Kizby 1.0.13 is out!

Kizby 1.0.13 is now out and about. This is primarily a bug-fixing release.

We have added support for shifting an entire project to a different start or due date. From the “Planning”, right click on a project, and choose Change Start Date → Shift entire project…, and select the new start date. All uncompleted tasks and subprojects of the project will have their start date shifted by the same amount. If the selected project does not have a start date, then the earliest uncompleted subproject or tasks is used.

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Do not use Kizby with Java7

Warning: The new Java7 runtime has several optimization bugs that will crash Kizby and possibly corrupt your Kizby repository..

Oracle just released the newest version of the Java runtime yesterday, called Java 7. Unfortunately some critical optimization bugs were discovered in the Java runtime that affect Lucene, a popular Java-based database that is used by Kizby. These bugs will likely cause Kizby (or any Lucene-based application) to crash, and may also potentially corrupt your Kizby repository.

These bugs were discovered late in the release cycle, and Oracle will address them in a subsequent update. This update may take several weeks, however.

If you first installed Kizby on Windows after June 1, 2011, then you need not worry as we began bundling a Java Runtime with the distribution that does not suffer from these issues. If you first installed Kizby before June 1, 2011 then you should either avoid updating to Java 7, or ensure that you are running Kizby using a Java 6 runtime.

We recommend you avoid updating to Java 7 until this situation has been corrected; these optimization errors could affect other Java-based applications too. We’ll update this entry when we know more.

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Kizby 1.0.12 released

We discovered that Oracle’s latest Java installer no longer makes the newly-installed Java runtime available to programs. And repairing the situation can be quite daunting for non-technical users. After some deliberation, we’ve decided to release an update for Kizby to include its own JRE on Windows. Unfortunately this change means the Windows installer now weigh in at 80MB, but it also means that we can avoid the 32-bit or 64-bit question, which should save Windows users some real hassle.

This release does include a new feature: you can now define a default project to be used for new tasks. If set to none (the default), then the default project is taken from your current situation (e.g., the actively selected project or the actively selected task’s project).

This setting is really useful in combination with the Add Multiple Tasks functionality for taking down quick notes for later organization. Set your default project to a catch-all like “INBOX”. Then use Add Multiple Tasks to quickly add tasks as they come to you, one per line. Remember that Kizby dialogs can be dismissed with CtrlEnter (MacOS X: Return).

We also squashed a little selection bug too.

As always, update with Help > Check for Updates.

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Kizby 1.0.11 released

We’ve just pushed up Kizby 1.0.11. Changes include:

  • Souping up the add-multiple-tasks and finish-and-follow-up dialogs to add dependencies. Prefixing a task with “+” will cause it to be dependent on the previous task. Very useful for creating lists of items that have to be done in order.
  • Enabled CtrlF to select find box in the Search window (MacOS X: F)
  • Cause the filter box to bold text when the filter is in effect.
  • Add new Task > Split Tasks to New Project function to move selected tasks to a new project.
  • Journal items can be deleted.
  • Clicking in filter dialogs with Alt will select all items if none are selected, or deselect all if some items are selected.
  • Fixes:
    • Dependencies to completed items are ignored when sort-completed-to-bottom is enabled.
    • Project lists are sorted in the Journal and Notes windows.
    • The Search window would eventually stop appearing.
    • Fixed strange selection issues in the Search view.

What improvements would you like to see to Kizby? Let us know either in the comments below or by email to support@kizby.com.

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Kizby 1.0.10

Kizby 1.0.10 is now up. This is primarily a bug fix release; there are some new features cooking, but we’re keeping them to the next release.

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Getting Things Done with Kizby

Getting Things Done™, or GtD, is a very popular approach to managing work created by David Allen. In this post, I’ll describe the essence of GtD, followed by an overview of Kizby, and finally describe how I use Kizby to implement GtD and highlight features that I think make Kizby shine in a GtD-style workflow.

The Essence of GtD

The essence of GtD, in my humble opinion, comes down to sustaining two habits:

  1. Capture everything, somehow, in a systematic way so that (i) you don’t have to remember it and, (ii)  you no longer have to worry about whether you’ll remember it. This is your system. It has to be systematic so that you can trust that once information has been added, it can be found again.
  2. Review the contents of your system on a regular basis both to remind and realign with changed priorities. This review can be thought of as grooming.

