprietary URL Scheme. mail is one of the oldest URL schemes that exist. EVERYONE respects it. Pretending to participate as a good citizen, help promote data interoperability and usefulness, etc. - this is not climate change there is no debate - by giving you an Airmail URL Scheme ID is below them. They’re also great. Why stoop to cheap moves like that? That move only served to lock in people to their app with only negatives to users - certainly reflects what they care about. I send messages from any other client but airmail so I get that universal message ID, not some anti-identifier that degrades the ability for myself, my clients and just others generally to be able to have a direct universal link to an email.

Be excellent at your primary mission. You are the natural hub for spinoff needs like task management, etc. But while your app is awesome and you have placed yourself to possible must-have, do you really think I’m going to rely on you guys for my project management needs? Some might. But Things, etc. - you aren’t better and smarter and more capable than everyone in every aspect of workflow. I’m sure you guys aren’t delusional.

And I sure hope I’m safely assuming you all are comfortable with achieving great success based on excellence, not techniques like Airmail where you just make it a non-option for people to use different tools for different aspects that do a better or more appropriate job than your option.

Example Real-Life Trajectory of Another App in the Elite League of “Best Of” and “Must Get” Apple Apps: Text Expander

Text Expander used to allow you to save real files as real backups for your snippets. Just an option in the menubar. Then they choose to eliminate that - that might allow me to more easily migrate away I assume. That was a road bump but you could get a degraded but at least usable backup by going to each snippet group you had and then separately saving them to your drive. Then they removed that and stopped you from allowing access to your data - its an investment both ways guys - fro the client at all. Your work is now all on their proprietary cloud which they of course gatekeep. But at least I could log on and still manually download groups of my snippets. Mind you I used to be able to get a ready-to-go backup I could use in seconds by selecting backup from the menubar. So they’ve added a 10X to my ability to have backups so good for them. But wait, now all I am allowed to do is get a print-out of what used to be a usable set of structured data. Pretty sure not CSV, not a table, but an actual image of a table to make extra certain I was getting something worthless and unusable - a memorial PDF of what used to be usable data. Allows them to lock you in and show their contempt at the same time, they are very GTD on their side. The data is there, I suppose someone could spend time to write a whole program to extract the data from PDF, reverse-engineer their… no, wait, it’s all in their cloud. Success. You either stay with them or you lose everything. Don’t be them, please.

You guys will crush it on excellence, not lock-in. Please you guys are so good don’t go down this route. Interoperate - we’re lucky that Apple has started to commit to long-known, well-known basic computer science principles, but we know that means that sooner or later they will put some real constraints on the inherently abusive and bad design that URL schemes are based on. We see it in how they are slowly creeping in controlling URL scheme access via whatever they call that iOS app. Everyone thinks Apple is “inventing” sandboxing and gets upset at all the breakage with each new operating system. They’ve got nothing but more disappointment ahead. But they’re not computer science engineers. They don’t understand how naughty and lucky Apple has been so far. Apple clearly has real computer engineers - don’t confuse them with “coders” as we call them today, they work at a technician level. Everything clearly shows to someone with a real engineering background that they are starting to implement design in their system that in the security vs inter app tradeoff necessarily is prioritizing security. With virtual machining (“sandboxing”) and other basic practices, it will all on the real programmers - you guys - to get on the interoperability and distributed (but emphasize managed) atomic feature access boat. We see Apple putting in those pieces. For now, their gimmicky and users play with them and have no idea what’s really going on. But in future they will form the secure abstraction API gateways to inter app communication and coordination. They need their A-Team of their best app developers to participate I would think.

You guys are the best and thank you for releasing Agenda. I could NOT figure out a workflow until I came across you guys and the insight I got from what your product did.

Gene

Respectfully…

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I’m a looong time Mac (and before that Apple IIe) user, but I have no understanding of computer science etc, so much of this post is above my head.

But some thoughts on two things from it:

The idea of a do everything app.

I want and expect to use different apps for different purposes, but what I really hate is having to make a conscious decision about what app to use for a particular task.

I have an idea I want to capture: do I write it in Notes? In Tasks? Email it to myself? A Pages document in a specific relevant folder? Voice memo? And that’s just native apps!

The idea turns into some further ideas and some research tasks and into a one pager to share with colleagues and into a proposal for a client.

I can do all of this within Agenda (and sharing by email). I could use the connections with Tasks or other apps to keep track of tasks. But I prefer to use due dates and tags in Agenda as my projects aren’t complicated, and rarely predefined.

Using OTA, and noted attached to dates, I can keep on top of ideas and everything that flows from that.

All within Agenda. So within those boundaries, for me Agenda is a “do everything app”. I like it that way and look forward to further enhancements. But, “within those boundaries “ is important.

For me Agenda is a recording, thinking and writing space.

My mail client, Spark is my primary communication space. (In fact I hate the mental overload, when I want to communicate with John Doe, of having to decide whether to use email, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Slack, text… That’s a mess worth integrating)

On lock in
I’m all in with Agenda, and I know I can export project by project if I needed. But would like the reassurance of being able to export the whole of my library to an agnostic format with one click.

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It’s interesting to see basically two opposing forces at play, everything in one app vs everything in separate apps. Don’t think there’s a simple answer and it will always be a fine line we need to walk.

We consciously decided to make Agenda a note taking app and not a calendar replacement or complete replacement of the reminders app, they work in tandem with Agenda. There is significant overlap however where our line of thoughts is that if a task is kind of part of your note taking (creating a new reminder, linking to a new event), this fits within the scope of Agenda and saves you from having to round-trip to the other app.

In contrast if the task is not so much related to note-taking, like planning your holiday a few months ahead, it’s just better done in calendar app as it is the core focus of that app. Of course this does mean there’s always a gray zone where you just have to decide what works best for you.

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I agree with you and what made me use Agenda more often than before is the integration or connection with Apple Reminder and Calendar. For those databases, I stick to Apple’s rather than proprietary approaches although I’m using various apps for those tasks.

As an Apple power user since 1986 and graphic and web design freelancer since 2004, I’m still trying to find the most effective app for this or that. Sometimes I’m changing my ToDo, email or Calendar app and then switch back if the other don’t evolve or does not fit my needs anymore. The use of Apple framework allows for switching easily.

After years of doing that, I agree that there is NO one app for everything. Much better to have specific app for specific use and connect them together: For my project management, Agenda fits beautifully and I’m still in process of getting use to it. There is a learning curve though to get the most out of it. For my everyday notes and bits to gather (things to see, plans to keep for later, etc.) I’m using Bear. For paperless office, DevonThink Pro and for To Do’s, 2Do. For Emails, Spark. All this apps are well connected mainly through the Apple Share cards.

So my wishes for the future of Agenda is to keep and improve what it is doing now, polish the GUI (why there is still no @user autocompletion or a find/replace for users and tags ?), add more connections, making it a little more intuitive :slight_smile:

Thanks and a Big Up to the developers.

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