Ooooh, shiny: Thinking Rock 2.0

I have been using Thinking Rock for a while to manage my GTD process, and I really like it. Today, after a long wait, version 2.0gamma has finally been released, at least for the Mac. So as soon as I got home, I downloaded and started playing with it. Here is my initial set of impressions, including some screenshots. This is just from very early testing, mainly for the purpose of sharing some screenshots, so many of my impressions may be wrong, and this is not a final release yet, so some things may change or get fixed.

My veredict: it seems to have been worth the wait. Good work Jeremy and Claire!

I downloaded TR2, installed it according to the instructions (which copy a couple of jar files into /System/Library/Frameworks/JavaVM.framework/Versions/CurrentJDK/Home/lib/endorsed, I wonder if this could be fixed so that the jars are accessed at their location inside the application, to avoid installing things outside the app bundle), and started it. The well known overview screen welcomed me (click on the images to view them in their original size).

Tr-Overview

I opened my existing TR data file from version 1.2.3, and it imported it perfectly. Let’s walk through the typical GTD process. First, you capture thoughts.

Tr-Capturethoughts

Then you process them. Here is the first place where I noticed some changes. Now you can attach files or URLs to actions, and you have some additional fields for the action, such as time it will take to complete (more on this later).

Tr-Processthoughts

You can now also set recurring actions. When you set an action to be “Scheduled”, you can also set its recurrence characteristics.

Tr-Actions-Recurrence

Once you process the thought, it ends up in your actions list. In my example, I made a project out of it, so it ended up in the projects list. In version 2.0, the projects list shows only the projects by default. If you double click on a project or action, you get to see and edit its details.

Tr-Projects1
Tr-Projects2
Tr-Projects3

Speaking of clicking, TR2 feels considerably faster than version 1.2.3 in switching between views. Also, in general the interface seems better organized and more pleasant to look at. Keyboard shortcuts are still a bit odd and not consistently available. For example, if you have an action selected in the projects list, you cannot create a new action, you have to select a project first. I think if you have an action selected, “Add action” should add a new action in the enclosing project (actually this was the case in version 1.2.3). Speaking of keyboard shortcuts, I hope they are customizable, although I didn’t find an obvious way of changing them.

A nice addition in the projects screen is the “Future projects” tab. I was not able to drag a project into that tab, but I was able to cut-and-paste it into it.

Tr-Futureprojects

Also intriguing is the “Templates” screen. In it, you can create projects and actions, arguably to use them as templates when creating new ones. However, I could not find a way to specify a template when creating a project or action, other than copying and pasting it.

Tr-Templates

I normally spend most of my time in TR in the “Review actions” screen, in which you can filter by context, topic, status, etc. Now you can filter by many additional criteria, and also choose which columns and filter options are displayed (very nice!). One nice addition is the ability to display and sort by creation time. Allows you to see which actions have been lingering there for too long. Ouch, I suck.

Tr-Actions-Creationtime

Tr-Columnschoice Tr-Filterschoice

The “Done” tab in the actions screen currently shows up empty.

Tr-Done-Emptyscreen

The “Future” and “Information” items screens have also been redone, now you can independently set topics for them. You still cannot create items directly from these screens, only by going through the “process thoughts” screen. While this is Ok by strict GTD methodology, I think it would be nice to be able to skip that step sometimes.

Tr-Futureitems

Tr-Infoitems

Now on to other new things. There are now three additional fields for each action: Time it will take to complete, Energy needed to tackle it, and Priority. I particularly like the Time, since I have for some time named my actions by prepending to them the time I estimate it will take to complete. I am not sure if the availability of the Time field will stop me from doing that, but it’s a very nice addition. For each criteria, you can define the available values, and you can also choose to show them or filter by them in the actions screen.

