Why Use Firetask?
The main concept behind Firetask is to keep you focused on what you need to do today and within the next couple of days as well as what you could do next. We also try to provide you with visual hints such as different icons for categories, traffic light-style colors for priorities, or “burning” overdue tasks. In addition, Firetask can help you keep track of tasks you have delegated to other people.
In other words, Firetask was designed by and for people who need to manage and execute dozens to hundreds of tasks every week, or even day. This is our focus and we hope that you like our approach to heavy-duty task management.
Starred, Due and Next
If there is one core concept in Firetask then it is the separation of due and next tasks. We are treating due and next (i.e., not due) tasks differently, because we strongly believe that it makes a major difference whether a task is really due on a certain day or whether you just think that it might be good to work on this task on that day. In our opinion, the separation of due and next tasks is also one of the most important concepts of David's GTD®-approach to efficient task management.
Due tasks are tasks that have a due date set and thus get relevant when they are due today in order to let you really focus on the current day. If Firetask would show you all due tasks on the Today and Categories views by default you would get overloaded with tasks that are most likely not yet relevant for you.
Next tasks are tasks that have no due date set, i.e., you can choose to complete them anytime. Again, we chose to prevent you from “information overload” by limiting the "Next" view to a single next task per project by default as well as the tasks due in the next (configurable) couple of days on top (by default "Due Tomorrow"). The single next task that is automatically chosen per project is simply the first open task in each project (you can adjust the order of tasks in the individual project tasks lists as described further below in “Projects”).
As there might also be other next tasks that are very important to be completed as soon as possible, you have the ability to mark a number of next tasks as starred. On the Mac and iPad you can flag tasks simply by clicking or tapping onto the task's flag icon. On the iPhone you can use swipe-to-edit to quickly mark a task as starred. Starred tasks have their own order that you can manually adjust as needed via dragging (on iOS use long-pressing to get into the dragging mode).
Firetask’s User Interface
When you take a closer look at Firetask's user interface on the Mac, on the iPad and on the iPhone, you will see that they resemble each other rather closely. But there are also some more or less subtle differences, since we wanted to embrace the different advantages of each device's form factor. For instance, on the iPhone and iPad we decided for a tabbed user interface, because it provides you with fast access to the most relevant parts of the functionality. On the Mac we opted for a source list-style approach that you probably know from Apple's Mail application.
Inside task lists Firetask supports the TouchBar that is available on newer, high-end MacBook Pro's. You can quickly create a new task, add a category, update the priority, or starred status.
Let's take a quick look at each of the more important views, before we dive into each view in more detail:
- Inbox lets you capture tasks and ideas you do not know what to do with them yet
- Today shows all starred and currently relevant due tasks
- Next shows all tasks that are due in the next days (by default, tomorrow) as well as the first open task per project.
- Waiting For shows all tasks you are currently waiting for, i.e., have delegated to other people (we called them "contributors")
- Scratchpad allows you to quickly note down short-lived tasks
- Projects provides you with access to your projects and related project task lists
- Categories lets you organize your tasks by customizable categories
- Kanban was designed to help you with your weekly GTD® review and shows your open tasks on a kanban board
- Dates See and manage your due tasks on a month-based calendar-style view
- Someday is a task list for things you want to maybe do someday - it relates to the Someday/Maybe list in GTD®
The “Inbox” is a place to quickly enter a task or idea -- simply to get it off your mind and into an organized system. New Inbox items are always added on top of the list, but you can freely reorder the tasks in your Inbox. Note that in Firetask the Inbox is technically a task status rather than a separate list. Therefore, you can very easily make an Inbox task actionable by changing its status to “Actionable” (or tapping on its status icon).
Inbox items will not be visible in project or category task lists unless you change their status to "Actionable" or "In-Progress" and thus, move them out of their Inbox status.
Quick-Entry (Mac only)
The "Quick-Entry" function in the toolbar can be triggered using a global keyboard shortcut (by default CTRL+CMD+.). By default, new entries added with the quick-entry function will be added to the Inbox. Note that you can add multiple tasks consecutively by pressing the ENTER key. You can configure the global quick-entry shortcut using the "Preferences" window, accessible from the "Firetask" menu.
By enabling the Reminders app integration you can let Firetask auto-create Inbox items from new reminders. In order for a reminder to be considered for importing it needs to be created inside a reminders list called "Firetask". You can enable the Reminders integration inside the "Syncing" preferences / settings area.
The Today View
The application always starts up with the “Today” view. The idea behind the Today view is to provide you with a one-stop view of all tasks that are or could be relevant to you on this specific day, but at the same time hiding currently not relevant tasks from you. In order to use Firetask effectively, this is the most important concept you need to understand and embrace. The Today view will determine whether you are going to like Firetask or not.
