During this week’s Mikes on Mics with Greg Pierce of Agile Tortoise, my co-host Mike Vardy alluded to my fantasy wish list for a list app. While I’m a long-time Listary user, I’ve found most of the options I’ve tried to be lacking in one way or another. When it comes to list apps, I’m yet to find one that feels like a solution rather than a well done app with great features. Each app has its strengths and excels in the areas that they focus, but I’m yet to find one robust list app that offers easy creation of longer lists (groceries, books, items from the hardware store, etc), that are easy to reorder while taking as much advantage as possible of location. I haven’t tried everything, but I’ve given Reminders, Clear, Listary, Checkmark, Due and OmniFocus a pretty fair shake. At the end of the day, I always return to Listary because so much of what I receive comes as text messages and they make it easy to parse lines of text into individual tasks. Rather than having to convince my wife to use an app (best of luck to me), I just needed to convince her to hit return between all of the things she wants me to bring home from the store.
My Fantasy App
Ideally, you can create lists one item at a time or in bulk. These could be easily reordered and it should be simple to append items to the list or drop an item in between two others. It would also be great if you could grant shared access to specific lists with others using the app (this way I could share some lists with my wife, some with coworkers and keep a few running lists for myself).
It would also be great if a location could be tied to the list (e.g. Groceries would tie to my local market). However, and this is something I think is missing, it would also be useful if when setting up either lists or locations that you could tie it to a type of store (in the case of groceries, that would be supermarkets). This way if you’re ever somewhere outside of your normal locations and have time to kill, you could find the types of categories that have errands (bookstores, grocery stores, hardware stores, drugstores, etc.). If you’re away from your local store, but have time to go shopping for groceries, it would use maps to find nearby alternatives.
I know this is a tall order, but I did say fantasy. At the moment all of the apps have their own strengths: Listary excels at sharing and creating; Clear focuses on design and gestures; Checkmark prioritizes ease and location; Due kills it with the creation of time-based reminders, deferring reminders and persistent reminders (why every app doesn’t offer this, I’ll never know); OmniFocus has the clipper and Quick Entry on the Mac, as well as nested contexts and the built-in Reminders app that works so well with Siri. But no one has tied enough of these features together into an app that actually solves this problem (although they’d all likely use Siri if they could). Creating a robust solution is expensive, so I imagine that, for the moment, we will continue to see a more focused approach that offers apps with one or two killer features. We can certainly make due with what we have (Listary and Due still prove useful), but I’m hopeful that someone eventually comes into the space with a true solution for this problem.
If you’re at all interested in list applications, you should also listen to this MPU with Merlin Mann. He shares how he uses the location features in OmniFocus to have the ultimate errand running infrastructure. His approach wasn’t a fit for me, but he shares some compelling ideas interesting ideas. Much as I was tempted to try his approach, these aren’t kinds of lists I want to keep in OmniFocus. That said, it really got me thinking about the potential of OmniList… If the OmniGroup ever considered taking what they’ve created with OmniFocus and refining it into a list making app, it would be a happy day. A boy can dream, right?