Productivity apps are available in abundance on the iOS App Store. It’s one of the most populated categories and, as iPhones and iPads become common-place in work places as well as in people’s personal lives, it’s easy to see why so many great GTD (get things done) apps exist. Standing out from the pack and differentiating your app is difficult but Gneo, from developers Keane & Able, aims to do this through the unification of a clean, minimalist interface with intuitive controls and really powerful feature set.
When you first open Gneo on either your iPhone or iPad, you’ll be struck by how clean its interface is. The app has a lot of whitespace and is free of any real world textures or skinning. Gneo’s interface appears mostly “flat” but there is a sense of depth with popover menus and the ways in which you can move around the app. The UI will definitely go down well with fans of iOS 7’s design sensibilities but may not be to everyone’s tastes.
Fear not about the the app’s usability being impacted negatively by its minimal design, though. While legitimate complaints have been lodged against minimal user interfaces reducing usability, this is not a problem for Gneo. Once you’ve signed in — yep, to use Gneo, you’ll have to create a Gneo account. This may be frustrating for some, understandably, but for those with multiple devices an account allows for content to be synced and always available no matter which device you pick up. On the plus side, the account is free — you’ll be greeted by the “Gneo Boot Camp” notebook. Gneo Boot Camp is essentially a to-do list of items with check boxes each giving you a different task to complete to familiarise yourself with the app. I’d advise completing the tutorial as it takes you through all of the app’s capabilities, explains the interface and layout and, importantly, gets you accustomed to the gestures in the app.
Gestures are central to the experience with Gneo. Instead of remaining “hidden” for power users or only being discoverable through extended usage, Gneo utilizes them for a number of things. Swiping all the way to the right on an item deletes it (shaking the device undoes this action) whereas a slight swipe to the right will postpones the task for one, three, or five days. A short swipe to the right shows a task in more detail whereas a longer swipe to the right allows you to edit the item.
Tasks themselves are organized into “notebooks”. Adding a task is simple — just tap the + button in the bottom left corner then give it a name, select which notebook to add it to, toggle urgent or important priority and even add extra info from the available options: Tags, Notes, Reminder, Files, Location and Follow Up. These extras are really useful for organization as well as adding text, image and voice memos to your tasks when necessary and really make for feature-packed to-do app.
Much of what has been discussed so far has centered around the list view in Gneo but that is only one of three views to explore and it is these other two screens that set Gneo apart, in my opinion (especially on the iPad). ‘Forecast’ provides you with a calendar-based view of your tasks. It pulls data from your iOS Calendar app which makes planning ahead really easy. The other screen, called ‘Work Canvas’, is also pretty cool. The screen is split into four quadrants with tasks populating each sector depending on their importance or urgency. In the top left you’ll see tasks marked as Urgent and Important, top right is Important but Not Urgent, bottom left is Urgent but Not Important and bottom right is Not Important and Not Urgent. The Work Canvas screen is really intuitive, with adjustable quadrant sizes and drag and drop physics. The Canvas gives you a really clear picture of what tasks you have and how to prioritize them.
As a testament to the quality of Gneo, my main complaint was that editing a task is not as efficient as it maybe could be. Instead of having inline text editing in the list view, one must long swipe an item in order to edit its details in a popover menu where it would be much simpler to tap and edit in the list view. Not a major problem, but if you had to edit a number of items at a time this could get tedious.
The good: Powerful, easy-to-use and flexible task management. Functions and capabilities to suit most users. Really smooth experience with a great tutorial to help first-time users.
The bad: Interface may not be to everyone’s taste. Gneo account necessary even for those that use only one device and could store data locally. Improvements could be made to improve efficiency of data entry.
The verdict: Gneo is a really impressive balance of minimalist design with powerful capabilities that is rare in any app category. Although the interface might not suit everyone’s preference, the app is perfect for those that want a powerful and flexible app to help them get things done. Gneo for iPhone and iPad is available on the App Store for $9.99/£6.99.