My basic understanding of productivity apps is that they are intended to help make you more productive. Two types of productivity app that are everyday essentials for me are note-taking and task management apps. Choosing the right app in these and other types of productivity app often comes down to very personal factors – apps that match an individual’s work methods best, key features that are critical to one user and trivial to another, and so on.
There’s one feature of productivity apps that is a must for me though, one that if it is missing it’s a dealbreaker, it makes it an app I just won’t consider. That feature is sync. For me, a good productivity app has a good sync partner. If it doesn’t, it’s ruled out before even trying it.
Here’s why lack of a good sync partner is a dealbreaker for me with productivity apps:
— iTunes backup is lame and cannot be relied on. There are far too few choices available to users on what *exactly* gets backed up, and far, far too many occasions where Apple’s own support staff or Apple store ‘Geniuses’ recommend restoring as a new device (i.e. NOT using a backup) as part of troubleshooting even the most common of issues. Yes, there are some methods for recovering data from iTunes backups, but they’re not simple for all levels of user and they require a fair bit of effort.
And of course, if you’re like me and you’re lazy about connecting your iDevices to your PC to backup and sync, then Murphy’s Law says that just at precisely the worst time (in terms of when you last did a cabled sync and backup) is exactly when a disaster will strike your device and wipe out data that is held locally on that device.
— As lovely as it is to be able to take notes on the go and create important tasks in an iOS app, I also need instant access to that same information when I sit down in front of my MacBook.
I don’t want to have to send an email to myself (how dumb does that feel when you need to do it often) in order to have my latest mobile note available to me. I make a lot of notes and create a lot of new tasks on the go, and it’s just not at all practical – or productive! – to have to manually email every new note or task. Or to have to export each one to somewhere.
— Outstanding services like Dropbox remind me that this does not have to be painful. Many good apps are now just plugging in Dropbox support as their effective sync solution – and those are always apps that I’ll give consideration to. Google Docs support is another good option for me (I’m not an Office apps user, so Google Docs fills most of those sort of gaps), and I’m also fine with sync to a good desktop companion app or even an online app if it’s done well.
I have a handful of favorite and frequently used apps that make use of a number of different sync methods: for instance, Evernote syncs to its desktop and online apps, Simplenote to a simple and useful web app, 1Password offers local WiFi sync to its desktop app or sync via Dropbox, and Things to a desktop app with promises that full OTA sync is coming in a future update.
The common denominator is that all of these are effective, near-instant, and automatic – no onus on the user.
And that’s a baseline criteria for a productivity app. No effective sync method, no interest.
How about you all? Is this is a dealbreaker feature for you as well? Do you have other dealbreaker features for productivity apps or other categories?