Finding the right productivity solution to sync your To-Do list was confusing, if not complex two years ago. Fortunately, the advent of "The Cloud" and all it meant for our mobile devices also translated in the amount of options we have today to sync our To-Dos, projects and notes wirelessly. I have written about it many times and there isn't a clear winner. It's more like there's a good option for most users depending on your needs.
Rusty clipboard by Orin Zebest
And of course, if your mix is going to involve an iOS app, I need to know about it. And that's why I've stopped and checked out the new Oooloo by Lazy Appz - I know, this isn't the most encouraging name - juggling it with my usual The Hit List on the iPhone and OmniFocus for the Mac and iPad. If you thought that was too much, since last week I'm also going with Cultured Code's Things Cloud beta, but at least this is only for testing. This should give you a little background on my productivity front at the moment.
Oooloo [iTunes Link], is not your typical GTD client. Marketed as the "the artists' notebook", I think of it more of a customisable cloud-enabled clipboard. Why? Because it embraces the idea that people are different and love to tweak stuff to their preference instead of being subject to strict guidelines set by a designer.
This level of customisation makes me think that this might be a GTD app, although you could understand it as an online portfolio or a calendaring alternative. It's really that diverse. And Oooloo lets you to play this game giving you a limited type of inbox items with small differences that make them useful for only certain tasks.
The default folder dubbed To Do is nothing more than a list of notes that can be ticked once completed. Sure, you can filter entries and sort them by creation or due dates, but it doesn't feel like it can handle a proper GTD flow. You'll realize later that you can create your own folders and label them to your taste, which is great for the review stage, but not so useful to get a clear picture of what's in front of you.
Every item created behaves like a plain text note - surely not the way tasks were meant to be created. In addition to these task-type items, you can also set up folders for elements of different nature. Contacts includes an alphabetical scrollable list, notes contains plain text, images have an embedded gallery and calendar listings are displayed on a weekly list view.
I don't think these are serious contender's to the iPhone's own standard apps, but they should be understood as a complement to the service. Don't want to import manually all your address book entries? Who would? The contact list can be used as a short list for customers - something important to keep handy but not important enough to mingle with your loved ones on the address book. The same can be said for the calendar, although the filtering and scrollable view can make it a decent take for some people.
As I said, it's all about the scenarios you want to play with. While other apps constrain the way you organize your data, Oooloo simply accepts you want to see right there, as soon as you launch the app, your folders with their own cute icons organised the way you like. Setting up different uses takes minutes and you can always edit them easily if they don't work as you expected.
The sharing features included also hint at some potential uses of the service, it's just not described too well and it's up to you to find out. The desktop browser version looks and works great and it conveys a sense of minimalism and customization, two words that rarely meet in the same sentence.
The iPhone app itself looks good but suffers from the typical usability problems. Way too many taps to create and save items, no easy way to return to the main screen, visible icons that cannot be tapped and probably the worst offender, an overlay menu with options that feel alien on iOS. There areas need to be polished to encourage users to work with the app everyday. A tag system along the search function could be a welcome addition too. Some gestures now found everywhere such as the "slide down to refresh" actually toggle the full screen mode, making it surprisingly inconsistent with the rest of the app ecosystem.
Just like all the big boys in the GTD arena - including the recently launched Wunderkit - Oooloo works on a subscription basis. I don't think any of us would expect an app with OTA sync and a web-based browser app to be available for free. My only comment about it's pricing model is it's limitation of the free service to 30 notes, making it extremely difficult for anyone to give it a go before purchasing the annual membership.
Overall, I'm impressed with the concept and the huge scope this could have. While the app feels primitive in navigation and usability, the potential of proper customization is going to make many users happy. I'll keep a close eye on future updates, hoping that the future Oooloo gains more virtues of a task system and less from the Notes app DNA. I would essentially ask for more project management features, but hey, I won't complain. At least this time around I can set it up myself within the app.