Trog Bar

I recently installed a pretty cool add on for Microsoft Outlook called Trog Bar. Not only does it offer some nice features that Outlook alone doesn't have, but it wraps a nice task management system as well.

To the left you can see what Trog Bar looks like. It docks to the edge of the screen, and can be set to autohide if desired. Across the top are quick links to mail, calendar, task list, contacts, compose, and send/receive.

The calendar is great for the simple reason that you can specify more than one calendar to show events for. The fact that the Outlook To-Do bar would only show events from one calendar always drove me crazy. I have a personal account and a work account that uses Exchange, and Outlook will only show one. People have been asking for this simple feature for years. It's great to see someone add this.

The main area is your task list. You can quickly search, view all tasks, view complete tasks, incomplete tasks, etc. If you use Outlook's categories option, you can also assign categories to tasks and view the list by category. Last but not least is a view called Task Sense. Trog Bar has some nice algorithms that populate this list automatically to show the most likely tasks to do at the current time. More on this in a moment. (And no, the tasks shown here aren't my tasks, I grabbed this screen shot off of the product page. Feed mammoth??)

The notepad lets you quickly type in new tasks and store them as "unprocessed". It's very easy to fire off tasks into this application (as it should be). When you have more time, you can click on the Unprocessed Tasks link to show the tasks that still need "processing".

If that sounds annoying or time consuming, don't worry, it isn't. Processing new tasks is really easy. You just click the task to open the task editor (see below).

For a task to be processed, you have to enter in a due date and ideally one or more Categories (think Tags) and Projects (a parent task containing multiple child tasks). This takes about 10 seconds, and then you save it. That's it. The way Trog Bar works is largely based on the Due Date you specify. It is smart enough to treat the Due Date as both a target date as well as an indicator of the urgency of the task. So you are free to treat it as a sort of strength indicator if you choose.

Trog Bar task editor

The Task Sense list seems largely based on this "urgency value". In other words, if you set the Due Date for two weeks later, it isn't that "worried" about you actually doing it on that date (though you can, of course). Instead, this is an indicator that the task is probably of medium-ish priority, and it places it in the Task Sense list accordingly. Three weeks out, lower priority. One week out, higher priority. You get the idea.

It is also has some extra configuration options which, if you choose to set them up, make this list more accurate. For example, you can define a category as an "80/20" category, meaning 80% result for 20% effort. In other words, biggest return on investment. Task Sense will rank these higher in your list. You can also set up an additional calendar containing high-level time blocks, like 8-5 M-F is Work, 6-12 is Home, etc. If tasks with a corresponding Work tag are created, Task Sense will weight them higher between 8 and 5, and Home tasks between 6 and 12. The point being that it builds up the Task Sense list in a fairly intelligent way.

Anyway, I've been using it for a few weeks now and I really like it. First, it is a handy, souped-up version of the Outlook To-Do bar. Second, it is a rapid task entry and organization tool. And third, it does a pretty good job of predicting and showing you relevant tasks at the right time.

The full version costs $35, and there is a free 30 day trial version available. To be clear, I'm not getting a free copy or anything, and am not affiliated in any way with the folks who make it. I just found it useful enough that it seemed worth a blog entry. ;-)

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  • # Posted By Cam Johnston | 9/7/12 1:29 PM

    Very helpful review, thanks