To-do lists are simple to create but ridiculously hard to complete. Whether that paradox is the result of human apathy or ineffective tools and software is a riddle developers have sought to solve for decades.
The open-source Chandler is a personal information manager aimed at reshaping how users designate and accomplish tasks. I tested Version 0.7.4 of the software, currently in beta.
Intentionally free-form in structure, Chandler gives users much flexibility in terms of workflow in their office environment. That very characteristic, however, often works against Chandler, as its user interface makes it difficult for users to even define what constitutes a task.
In fact, the biggest challenge with Chandler is actually initiating a workflow at all. This, I discovered, requires a good deal of ambition and planning. Add in the integration of yet another application, and re??Ãinventing office workflow feels like more of a problem than a perk.
The 1.0 release of Chandler is expected to provide additional tools to help get users started, with the Open Source Applications Foundation, the group behind Chandler, making some promising efforts to facilitate this. For now, given that the software is still in its developmental stage and various UI quirks still need solving, taking Chandler out for a test drive is as far as you’d want to go.
Chandler’s desktop application is available for free and can be downloaded at www.chandlerproject.org. The application runs on Windows-, Mac OS- and Linux-based systems.
A Web hub that lets others see your tasks and events without having to install Chandler themselves is also available. This is nice to have because project management has so much to do with interacting with others.
These days, e-mails and tasks are often one and the same. Chandler helps users create what essentially amounts to a centralized to-do list that can be broken down into more specific to-do lists.
To do this, I configured Chandler to work with both my corporate Microsoft Outlook account and my personal Gmail account. Once I set this up, three Chandler folders-for tasks, events and e-mail-appeared in both of these accounts. I could then go through my in-boxes and put appropriate e-mails into these folders.
I then opened the Chandler desktop application and clicked the Sync button from the tool bar, which allowed my selected e-mails to funnel into Chandler. In addition, anything I designated as an event was immediately integrated into the application’s calendar feature.
I also had the option of configuring outgoing e-mail accounts so I could take action on e-mails I had funneled into the application’s mail folder.
One innovative feature is Chandler’s ability to let users turn an e-mail into something other than an e-mail. For example, I could make an e-mail a task or an event. If I did the latter, the e-mail/event then appeared in the Chandler’s calendar feature, which meant it could also be sent to other invitees via my Outlook or Gmail accounts.
I was able to further prioritize tasks, e-mail and events by using Chandler’s triage function, which sorts items as “now,” “later” and “done.” This feature is handy, but I thought it could be expanded on to give users more options for prioritizing when things get done. For example, it would be nice to have more variations in the “later” category-something that would help light a fire under users when needed.
The product’s developers say there will be less emphasis on using Chandler as an e-mail client in the 1.0 release.