How do you stay organized? Do you use your BlackBerry? Are you like a former work colleague of mine who has an iPhone but keeps a paper calendar? Funny, no? (Not accusing you of having an iPhone; them would be fightin’ words!) Do you use native Remember? What about the native calendar? How important are these organization tools to you?
I probably fit into the “productivity-oriented” category of BlackBerry device users. When I had my Bold, the notepad was critical for me. When I got my first BB10 device, the Z10, Remember became my most important app because I continued to use the native memo feature. I’ve been working on a book for many years and have essentially been doing all of my exploratory writing in the native BlackBerry notes apps. I have also used Remember to help me stay on top of “ToDo’s”.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and one of my weaknesses is that I am a bit absent minded. My memory is really great, it’s just short, and details escape me readily. I lose track of time pretty easily and forget where I was yesterday or where I’m supposed to be in an hour. If I didn’t have my Berry almost permanently attached to my hand, my life would probably go down in flames. So, I’ve relied heavily on the organization features of my Berries and BB10.
In light of this, I have invested in several organization apps and used them to a greater or lesser extent and to greater or lesser effect, they are: Viira, SlickTasks, TaskMaster, Action Pad, and Checked, among several others. After more than a little consternation and analysis, I selected Viira as the organizer that best fits my needs. I don’t think there is a bad app in the above list, and I know everyone has different priorities, but I will try and explain why I have settled on Viira.
Disclaimer: This post blew up in my face and became a daunting challenge of trying to make sure I offered a comprehensive review and got all my facts/details right. I apologize in advance for how lengthy it became.
Below is a list of features that people may be interested in when it comes to task and notes management:
- Subtasks and projects
- Sort by category or tag
- Sort by priority
- Sort by due date (or other date, e.g. creation date, last modified date)
- Sort by name
- One central list of all tasks
- Multi-select and change due date
- Multi-select and delete
- Multi-select and mark completed
- Multi-select and change priority
- Auto carry forward overdue
- Set recurring tasks (maybe not important if have auto carry forward)
- Show/hide completed
- Auto-delete completed
- Integrate with calendar and how (How do reminders work? Do tasks show up as appointments or tasks? Are they marked all day? Are they marked “busy” or “free?” Must the app be open?)
- Integrate with HUB and how (show on individual lines or separately?)
- Dark and bright themes
- Create task out of an email
- Create task out of a contact
- Attachments to tasks/notes
- Backup/restore and how (SD card? proprietary cloud service? open cloud service?)
- Cloud sync
- Print tasks
- Export/Share (to PDF? email? etc.)
- Active frame support
- Format and storage capability of notes
- UI appeal (visually appealing? easy to see/use?)
This may not be an exhaustive list, and if you have other ideas to include, please leave those in the comments. Before I go further, let me add that I am a heavy user of whatever organization tool/app I’ve chosen. I estimate that 40% – 60% of the time I spend on my Classic, I’m using Viira. The app is almost never closed and is essentially always in an active frame if not open completely. The data I have stored in Viira is also critical to me. I mentioned the exploratory writing I do for my book and coaching business, and this data can be of a personal nature. In fact, when I decided to move to BB10 from Palm OS in 2009, I did so because I wanted to keep this data secure. I began using Remember early on for notes and tasks, but as I mentioned before, I started looking around at third party apps. The #1 driver of my buying decisions regarding mobile platforms is the security of this data and my ability to safely and securely keep it backed up. At the risk of seeming melodramatic, I am a BlackBerry user and fan foremost and largely due to my ability to work with this data and keep it secure. If I thought there was another mobile platform with a better value proposition for this functionality, I would invest in them.
Some of you may be old enough to remember Ed McMahon introduce Johnny Carson; “HEEEEERE’S VIIRA!”
I settled on Viira for several reasons, here are a few:
- I love the U.I.; it’s pleasant (I love the cool blue hue), and during the work day I often keep the app open on my screen and just peek into the HUB when necessary. More so, the labels and app features work for me and the concomitant organization method make sense. It also helps keep me from feeling mentally cluttered or overwhelmed with stuff to do. Something about the UI helps keep me feeling positive about my overall task list, priorities and objectives.
