Gmail Tasks Keeps It (Too) Simple

Gmail Tasks Keeps It (Too) Simple

A late arrival to the crowded space of web-based to-do lists, Gmail Tasks has graduated from experimental status and is now available to all users by default. Should you start moving your to-do’s into Gmail Tasks? Short answer: Not yet.

What Gmail Tasks Doesn’t Have

You’re all hot and heavy to jump onto the Gmail Tasks wagon because there’s that Tasks link, beckoning all sexy-like from your Gmail sidebar below Contacts. Cool yourself off with this bucket of cold water.

Right now, Gmail Tasks does NOT have many basic features you’d expect of a computer-based to-do list (and hell, a modern webapp), such as:

  • Task priority (or sorting by anything other than due date)
  • Recurring tasks
  • Reminders
  • Search (Search!)
  • Tags (sorry GTDers, no contexts for you)
  • Import, export, backup or any way to get your data in or out easily
  • Sync to iPhone/Outlook/Android/BlackBerry
  • Sharing or collaboration

In October of 2007, Remember the Milk had all these features and more.

Gmail Tasks’ Competitive Edge: Tight Gmail and GCal Integration (Plus Some)

But even with all those missing pieces, diehard Gmailers and Google Calendar users will love Gmail Tasks’ solid integration with both products. With your to-do’s in Gmail Tasks, you can:

Turn any Gmail message into a task with a key combination.

View and check off items on your Google Calendar.

Put your task list on your iGoogle page.Add it to your iGoogle page

This quick video from Google demos the highlights of Gmail Tasks:

What Else Gmail Tasks Got Right

Despite the laundry list of features Gmail Tasks is missing, there are a few nice things that it does get right even at this fetal stage.

As an infrequent chatter, I find Tasks’ Google Chat-like pop in/pop out window a bit awkward. Beyond that, Gmail Tasks’ interface is very slick and barely requires the mouse to navigate. Just hit the Enter key to move onto the next task, Backspace to go back up a line, Tab to indent a task and Shift+Tab to unindent. Use Ctrl+Up and Ctrl+Down to move an item on the list. Start your task with a date to automatically assign a due date, like “7/15 finalise Lifehacker post.”

iPhone users, if you add the Tasks bookmark to your home screen, you’ll get a good-looking check icon along with it.

Paper lovers will like the printable version of a Gmail Tasks list. There’s also sorting by due date, slick drag and drop reordering (parent tasks take all their subtasks with them too, which is nice), and the ability to clear or view completed tasks as well.

The Major Missing Link: A Tasks API

Sure, Gmail Tasks just became a legitimate member of the Google Apps family, but OMG IT NEEDS AN API SO BAD IT HURTS.

Photo by PJLewis.

Now that they’ve got an official to-do list app, the Gmail/Google Cal combination is just notes short of a full Microsoft Outlook replacement. But like Gmail’s Contacts management, Gmail Tasks feels half-baked at best. If Google makes good on its promise of “more on the way for Tasks”, coupled with its hard-to-resist Gmail and GCal integration, in a year or so this could be the to-do webapp to beat.

Gina Trapani, Lifehacker’s founding editor, might throw a party when Google releases a Tasks API. Her feature Smarterware appears every week on Lifehacker.


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