iPhone Life magazine

Getting Things Done on the iPhone: reQall

 

reQall

Qtech, Inc.

 iPhone 3.0                  Free

Macintosh                   Not Available

PC                              Not Available

Web                           Yes 

iPhone Life is planning a series of blogs and articles on the top Getting Things Done® apps for the iPhone.

 

Getting Things Done on the iPhone (Bryan Schmiedeler)

OmniFocus (Cindy Downes)

Things (Bryan Schmiedeler)

reQall (Bryan Schmiedeler)

One of the largest impediments to using electronic based task managers is having access to the tool when you need it. Often you find yourself making lists of tasks to enter later because you don’t have internet access or you are not at your computer. Or you can’t access your list when you need it – like at the grocery store or the mall. At some point the overhead of transferring proliferating paper lists to the tool or remembering to print out you to dos simply outweighs the benefits of electronic organization, and the new tool gets left by the wayside. 

 
reQall attempts to address this problem by relying on the one tool everyone has access to all the time: a phone. reQall is not an iPhone specific app -- it doesn’t even require the user to have a smart phone or internet access. Simply call reQall (from the US, UK, or Canada) and follow the voice prompts to set up a free account. You can then call the service to add, recall, or share to do items. It’s an interesting idea, but I am unsure how effective this would be without a smart phone or on-line access.  

 

Sign up for a free web account (there is also a pro version that adds many additional features for $2.99 a month or $24.99 a year) and you can manage to dos, grocery lists, notes, shared tasks and the like as in many other on-line task managers. There is also a free iPhone companion app that syncs with your web account. But you have to dig deeper to get to the essence of what makes ReQall unique.
 
On the iPhone, entering information by voice recognition is much more natural than typing and has the added advantage that it can be done in hands free mode.
 
Accuracy is generally pretty good, but speed is not. reQall is sending your audio clip over the network for transcription so it can take several minutes for results to come back. reQall does a pretty good job of getting things like dates and times correct and accuracy is increased by using certain keywords (like “note”, “buy”, “tell”). 
 
reQall’s integration options are prodigious: Evernote, Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar and Tasks, Calendars that support the iCal standard (like Apple’s iCal). You can choose to get reminders via email, IM, and even your own personal RSS feed. Using the iPhone’s location awareness reQall can generate a map of things you need to do nearby.
 
A truly unique feature of reQall is “Here and Now”, which combines the traditional prioritization task view with new location based one.
 
Although at first impressive, the long list of features, integration options and platforms eventually distracted from my overall satisfaction with the app. The genius of the Apple’s products in general and the iPhone in particular is not what features they put in, but what they leave out. There is at times beauty in simplicity. Although nothing mandates that you have to use the RSS feed option in reQall, for example, if not managed extremely well the slow accretion of options and preferences almost invariably decreases the usability of software. I feel this happening with reQall, and that is a shame, because there are some truly wonderful nuggets strung across the various parts of the reQall ecosystem. 
 
The web interface has one of the best entry tools I have ever used in a task management application. The usual choice is between ease of use or precision. On the one hand, nothing beats speaking or writing naturally for ease of use. The problem comes from accurately transcribing my voice or writing into the data structure of a task management tool – the contexts, tags, priorities, dates and times, and so on that make these tools effective. On the other hand, to get perfect precision requires having the tool in front of me and using its interface. And that leads to the problems mentioned at the beginning of this article. reQall’s web entry is the best of both worlds. Type in your entry and reQall attempts to figure out the data structure for you (and does a pretty good job of it), but you can correct any mistakes instantly. On the iPhone the time lag between entry and review is too long to be effective.
 
reQall lacks some common elements in task management, like tags or projects with multiple steps. It breaks down with long lists or complex tasks, Still, it is an excellent fit for users who don’t require the power of a full-blown task manager like Things or OmniPlan, are comfortable with voice data entry, and are constantly on the go – sales people or medical professionals for example.
 

 

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Bryan Schmiedeler's picture
Bryan Schmiedeler has been a programmer for 14 years, working with enterprise database systems on the iSeries using RPG. He also writes client and web-based applications using Lotus Notes, and specializes in iSeries/Lotus integration issues. He uses a MacBook Pro, iPhone, and an iPad at home in Overland Park, Kan. He can be reached at www.appleinfocus.com or bryanschmiedeler@me.com.