- I like having the “projects” category because it helps me keep focused on my long term, end goals.
- I like being able to see tasks by type like email and contact, or see tasks by tag, or category, or in this case “Context.”
- I like the “In Basket” and being able to quickly put something in there and not worry about categorizing it right away or at all.
- I really like the “Day View” screen and being able to see my day’s agenda including calendar appointments, without leaving the app.
- I like the “Next Actions,” and find it a great way to stay focused on the subset of things that are currently more important.
- I like the way it integrates with the HUB and native calendar.
- I can backup and restore using my SD card. I don’t have to use a cloud service or BlackBerry Link.
There seem to be two primary features that organizational tool/app may offer: tasks and notes. It seems reasonable to consider an app that offers both an “organization app” while a task manager provides only task management. The bottom line for an organization app seems to come down to three functions:
1) Helping you remember to do things,
2) Helping you organize the things you have to do, and
3) Organizing information in notes so that you can readily refer to it.
The first one has to do with having some means of making sure you do the things you have in your list (e.g. reminders), while the second one has to do with being able to categorize and find the tasks you have assigned. Putting something in a list or place that makes sense is part of #2, and acting on that list when you need to is part of #1. Keeping notes organized and being able to associate these notes with tasks can also be desirable, as is having these notes and tasks stored in the same app so you don’t have to bounce back and forth between apps.
As I indicated previously, I used Remember for a long time and liked a lot of what it offered. Remember integrates very well with the calendar offering you the ability to work from your agenda calendar view and edit or delete tasks right from the calendar as you go through them. Remember also houses memos or notes as well as tasks and gives you the ability to tag these to associate them with each other. Remember also has a central list of all tasks that is sortable by name or due date. Remember has a nice active frame feature that displays your first two or three tasks due today in the color of the folder they are in (E.g., two for Q10, three for Z30). Remember automatically picks up any flagged emails and includes them in their own folder and in the central list. Remember also gives you a clear way of differentiating tasks from appointments when viewing the calendar in month and agenda views by using different symbols.
However, Remember does not offer a means of backup and restore save for using Link, and Remember’s UI is a little stark and Spartan in the centralized list and particularly in the tags list, which I find difficult on the eyes. Also, Remember does not integrate with the HUB; you can only see appointments in the HUB. Before continuing with the comparison, I want to say that I’m a huge fan of BBRY and am not trying to take a stab at them or imply Remember is no good. There are actually great things about Remember as I have indicated above. However, it just wasn’t working for me, particularly according to the #2 function above: staying organized.
Although I did not intend for this to be a comparison review, it seems reasonable to review Viira and compare it with Remember since that is the native app that many may be familiar with. So here is a comparison of Remember and Viira, according to the list mentioned previously:
Subtasks or projects: Viira and Remember work similarly here so this is a push with no clear winner. Remember does not allow for subtasks. You can make a folder a project or main task, and list inside the folder, the tasks associated with that project, but you cannot see a list of the main task with the subtasks associated. There are other apps like SlickTasks, which allow more robust subtask features. Viira allows for a “Projects” view, and you can see a list of them and you can open the projects and see the associated tasks, but again, you cannot see a central list of the main tasks with the subtasks listed together. Depending on how you look at it, Viira allows you to, or requires you to; manually re-order the tasks within the projects and other views. It can be seen as a benefit since you can sort them however you want, whereas Remember only sorts them by name, due date, creation date, or last modified date. An advantage of Remember though, is that it sorts in these ways, automatically, via the touch of a button.
Sort by category or tag: Once again, this is fairly even-up and I would consider it a push. Remember allows you to use folders as categories and allows you to tag tasks with multiple tags so you can sort them accordingly in the tags view. Remember also allows you to see all your email tasks in a separate view. Viira allows you to set up “Contexts” (essentially the same as tags or folders), and also allows you to see the email tasks and contacts tasks in separate locations. Unlike Remember, when you select an email or contact task in Viira, you have the option to send the contact an email, or call them, or open the contact record or email in question. The invocation framework in BB10 will open the corresponding apps.
