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Basecamp Preview: To-Dos

12 Jan 2004 by Ryan Singer

Last week we looked at how Basecamp handles Milestones. Today we’ll take a peak at a feature we’ve used every day since we built it: To-Dos.

The To-Do section is for getting all the little things done. To-Do lists are mostly free-form — you just make a list, give it some checkable items, and move them around as you please. Each To-Do list contains unfinished items in the upper portion, and completed (checked) items below:

To-Do screenshot

New To-Do items are added inline, right below each list’s unfinished items. When you create a new list you can add items one-by-one, or 7 at a time if you’re in a hurry.

To-Do screenshot

Moving lists and items is simple. The move controls can be toggled on and off, and allow you to move items within a lists or entire lists. From left to right, the first icon moves the item to the top, the second moves it up a notch, the third down a notch, and the last icon moves it to the bottom.

To-Do screenshot

But your clients don’t need to worry about any of the above. They just see what’s done and what’s not:

To-Do screenshot

We’ve still got more up our sleeve, and be sure to sign up for our mailing list to be notified when Basecamp launches.

19 comments so far (Post a Comment)

12 Jan 2004 | Ping said...

Holy crap that looks useful.

12 Jan 2004 | JP said...

When you create a new list you can add items one-by-one, or 7 at a time if you’re in a hurry.

How does it let you enter multiple to-dos at once? Does the user just enter a carriage return after each item in the textarea?

Also, I'm curious about the complete/incomplete checkboxes and the move-item arrows work. Are the forms submitted automatically with javascript, or does the user have to click submit after making each change?

Usability curiosity aside, I'm excited to see Basecamp coming together. I hope you'll have a demo version or trial period so we can play with it once it goes live.

12 Jan 2004 | JF said...

How does it let you enter multiple to-dos at once? Does the user just enter a carriage return after each item in the textarea?

No, there is a separate screen for quick bulk entry.

Also, I'm curious about the complete/incomplete checkboxes and the move-item arrows work. Are the forms submitted automatically with javascript, or does the user have to click submit after making each change?

Javascript. It's quick. Sure, there's a tradeoff if you want to mark off multiple items at once, but our testing and usage showed that people usually check off one thing at a time so we built the UI to handle that task as quickly as possible.

I hope you'll have a demo version or trial period so we can play with it once it goes live.

There will be a free plan that will let you manage one project at a time so you'll get a good feel for what you can do with it. The app really shines when you have multiple projects and multiple clients, but the free 1-project account will be sufficient to show off the basics.

12 Jan 2004 | Adam said...

Wow ... well done, and great PR move with the sneak peeks - good use of your blog's influence.

I will have to admit though, I always told myself I would use the To-Do lists on my Treo 300 for groceries, work, etc. But never did. Why?

Post-it notes.

The ultimate to do list maker. No programming, no usability issues, no hassle. Not half as cool, of course, so I still can't wait to try it out.

12 Jan 2004 | JF said...

Post-it notes. The ultimate to do list maker.

Ahh, Post-it Notes, yes.

Here's the thing... Everyone has their own system of files, folders, post-it notes, napkin scribbles, random scraps of notes on random scraps of paper. But here's the problem: While you may think your own system for managing projects and information is easy for YOU to navigate and YOU to organize and YOU to understand, how do you think your clients feel (assuming they can even see your system which they probably can't if you are using physical objects in your own office)?

One of the major goals of Basecamp is to bring the firm and the client together on the same page. Projects work better when things are out in the open. Projects work better when there aren't any mysteries. Projects work better when communcation is standardized and centralized. Projects work better when everyone knows where to go to get the latest updates, latest files, latest schedules, latest to-do lists, latest links, etc.

Projects work better on Basecamp. You'll see ;)

12 Jan 2004 | JP said...

There will be a free plan that will let you manage one project at a time so you'll get a good feel for what you can do with...

Nice. Thanks.

One more question: how do To-Dos relate to Milestones? Does each Milestone have associated To Do items (and "Posts," it seems), or are the two completely separate from one another?

12 Jan 2004 | JF said...

One more question: how do To-Dos relate to Milestones? Does each Milestone have associated To Do items (and "Posts," it seems), or are the two completely separate from one another?

Right now they are separate and I think we're going to keep 'em that way. To-dos aren't really "date sensitive" -- they're just things to get done. If you want to create a list of date sensitive things, you can create as many milestones as you want. To-dos are really for the little things -- you know, those things you often forget to do because you haven't kept track of them. But, of course how you use To-Dos is up to you.

