First Impressions after a few days


#1

(Apologies in advance for such a long post, but it’s only because I’m enthused.)

I’m new to Agenda, tried for an hour or so the other day and pulled trigger on Premium to really understand it. Worth it to me just to try it out and, even if it doesn’t work out for me long term (I really want it to), I’m psyched to see such an innovative “cross-cutting” application.

I love the concept and really want it to be my new one-and-only note-taking workflow across all my devices (regularly use MBP, iPad, iPhone for work). Currently my Mac note-taking is nvAlt backed by Dropbox text files and iOS is 1Writer backed by same Dropbox directory. Super-simple, super-fast, but no support for other media. I am an ardent user of Things for my task management purposes and my early love for Agenda is admittedly biased by my love of Things 3. (Historically: was an original Things user; then OmniFocus 2, now back to Things 3 and don’t see myself changing again anytime soon.)

Feedback/Concerns

Concerns I have right now after several days of heavy-ish use:

  1. The biggest problem I’m having now is keyboard navigation and slow/buggy typing and formatting on my Mac. Switching between projects is tedious w/o keyboard shortcuts. Navigating and collapsing/uncollapsing notes is buggy for me and sometimes doesn’t work. Example: Click into the left Project list and navigate up/down with arrow keys into a project. Tab to move focus to list of notes for that project and then keyboard shortcuts for collapse/uncollapse don’t work as expected. The automatic Markdown formatting of bulleted and/or numbered lists often behaves in very unexpected and difficult ways when trying to enter items in the middle of a list.

  2. Along with resolving slow and/or buggy typing/formatting/collapsing, I really need a super-fast way to just get a note into the system, aka the Inbox that others have requested. I didn’t realize just how great of a job Things has done with quick-entry and keyboard navigation until I wanted that same behavior in Agenda. I don’t think you can go wrong by striving to model Inbox, keyboard nav/find/quick open, and quick entry like Things.

  3. I’ve been adding many marked up screenshots and sometimes even short videos (made with GIF Brewery) in my notes - this is the big win for me over nvAlt. However, the syncing of those across devices has been strange a few times, where I’ve had empty notes on one device until quitting and relaunching.

My Current Wish List

  1. Quick entry on Mac into an Inbox, with a separate Window like Things or OmniFocus, triggered by system hot key.

  2. Manual not alphabetical ordering of projects.

  3. A preference for date format in the note list. I’m not a fan of relative dates (e.g., Last Friday) and want to see the actual dates.

  4. Redesign of note title list display to read (at least more of) longer titles.

Random Thoughts

I’ve read here about people wanting or not wanting to replace their task management with Agenda and advising you on how you should try to replace Things or not try to replace Things. My advice is just keep following your own vision but to execute it well. Make the little things (e.g., text entry, formatting) perfect :-). For some folks, Agenda will replace Things and that’ll be awesome. For others, it won’t replace Things, but may live alongside it and that will be awesome too, which is what I hope for my future.

All that being said, I’m still unsure exactly what worklfow I’m trying to accomplish with Things + Agenda :-). I’m often confused myself about whether I’m taking a note or recording an action. For now that’s okay, but the one way I see myself potentially moving away from Agenda might be if Things added real support for embedded images and/or files, not just filesystem links. Then I don’t have to decide note or action when recording and can just put everything into one Inbox and sort later. A quick entry window for Agenda on the Mac could head that off.

Anyway, thanks for reading and for creating this wonderful app.


Share your feedback with us…
#2

Thanks for the very extensive feedback. I think most of your points are on our roadmap, so we will tick them off as time goes by.

Fully agree that we should not try to be everything to everyone. We have followed our own vision so far, and intend to keep doing that. We are not trying to copy Things or any other app.

I used OmniFocus before we developed Agenda. Now I do all my task management in Agenda, where I can really fluently mix in other notes and media. I don’t have to think about whether something is a task, a note, or a mix, because that all goes in one place, and even has a logical time in a project.

The problem I had with OF was simply that it was more an outliner, strongly biased to short items. It has optional notes and even attachments (I think), but I rarely used them, because items in OF are basically fleeting. Yes, you can archive stuff, but I would never think to look back into the archive. Agenda is more a historical record of a project, and I can be sure if I attach something, or take a note, it will be there for reference later.


#3

Hi Drew, I found your definition: "Agenda is more a record of a project” very interesting. For me Agenda is going to become more and more like "an architecture of a project”. It means it defines the structure of it and its development according a timeline. So, going ahead focusing even better this basic function of Agenda sounds very good.


#4

Thanks for the followup, much appreciated. I can certainly see how people can replace task management (OF or Things) with Agenda, but the friction for entering new items is a limiting factor for me right now to use Agenda as a next action recorder. (Again, that’s totally okay - I’m not interested in it being my task manager. At least yet.)

To use Agenda right now, I find that I need to be more thoughtful about what I’m writing and exactly where it belongs before I can even starting. That works fine for notes on something I’m already working on - which is my planned workflow - but is too much friction to quickly get things out of my head when they arise and then navigate back to the current note of interest. That being said, reducing that friction will make Agenda, already great, an even better note taking app, so I’m certainly looking forward to the future :grin:.

Also, I hope I didn’t imply that you should “copy” Things, my intent was just to say that I’ve found the lack of friction for getting items into Things, plus the ease navigation and search, so good that I want it that good from all other apps. :grimacing:


#5

Also a huge Things fan and also trying to figure out where Agenda/Bear/Things/a calendar all fit together. That said, there is nothing preventing you from making an Inbox in Agenda. I use “Misc” projects where appropriate so far to hold stuff that just honestly doesn’t belong to a project quite yet. Needless to say you need to go back and review that stuff but it is doable.

