Looking for perfect task manager?

I’ve wasted hours today looking for a software programme that I just don’t think exists - unless any of you know better.
I’m working on a non-fiction book in Scrivener but now I’ve got to the stage of having to chase up illustrations. So what I want is some project management software that will allow me to keep track of my hunt for my various illustrations, emails sent to art libraries, etc and the final decisions. Things like Basecamp and Zoho Projects let me set tasks but don’t have a good follow-up section - unless I’m doing something wrong. Merlin is MUCH too complicated and Process and Omnifocus no good because they are restricted to one mac.
To complicate matters, I have a very part-time research assistant and it would be great if she could log on from home to update me on her progress. Needless to say, I’d rather this software was free - but I will pay a little if it does the job. Any suggestions???

You could actually use OmniFocus or Things or Taskpaper (what I use) and have others work on the same file via a shared folder in Dropbox (that’s a referral link: if you sign up to a free account with it we both get more space :wink:).

Try »THE HIT LIST« (THL), potionfactory.com/

I found it’s thew easiest, still beta but stable.

Entourage (part of MS Office) has calendar/email/tasks/project management. You can easily set it up to bring everything – including any document on your hard drive – together in the project manager. It syncs nicely through Mobile Me. I quit using it because it gets really ditzy when you put in a repeating event; something between it and iCal goes haywire. But, if you disable iCal or don’t use repeating events, it might do what you need.

Bento does some of the same thing. It might be easier to organize around each specific illustration with Bento. Task management would probably work best through either iCal or Mail, if you use Bento.

FileMaker Pro will keep track of emails, documents, and just about any sort of file. You can send email from FM.

I sync OmniFocus through Dropbox, but can’t remember how I got it to do it. To be honest, I find OmniFocus is too much work to use on a daily basis. It becomes a project in itself.

I think it might be fairly easy to use Scrivener or DevonThink to do this, although you would need to use iCal and Mail with either one of them.

Even with all this software, I have a whiteboard on the wall of my home office/dining room where I scribble to dos. Back in the day, I used a cheap recipe file and 3x5 cards. I had to be diligent about keeping records, but it worked. Ditto for spiral notebooks.

Hope this helps.


Primrose, I just re-read your post and realized that you said you had an assistant. Doesn’t that solve it? Just put a database of some sort on dropbox and both of you work from it. That’s also an easy way to send each other all sorts of documents/photos.

I have a couple of thoughts on calendars. I won’t let my assistant sync my office calendar to my iphone, or my private computers. So she tells me what my appointments are. She tried printing my appointments out and giving them to me the night before. When that flopped, she tried sending me emails, etc. But it turns out that I need her to tell me what to do and where to go. (duh.) I don’t make appointments on my own. I have everyone work through her. That avoids a lot of conflicts and snarls. You might work out a system with your assistant that works for the two of you. It’s probably important to decide and then stick to a division of labor and responsibility. You each need to know who does what in the various steps. The key is simple communication, software is secondary.


Many thanks for the various suggestions, and especially to you Rebecca, for your thoughtful reply. The first group of suggestions are really too basic for me, just To Do/Done lists without the option to put in any follow-up work needed, I’m afraid.
Rebecca, I will look at Entourage though I try and steer clear of anything MS these days. I’ve also just looked at Omnifocus but it isn’t cheap and as you say perhaps still not quite right. I do have an assistant but only for 6 hours a week - and sometimes she works from home. I’m a great fan of Dropbox (which by the way appears stable with Scrivener as long as you wait until the sync is finished and only have one copy open at a time) but I also have a large database on dabbledb.com which I can thoroughly recommend. Maybe I’ll have to look at setting up a separate database which is more like an outliner to do this job. Unless anyone else has more collaborative outliner/project/task management for books ideas??

Have you considered Google Tasks? I’ve read it’s now integrated with Google Calendar. Never used it however.

Well, I tracked my progress securing all the permissions for my first book in one big MS Word doc and I didn’t have an assistant. I guess times change…

Btw are you sure you can’t do what you want with Things? It sounds almost as though you are searching for the One True Perfect Piece of Software that will somehow make securing permissions less of a soul-crushingly tedious and frustrating business than it always inevitably is. Whereas you might just have to grit your teeth and get on with it with whatever tools are available. :wink:

Hi Hugh

Yes I’m using it now - it has excellent intergration with Google Calendar and I use it for basic reminders but it doesn’t offer enough options for what I’m looking for.


I haven’t used it myself, but you might try Thinking Rock. It is free and seems to have the functionality you’re looking for. It uses the GTD method of project/task management, but it seems to me it can be adapted to your use. Here’s the link: trgtd.com.au/

I guess so - I’ve also done a book with 280 illustrations to deal with - lots of teeth gritting and hair pulling went on then - so it seemed this time was a good time to try and control things a bit better especially as I have a collaborator this time. I will give Things a try - it looks interesting if not for this project then for others especially with the iphone integration. Otherwise we may just use a spreadsheet - or even pen and paper!

I’d use a spreadsheet to track overall progress:
Item description, file identifier, location in manuscript
Rights holder identified?
Rights holder contacted?
Permission received/denied/offered pending fee?
Fee paid?
Manuscript updated with appropriate credit?
Item removed if permission not received?

Then I’d track the actual steps toward each of those milestones in my general task manager. That way I’d have a summary status whenever I needed it, but wouldn’t clutter the master list with stuff like “Call John Q. Photographer AGAIN–we’ve been missing each other for a solid week.”

As an added bonus, spreadsheets are easy to share, but To Do lists aren’t. Keep status and tasks separate, and each person can use whatever system they like for their own tasks.


I think you’ve summed it up perfectly! Google spreadsheet here I come. :slight_smile:

What solution did you eventually choose ?

Hi there
In the end for this particular project, I have mainly been using an old fashioned spreadsheet called pencil and paper! But I have found Things to be very useful as extended tasks software. It has a good project section and reminders and also syncs with my iphone. Not the perfect solution but better than Google Tasks (which I still use for basic reminders) for keeping track of who/what I need to chase up.

Hope this helps.

I’ve tried a few of the apps mentioned in this thread, but The Hit List is my clear favorite (luckily I got it in the last MacHeist bundle.)