If you want to see all tasks at once we encourage you to use the "Kanban" view which shows all Inbox and open tasks grouped into a number of logical columns.
You can add new tasks directly from the Today view by pressing the “+” button on the top-right corner of the view on the iPad or iPhone. On the Mac you can use the CMD+N keyboard shortcut and start typing into the "Add new task" placeholder row that will appear. Please note that depending on the due date you have set and the order of next tasks in a project, the Today view might not instantly show the new task you just added. In other words, if Firetask “thinks” that the task you have just added is not yet relevant for you the task will not show up on the Today view.
In order to change the status of a task to “In Progress” or “Completed” simply tap once or twice on the status icon that is located to the very left of each task. This functionality is available in all task lists (Today, category and project task lists). If you have completed a task accidentally you can tap the priority again and the task status will revert to “Actionable”.
You can also tap or click the status icon to quickly make an Inbox item actionable, or to un-complete an already completed task in the Completed view.
In order to view the details of a task on the Mac you have to double-click on the task (but not into an editable text field, as this will enable inline editing). On the iPad or iPhone you can simple tap on a task to view the details or edit it. You can delete tasks via hitting the BACKSPACE key on the Mac, or via swipe-to-delete on the iPad or iPhone. Deleting a task will move it into the Trash status; only if you delete a task from the Trash view it will get deleted permanently.
The "Waiting For" view is inspired by one of David’s GTD® concepts. The idea behind the Waiting For list is to have a single place where you can track tasks you do not need or want to complete yourself, but rather have delegated to other people. In other words, tasks you are “waiting for” to get completed by the people you assigned those tasks to. In our opinion, the Waiting For list is one of the most powerful concepts of GTD®.
On the Mac you can use @assignee tagging when typing in the subject of a task to quickly create and assign Waiting For tasks (check out the Firetask for Mac Cheat Sheet for more information on command tagging).
We agree completely with David Allen that you really should do tasks that take less than two minutes right away - if you can (and this is the catch). However, sometimes something comes up and you are already late for your lunch date. Or you just wanted to do something and the phone rings. These are the situations the Scratchpad was designed for: to have a place to put very short-lived tasks that you normally wouldn't write down at all. In other words, if you just wanted to grab a post-it note: don't do it, write it on the Scratchpad ;-).
If something ultimately takes longer than you originally thought you can simply move the task from the Scratchpad to the Inbox or into a project task list.
In Firetask, actionable tasks can either be part of the "General" task list, or belong to a project. Similar to tasks, projects have a status and can optionally be assigned to a category. Please note that tasks will only appear on the “Today” view if both the project is active or in-progress and the task is actionable, or in-progress.
New projects can be created by tapping on the “+” button in the “Projects” view on the iPhone or iPad (and the left/navigation side). On the Mac you use the "New Project" toolbar item. On the iPhone and iPad editing and deleting projects is done via the project detail view that can be accessed by navigating to the project in question and then pressing to "i" info button. Since projects can also be grouped by "Portfolios" (one level of project folders), we decided that we do not want to allow manual reordering for projects; instead, projects are automatically ordered alphabetically.
By clicking on the project name you can access the project’s task list. This list is the best place for detail planning your tasks. You can again use drag & drop for reordering your project tasks and on the Mac also for moving tasks between projects.
The topmost next task is automatically displayed in the “Next Tasks (per Project)” section in the "Next" view. If you want to see tasks that are not already due today or overdue in the "Today" view you have to mark those tasks as starred (on the Mac you can also drag & drop tasks onto "Today" in order to star them).
You can use portfolios to group projects logically. A portfolio is a kind of project folder and can be created by either pressing the "+" button on iPhone or iPad in the "Projects" overview, or via the "New" submenu item "Portfolio" located in the "File" menu. Like projects, portfolios are automatically ordered alphabetically and displayed above all projects that are not inside a portfolio.
You can move a project inside a portfolio either by choosing a portfolio in the project's details, or on the Mac also by using drag & drop.
Another one of David Allen’s concepts is what he calls “contexts” and what we call “categories”. We simply chose the name “category”, because we found it to be more common. A category can be used to group tasks together depending on their “kind”. Typical categories are “Phone [Calls]”, “Emails” or “[At] Home”, but you are free to define whatever category you want.
The basic idea of categories is to have quick access to all tasks of a single category. For instance, if you have time and you are anyway on the phone you might be able to efficiently make a few calls rather than just a single one. Another example might be a category “Agendas” where you put all things you might want to talk over during the next meeting with your team. Sometimes, you might not always remember everything you wanted to cover in the next meeting. Now you simply navigate to the category “Agendas” and you can quickly go through all relevant tasks one by one.
