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Anyone else frustrated tracking projects+knowldg?


Hi,

Is anyone else frustrated by a need to:

* TRACK projects, organize them in an outline ("thinking in the outline")

*VIEWING outstanding projects items (ignoring "done" and "future" and "maybe do" projects/tasks).

* Searching through projects for a problem you fixed previously?



I get an idea and I like to jot it down somewhere so I can refer back to it ONLY if I need to later ("Maybe do...").

But then I'll be chugging away on a project and something will come up and the project get's tabled for a few weeks or months.  Having the project nicely organized on the computer makes it easy to get back to that project.

I'd want to see a list of things I need to do today, without the clutter of projects on hold, or that don't need to be done for 6 months. Or I might have ideas like "when my daughters are 12 years old, remember to teach them about saving money,  and read the "The Bank of Dad" book again".

And, when  I fix a bug (bugfix project) I'd like to later be able to search on that bug to see how I fixed it last time. 





EACH PROGRAM SOLVES ONLY *PART* OF THE PROBLEM
It seems that most programs fall into several categories:

1. Kowledgebase

- used strictly for storing /retrieving information. Boolean searching, but No ability to schdule tasks.  Outlining capability is mediocre. No ability to mark a task done, etc.


2.  PIM

- for storing addresses, email, etc.  Mediocre search capabilities.  Often difficult to organize thoughts (poor outlining, etc.)

3.  Task organizer:

Simplified PIM with some KB features. Lacks boolean search capabilities.


I'd like to schedule my projects and tasks and easily "think" in outline format, then track my current projects and search for existing projects and project information and past projects/information. (I.e., "Oh, I fixed this bug last year.... how did I do that).

Basically, I'd like to be able to THINK on the computer so that it's searchable, organizable, and shareable.



DESIRED FEATURES

1. Boolean search on text of article.

This is an easy feature to implement (I created it in a KB program of my own back in the early 90's)

2. Simple date scheduling

Schedule a task or project for the future, so it doesn't show up till you need to worry about it. (I.e.  "April 1 : finish taxes", etc.).  This doesn't even need to be a fancy calendar. I just want to be able to push back things to "clear" my "plate" so I can focus on CURRENT issues.


3. Easy to use "tree" style interface for outlining and moving tasks around.

4. Hyperlinks from one tree to another.

5. Group tasks into projects.

Ideally, allowing a task to be linked to multiple projects.  Virtual linking would be best. So, a task might be linked to Project "sand off deck" and context (or project) "Buy @ Home Depot"
(This might be accomplished with the hyperlinks in #4)



DOES ANYONE ELSE HAVE A NEED FOR ALL OF THESE?


There are dozens of programs for each of the above tasks (Tasklist, outliner, PIM, knowledgebase).  But nothing comprehensive. 


Anyone have any suggestions of programs?
Or, perhaps this is a great idea for some out of work programmer to work on?

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

At work I've started using a private Wiki to track all that "When I'm doing X, make sure to do Y and not Z".  It's freeform enough that pretty well and I can keep track of changes over time - that's nice.

For keeping track of projects and to-do items at work I use a self-built tracking system.  I modify it as I need to, it's pretty basic but it allows me to keep track of a running dialog and monitor things pretty easily.

Both of these have a relatively low overhead and provide a substantial benefit to me.

Lou
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Have you looked at LifeBalance?

It has an outliner view, and a list view that shows only active items by project, ordered priority, and colored to show closeness to due date *relative to anticipated duration*.  So, at 2 task durations before due, it shows up on your list in green, and it turns yellow once you're at 1 task duration before the due date.  Overdue shows in red.

You can define "places" that represent contexts such as "errands", "phone calls", etc., and mark what context a given task occurs in.  Each outline entry can have its children be either parallel or sequential, so only your "next action" shows up on the to-do list, or all of them.  Each entry can also be scheduled on specific dates, or set on a "n days/weeks/months since last time" basis.

"Places" can include other places, so you could define "Home Depot" as a place that gets included in the "Errands" place.  So, if you view your available tasks under Errands, the Home Depot tasks will show up.  Assuming that Home Depot is open, of course...  and you can actually tell it what hours Home Depot is open, and the tasks will only show up during those hours, unless you uncheck the checkbox that limits the list to items for places that are "open".

About the only thing it doesn't do is boolean text search, although I believe it *does* have full text search.  But I think somebody's working on an exporter to take its "exchange" files and make web pages out of them.

Anyway, it's available for PC, Palm, and Mac:

http://llamagraphics.com

Phillip J. Eby
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Take a look at the venerable Ecco. Its outline is pretty good, and is the main reason people stick to Echo over more recent PIMs.

http://supportweb.netmanage.com/ts_viewnow/downloads/patchesUnsupported/ecco.asp

Fred
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Yes, I've looked extensively at Ecco. Steep learning curve, but powerful. But it lacks the boolean search.


Am I unusual in that, after I fix a bug or solve some problem, that goes from being a project ("fix  network bug") to being a solution that I might later want to search for.