Your system minimally needs a projects list to record the things you want to accomplish, a calendar for reminders, and some kind of filing system for accessing reference materials. There’s no technological requirement: GtD is often implemented using just a paper and pen! Of course, tools like Kizby can help automate tedious aspects.

Allen defines 5 stages:

  1. Capture everything that you feel you want to remember or do into one or more in-baskets.
  2. Periodically process your in-buckets to decide what to do with those items (e.g., discard it, file it as reference, or defer it). If it’s something do be done, describe the desired outcome in a single sentence. Then determine the small discrete steps required to move towards that outcome (the “next actions”).
  3. Organize the results from processing: add reminders to your calendar, incorporate projects and tasks into your projects list, and/or file away reference materials into your filing systems.
  4. Review your projects list for work to be done.
  5. Do something!

The key to GtD for many is the review stage. Rather than being an occasional affair, GtD advocates at least weekly reviews. This ensures that you remain aware of what’s going on, and can dodge and weave as your situation changes.

I should note here that I do not consider myself a GtD purist, and more dogged or dogmatic adherents may take issue with this summary. If you’d like to learn more, I’ll refer you to David Allen’s book and the many available overviews of GtD (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4). There’s also a useful Yahoo! Groups forum; it can be a bit high-volume at times, but there are many interesting insights shared by participants.

Overview of Kizby

Kizby is a new desktop-based project and task management tool for Windows, Linux, and MacOS X. Kizby “rescues your task list” by combining the strengths of a project planning app for managing the big picture, a todo list for breaking down work, and a notebook for capturing everything else such as notes, journal entries, links, related files, emails, and other information associated with a project.

Kizby is a hierarchical project management tool. This simply means that Kizby groups tasks by project as compared to a flat list or a set of flat lists. Projects can have sub-projects to whatever depth is useful. Kizby’s projects are very lightweight: you can create as many or as few as you need. To manage having many projects, Kizby supports assigning meaningful states to projects and tasks to describe their status such as Ready, In Progress, Blocked, Waiting, Cancelled, or Archived (complete list). By assigning project states, you can quickly filter projects to just those that matter now. As you’ll see in the following screenshots, Kizby supports recording a rich set of metadata about projects and tasks that can also be used for filtering purposes.

Rather than provide an in-depth summary of Kizby, I’ll highlight two principal perspectives, the Dashboard perspective and the Planning perspective. If you’d like to see more of Kizby, there’s a good overview in the Step By Step Tutorial with Kizby, and full detail in The Kizby Guide.

The Dashboard Perspective

Kizby’s Dashboard provides a cross-project overview of your available tasks. It features a nice set of built-in queries to allow quickly reviewing work that’s happened, as well as work that’s been scheduled for the future. It also provides quick visual summaries as coloured bubbles to indicate the number of tasks that are overdue (coloured in red), or active (blue-grey).

Kizby's Dashboard, providing a cross-project view of tasks

The top three catgories of queries are particularly useful:

Today
The queries in the Today category are very useful to see what tasks you should work on today. It provides queries for listing the tasks starting today, that are due today, the tasks that are ongoing (i.e., those whose start date has past), and tasks that are overdue.
Upcoming
The queries in the Upcoming category are useful to see what tasks are coming up for the rest of this work week and next week.
Review
The queries in the Upcoming category are useful to see what tasks were recently completed. The Changed Today query shows the tasks that were modified today.

The tasks shown can be further filtered by state, priority, context, or location.

Tasks can be filtered by state, priority, context, or location

The Dashboard is where I live on a day-to-day basis as I’m working.

The Planning Perspective

The planning perspective provides for more traditional project/task planning. The perspective defaults to showing current projects, meaning those projects that are not marked as being completed, abandoned, or cancelled.

Kizby's Planning perspective provides more traditional project/task planning

The Planning perspective is where I contemplate as I do my weekly reviews. I create new tasks, mark off any that are obsolete, and use drag-n-drop to create dependencies. I can use Kizby’s powerful filters to hide or reveal tasks and projects that are in certain states (e.g., to see the blocked tasks).

How do I use Kizby as part of a GtD-inspired system?

Capture, Processing, and Organizing

Perhaps the first thing to note is that Allen doesn’t insist on a single tool/device/thing for capturing and organizing. He only advocates that you have a systematic approach so that nothing falls between the cracks.

I use a few tools as part of my system in addition to Kizby. I use a calendar program, iCal, but only to record appointments. I also use my email app, Mail.app, as an in-basket: if I find items or things that seem useful, I email them to myself at a special address.