You can create a new category by tapping on the “+” button in the upper-right corner of the “Categories” view on your iPad or iPhone. On the Mac you have to use the "New Category" toolbar item. Editing and deleting a category is possible from the category detail view - similar as for projects. Like for projects, categories are ordered alphabetically.
The “Kanban” view provides a clear, kanban-style overview of either all relevant due and next tasks (across all projects) or a snapshot of a specific project. You can drag tasks around both for assigning due dates and for changing the order of tasks in a specific project. We designed the Kanban view in order to provide you with a good visual overview about what is currently "going on" generally or in a specific project. In our opinion, the Kanban view is especially useful for doing the weekly GTD® review in a relaxed way by using the iPad on the couch or while watching TV (or both :-).
The “Dates” view provides a simple calendar-style view for due tasks. It is especially practical for reviewing the upcoming week's or the current month's commitments.
You can use drag & drop to move tasks between dates. Tasks on the same day are ordered automatically based on priority.
By enabling the Calendar app integration you will get colored triangles for every day showing you the event utilization for each day. By clicking or tapping on the triangle you get the list of events on this particular day displayed in a popover. You can enable the Calendar events integration inside the "Syncing" preferences / settings area.
Checklists provide you with a kind of simple project or task list template. The idea is to save a number of tasks that you perform more often in the same order as a so-called "checklist", so that you can easily reuse them later (without entering the same number of tasks again and again). On the Mac you can save a checklist by selecting a project, category, or a number of tasks and then select "Save as Checklist..." from the "Tasks" menu. On iPhone & iPad you have to use the "Share" button in the project and category detail views. You can add a checklist at the current insert position by using the "Paste from Checklist" sub-menu of the "Edit" menu (which will diplay all your saved checklists) on the Mac; on iOS you simply use a long-press on the "+" add task button for inserting tasks from a checklist.
The Archive contains all completed, canceled, and deleted tasks ("Trash") and you can switch between these three views using tabs. You can unarchive individual tasks by tapping on their status indicator icon. The Archive is also filterable, so you can tap the filter button to narrow the view down to just a single project.
On the iPad and iPhone the Archive can also be used to access quick-delete functionality for all completed, cancelled, or trashed tasks. On the Mac you can access these functions via the “Tasks” menu.
There is also a "Project Archive" in the Preferences / Settings area where you can unarchive completed and canceled projects. Deleting a project will always delete the project permanently including all of its tasks (including already archived tasks).
Firetask provides syncing via Apple's iCloud with the core advantage that you do not need a separate account, you only have to be signed in to your iCloud account in order that you can enabled iCloud syncing.
Setting up iCloud Syncing
Enabling syncing is as easy as switching on "iCloud Syncing" in the app's preferences / settings area if you are signed into your iCloud account (e.g., deduplication is done automatically as far as technically possible). Note that we have integrated the "Settings" directly into the Firetask iOS app, as we have now way more settings than in the past.
HINT: While incremental syncs should be pretty quick, enabling syncing and performing the initial sync can take a while depending on repository size, network speed and iCloud performance; please be patient and wait for the operation to complete.
As we are using Apple's new "CloudKit" for iCloud syncing we can also use push synchronization meaning that changes also typically propagate more quickly and dynamically between devices as our previous polling-oriented approach.
Migrating Your Data
Since Firetask Pro is a new app both on iOS and macOS and both apps are "sandboxed", we need to move the data from the old apps using a simple export-import procedure. In other words, we "Export" from the old apps and "Import" into the new apps.
- On iOS we use an action extension on the Firetask Pro side, so all you have to do is to go to the "Repository & Syncing" view (on the iPhone on the "More" tab; on the iPad long-press the syncing button) and choose "Export Repository" from the old app, then choose the "Import into Firetask" action from the sharing sheet (you might have to tap on the "dots" to enable it to show up)
- On the Mac you choose "Export Repository" from the "File" menu to write a Firetask XML backup file. You can then import this file from the new Mac app via "Import" (also located in the "File" menu)
HINT: A good way to quickly check if everything was migrated is to check the repository info views on both the old and the new app and match the counts. Note that there should be one less project in the new apps (the "Miscellaneous" project whose tasks are migrated as "General" tasks) and two less categories ("To Dos" and "Waiting For").
If you do not see the "Export Repository" choices you need to update your old apps (Firetask Mac and iPad version 3.8.5 and iPhone version 5.8.5 or newer). Note that you only need to migrate on one device (also the recommended approach); iCloud syncing will automatically transfer the migrated data once you switch on syncing.
NOTE: If you did not get Firetask 3.x for Mac from the Mac App Store you can download the latest Firetask 3 version via this link.