Tr-Criteria-Time
Tr-Criteria-Energy
Tr-Criteria-Priority

With version 2.0, Thinking Rock is now a modular application, and new modules and plugins will eventually be available. So there is now a Module Manager for viewing, installing and uninstalling modules, and an Update Center wizard that allows you to automatically download and install new or updated modules. The Update Center popped up with a new “Test module”, but didn’t do anything, so I guess some of the backend infrastructure is not there yet, but this is definitely a very nice feature.

Tr-Modulemanager
Tr-Updatewizard

It’s also worth mentioning that with version 2.0 (although not as of this writing), TR will become open source. I am sure that this will result in many interesting modules being created, and (I hope) considerable growth of the ThinkingRock user community.

The Preferences screen has also been redone. In the basic screen we get essentially the same options as before, with the addition of recurrence defaults. But there is also an Advanced Preferences screen, where you can set many low-level details, including the content of menus and toolbars, proxy settings, confirmation settings, etc.

Tr-Prefs-Recurrence
Tr-Prefs-Advanced

You can now select which toolbars are visible, and also customize or create toolbars.

Tr-Toolbarcustomize

I have not played much with reports yet, but most of the reports I’m used to seem to be there.

There is now an archival feature, which allows you to save projects and actions done before a certain date to a separate file (to keep the size of your main file down, I guess).

Tr-Archive

Whew. So that’s it for now. I hope I gave you an impression of what to expect. Overall, in my 2 hours of playing with it, TR2.0 seems like a solid release. I was already impressed by the previous versions, and the new one seems to maintain the tradition. It includes some very nice features, and I am really looking forward to seeing it as open source. I would like to commend the Thinking Rock people, Jeremy and Claire, for their great work, for their always polite, friendly and useful responses in the forums, and for patiently putting up with all the “when do we see 2.0?” comments from impatient users like me.

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27 responses to “Ooooh, shiny: Thinking Rock 2.0

  1. Very nice review. Good screen shots. Thanks.

  2. Great and speedy job on the review. As a TR Windows version user mostly (for my work projects), you convinced me not to wait and start using the Mac version @home. Many thanks.

  3. Thank you! I was dying for screenshots of TR 2.0, and now I’m feeling better. ~~ Once again, however, I am finding myself a little jealous of Mac users for their access to cool GTD tools. I anxiously await the Windows release and will begin plotting development of a TR plugin to synchronize TR Actions to Outlook Tasks.

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  5. Great review, thank you.

  6. Great review, got me salivating for the Windows release.

  7. Nice review. The ability to set recurring actions is in itself worth an upgrade once TR2 leaves the pre-release stage.

    One item which wasn’t immediately apparent from your discussion of filtering is that TR2 supports searching, which was a BIG feature lacking from TR 1.2.2.

  8. Thanks for all the comments!

    Ron – you are right, I forgot to mention the new search feature, which is indeed a very nice improvement.

  9. Great review, I personally can’t wait until I’ll be able to get my hands on the latest windows release of TR 2.0!

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  11. Excellent review, can’t wait for the windows version.

    How about an online collaborative version in v3?

    James

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  13. Ben Dearnaley

    Looks Great. Shame I have to wait for the windows version – looks like it’s gonna be worth it though!

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  16. I notice the appearance of two tiny new buttons in the process thoughts screen. They look suspiciously like back and forward buttons. Crossing my fingers that’s the case. 🙂

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  24. Any chance of someone doing a video review and posting it to YouTube? Screenshots are fine, but it helps to be watching someone go through all the steps to using it. I downloaded the 2.0 version and found the Java interface confusing and un-Macish. That said, I’d be willing to learn if this application is as handy as some says it is.

  25. Mike: the Java interface is definitely not “Macish”, that’s one big problem of TR on the Mac. I don’t know of anyone who has done a video review, but it’s not that hard to get around the app. Start by capturing some thoughts, then go to the process thoughts screen, and convert them into actions and projects. As you go, you can also customize your contexts, priorities, etc. It requires a bit of playing with it, but it is worth it once you get it set up.

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