Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wunderlist: Beautiful But Buggy

I decided to retire Wunderlist from my rather large list of task manager apps today. Before I did, though, I wanted to tell you about it. Maybe you will have a different experience, or maybe you won't mind its shortcomings because of its many benefits.

First, the good. Wunderlist is beautifully designed. The graphic elements give the app a classy touch. Elegant wood paneling and large icons to tap make the app easy to use. It supports multiple lists, due dates, and stars for important tasks. If you want to see what is due Today, there is an icon for that. Have multiple lists, but only want to see what you have starred? There's an icon for that, too. Tapping "More" gives you a menu of other filters to view your tasks with. The app also supports shared lists with other Wunderlist users, or if you wish, you can send somebody a text version of the list via Facebook, Email, or SMS. If you have Wunderlist for your iPhone, iPad, and Mac as I do, all the lists synchronize nicely. I've had glitches, but nothing out of the norm and nothing that I would complain about. Lastly, all this is free with no ads.

So what's not to like about the app?

Well, this is why I've held onto the app for these past two years. There is so much to like, but the problems just haven't gone away. I mostly use Wunderlist's iPhone version and it's buggier than a dumpster on a hot summer day. Since I'm a "New items at the top of the list" sort of guy, I can't stand the default behavior of Wunderlist sticking all new tasks at the bottom. And if that was its only shortcoming, I'd be guilty of being shallow. Unfortunately, the bugs come out to play when I try to re-sort my lists.

I have long lists and I rarely get through them in one day. This necessitates moving tasks around to re-prioritize every night—the necessary evil of all task manager apps. If only the app didn't hang every time I re-prioritized. Invariably, I'll get a few tasks moved from the bottom to the top, or resorted by new priority, and the app will cease to receive input. I'll have to switch to another app and come back to jiggle it back to life, or worse, force quit the app entirely. If I'm lucky, the app will remember what I have done. Usually, it only remembers half of what I've done. Or inexplicably it has moved tasks into a different list.

The Mac version is stable as hardened cement, and syncing is so handy, but I waste so much time fiddling with the mobile client. I could live with the previous-task-reappearing-like-a-ghost-in-the-new-task-field bug. It's annoying, but I can work around it. The tragedy is that these bugs have been present since the first day the app was released. The developers have never addressed them.

I can't see what their business model is. Perhaps they hope to be bought out, or maybe Wunderlist is a résumé for all involved, but updates to the app come few and far between. I'm just going to bite the bullet and move my lists over to something else—likely TaskPaper since I can export the lists as text and import them into TaskPaper.

If all this sounds like I'm complaining, please understand that because of ADHD getting tasks down on paper before distractions rear their bright and sparkly heads is paramount to the usefulness of a task manager app. Too much effort with the app and I can literally forget what pressing task I hoped to record. Since I was invested so deeply with Wunderlist with half a dozen important lists, I kept using the app, but it was a hassle. Also, I never could get any of my family members to install it and use the shared list feature—arguably Wunderlist's most powerful feature. My family just didn't care. Too fiddly. Too nerdy. They were happier with a shopping list via text message.

I've used computers long enough to know that my experience will not necessarily be everyone else's experience. Wunderlist has a great deal going for it. You may want to give it a shot, especially if your lists tend to be short and sweet, and you need a shared task manager feature. For me, however, it's time to uninstall it.

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