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Midnight Inbox

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The GTD App Midnight Inbox 1.0 was released recently, and it has a number of interesting features, including automatic harvesting of ‘inbox’ materials like email and desktop files, and reminders to get back to work.

I also really like the graphics and typefaces in the UI – I really wanted to love this program.

I tried it a few times during its beta period and never quite understood what was going on. Buggy interaction kept me from experimenting enough to get it. The 1.0 release squashes most of the UI bugs that I was running into, and I got the feeling that I could work with this program. There were two big problems that stopped me from diving in (I didn’t buy it) – no documentation, and speed.

In large part, the usage model explains itself (it helps to have GTD experience). But it doesn’t completely explain itself, and the lack of basic documentation leaves you without a guide to the program’s subtleties. The small “Introduction” window reads more like advertising than a manual, and that’s all you get. The best you can do is explore by double-clicking everything, and typing away.

There’s no clear explanation why two kinds of text notes exist, how to deal intelligently with task times, or why you might want to use a sheet to review instead of just going through things yourself.

Can I drag this there? Can that have sub-items? Can I edit that? What does it mean to make a context active? What’s that moving grey bar in the top part? Your guess is as good as mine.

I could temporarily forgive the lack of a manual and dig through forums (for example the ‘inboxbeeps’ google group) and emails to figure these things out – if it weren’t for the speed. Maybe progress has moved past my G4 Powerbook and everyone reading this will notice no problems at all, but Inbox was just too slow for me – it had responsiveness failings like delays in creating new actions and notes, delays in recognizing clicks to edit, losing keystrokes while editing a project name, and the killer – a spinning beachball while dragging a project to reorder it.

So, I think it’s got potential. It definitely follows the GTD system. I loved the super-easy ‘quick note’ feature, accessible from anywhere. If it got a lot faster (or I got a new machine), and then – if it got some real documentation, I’d give it a serious try. But for now, I’m going back to Kinkless.

Note: (10 minutes later) I just saw a note in the inboxbeeps group that they’re working on docs now, and I’ve forwarded my list of questions to the authors. Hopefully this will be helpful, and then my only remaining criticism will be the speed.