Remember The Milk is the killer to-do list app, period. It’s a free web site to help you manage your to-do list. There’s tons of similar task management web apps out there, and here’s why this one is different:
I can set up multiple lists like work, personal, vacation planning, grocery list, etc. It sounds simple, but a lot of task management systems (like Outlook’s task list) don’t make it easy to slot your tasks into different lists. When I’m at work, I only want to look at my work tasks – not the list of chores I need to do at home.
I can share lists or individual tasks with other people. Erika can browse my home to-do list and add tasks. My coworkers can browse my work to-do list. But best, my coworkers can’t browse my home to-do list. These settings can be made at the list level or at the individual task level – so if I set up a task to get Erika a birthday present, I can hide that specific task from her, so she doesn’t see my list of ideas.
My coworkers can access my to-dos with all kinds of software. RememberTheMilk offers Atom RSS feeds and iCal feeds, so these guys don’t have to use RememberTheMilk directly in order to keep tabs with what’s going on with my database servers. They can just add a news feed to their existing RSS newsreaders, or use an Outlook plugin to get the iCal feed.
I can assign tags (aka labels) to my tasks. For example, I might have several tasks that require spending money, and I can tag all of them with the label “budget”. When I want to see all of the upcoming things requiring my not-so-hard-earned moolah, I can quickly search for the “budget” tag and see all matching tasks, regardless of which list they’re in.
I can set up smart lists of tasks. With the above example, I can set up a Smart List with all tasks with the budget tag, and it’s like my own custom report.
I can email myself tasks from my cell phone. I always come up with good (okay, mostly bad) ideas when I’m standing in lines, walking the dog, or going through the grocery store. I can whip out my cell phone, send a text message to my RememberTheMilk email address, and presto, it instantly adds the task to my to-do list. I can even set the priorities, deadlines, reminders, and more all inside the email if I want to get fancy.
I can get reminders anywhere, anytime, when it works for me. Remember The Milk will send reminders via email, instant messaging, and SMS. I can set what time of the day I want my daily reminders, and how many hours in advance I want reminders for tasks with specific due times.
RememberTheMilk is a great example of how software developers should keep an eye on good features in new web applications and software programs, and then figure out how to implement those features in their own applications. No matter what industry a programmer works in, there’s always great features coming out in other seemingly unrelated pieces of software.
The authors of RememberTheMilk drew inspiration from all kinds of other programs: tagging from Delicious, smart lists from iTunes, usability & fast response from Gmail, social bookmarking from – well, that’s from Delicious too, actually. But my point is that a good developer should always try to stay in touch with the cutting edge of software features.
Tagging, social sharing, smart lists, pervasive access – all of these will be a commonly expected feature in software packages by the end of the decade. Everybody’s software will have to have it sooner or later. Software developers that get this stuff out sooner will have a competitive advantage and gain market share. Software developers that don’t, and add it years later as an afterthought, will lose market share in the meantime. The recent release of IE7 will prove this one out, because Firefox and Flock will continue to gain market share as a result of their slick features like tagging and social integration.