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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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iPhone and Tasks

Comments (28)

My iPhone 3G continues to delight me.  For all of you naysayers out there (e.g. "eh – Feld’s Mac Fetish rears its head again – he’ll be done with it in a week and give it back to Ross), you are wrong this time!

As a heavy Outlook user, the requirement for me to be happy was a seamless experience with Exchange.  In the Apple iPhone 2.0 software, Apple did an excellent job of integrated EAS (Microsoft Exchange Active Sync) that has completely won me over.

But Apple left one thing out – Task management.  There is no app on the iPhone for managing tasks (sorry – notes doesn’t cut it) and as a result there is no way built in way to sync one’s Outlook tasks to the iPhone.  I whined about this in my post My Relationship With Apple Is Like My Relationship With The Republican Party.

As a result of the post, I got some good suggestions for iPhone Task managers and different approaches.  One of them seemed strange to me, but turned out to be the best one by far.  The suggestion was to stop using Microsoft Outlook for Tasks, switch to a web app called Remember The Milk, and use the Todo iPhone app from Appigo.  Ironically, this suggestion was from someone who used to work at Microsoft!

I was skeptical at first but tried all of the suggestions (and paid about $75 for the privilege since I just bought all the paid apps assuming there might be something good in there.)  There was no comparison – RTM + Todo + iPhone was exactly what I wanted.  In addition to a great iPhone UI, it turns out that I can email myself todo items (I get a private email address) which is what I often want to do anyway (since the todo item is in an email that someone else has sent me.)

I’ve been using RTM (the pro / paid version) for over a month and I love it.  I can imagine a scenario where there would be an acceptable iPhone task app that synced properly with Exchange, but it would have to be full featured (categories, date ordering, notes).  And – since I’ve changed my workflow to no longer have tasks in Outlook, I don’t see any reason to go back.

  • http://zerologic.com Michael Sitarzewski

    Great tip, Brad. Thanks!

  • David Ulevitch

    RTM has an iPhone interface, curious if you tried it and if it wasn't cutting it compared to a native iPhone app…

    http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/iphone/

  • nitinbadjatia

    This is the same combination that I finally settled on. Remember the Milk's integration with Gmail (via Firefox Addon) makes it even more powerful for those of us who use Gmail.

    I'm not sure if you're already using it, but you can also tie Jott ( http://www.jott.com) into the mix and then you'll be able to send yourself tasks via voice dication. This is a huge plus when I can't get around to typing something I remembered into my iPhone…usually because I'm driving. Jott's Remember the Milk integration works wonders too!

  • dwhittemore

    I tried out a bunch of the iPhone task management apps, and ultimately settled on Zenbe. I've previously used RTM as a web app (love the Gmail integration), but didn't like the iPhone Safari version (too many clicks to mark a task completed) – thanks for the tip on using Todo instead.

    In general, I don't understand why task management has gotten so much attention (there are literally 100's of apps), and yet there is no category killer – I wrote about this on my blog:

    http://blog.ativiti.com/wheres-the-task-managemen

  • http://www.ashimmy.com alan shimel

    How about something that allows you to sort email messages by sender instead of just date? How about selecting more than one mail message at a time to move, copy or delete? Yes there is active sync, but it pales in comparison to using a windows mobile device with true outlook. Sorry Brad! BTW, I am still a 3G user, but am not as happy as you about it

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      As a zero inbox guy, I don’t need to sort my email ever! Plus, I can’t remember how to do this on my Dash anyway since it took like 17 keystrokes.

      • http://www.ashimmy.com alan shimel

        Brad I try to keep my mailbox to a zero as well. But I get way too much stuff. For instance I get lots of google alerts. My old windows phone had a wheel. I could press it in and scroll and all of the messages I had would be selected. sorting was as two or three clicks at most. there are things the iphone does good, but some things it doesnt. here is another thing, try getting files off of the iPhone when you dock with another computer. Wait! I have been using it a few months now.

        • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

          Here’s a hint on the Google Alerts. Set up a rule in Outlook (that’ll live on Exchange) that automatically moves them to a file called “Daily”. Then – look at your Daily file once a day. That’ll leave your brain a lot clearer and I bet you never miss anything anyway that is really breaking news for you.

  • http://evanalyze.com Evan Solomon

    I am a huge user of Outlook tasks and I recently decided to set up an outlook rule to flag emails from me, to me, with “task” in the body as tasks. So now when I get an email on my iPhone I have to deal with later, I forward it to myself with “Task” as the body text. If I want to assign myself any other kind of task, I type the task as an email subject and then put “Task” in the body. Takes care of it very nicely for me.

    • gomommago

      I may have to try that!

      When outlook flags the email as a task, will it automatically generate the task and attach the email? I am addicted to dragging emails to the task bar “as an attachment” so that when I open the task, the original email and all of ITS attachments are right there in the task….

