GTDGmail: a web-based GTD system
Saturday, September 30, 2006
GTDGmail is a really clever new Firefox extension (that runs using Greasemonkey) that turns your Gmail account into a GTD system (and you would never have guessed that based on the name, would you?). It's been available for around a month now, so I thought I'd take it for a bit of a spin.
To get it running, you need: a Gmail account, Firefox, Greasemonkey, and the GTDGmail extension.
Once you have installed the extension, you need to configure the system, a special Install box in the sidebar guides you through the tasks you need to complete (once you have completed them, you can permanently hide the box). The biggest part of the setup is adding GTD-specific labels: C: is the prefix for contexts, P: is the the prefix for any projects, S: is the format for status ( eg. S:Next action), R: is the prefix for reference material. You can rename existing labels you may have to fit this format, and Gmail rather usefully knows that it should update any filters that refer to this label.
Here is where things get clever: GTDGmail now changes your labels box in the sidebar to group the labels- contexts first, with next actions and actions as sub-items that you can click on, then 'Statuses'(sounds awkward to me, but I suppose stati just sounds strange), then projects with their next actions, actions and reference materials again available as sub-items. Last of the GTD items is references, then all of the non-GTD labels follow. What I particularly like is that if you by some chance have to access your Gmail account from a machine without GTDGmail installed, you can still navigate your way around because all the labels are easily human-readable (the screen shot shows the Labels box with and without GTDGmail- click the thumbnail to enlarge).
The other big change that GTDGmail makes is that you can set tasks and enter reference materials. You do this by composing a new message, and choosing 'compose myself a task' or 'compose myself a reference'. You can then add any labels you want to the title of the message eg. you can title a message 'book plane tickets P:holiday C:phone S:next action', and when the mail arrives GTDGmail will apply all the necessary labels to it. Of course, using the same syntax you could e-mail to your Gmail account from any other address you use.
Some other nice features:
- you can print your context lists to 3 x 5 cards for your hipster PDA.
- All messages now have a GTD icon on the right of the page, and when you hover over this a dialog pops up that lets you quickly add labels.
- A GTD-specific search with options to search by context,project,status etc. You can also save custom searches (eg. if you want to see all the finished tasks completed last week or earlier for a specific project, you can save that search
One not-so-nice feature is that you will not find the GTDGmail config/options anywhere within Gmail- to find it, you need to go to Tools -> GTDGmail -> options in Firefox. I spent a couple of minutes trying to find the options page before I figured this out. Hopefully this can be changed in a later version so that it is accessible from within Gmail as well. I'd also like to see a Desktop Gadget that lets you post tasks to Gmail from the desktop- which should be fairly simple to do.
All in all, a really great enhancement of Gmail's existing feature set. The help files / setup guides are really clear and are in just the right places (eg. labels guide sits in a collapsible box at the bottom of the edit labels page), the integration is clean and there are plenty of options to tweak so that it suits the way you work (eg. you can set it to keep all tasks in the inbox until they are marked 'finished' at which point they are archived). Although I prefer a paper-based system for GTD, this would probably be my system of choice if I was in front of a computer all the time (narrowly edging out the GTDtiddlywiki because this is web-based- ie. I wouldn't be able to lose it).
This post on the developer's blog indicates that GTDGmail is now donationware- if you find it useful, please consider donating some money towards the project.
Tagged: GTD, Gmail, Productivity, Greasemonkey, Firefox
posted by Peter le Roux @ 4:56 AM,