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Phillip,

Lifebalance looks interesting. It does have a global search, although for only a single word/phrase (no boolean).

I like the concept of spreading your effort around. I (try to) do that instinctively, I realize now, with my business ("time to spend some effort on marketing", etc.) . health to extend that to PERSONAL as well.

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I've always thought that project management, bug tracking, contact management, feature requests, source control, and task management should be part of one system.  Here is an overview of how I see the process flow happening:

Bug report comes in attached to a client.  Bug is assigned to a staff member and added to their task list.  Bug is fixed and all source control transactions are attached.  Bug is closed and client is contacted.

Feature requests would work in a similar manner.

Projects would be created for clients and tasks/features would be divided up and assigned.  Bug reports could be attached to the project.

The system should probably act as an email client as well with the ability to attach emails to clients, projects, bugs, and/or features.

Anonymous
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Take a look at ToDo list :
http://www.codeproject.com/tools/ToDoList2.asp

Don't let the simplified interface fool you.  There are many config options without being bloated.  Well worth an evaluation.  It's free and the source is available.

Thinking Hard.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Let me also add this.

ToDo list is the most popular project on CodeProject.  Dan listens closely to all suggestions.  If the program is lacking something you need, suggest it in the comments section (at the bototm), and it will probably get implemented fairly quickly.

Thinking Hard.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The number of times I've started developing this kind of all encompassing tool probably equals the number of times I've become frustrated with using the assorted bits and pieces in whatever project and environment I've found myself in.

And the problem always comes up that what is fine for me and useful, isn't for you and making a shrink wrap flexible enough to match all the squirrelly requirements of all the developers out there would likely end up in some kind of consultancy-ware zillion switch from hell.

So having not developed the 'map the whole universe and make it as simple as a clockwork Thomas the Tank engine.'  I go back to combinations of a collaborative web site/crm plus issues tracker, a spreadsheet or two and source control.

Oh and a lot of use of msn, yahoo, talkers, irc whatever.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

At work, I used to use MindManager for a lot of this stuff: http://www.mindjet.com/ when I worked more on my own.  Now that I need to collaborate/organise across a team we a Wiki, you can integrate it with Bugzilla - but we have to use a crappy in-house bug/enhancement tracking tool.  The main reason that I stopped using MindManger is that it was my personal copy and my dept wouldn't go for lics for everyone.  The other advantage of the Wiki is that all you need is a web browser to contribute.

Mark Mac
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I, too, use a combination of software programs.  And it drives me *crazy*.

Problems with that:

1. Can't search through all the programs in one fell swoop.
My task list is in one place. Notes and such are in another place (where I can include pictures, web pages, hyper links, etc.).

2. it's too much work to move the information from the Project manager/list manager into a "solutions" file. (So a bug stays in the proj list where you can't search for it.)

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Is it just impossible to create a program that would meet the needs of a large number of users?


What are the absolute MINIMUM features you'd need to see in a program?  And how much would you be willing to pay for each feature?

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

ME:

1. Boolean search on text of article.  $10

This is an easy feature to implement (I created it in a KB program of my own back in the early 90's)

2. Simple date scheduling  $10
(Don't show this task until X date. Highlight it on X date)


3. Easy to use "tree" style interface for outlining and moving tasks around.  $10

4. Hyperlinks from one tree to another.  $5

5. Group tasks into projects.  $10

6.  Ability to put project and task into a particular context ("Grocery Store", "Work", etc.).  And then display all tasks/projects for that context. So, if I were going to the Grocery store, I could look at everything I have to do there.
$10

7. Rich text for article contents.  $5

8. View tasks by Project, By context, with simple date filtering (Don't show tasks or projects that aren't due yet. Show only tasks/projects due today)  $10

Total:  $70.

I'd happily pay twice that if it did all of the above well. 

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

If you have access to MSDN, set up a SharePoint portal and try it out - I'm pretty sure it'll handle everything you need.

I'd be interested to hear feedback from a dev team that tried out SharePoint for collaboration on their various projects...

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I am about to have Sharepoint dumped on me at work.  I'll try to remember to post here about my experiences with it.  There is even talk of being sent to a training for it.  Oh joy.

Clay Whipkey
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

we use sharepoint portal server for some of this. i don't much like the UI in sharepoint. the issue tracking is a start but not very flexible, I'm writing some code right this minute to supplement how it works for a customer.

how is your experience with searching? seems to be an important feature of any such system.

we still use a combo of stuff--wiki, things in sharepoint, email, archived email, a bug tracking tool.

hey philo, do you know how to read from an external data source (e.g. bug tracker) into a sharepoint view? other than writing a synchronization tool to keep the data in both places. that's one of the big problems--info in multiple places.

mb
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

It is interesting that you bring up the need for such an app. I was planning to write one up. As a matter of fact I had something bigger in mind. I wanted to tie together even e-mail and simple spreadsheet-oriented tasks such as keeping track of your finances. I was also thinking I could allow the app to have plug-ins for further improvements plus a way to launch external programs from within the app in case you just don't want to give up using some particular other app you are used to. Bringing together all your sources of information makes it easier to search for things in one attempt. Relating and linking all the information would be easier too if they were gathered at one place. So you could potentially fire up this app and leave it expanded on your desktop. It kinda replaces your desktop since it has links to all your other apps etc, notes, whathaveyou...

