We’ve reviewed to-do list and task managers in abundance, each with its own way of managing lists and its own flow of things. A common feature among these kinds of apps is that they break away from the existing ones that you use, and have you re-create new tasks, projects and reminders from scratch. Most will sync items from Mac Calendar, but that is pretty much as far as it will go. Inbox Classic is a free Mac app that is a careful balance between the existing tools you use to keep track of important tasks, and the need to order them differently. Inbox Classic takes items from Mail, Calendar, and your hard disk, and is like a consolidated inbox for all incoming tasks; once emails, projects, reminders, and any other documents you might be working on, are ‘collected,’ the app lets you add timers and tasks to track your progress. In addition to the tasks, processes and projects you add, the app also lets you add agendas, research items or any other task or file you may be waiting for or plan on doing.
Inbox Classic has somewhat of a complicated interface, so lets start by breaking it down. The top bar, which looks something like the iTunes player sans the next/previous song buttons, times the currently active task. The panel on the left lists all items that you can add, while Collect is the list of resources where the app pulls items from. This includes documents saved to your documents folder, reminders and to-dos from the Calendar app and incoming mail or unread messages from the Mail app.
Process lists which of the items in your collection have new incoming items that need your attention, for example, unread email. Organize is where you add projects. You can associate actions with a project, and the Review tab gives you a summary of what you worked on. Work is the context of the task, i.e., the task might involve browsing, research, brain storming etc. You can use the default contexts or add your own and assign them.
The References tab is where you save agendas, research work etc, and Archive is where completed projects go.
The first place to start setting up the app is the Collect tab pictured above. Right-click anyone of the listed collections and select Edit Collection… to choose where the app will read documents from. Alternatively, you can use the small plus sign at the top (just under the Collection heading and to the right) to add a new one. One little quirk observed was that, unless you have Mail app running, Inbox Classic will not index your emails.
Once the collections have been set up, you can checkout the pending items in Process or move on to Organize and begin adding projects. Click the little plus sign to add a new project, give it a name, start and end date and select how frequently you want to review progress. Choose the interval depending on how often you will work on the project.
Once you’ve added a project, add a work context to it by opening the dropdown menu at the very end of the project. Remember that if the contexts aren’t what you’re looking for, you can add more from the Work tab.
Inbox Classic lets you add notes, actions and sub-actions. A work context can be associated with each action, and you can track the time spent on an action by activating the task (from the right-click context menu). Time spent is measured across the player you see at the top. The app has a small nudge/reminder feature that tells you to get back to work if you’ve been idle too long. You can turn it off from the app’s preferences.
The app’s preferences allow you to display a task number badge on the Dock icon, has a list of shortcuts that you can use, and choose where your ‘inbox’ is saved. Like most feature-rich task managers, Inbox Classic also takes a little time to set up, but is useful once everything has been added.