FusionDesk Starter: manage your tasks with this GTD friendly organizer

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FusionDesk Starter is a to-do/project management and time tracking program that is influenced by the”Getting Things Done” (GTD) methodology.

It offers a simple interface that supports both tabbed and hierarchical organization, as well as a number of GTD-inspired organizational tools such as contexts, time estimate, and tags. Other features include portability, automatic backups, the ability to add notes and file attachments to tasks, and others.

This is a very competent and nicely designed program that offers a number of really nice features, most notably the multiple ways that you can organize and view your items.

It incorporates a number of GTD-influenced features (contexts, time estimates, tags), and enough flexibility for organizing tasks and allowing each user to use the program differently depending on their needs and work style.

Here are more notes on this program:

  • Organization: you can organize the different areas of your life by tab, and then through a hierarchical folder structure within each tab. You can also tag or “contextualize” your entries and view them that way.
  • Different views: this is one of the most value-added functions. FusionDesk Starter affords different ways to view your to-do’s, aside from the hierarchical directory structure. You can view items by context, by tag, or view all items across all folders.
  • Fields: FusionDesk Starter employs the following fields (columns) that you can use to qualify your to-do’s. Note that you can choose to use the ones that work for you, and can display or hide the any of the fields/columns in your view. Also note if there’s a field you want that is not used you can probably substitute tags for it instead.
    • Status (not started, in-progress, waiting, deferred, completed)
    • Priority (a 5 point priority scale)
    • Start and end dates (you can any or both if you want)
    • Completion estimate (in any of minutes, hours, days). More on this below.
    • Context (user definable); more on this below
    • Tags (user definable)
    • Elapsed and remaining time
    • Assigned to.
  • Sorting columns: simply click on a column header in order to sort (and again to sort in the opposite direction). This is very useful in order to view priority items on top, or identify which items have the least time estimate, etc. Unfortunately the free version doesn’t feature a filtering function, but sorting is as a very workable substitute.
  • Time estimate: the time that it takes to finish a task. This figures prominently in GTD whereby tasks that take a short time to finish are low hanging fruit to be taken care of first thing. A very good field to have.
  • Contextualizing: this is a GTD concept that refers to where the task takes place, and can be a real or virtual place. An example of context might be: “My desk”, “Email”, “Sharepoint”, or anything else; you can then use the “contexts” view, to take the above example further, and see all the things you have to do on your desk, or on email or on Sharepoint, etc. In fact this can be rather useful.
  • Tagging: you can add tags to your entries that are independent of the folder structure used. For example if you’re a developer you can tag each task according to the platforms that you might use (“JAVA”, “PHP”, etc), if that makes sense to you (this is just an example). I am using tags to denote each of my co-workers by name so that I know my deliverables to each one.
  • Notes/attachements: you can add a note to each entry and/or associate a file attachment.
  • Portable: you can run FusionDesk starter straight from a USB.
  • Integration with other apps: you can right click on any task and copy a link to it that can be used in other apps. Supported external apps mentioned on the FusionDesk site include MyInfo and OneNote.
  • Other functions: customizable skins/themes, hotkeys, pre-made project templates (that are really nothing to write home about), automatic backups, etc.

Wish list: these are some notes on little tweaks that could add to the user experience; my wish list will avoid features that are offered in the paid version.

  • A centralized tab: a place where FusioDesk consolidates all or a sub-set of the different existant tabs. At the moment, each tab is completely independent, and you cannot, say, view tasks that have a common tag across different tabs. A rather strange omission, this one.
  • Editable Tags: once you create and use a tag there does not seem to be any way to rename it, no’r is there any obvious way that I could identify to delete it (right clicking produces a greyed-out context menu, as if that function was disabled in the free version. Rather strange).
  • Edit anywhere: the ability to edit entries in all views. Currently, for example, you cannot edit an entry if you are looking at it within the tags, contexts, or “all tasks” views, but are forced to go back to the folders view and find the entry there to make a change.

Differences between the free and paid versions: a number of these, most notably the ability of the paid version to Sync with Outlook and/or a mobile device, the option to collaborate/share tasks with other computers on a LAN, FTP server or using WebDAV, timed reminders, recurring tasks, powerful filtering, online backups, and a few other features.

The verdict: of the handful of GTD-inspired freeware organizers that I’ve seen (ToDoList, ThinkingRock), FusionDesk Starter has the best design/user interface in terms of simply picking up the tool and using it. (Although I will mention that ThinkingRock is more faithful to GTD but more complicated to get into). FusionDesk Starter also manages to be both simple yet highly adaptable and well suited for different styles of usage by different people.

From what I read this program is not being very actively developed by it’s authors, which is a shame really as it is a very good one. But this does not change the fact that as is it is a very powerful and versatile, especially for a single user (rather than a collaboration setting). Highly recommended.

Version Tested: 1.1.3

Compatibility: Windows 98, 2000, XP, 2003 or Vista.

The program page no longer exists, but you can download ver. 1.1.3 of the program here.