One problem I immediately saw with this app was, why would anyone stop using whatever app they are used to, and start using this new app. E-mail would be one such component. I guess it would be easier if there was a way to import your current stuff into this app so that you don't lose what you already have.

I did quite a bit of (google) research and found lots of solutions similar to this app, but most apps are not as inclusive as the one I have in mind. I still want to write it for my own use since I can't stand using 10 different apps for something which really requires centralization, but perhaps there is solid interest from others too.

What do you think? Any suggestions?

entell
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

entrepeneur - by your requirements - should a task/project be able to fall into more than one project/context at a time?

Aaron F Stanton
Thursday, March 11, 2004

entell, check out Zoe (http://zoe.nu). It can integrate itself into the e-mail route so one can still use his own e-mail client. I feel that Zoe is the right way to go - seemless integration, web access, boolean search. It also has some nice additional features like FTP access to all your e-mail attachments. However, it's e-mail-only so it doesn't directly help with project organization, taks nor anything else. It also lacks ability to add comments and new links to mails in the db.

So, what I would like to see is something like Zoe with different objects (not just e-mail) all with different behaviours (like tasks can be scheduled, etc.), linkable between themselves and with other resources and on top of all that Wiki features (so that I can easily add, edit or delete comments) Since Zoe can be integrated into the e-mail route and works as a server, it can be made to automatically send scheduled emails, boolean query results (e.g. you do a search on unfinished tasks in groceries context and then send results to your partner's cellular :), etc. One could even post tasks, todos, etc. to Zoe directly thru email although that would open additional security issues.

Ivan Erceg
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Aaron F Stanton,

A task could fall into multiple contexts, but probably just ONE project.

My view (still evolving) is that a Project is where you organize a sequence of actions (and information) to achieve some goal.  It's where the thinking and plannig go on.

A CONTEXT  is WHERE/WHEN  the task is completed. So, a context might be :  Grocery Store, Office, etc.
Also, a context might be "update Program #5".  The idea being that there's an overhead to getting in/to a CONTEXT (driving to the store, cracking open source code and subsequently testing changes to a program.).

The idea is that you might want to do many tasks that are in the same context at the same time. Get all your stuff from Target or the Grocery store at the same time. Make all your changes to a program at the same time.

The real Entrepreneur
Thursday, March 11, 2004

mb - create a dataview webpart in FrontPage 2003 - you'll have access to any ODBC/OLEDB data source you want.

Hope this helps,
Philo

Philo
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Entrepeneur - I think I understand - contexts are tasks grouped to avoid overhead.  A projects might have a set of tasks in different contexts, and by grouping tasks across projects you can make progress in multiple projects because all the tasks are related by the same context.  I need to buy groceries to make chili, spaghetti, and chicken parmesan.  I'm not going to make all three at once (different projects) but I will go to the same store to buy them (same context).

Very interesting concept.

Aaron F Stanton
Friday, March 12, 2004

Exactly - the goal is to minimze "startup" overhead.

If I'm going to modify a program, I'll need to do through regression testing, whether I make 1 change or 50. Might as well bundle them all together.

The real Entrepreneur
Friday, March 12, 2004

This is kind of what I've been looking for in an Outliner. Want an all encompasing and fast organizer. I'm familiar with Ecco, MyInfo, TreeDBNotes, and others available. At the moment I'm testing MyInfo for keeping lots of information. They are working on a new version that may have some features I'd like. TreeDBNotes is closer to what I want but you can't drag and drop, and is missing some functions that MyInfo has. 

1. One feature that I'd like especially is an Outliner that has inventory management and integration with other software in mind (but I don't want to open other software to get things done), with support for spreadsheet tables within nodes where I can create a dynamic link to say a csv or Excel spreadsheet and when it changes, the data in the table in the Outliner updates!
Need to be able to SORT this data in table columns easily by clicking on the column title or right clicking (think CSVdb in an Outliner).
Also, if I want to drag a photo or a web link, it's simply a matter a dragging and dropping (TreeDBNotes doesn't have this feature).
2. Needs to have a calendar and calculator available as add ons.
3. I want to be able to import/export email data, say if I'm collecting addresses or order info. from emails.
Needs to have extensive import/export features, including for XML, RSS, HTML, and even PHP (so, Outliner could be a front-end for a CMS). 
So, software that's kind of like a web service where it can work smoothly with other software of my choosing that I have on my system...yet I don't want to subscribe to a service or pay a mthly. fee.
Ok, that's asking alot. If I had 1. above for inventory mgt. (especially the sorting of spreadsheet info. in an Outliner) I would be quite happy!
 

Carl
Monday, July 26, 2004

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