Sort by Priority: Strictly speaking, neither Viira nor Remember allow you to prioritize tasks as do some of the other apps I mentioned previously. Typically you have a “high, medium, and low” priority option with apps that offer priority sorting. Remember allows you to tag tasks and you can tag them “important” if you wish, but you will not be able to sort the central list accordingly. This means, you can only see your “important” tasks all in one list, which may work for you. Other apps, like SlickTasks, allow you to sort the important tasks and bring them to the top of your list. Viira allows you to manually reorganize or sort tasks in any list (except the central list, which is found under the “Search” view), which ostensibly is a way to prioritize tasks, but they are not labeled or indicated as such in any way. Viira also allows you to mark a task a “Next Action,” which puts a little exclamation mark next to it. Next actions appear at the top of any list they are in (except the central list), which also is a means of making them a higher priority, ostensibly giving Viira two priority levels.
Sort by due date: Remember beats Viira in this category as it allows you to sort your central list and your individual category lists according to due date. Remember also allows you to sort by creation date and last modified date and these sorts also apply to the individual category lists (folders). Viira does not allow you to sort tasks by due date. In fact, looking at a category list you will have no indication as to when a task is due; you only see the due date of tasks by looking at the day (agenda) view and finding the task there.
Sort by name: Remember beats Viira in this category as well as it allows you to sort your tasks (or notes) according to their name in both the central and category list views. Viira’s central list is unsortable and only appears in the order the tasks were created. Viira’s category lists are only sortable as indicated above, which is manually, or by using the “Next Action” feature to bring that task to the top of any list in which it appears.
Central task list: Remember beats Viira in this category as it has a more robust central list. Viira does have a central list of tasks, but as indicated before, it is unsortable. This list displays the tasks in order of their creation date. It is also where all completed tasks are displayed regardless of how you have the “show/hide completed” setting adjusted. Viira’s central list is found under the “Search” view. Remember allows you more sort options for the central list.
Multi-select features: Being able to select multiple tasks and apply an action to them en-masse is a great productivity feature. I used to love BHive tasks on my 9900 with BBOS for this reason. I would often work from my agenda view during the day and if I didn’t get everything done, I’d multi-select the uncompleted tasks and change the due date to tomorrow. Neither Remember nor Viira is strong here. Remember only allows you to multi-select and delete. Ideally, you should be able to multi-select tasks from a variety of screens/views and perform different actions like: change due date, change category, change priority, delete, mark completed, etc. Viira allows you to delete all completed tasks, which is a sort-of multi-select feature, and it also allows you to carry forward to today, all past due tasks, but neither app offers rich functionality here.
Multi-select and change date: See above.
Multi-select and delete: See above.
Multi-select and mark completed: See above.
Multi-select and change priority: See above.
Auto carry forward overdue: This is an excellent feature. When you’re working from a list of tasks you may tend to pick a subset of them to get done today. Things happen during the work day and you often may not complete every task. Thus, having overdue tasks show up on the current day in the “Today” view can be desirable so you know you won’t forget to do a task, which is part of function #1 above. Although Viira allows you to manually carry forward overdue tasks, neither app will do this for you automatically. I believe this is a feature that “Checked” offers.
Set recurring tasks: (May not be as important if have auto carry forward) Having a recurring task show up on a certain day of the week or certain time of the day can be helpful. In a previous gig, I was responsible for reporting on the results of my sales activities on a weekly basis. This is something few salespeople enjoy doing, even when the results are good. In any event, I would put a recurring task every Monday morning to remind me to complete this report. Remember allows you to repeat tasks daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or in a custom fashion and also allows you to regenerate tasks, which I haven’t used so I’m unsure as to how this differs from repeat. Viira however offers no functionality here.
Show/hide completed: This is not an earthshattering feature, but can be handy. Sometimes you may be working from the today view and marking tasks completed as you go. I have found a measure of satisfaction in keeping those tasks on my screen to remind me that I’m getting things done. However, in other views you may not want to have completed tasks getting in the way, so showing or hiding these tasks can be more or less advantageous in different situations. Remember does not offer choices in this area while Viira does depending on the view you’re in. In the central list, which is the “Search” view, you always see completed items unless you’ve deleted them, while in the “In Basket” view, you have no choice in that all completed tasks disappear. This makes sense as the In Basket in Viira is designed for tasks that do not show up in any other view except the “Search” (complete list) view. In the several other views (Context, Day, Project, Email, Contact, Next Action), you can show or hide completed tasks as you wish.