12 Jan 2004 | Wilson said...

Here's the thing... Everyone has their own system of files, folders, post-it notes, napkin scribbles, random scraps of notes on random scraps of paper. But here's the problem: While you may think your own system for managing projects and information is easy for YOU to navigate and YOU to organize and YOU to understand, how do you think your clients feel (assuming they can even see your system which they probably can't if you are using physical objects in your own office)?

Sounds like good marketing copy to me. But I'm sold already.

We were just talking in our staff meeting about how to keep track all the "niggly little things" without spending more time than it actually takes to perform the task. We decided a separate "blog-like" system of entries and comments would work best. But you guys thought of it first, and did it better.

Can't wait.

13 Jan 2004 | kageki said...

Bugs.

Are bugs going to be treated as "to do"s or will they be broken out into their own distinct functionality.


90% of the bug tracking software out there sucks on the devil's warty... uh... tail... when it comes to usabiliity. They're not quite the same as "to do" items as they can have different status, and you should be able to let your clients submit them (as opposed to actuall items that need doing). i'd love to point clients to an elegant tool when they can't get their toaster to work.

13 Jan 2004 | Matthew Oliphant said...

One of the things about logging to do items in the tool is that you can use past projects as a historical record. You can look through past projects to see if there was something like what you are about to do and see what it took then to get a very good idea of what it will take now.

If this is jumping ahead just say so, but will when you close a project in Basecamp, does it go into a non-editable "historical" mode?

13 Jan 2004 | JF said...

If this is jumping ahead just say so, but will when you close a project in Basecamp, does it go into a non-editable "historical" mode?

Currently, you don't "close" a project -- it just becomes an "Inactive Project" when there are no posts or comments within the last 30 days. Posting or commenting on that project will flip the flag to "Active" (and then if there are no new posts or comments in the next 30 days it will flip back to "Inactive"). Inactive projects are displayed at the bottom of your Project Dashboard in smaller type and in light grey. Active projects are displayed at the top in bigger, bolder type. But now we're jumping ahead a little bit.

13 Jan 2004 | Matthew Oliphant said...

Ah. So, what is the benefit of keeping something open that happened in the past?

I am not necessarily against the idea, but it is strange from my corporate perspective. ;)

13 Jan 2004 | JF said...

Ah. So, what is the benefit of keeping something open that happened in the past?

After launch we may add in a feature to let you "close" a project (which would prevent future changes), but the current "inactive" state does work pretty well.

13 Jan 2004 | TL said...

One more question: how do To-Dos relate to Milestones? Does each Milestone have associated To Do items (and "Posts," it seems), or are the two completely separate from one another?

The separation of To-do from Milestones confused me at first when previewing Basecamp. But, after some further thought I applied an existing model learned from MS Outlook...

To-Do = Task
Milestone = Calendar

Also, one thing I really like about Basecamp is the ability to associate one or more "posts" (e.g. deliverable, blog-like entry, code snippet, etc...) with each milestone.

You can see this in the previous preview where some of the milestones have a bullet or bullets underneath them.

Notably, however, if memory serves me correctly, you cannot associate more than one milestone with a given post, though I'm not sure you'd really want to do this very often.

Are the forms submitted automatically with javascript, or does the user have to click submit after making each change?

Basecamp uses JavaScript in the To-Do list area to create a highly efficient experience.

A typical app would probably behave as follows: Click add an item and a new window w/ add item form pops open. Then you write the item and click submit (e.g. "+ Add this item") and the pop-up redraws with confirmation message. The you click close window button and inter-window messaging redraws the parent window with the new item.

Basecamp does away with all that excise. Click add an item the entry field simply appears. Then when you click submit it just gets added to the list and is confirmed with the (probably soon-to-be-very-common) "yellow fade technique."

The mechanics are actually a little startling at first, but once you get used to it the efficiency is much appreciated.

TL

13 Jan 2004 | JP said...

Click add an item the entry field simply appears. Then when you click submit it just gets added to the list and is confirmed with the (probably soon-to-be-very-common) "yellow fade technique."

What is this much touted yellow fade technique?

14 Jan 2004 | Braun said...

Hey 37, I thought you guys didn't code? Thought you just did design. How did you do this?

14 Jan 2004 | Melon said...

This looks cool....when will it be available?

14 Jan 2004 | TL said...

What is this much touted yellow fade technique?

It is a modeless feedback mechanism for drawing your attention to a particular item in a list of items — typically to “prove” that an edit or addition has been made.

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