Kizby, of course, serves as my main project list. I try to create small focussed projects with well-defined goals. But I also maintain some checklist-style projects to correspond with the different contexts in my life (see below). I use these projects to act as catch-all locations for tasks that don’t warrant being projects in their own right. I break tasks out out as projects when required through Kizby’s nifty Transform to Project wizard.

Rather than stick reminders in my calendar, I capture reminders as tasks in Kizby. Many of my reminders are for following-up on some deadlines for other people. For example, I’ve had some hassle dealing with my bank; I set a task whose status is set to Waiting with a due date of when I’m expecting to hear back from the bank officer. If that deadline passes, Kizby pops it up as a bright-red reminder in the overdue query. Or if I’ve delegated work to somebody, I’ll set the status to Delegated and a start-date for when to follow-up and nag.

I also synchronize my projects and tasks with Toodledo to serve as the online complement to Kizby for those times that I’m away from my computer. Tasks added from Toodledo without a folder are synchronized into a “Inbox (Toodledo)” folder.

Contexts, Locations, and Tags

When creating a task, Allen recommends recording the context for the task — either the resources required for the task or the location of where the task should be performed. For example, “phone”, or “home”, or “internet”. This makes it easy to identify tasks that can be done at some particular place. I found these contexts were a little too coarse-grained for my needs and became overloaded. For example, I didn’t want to call the doctor from work where everybody could hear, nor did I want to make work calls when at home. So I ended up with “phone-work” and “phone-home”: the context encoded both the location and the sphere.

Kizby provides for separating the context from location for tasks. Contexts provide high-level groupings by purpose or sphere. I have the following contexts:

Work: Development
Development to do with my work.
Work: Marketing
Marketing to do with my work.
OSS
For stuff to do with open-source work that I do. I distinguish this from Work as it’s not necessarily profit-driven.
Personal
For stuff to do with my home life.
Research
This is for projects that are related to my parallel life as a researcher. I unfortunately haven’t had much time to pursue any of these projects of late.
Volunteering
For the stuff to do with volunteering work
Tenancy
We have tenants, and had some early work to do to get the apartment into shape.

I break out new contexts as I see the need. I’m not doing much volunteer work at the moment, but when I was I had a context for each group. I more recently merged these contexts into the single “Volunteering”.

I then have locations to correspond to different places in my life, such as Office, Home, or Library.

Kizby also supports tagging tasks and projects with user-specified keywords.

Contexts, locations, and tags are inherited from their containing project.

Filing System

I also use Kizby’s journalling and notes as my primary filing system, recording interesting findings as journal entries, and summarized knowledge as notes. I used to use a personal wiki for notes and a simple (but loooong) text file as a log — it was useful, but I found the disconnect between the wikitext and the visual result to be disconcerting, and the need to use several tools made searching a bit of a bear. With Kizby I have this useful information a single place that can be searched.

Review

My weekly review takes place in two phases. First I review my various projects by switching into the Planning perspective. I use Kizby’s filters to consider the projects separately either by context or by their state. I “star” or flag my next actions so that the Dashboard’s “Starred” list contains my active working set for the week. I generally avoid setting start or due dates unless they are real deadlines: I find the artificial pressures they create are more of a burden than a help.

I then switch to the Dashboard perspective. I use the Today and Upcoming queries to verify that the work I’ve starred is achievable. I then use the By State queries to review tasks that are marked as Blocked, Deferred, or Someday to see if they’ve become available. I combine the someday status with the due date to act as my tickler folder.

Determining What To Do

When getting ready to work, I switch to the Dashboard perspective. The Today category shows me what I’m to work on: my planned tasks for the week (Starred), and the items that are to be started and finished this week. The Upcoming category shows me tasks that are either to be started or finished for this week.

Summary

That, in a nutshell, is how I use Kizby to implement my GtD(-inspired) system. I’m currently managing about 40 projects, in various states, and over 400 tasks, and generally feel pretty in control. We’re always interested in hearing how other people approach their systems. Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Click here to start your free 30 day trial of Kizby

If you’re missing deadlines, or becoming stressed and frazzled in trying to manage your work, or frustrated with your current productivity tools, then you should give Kizby a try. Try Kizby for free for 30 days: no credit card details required. If you like Kizby, then we’ll be happy to start a subscription for you. Click on the “Free Trial” seal to get started.



Getting Things Done is a registered trademark of the David Allen Company.

