Wednesday, May 28, 2008

ThinkingRock Review

Update: ThinkingRock has released a final 2.0.1 version for Windows. For Ubuntu, it can be run by install Java Run Time 1.6 and ThinkingRock 2.0 using Wine.

Searching the definition of GTD will sure lead you to result of "Getting Things Done". So what is it all about and why it matters? GTD is a organized way to handle your thinking and todo list. It helps by having 5 major steps, which is collect, process, organize, review and do. I'm sure that every programmer someway or somehow involve in project in their life, either personal or business. If you wanted to start a project and somehow find it disorganize and stressful, perhaps this model might help you to organize your thinking and put you into the right track.

ThinkingRock is a GTD application that is written in Java. The version that I'm currently using is 2.0 Epsilon, which is not out of beta yet. Although there are one or two bugs, however it doesn't hinder the whole managing todo list process.

Starting the application
ThinkingRock requires Java runtime to be installed. Since it's written in Java, therefore it can be used in different platform. I have tried both executable in Ubuntu and Windows. Both works really well and there is no major difference on the interface.

The application start out in 4 sections. They are Setup, Collect, Process, and "Organize Review Do".


In the Setup section, there are 3 panels: Create Data File, Define Context and Define Topic. Create Data File is where we start. A data file is required to be created once else all function won't work without the data file created (It took me a while to figure it out :P). Next, come with the Define Context. This is a tricky part as I confused what is it for at first. In here, the process, medium or location is defined. For example a phone call. If I have a multiple actions (task/todo) with that required phone call, I can group them together and get them done altogether once I'm using my phone. Other example such as @home where all the actions group under this can be done together when you're at home. The final panel for this section is Define Topic. This is where the category personal, work, family or other being created. The action later defined can be categorized and managed under the appropriate topic.


Next, come to the Collect section where it only has one panel. Collect Thought. Straight forward, anything that pop into your mind goes here. Build a PC, pick up a technical book, post an article on your blog. Anything. Very soon you'll have a long list of thought in here.


Following to the next section is the process section. Here is where the thoughts being filtered as actionable, future, information and delete. Non actionable thoughts is put under future, where it can be retrieved back for in future to reprocess again. Or put it as information, where the thoughts is for reference purposes.

Organise Review Do

The actionable thought is then put under project (multiple actions) or single action. This come to the next section "Organise Review Do". There are 6 panels in here and there are Actions, Projects, Do ASAP, Delegated, Scheduled, Done Action. Actions Panel will list out all the action which are created in the process section. Here you can add, edit, delete actions or set those action to Do ASAP, Delegated or Scheduled. I believe this is the panel where you will click most of the time for review all the actions created. Either to re-schedule, delegate or complete the action. Project panel provides a project view and the rest of the panel is self-explanatory.

What I like about it.
I have been using it about a month and I find ThinkingRock provide an easy to pick up interface. Of course, there are some confuses when using it but it all sorted after check out the help file provided.

Another point I like about is that you can copy the executable folder into a usb drive and run from there. It really comes in handy where you can carry all the projects/todo with you in one thumb drive with application. Of course, the machine must have java runtime installed else the application won't work.

If you have the book Getting Things Done, perhaps this application will give you a much greater sense from the book because now you can do it while reading the book.

Finally, I would recommend this to anyone, not just programmer, who want to organize a project or task in a more efficient way.

Below is a video from google where David Allen, the who invented the system, talks about GTD.

Update: Check the comment where there is a tip on install ThinkingRock into USB stick. Thanks Randy for the tip.