  • bijan sabet

    i was in hell until you told me about ToDo and RTM. Thanks again.

  • http://newmanva.com/blog arinewman

    I've been looking for a good task mgmt solution and was hoping I could use the tasks in Apple Calendar and sync them to the iPhone but no love there. I'll give this setup a try…

  • http://www.coloradostartups.com David G. Cohen

    For any thru-and-thru Mac users out there, I use OmniFocus and their iPhone app and it's works very well.

  • Hobbs

    Sign up for Jott and set up the RTM integration (unfortunately that requires the paid version of Jott). Now you can call and dictate tasks and appointments while driving.

  • http://www.blog.steig.com/ Joseph Steig

    RTM works great for BlackBerry too: there's an RTM app for BlackBerry. It gives you task-sync w/o use of Outlook and w/o use of a BBerry Enterprise Server. And with the Firefox add-on, BlackBerry task-sync with your GMail account as well.

  • http://the.firehou.se Mike

    Apologies for being the one questioning one aspect of this setup, which by the way works great – it depends on a web service, a pretty web-two-dot-oh-ish one at that. Given the current state of affairs, and knowing many startups may be able to weather the storm, while many others will implode, I'd hate to one day see all my tasks vanish into the cloud.

    One thing missing from all these web apps is a continuity plan for your data, something you could take with you if the company fails, giving you a chance to at least run it on an alternative service. You can always run your own Exchange server if everything goes to hell in a handbasket, but can you setup your own RTM service? Doubt it.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Their data syncs with the iPhone app, which syncs with other apps. So – if RTM went away, then the task data would still be on the iPhone and could be synced with other services supported by Todo.

  • Evan Solomon

    I am a huge user of Outlook tasks and I recently decided to set up an outlook rule to flag emails from me, to me, with "task" in the body as tasks. So now when I get an email on my iPhone I have to deal with later, I forward it to myself with "Task" as the body text. If I want to assign myself any other kind of task, I type the task as an email subject and then put "Task" in the body. Takes care of it very nicely for me.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/gomommago gomommago

      I may have to try that!

      When outlook flags the email as a task, will it automatically generate the task and attach the email? I am addicted to dragging emails to the task bar "as an attachment" so that when I open the task, the original email and all of ITS attachments are right there in the task….

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/msitarzewski msitarzewski

    Great tip, Brad. Thanks!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bijan_sabet2736 bijan_sabet2736

    i was in hell until you told me about ToDo and RTM. Thanks again.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/nitinbadjatia nitinbadjatia

    This is the same combination that I finally settled on. Remember the Milk's integration with Gmail (via Firefox Addon) makes it even more powerful for those of us who use Gmail.

    I'm not sure if you're already using it, but you can also tie Jott (http://www.jott.com) into the mix and then you'll be able to send yourself tasks via voice dication. This is a huge plus when I can't get around to typing something I remembered into my iPhone…usually because I'm driving. Jott's Remember the Milk integration works wonders too!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/arinewman120 arinewman120

    I've been looking for a good task mgmt solution and was hoping I could use the tasks in Apple Calendar and sync them to the iPhone but no love there. I'll give this setup a try…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dwhittemore dwhittemore

    I tried out a bunch of the iPhone task management apps, and ultimately settled on Zenbe. I've previously used RTM as a web app (love the Gmail integration), but didn't like the iPhone Safari version (too many clicks to mark a task completed) – thanks for the tip on using Todo instead.

    In general, I don't understand why task management has gotten so much attention (there are literally 100's of apps), and yet there is no category killer – I wrote about this on my blog:

    http://blog.ativiti.com/wheres-the-task-managemen

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dgcohen dgcohen

    For any thru-and-thru Mac users out there, I use OmniFocus and their iPhone app and it's works very well.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    As a zero inbox guy, I don’t need to sort my email ever! Plus, I can’t remember how to do this on my Dash anyway since it took like 17 keystrokes.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Here’s a hint on the Google Alerts. Set up a rule in Outlook (that’ll live on Exchange) that automatically moves them to a file called “Daily”. Then – look at your Daily file once a day. That’ll leave your brain a lot clearer and I bet you never miss anything anyway that is really breaking news for you.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/joseph_ste39731 joseph_ste39731

    RTM works great for BlackBerry too: there's an RTM app for BlackBerry. It gives you task-sync w/o use of Outlook and w/o use of a BBerry Enterprise Server. And with the Firefox add-on, BlackBerry task-sync with your GMail account as well.

  • Hobbs

    Sign up for Jott and set up the RTM integration (unfortunately that requires the paid version of Jott). Now you can call and dictate tasks and appointments while driving.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Their data syncs with the iPhone app, which syncs with other apps. So – if RTM went away, then the task data would still be on the iPhone and could be synced with other services supported by Todo.