Integrate with calendar: Calendar integration can occur in many ways. For example, how do reminders work? Do tasks show up as appointments or tasks? Are they marked all day? Are they marked “busy” or “free?” Must the app be open, that is, in an active frame or does the functionality work headless? Remember beats Viira with this feature. Remember has tight integration with the native calendar and this is one of the great benefits of Remember. When I used Remember, I would keep my calendar and Remember open in active frames and go back and forth between them. However, once I had my tasks assigned for the day, I would open the calendar in “Agenda” view and work from there. From this view you can work down your list of tasks, edit them, mark them completed, and delete them. It’s an excellent way to stay organized and get your stuff done while keeping your appointments for the day front and center. Tasks assigned due dates in Remember show up in the calendar as squares (similar to all day appointments) so they’re mostly readily differentiated from appointments in the “Month” view of your calendar. In the “Agenda” view, tasks show up with check marks rather than as circles or squares as appointments do. Viira offers some integration with the calendar, but only when reminders are set. If you assign a due date for a task and look for it in the calendar, you won’t find it, but if you assign a reminder, you will see your task in the calendar as an appointment with the time corresponding to the time the reminder was set. This is not horrible as Viira has its own “agenda” view in the “Day” view. I’ll go into reminders after discussing HUB integration as reminders may involve both the calendar and the HUB.
Integrate with HUB: One of the greatest assets of BB10 and in my opinion, one of the greatest features of any mobile OS ever, is the BlackBerry HUB. We’re all familiar with it and how it works so I won’t bother with that, but scrolling or pulling down from the top of the HUB allows you to see appointments for today and tomorrow, something I use all the time to help me avoid missing appointments. Regarding tasks and the HUB, Remember offers no integration. Remember’s integration with the calendar is so good that I wouldn’t call this a catastrophe, however, it’s really nice to have some way of putting significant tasks due today, at the top of the HUB. In fact, I’ve often wished for an “Agenda” view from inside the HUB merely by pulling down from the top to see appointments and tasks due today. Viira comes close to offering this functionality. When you set a reminder in Viira, you are forced to select a time for the reminder to go off. Reminders in Viira function the same as reminders in Remember in that both are managed by the calendar and show up in the same dialogue box when the reminder time arrives. However, the advantage Viira offers is that reminders also show up in the HUB as appointments just like calendar appointments do. Thus, if you have a few very important tasks or tasks you’re likely to forget, assigning them a reminder time will cause those tasks to show up in the HUB pull down appointments view, something I use regularly. When using this function, you must balance the desirability of having the reminder dialogue box appear during your work day, with the desirability of having the task appear in the HUB pull down because the appointments in the HUB pull down disappear after the appointed time passes. Typically I set these reminders for 23:00 so that I have a view of them all day long in the HUB pull down.
Dark and bright themes: Neither app offers this functionality as a choice or setting. Remember does take advantage of dark theme on devices with OLED technology, e.g. Z30 and Q10, where dark theme actually requires less energy and saves the battery. So when I use my Z30, Remember works in dark theme and when I use my Classic (LCD), it works in bright theme. The calendar offers a setting of bright/dark on both devices, but Remember does not have that choice. Viira is always in bright theme, but I love the cool blue hue of Viira so I doubt I would use the dark theme on my OLED devices even if I had the choice.
Emails as tasks: Both apps offer this functionality but have different advantages. In balance, I believe Viira offers the better solution. Both apps allow you to make an email a task from the HUB. With remember, merely flagging an email makes it into a task that shows up in a separate list in the main tasks (folders) view and in the “All Tasks” view where they are marked clearly so you can differentiate them from other tasks. With Viira, you must long press the email in the HUB and you’re offered a “share” option, after which you would select “Viira,” which makes the email into a task. Email tasks can appear in different views in Viira, depending on how you categorize them, but they always show up in the “Email Tasks” view. The advantage Viira has is that you can create an email task from the HUB or from Viira by selecting “add attachment” from the task detail screen and then selecting “email.” With both apps, deleting the task does nothing to the email, but with Viira, you have the option to see the contact record associated with the email task provided that contact is in your contacts list.