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Kizby 1.0.9 update

New in Kizby 1.0.9:

  • The Add Multiple Tasks… and Finish and Follow-Up… dialogs have been souped up to allow specifying tags, start and due dates, priorities, and more by appending specially formatted keywords at the end of each line. For example the following task description (which should all be on a single line):

    Contact Diego re: Proposal !! start:tomorrow due:+2 ~10 #projectX @office

    Would result in a task “Contact Diego re: Proposal” marked at top-priority, starting tomorrow, due in two days, estimated duration of 10 minutes, with tag “projectX”, and location set to “office”. The dialog’s help screen provides a breakdown of how to use these keywords.

  • Fixed some final selection issues in the Notes and Journalling windows.
  • Added the ability to modify your subscription from Help → Modify Subscription… (e.g., useful for switching between monthly or annual).
  • Bug fixes:
    • Requesting password reset wasn’t properly being sent. Oops.
    • Minor bug fixes with Toodledo syncing

You can get these updates by selecting Help → Check for Updates from within Kizby. As always, please send any feedback to our support.

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Kizby Updates

We’ve pushed up another set of updates; this is Kizby 1.0.8. If you use the Check for Updates, be sure to read the caveat at the bottom of this page.

  • We have greatly improved the filter box (generally found in the upper-right) for the Planning and Archives perspectives: the Projects view will now show projects containing tasks that are matched by the filter. It’s much more pleasurable to use!
  • We reassigned the Finish Task and Follow-Up… shortcut (CtrlF or F on MacOS X) to the Find… function. The Find function selects the text filter box; this function has been souped up for the Planning and Archives view. The Finish and Follow-Up… function is now bound to CtrlAltF or F on MacOS X.
  • Based on feedback, we changed two of the project and task status terms to better reflect their meanings:
    1. Tentative renamed to Planning
    2. Active renamed to In Progress
  • We fixed a number of issues related to updating behind web proxies, such as found in many corporate environments. Any users in this situation will need to re-download Kizby from the website unfortunately; but it shouldn’t be necessary again.
  • Added a preference to control the time between checks for updates; these checks are still only done on restart, though you can always manually check for an update through Help > Check for Updates
  • If reporting a bug, you can easily find the logs through the About Kizby dialog
  • Various bug fixes including:
    • Fixed updates handling for those behind proxies
    • Fixed priority inversion on default sort (“Low” was sorting higher than “Top”)
    • Fixed cycling in checking for updates
    • Fixed failure to restart after finding updates: more on this below.
    • Fix NullPointerException bug when using tags

You can install the updates through Help > Check for Updates. Upon installing the changes, Kizby will ask if you’d like to restart. Unfortunately the previous version of Kizby (1.0.7) suffered from a bug where it will not restart properly if you select “Yes”; this bug is fixed in 1.0.8. So please select “No” and quit manually.

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Scoping Projects to Manageable Size

I recently put together a tutorial on how to get started with Kizby. Part of the tutorial digressed into what makes a good project or task. I thought I’d pull it out here as it’s something that I continually push against.

4.1 A Digression on Projects and Tasks

Projects and tasks are the primary work structures in Kizby, and Kizby is designed to support creating and using thousands of projects and tasks. Kizby requires that a task must be associated with a project.

Ideally a task should represent a concrete action, something that can be achieved as a logical step. And ideally a projects represents a desired outcome or goal, whether that be an end-product (sometimes called a deliverable), an event, or even an interim step to the larger outcome.

It should be possible to ask of a project: “When will this project be finished?” If the answer is “uncertain” or “never”, then the project is likely poorly defined.

That said, it’s often useful to have one or more catch-all projects. Such projects serve to group single-step tasks that simple enough that they do not warrant being made into full-blown projects. For example, deposit payment cheques is unlikely to be sufficiently complex to warrant being made into a separate project! Such projects are better thought of as checklists. Kizby can be used entirely with catch-all projects, effectively becoming a checklist manager.

You may want to create checklist-style projects to correspond to different contexts or themes in your life. For example: “work”, “home”, “renovations”, or for particular clubs or hobbies.

When I feel like I’m not making progress on something, it’s almost certainly due to an ill-specified task or project. Going over such projects and tasks easily repays for the time.

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DZone interview on Kizby

I was recently interviewed by James Sugrue of Javalobby/DZone about some of the underlying technologies used by Kizby. It’s likely only of interest for technical people.

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