Nozbe launch updated iOS app

Last year Nozbe announced that they’d be launching a new version of their iOS app, developed in-house (the existing version was developed by Macoscope and launching in December 2012.

After some issues with the Apple approvals process the new app finally launched in the App Store on 31st January. I want to share a few thoughts on how the new app compares to the previous one.

Before I start, I wanted to clarify that I’m not affiliated to Nozbe. I’ve been using it since late last year and it’s now firmly at the heart of my productivity workflow. This review is purely for the purpose of sharing with you what I think is a great app for people looking for a GTD task manager.

Enough with the small talk, on with the review!

It’s FREE

I paid £2.99 for the previous app – not a huge premium but given Nozbe run a subscription model ($7.50/month upwards) a free app makes much more sense.

There are a few iTunes reviewers who appear to feel it’s misleading that the ‘Free’ app is limited (you can manage up to 5 projects for free before a subscription is needed), but this has always been the Nozbe model.

The ‘free’ model is designed to give you a taste of what Nozbe can in order to entice you to subscribe, but the paid plans also come with a 60-day money back guarantee so you can give the full experience a whirl too, risk-free.

Perhaps this could be clearer in the description; it couldn’t hurt to spell it out and might mitigate the ‘drag effect’ of those disgruntled one-star reviews.

Come over to the light side

The most notable difference of the new app is the colour scheme. The Macoscope app was a sort of ‘white on black’ theme, which looked good but was very dark. The new app is best described as ‘green on grey’ – it’s very light and I think it’s an improvement on its predecessor.

Home Screen in old Nozbe Next Actions view in Nozbe

Form over function

The new app differs very little functionally from the previous. This change is mostly about bringing the look and feel much closer to that of the Web, Mac (and presumably Windows) app. I’m assuming that this will help with a unified roll out of features in the future.

The new app introduces more colour into the various screens – projects can be colour coded and their corresponding tasks will bear coloured labels – and the way it displays task information has changed slightly:

  • There is no ‘home’ screen – the app takes you straight to next actions. On the plus side you can get stuck straight into task management. However I’m accustomed to navigating via contexts which are now a few menus deeper than before. In future versions I’d like to see contexts added as a ‘quick’ icon at the bottom of the screen.
  • The ‘next action’ and ‘inbox’ screens gives you more information at your fingertips – contexts, projects and due dates are all displayed as subheadings against each task as well as the number of comments attached to it.
  • The buttons at the bottom continue to provide quick access to next actions and projects. The ‘home’ screen shortcut is replaced with an ‘inbox view’ and the ‘sync’ shortcut is now an ellipsis (…) that takes you to more options (including the contexts view)

One other minor change is the ‘add’ button, which has been enlarged and protrudes out of the bottom row; I really like the look of this and it draws your eye when adding new tasks.

The bits that worked well before, still work

I tried a few different task managers before I landed on Nozbe. What I like about it is that it’s:

  • Simple – It’s not full of unecessary bells and whistles that complicate things
  • Clean -Because it’s simple, you get a very clean view of your tasks broken into a few simple views
  • Uncluttered – I’m interested in tasks, projects, contexts and next actions. That’s what I get. It’s not littered with unecessary extra views and the simple menus give maximum real estate to what matters: the tasks.

It continues to be a simple GTD-oriented manager that stays true to those principles and doesn’t try to do too much.

Workflow changes

It’s difficult to describe in detail, but there are subtle variations in how the app takes you through the workflow of adding and managing tasks. For instance when you add a new task the app now shows only the description (no additional options) and will take you to a second screen once you’ve created the task to enable you to add extra information such as assigning a project/context etc.

Nozbe add task screen Nozbe add details screen

It’s surprising how unsettling subtle changes like this can be. I’ve already fed back to Nozbe that one minor irritation is that when I move a task from my inbox to a folder, I’m taken to the target folder rather than back to the inbox. In my typical workflow I like to work through all the items in my inbox, adding contexts and assigning to folders, as part of my daily review. I find having to track back to the inbox each time a new inconvenience.

My suggestion to address this (other than designing the app to suit my own particular needs, ignoring everyone else’s preferences) would be to allow a few configurable options to be set, such as ‘return to origin/go to target after processing’.

Other considerations

On the iPhone the app works well in either landscape or portait mode. I use it exclusively in portrait mode (it just seems to make more sense) but I could imagine that some people would prefer the way that long titles display better in landscape (particularly on the iPhone 5). I’m assuming that the landscape view is the default for the iPad.

One thing I thing needs improving is the scrolling and transitions. I notice that the task lists scroll don’t scroll up and down as fluidly as the old app, and the transition from view to another feels a little jerky – not badly, but noticeable.

Nozbe in landscape view

It’s still improving

When I drafted the sketchnote for this article I intended to pick up on another minor issue: context icons get pushed out of view when the task is allocated to a project with a long description:

But at the time of writing I can see from the latest version of the app (availble to beta testers like me) that the Nozbe team have already fixed this and will be rolling it out in the next App store update. Well done guys!

One thing that has impressed me during the Nozbe beta has been the responses to my own feedback; Every feedback email I’ve submitted has received a response from CEO Michael Sliwinski discussing the merits of my feedback and thanking me for my help. It’s a nice little touch that I think shows how closely involved Michael is with the development of the app.

Summary

Nozbe represents a significant ongoing investment at $7.50 per month, but I do think it’s value for money if you’re using it to GTD your way to a more productive life.

What’s most exciting for me about this new app isn’t the revised look and feel or the functional tweaks – it’s the promise of a pipeline of future development, synchronised across computer, mobile and web.

Game Changer?

I couldn’t finish this article without mentioning the ‘Game Changer’ I first called out last year. Michael Sliwinski says that this year he’ll be launching something that will be a ‘paradigm shift’ in productivity – I’d love to hear what you think this will be.

If you have an iPad and are using Nozbe I’d love to hear how your experience compares – please let me know in the comments.

 


I’m experimenting with Sketchnotes.  Why not checkout the Nozbe Review Sketchnote ?

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