Contacts as tasks: Viira wins here as Remember does not offer this functionality. It may not appear to be valuable, but being able to create a task out of a contact can be quite advantageous. I’m starting a coaching business and maintaining a list of the people I’ve met and what’s going on with them is critical. Once the person is in my contacts list, I create a task for them in Viira and track my progress there. Thus, when I’m on the phone with them, I can see what we’ve discussed in the past and when, and what my strategy is. This functionality is available in the native contacts app, by using the notes field, but this does not allow you to set a deadline or reminder for a call or to associate the contact with other categories or projects, etc. This functionality of Viira will only work when you have the contact stored on your device; it will not work for example with LinkedIn or Facebook contacts that are not also found on your device. There are likely far more robust contact management tools, e.g., I used Salesforce on BBOS, but Viira suits my needs well.
Attachments to tasks/notes: Both apps offer the ability to set attachments to tasks and notes, however, the options and the way it works are slightly different. With Remember, you can attach a “picture, audio, video, or file,” and with Viira, you can attach a “contact, email, document, picture or file.” It should be noted that with either app, attaching a “file” invokes the file manager, which gives you access to anything stored on your device, SD card, connected PC, USB OTG device, or cloud service, so the categories of “picture, audio and video” are redundant. Viira is able to attach a contact to a task as described above in the “contacts as tasks” feature category so that is a plus above Remember, but Remember is capable of attaching content as you create it so that is a plus above Viira. For example, if I want to create an audio note to go along with a task, I have to create the note somehow and store it and then go into Viira, create a task, and find and attach my audio note to the task. With Remember, I can create my task, and then create my audio note on the fly and attach it to the task; a more seamless and integrated way that saves time. Ultimately, this category is is push, although I would love to see Viira add the Remember functionality.
Backup/restore: Viira wins this category as there are more options for backup and restore than with native Remember. The primary way to backup and restore your data with Remember is through BlackBerry Link. You can purchase third party apps like “Ultimate Backup” as an option, should you want to backup and restore using an SD card or other functionality through the BlackBerry File Manager, but Viira offers more capability than Remember on a head to head comparison. With Viira, select the “Options” view and then “backup/restore.” From there you will be presented with the option to select how you want to employ this feature, which utilizes the native file manager and offers the typical selections, e.g. device, media card, Dropbox, PC, etc. When restoring from a backup file in Viira, you must delete all the content in the app before doing so in order to prevent duplicates as the restore process does not delete existing data first. This is an issue I have raised with the developer that I’m hopeful will be addressed.
Cloud sync: This is potentially a great feature enabling you to maintain your data on multiple mobile devices. Viira beats Remember in this category as Remember does not offer this type of service. Although I have discussed this a bit with the developer, Karta Mobile, I have not as yet found a need for this feature and have not used it so I cannot offer a review. All I can say at this point is that the developer assures me the data is encrypted the entire time and it will sync with other BB10 devices as well as MS Outlook versions 2003 – 2013. Again, this is potentially desirable by many users. I believe this service includes a separate fee over and above the purchase price of the app.
Print tasks: Printing a list of your tasks could be something you’d want to do. When I was using SlickTasks and working at a previous gig, I would regularly print off a list of my tasks that I would work from during the day. If I remember correctly, SlickTasks would provide this functionality by exporting your task list to a PDF file and then you could print the file. Neither Remember, nor Viira offers this functionality so this feature is a push.
Export/share: There may be a time when you want to export your task list to another device or file. This is possibly advantageous as it eliminates a step in the backup/restore process. As I mentioned before, BeHive tasks was my go to task manager during the BBOS days. As I recall, I could email myself a file that took all my tasks and formatted them into a simple list. This was useful to allow me to keep all my tasks in a list on one piece of paper that I could keep in my portfolio. Sometimes an 8.5” X 11” piece of paper is easier to use than a small screen. As mentioned before, SlickTasks allows you to export your data to a PDF file, which is then readily used in a variety of ways. Remember wins here as it offers basic sharing functionality while Viira offers none. If you highlight a note or task in Remember and hit “share” you will have the classic BB10 sharing features to use to share the content of that note or task.
