Google Tasks – The Integration Almost Gets There

Believe it or not, but creative projects are much like all other projects in life. Writing a novel consists of a number of steps, and writing a novel on schedule requires completing those steps by the deadline. You can’t just wake up, pour some bourbon in your coffee and expect epiphanies to stroll in through the door. You either treat it like a job, or it doesn’t happen.

To that end, we look at our first entrant in this To-Do List War, the relatively fresh Google Tasks. One of the world’s largest companies took a look at the hordes of task managers out there and all their giant features lists and said hey, we can integrate with gmail. What more do you want?

And to be fair to Google, that one feature is almost enough. They brought the ultimate weapon to the fight – the instant access to your task list while you’re emailing away – and figured that would be enough.

The Google Tasks icon hovers over on the right side, next to the Calendar and whatnot, in gmail’s tableau. In a single click, Tasks creeps in from the right and hangs out, not being all pushy. If you don’t have any tasks there, a pleasant little message informs you of your apparent success. Sometimes I open it to a blank list just to make myself feel better.

Unfortunately, Tasks built out this integration, which functions just like Outlook, and then failed to make everything as easy as Outlook. It’s not just a single click to turn an email into a task, and it’s difficult to sort tasks efficiently or group them into projects. While you can create ‘lists’, you won’t be able to see all your lists at once, sorted into tasks only due ‘Today’, or ‘Tomorrow’, which both Outlook and Todoist fulfill.

There’s also no dynamic dating from typing, meaning it’s difficult to stream-of-consciousness rattle off a bunch of tasks and slot them into their due dates without using a mouse. All of these claims, by the way, are based on me testing them out. I consider myself an average user, not a hyper-savvy savant who can parse out macro hotkey sequences as if by magic. If something’s not self-evident, I’m not gonna find it.

So here we have this killer gmail integration that could be perfect, and Tasks forgets to bring the rest of the war machine to the fight. Everything else is difficult. Subtasking exists, but there’s no templates in sight. It’s hard to move tasks around or color code them appropriately. In short, it’s a bummer that’s going to, nonetheless, be perfect for some people.

And who are those people?

The ones who want a quick and dirty way to digitize their daily tasks and have them hang out in gmail because that’s where they spend most of their time. It’s a perfect melding, and setting a time in the task squeezes it right into your Google calendar. Dynamic dating doesn’t matter if you’re gonna do everything either before or after lunch, and you don’t need templates to note that you’ve gotta get those TPS reports to Bill by five.

But for a novel, or anything that’s going to take weeks and months from start to finish, you don’t want to be starting your list from scratch every day, and you don’t want to retype a 70-step project every time you start the next book. Thus, Google Tasks falls ever so slightly short.

Just goes to show that the biggest weapon doesn’t always win the war.

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