At any rate, I can’t see replacing Things with Agenda because for the most part I don’t want small stuff in Agenda. There are plenty of items I have in Things with repeats that there simply is no way to do in Agenda at the moment without a lot of manual work.


#6

Agenda/Bear/Things/Fantastical; sounds like we have the same approach to our workflow! I’m still tinkering—sounds like you are too—but I’m excited about the possibilities! Cheers!


#7

Same here… I used OF for GTD in almost all projects - and now (after a ‘Things’-try), I just have Agenda

Although I’m really happy with Agenda, there are some things missing

  • creations date for items
  • hiding/showing items (hide done items, show them again, just like OF)

creation date becomes important when a task can’t be finished for some reason. If we have the creation date, we can easy decide if this item has become obsolete (just as an example)

hiding items (for example the ‘done ones’ and showing them again in their old place/order, was a feature I used a lot in OF - for example when discussing project work with the customer, etc.)


#8

Agree we need more archiving/hiding of notes. Have plans for this. Stay tuned!

We also want to have the creation date available somewhere, but I disagree a little about its importance. The date you create something is a little arbitrary. Maybe you are just creating a bunch of notes at once, and it is not important for 3 months time. Maybe you create a note to prepare for a meeting next week. The creation date is not really the important date here.

That is why agenda notes have a date you can choose. That’s more like a ‘relevance’ date. Some people think of it as a due date, but it is really any date that makes sense for your project notes. Eg. The date you were in the meeting. The date range the conference was on etc.


#9

On the Inbox aspect, I currently just have one note that is always On the Agenda, which I can very quickly find and add to. Later I can go through and move items if needed. Very similar to an Inbox in the GTD apps.

One problem I always had with the GTD apps was exactly the “next task” thing. When you add a new item, it goes by default to the end of the project. There was actually no way to add at the top in OF, as far as I remember. (I even requested this in the OF v1 beta, and they decided they didn’t want that.)

Why is this important? I think it points to a big problem with GTD, or at least the implementations of the apps. GTD seems to be a bit like the old waterfall models of software engineering. You would completely design the solution up front, and then move to the next phase, implementing the solution. The problem the industry very quickly discovered, is that it is very difficult to completely design something in detail. There are always unexpected aspects, or reasons things don’t work. These days, the software industry has much more flexible approaches that evolve dynamically as the team better understands the problem space.

Back to GTD: Any system that forces you to add things to the end of a list is actually implicitly assuming the list as it stands is immutable. It is assuming you already have all those tasks sorted out, and just need to extend at the end of the project. In fact, you are very, very likely to add to the top, as you work on the current task and learn more about it (like the software engineers). I often find, for example, that a task is very course grained to begin with, and as I begin, I realize there are 10 different smaller steps that I didn’t see before. I need to add those quickly at the top. With OF on iPad, it was very difficult to do. With Agenda, I just put my cursor there and start typing.

But I also reject the “next task” approach a bit in general. These days, I have a list of tasks for a project, and I regularly skim through, deciding what should be next. The ones that I want to prioritize, I star. It’s like a “next task”, but it evolves, again, as I better understand the project and problems.


#10

Looking forward an archive feature Drew. Right now I’m just using a Category called Archive with a project inside to hold stuff. But a “real” archive feature that will maybe track where stuff was prior to it being archived would be sweet.


#11

Also sounds like we travel in the same Mac/iOS tech blog circles :wink: My old system used Visual Studio Code backed by a GitLab repository instead of Bear. Trying Bear out since everyone raves about it. Some stuff I definitely like. Some stuff not so much. But hard to argue with the price for a year of experimentation.


#12

Well…I think this is a bit of equating OmniFocus with GTD. There is nothing in GTD that says you have to do things this way. Ultimately its justs lists of items and a bit of workflow. OmniFocus has always been too strict but thats changed with v3. Not only have contexts been replaced by tags but you can manually reorder items within a tag. Makes things a lot easier than the old days.

That said I still don’t see Agenda as a todo list app replacement but as a support tool for that app. There is still too much manual work required for my taste and without the ability to do repeating dates, etc. I can’t use it that way (not suggesting you add those features, just saying for the way I work it can’t replace a todo list). I can see it being really good though for someone who follows the bullet journal method for task management.


#13

Personally, I am trying to use Agenda for organizing my workflow entirely without using other apps for GTD, because the fact Agenda gives the possibility to mix todos with notes and, at the same time, creating connections with the calendars offers potentially a great flexibility as the workflow needs to be. I see Agenda as an “architecture of projects”, exactly as if it would create the structure of a house (the project). And all the tools Agenda uses like attachments, links, tags, etc are useful to define this architecture. So, I think the best way would be to go ahead refining these tools. For me one important improvement could be to include Agenda in the list of apps on the “share” command of both MacOS and iOS.


#14

same here.
Omni Focus was my choice until they changed the interface (iPad-version). After checking out some other app’s, I found Agenda and I’m doing all my gtd work in Agenda.

What I am missing is the Omni Focus method for ‘view’, one could have all entries, just remaining ones, etc. Means one can have done items invisible - but at every time, one can get them back, exactly at their old position in the list.
No need fir that when it comes to a crocery list - but with multi customer projects, ‘done’-tasks have to be discussed every now and then…