Active frame support: I can’t recall the exact iteration of BB10 where active frames became available, but this can be a great feature. When your app is open in an active frame, there is an opportunity to provide some information or functionality, I suppose like a “widget” in the Android world. Remember takes the first two or three tasks due today and displays them in the active frame according to the color of the folder those tasks are associated with. Viira offers no active frame functionality, so Remember wins here. I don’t find this to be an issue, as active frame for task management is very limited and can even be potentially misleading as you cannot rely on the active frame with Remember since it merely shows you the first 2 or 3 tasks in your list; you still may miss something important. Viira merely minimizes, so whatever view you’re in when you minimize the app is what you get in the active frame. Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to see your list in the small font of the active frame.
Format and storage capability of notes: This has to do with how much data you can enter into an individual note either literally, or before there is some degradation in performance. Remember wins here as it accepts a lot of data and continues to work well. When I used “Action Pad,” there was a number that indicated the number of characters in each note. As I recall, I had many notes with over 25K characters in them. Remember wins here because it never seemed to have any hiccups regardless of my overuse of the notes feature of the app. Viira however, will begin to show signs of performance degradation. The screen may take time to load and scrolling can be twitchy. I have sidestepped this issue by creating new notes with the same heading as previous entries and archiving the previous entries. For example, if I have a note labeled “XYZ,” and it’s gotten too big for Viira, I will create a new one called “XYZ” and rename the old one “(Old) XYZ.” I have many of these entries, some archived down to “(Old 4) XYZ” or whatever. With regards to formatting, there are some apps that will lose returns (return key – line spacing) during backup and restore. I cannot recall exactly which app or how this occurs, but I have had to go back and reformat my notes at times, adding in my returns (new lines) to get my notes back to normal and make them legible. Neither Remember, nor Viira have problems with this, so this is a push.
Search: Being able to search on a name, term or word can have obvious utility when you’ve forgotten how you’ve categorized a note or task and want to find it. Surprisingly, Remember offers no search functionality and does not even participate in the much vaunted “Universal Search” feature of BB10. Thus, searches of the name of a task or note will not yield results that include Remember data. Viira wins here as on the main view there is a “Search” view button that brings you to a complete list of all your tasks and notes, including undeleted completed entries and allows you to search the titles.
UI appeal: I was surprised to realize that I find this category to be very important. Checked offers the most functionality of any organization tool/app I have purchased in BBWorld but Viira is far superior for me due to the UI. I find the Viira user interface to be very pleasant and even soothing. As I mentioned before, I am in this app constantly, so for me, besides offering the requisite functionality, it needs to offer a pleasant experience. Viira’s UI is a cool blueish hue with icons that are pleasant. I find the UI soothing in the face of potential pressure or angst over different tasks I need to accomplish or far reaching goals I am pursuing. In terms of UI, there is no comparison; Viira wins hands down and makes Remember look “Spartan” in comparison. Again, this is ‘no small shakes’ as whatever an app can do to help you take on all the challenges you face in day to day life, can only be beneficial.
Summary: I have been using Viira on and off since I purchased my Z10 three years ago and been using it extensively for over a year now. I am a heavy user of this app and my needs regarding this app are really the cornerstone of my mobile experience and the deciding factor for why I use BlackBerry. I have been in contact with the developer, Karta Mobile, and have found them responsive. It seems they are actively supporting BB10, which I find laudable, and they claim they are preparing an update for BB10 after they finish porting their app to iOS. Viira’s UI offers several key features like “Next Actions,” which is a subset of all the most important or time sensitive tasks you have in your list. Next Actions always show up at the top of whatever list view you are in. There is also a “Projects” view offering you the ability to have subtasks by assigning a main task project status. I like using projects for long term goals that have many steps for completion; this category really helps you to “keep your eye on the ball.” Viira is an excellent app offering the vast majority of all the functionality of even the most feature rich organizer tools with a superb, best in class, user interface. Viira can be found in BBWorld for $14.99 and is a 2.9MB file garnering 33 reviews and 4.5 stars. Check out Viira if you want to purchase the last organizer you’ll ever need. Again; sorry for the longwinded post.
Git’ ‘er done!