  • Mike

    Apologies for being the one questioning one aspect of this setup, which by the way works great – it depends on a web service, a pretty web-two-dot-oh-ish one at that. Given the current state of affairs, and knowing many startups may be able to weather the storm, while many others will implode, I'd hate to one day see all my tasks vanish into the cloud.

    One thing missing from all these web apps is a continuity plan for your data, something you could take with you if the company fails, giving you a chance to at least run it on an alternative service. You can always run your own Exchange server if everything goes to hell in a handbasket, but can you setup your own RTM service? Doubt it.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/david_ulevi3244 david_ulevi3244

    RTM has an iPhone interface, curious if you tried it and if it wasn't cutting it compared to a native iPhone app…

    http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/iphone/

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/alan_shimel2002 alan_shimel2002

    How about something that allows you to sort email messages by sender instead of just date? How about selecting more than one mail message at a time to move, copy or delete? Yes there is active sync, but it pales in comparison to using a windows mobile device with true outlook. Sorry Brad! BTW, I am still a 3G user, but am not as happy as you about it

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/alan_shimel2002 alan_shimel2002

    Brad I try to keep my mailbox to a zero as well. But I get way too much stuff. For instance I get lots of google alerts. My old windows phone had a wheel. I could press it in and scroll and all of the messages I had would be selected. sorting was as two or three clicks at most. there are things the iphone does good, but some things it doesnt. here is another thing, try getting files off of the iPhone when you dock with another computer. Wait! I have been using it a few months now.

  • Albe

    If you need to synchronize Exchange server tasks and notes you can try a new application available on App Store at this link :

    http://www.itunes.com/app/tasksnnotes

    This is the support page :

    http://www.basisinformationtechnology.com/tasksnn

  • TechGirl99

    Okay. but if you use your phone in real life for businees. A lot of people use exchange so that we can assign tasks to other users or update them as we complete project items so that our team -mates recieve automatice status updates. No one wants one mor eapplication to manage and you sure arn't goiong to get your non- iphone users to download another apllication because you can't get tasks on your phone. I really hope the next rev for the operating system solves this.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/RohitK RohitK

    Hi,
    Thanks for this solution…
    There are lot of application you need sometimes in iPhone & a lot interface also. But I think it will help me in better way..so thanks again…

  • http://toostep.com/ RohitK

    Hi,
    Thanks for this solution…
    There are lot of application you need sometimes in iPhone & a lot interface also. But I think it will help me in better way..so thanks again…

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/RohitK RohitK

    Hi,
    Thanks for this solution…
    There are lot of application you need sometimes in iPhone & a lot interface also. But I think it will help me in better way..so thanks again…

  • Jimmy

    Check out the TaskTask iPhone app which allows you to sync your tasks in Microsoft Exchange directly with your iPhone – http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa

  • guest

    iMExchange rocks! It cost a tad but really it is the best I have seen, the out of office switch just rocks!

  • guest

    iMExchange rocks! It cost a tad but really it is the best I have seen, the out of office switch just rocks!

  • http://www.rhdefense.com/blog Rick Horowitz

    From the looks of it, there is no solution that does not require you to upload your data and thus permit data mining of your information.

    Looks like, for the second time in a year, I’m returning an iPhone.

    I wish someone would come out with a decent cell phone/PIM solution for attorneys!

  • http://sites.google.com/site/dfaworks/etask Dean

    If you want to fully sync your tasks between your mac, PC, and iPhone using the same open standard (CalDAV) that iCal (mac) and Mozilla Sunbird (PC) use, then check out eTask on the app store.

    eTask allows you to view, edit, create, delete, and sync your Tasks on several popular Groupware (e-mail) servers. Currently these include: Kerio Mail Server (KMS), DAViCal, Oracle Beehive, Cosmo Chandler, Yahoo, and SOGo (for primary calendar folders only).

    If you don’t have a Groupware server you can create a free account on Yahoo (see the web-site FAW page for details). Once setup you can use the web-interface, iCal/mail (mac), Thunderbird/Lightning or Sunbird from Mozilla.org (PC) to view and modify your tasks. Modifications to your tasks are automatically synchronized between all clients so you never have to take extra sync steps through iTunes or other special software.

    URL: http://sites.google.com/site/dfaworks/etask

  • ECarter

    I want to exchange tasks with my own home PC desktop, not through an exchange server. I do not have WiFi, and don't plan to. It seems that this makes all the available options unworkable. Am I missing something?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      I think you are correct that this won’t work.

  • viki

    I was struggling with task management until i discovered that iphone also connects to the internet via safari ;) i now access my servers website and manage tasks from there. prefer intergrated task management than standalone as i can access it from within my work email

    ta

    v

  • viki

    I was struggling with task management until i discovered that iphone also connects to the internet via safari ;) i now access my servers website and manage tasks from there. prefer intergrated task management than standalone as i can access it from within my work email

    ta

    v

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