A List of Free Tools to Keep Your Stuff in Order

A List of Free Tools to Keep Your Stuff in Order

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A few months ago, about the time I stopped posting so much at this blog, I ran into an issue. I had a lot of things to do and could not keep them in my head any more. That was my old method.

I tried a few things to help me out, notebook systems, online systems, software systems. However nothing really worked quite right for me, and I always ended up going to more than one place to find information when I was working and I always had more than one central control panel. I also misunderstood the meaning of the “inbox”.

An inbox is just a catcher. It catches things needing to be put on a list, in with the reference material or trashed. I never made much progress getting things in order until I physically separated my inboxes from my system. One system, multiple inboxes. It is virtually impossible not to have more than one inbox, but I have tried to keep mine cut down to three: email, voicemail and pocket notebook.

These are inboxes emptied daily (you don’t believe that, well I don’t really either) into a system of organizing the data. If there is too much to go through daily, then you just can’t and nothing can change that. First you have slow the streams of data coming into those boxes, in one way or another. Sticking to a regular schedule of going through your inboxes makes you deal with reality seriously.

What I Was Looking For in To Do List Software

Once I figured that out, onto software, which I am in the process of investigating now. As I was looking, I realized I was looking for something more than a GTD system, but I did not want to look at Gantt charts. I have looked at complex project management software before, for about a minute before I uninstalled it.

Yes, I am a geek, but I don’t geek out on being a control freak to the point I need a degree to run the software that just tells me what to do when.

But some of the things I was looking for is listed below:

  • Personal Information Manager – I am in control of over 20 active sites of mine and my clients. I need details of various things around all the time that don’t disappear when the task is done.
  • Some Sort of Time Tracking Element – I am looking for software here. If I have to type “2 hours” into a note type field, it sorts of defeats the purpose of using software and not just a test document to begin with.
  • Hierarchy – I have my projects, client projects and day job projects. I need to see tasks from one, all or some using folders or filters.
  • Free – This post came about because I actually bought software that was close to what I was looking for, put all my information in it, discover it was buggy, decided I could work around it and watching it lose all of my notes last night.  So I am not buying something, unless it is 100% bulletproof.
  • Not hosted – The cloud may be great, but I have seen the bugs. And it’s not so much trusting my information with someone else, it’s trusting that it will be there exactly when I need it and not a minute later. Nudge, nudge Gmail. And Gmail is not free, so I can be a chooser. Nothing that comes with advertising is.

Plus I am pretty picky and just the wrong color scheme can make me choose another program, so here is the list, filtered by my software prejudices.

The Free To Do List, Personal Information Management, Time Tracking Tools List

  • MonkeyGTD – This thing is a html page that runs in your browser, so it is the ultimate in cross platform and portability. It is based off of tiddlywiki. This is what I use now. Javascript can do some amazing stuff.
  • GTDTiddlyWiki Plus – Another webpage based GTD system. And just to clear things up, let me say it is not web-based. It is web page based. Download the file, edit it and it saves to itself. Pretty cool and fast.
  • d-cubed – Yet another Tiddlywiki based GTD system. They are all available to also be hosted at Tiddlyspot.
  • ThinkingRock – This is was close to being a winner during the search. The only thing I didn’t like was loading time and memory usage. I like to leave whatever software I use running so I know what needs done and have all the information I need in one spot.
  • Chandler Desktop – A cross platform tool.
  • ToDoList – Another free task management tool with a lot of features.
  • Freebie Notes – For those of you who like post-its
  • Chaos Manager – Nice little Windows tool that looks like it hasn’t been updated in a while but might do the job.
  • TreeSheets – A free from information manager. Cross-platform.
  • Total Organizer – They also have a pro version that has more features but costs money.
  • Unforgiven Organizer – This one actually looks like it has some potential for doing everything I want.
  • Whistler’s List – Looks like a great tool specifically set up for freelancers who want to track tasks for multiple clients.
  • Kaboom Organizer – Lots of features.
  • NeoMem – Another freer form organizer.
  • eQit - Another tool.

And for those who want to investigate further, here are some more lists. Believe me, it is endless.

In the end, I am using MonkeyGTD and am liking wiki’s for keeping information organized.

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Stephan Miller

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Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

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