Lean GTD 2007 for Outlook 2010

Reader bgbuffalo was so kind to point out that my macro package for simplifying GTD with Outlook 2007, Lean GTD 2007, didn’t work with Outlook 2010. It’d be a bonus if it did, of course! So, although I don’t yet have Outlook 2010, we worked together to get a version that could execute in Outlook 2010. Thanks!

As a result, I’ve commented two lines in the code that should be removed in order to get it to work. The backside is that you won’t get email attachments to tasks and appointments, only the text itself in the notes. But those disappear in sync anyway, so that’s not such a big issue. So if you want to use the macros with Outlook 2010, remove those two lines. (Search for “Outlook 2010″ in the code.)

Please drop me a note if you know how to properly attach emails to tasks and appointments in Outlook 2010 VBA; then I’d be able to fix this properly.

Launched a New Web Page for Lean GTD 2007

I’ve just created a new webpage for my Outlook 2007 GTD macro package, instead of just maintaining it in its original blog post from 2006. I’d recommend anyone using Outlook 2007 and David Allen‘s GTD methodology to try it out! It simplifies most basic operations significantly, to a very low price (that is, completely free). What I like most about it is that it doesn’t add lots of complexity, like handling dependencies between projects and actions, and in that way, everything can be synced to your mobile phone and to another computer without losing important information.

Just head over there or download it right away! Instructions are inside the .bas file.

LapLink PDASync Ditched, trying Chapura PocketMirror

Finally, I got enough of the instability of LapLink’s PDASync software, uninstalled it, and installed the trial version of Chapura‘s PocketMirror software. PocketMirror appears to use the synchronization mechanism of ActiveSync (or WMDC on Vista) itself, and adds the ability to sync different folders in Outlook to categories on your Windows Mobile PDA. Very stable so far, so I’ll probably buy it. Works very well on my work computer, too, where I can put my private stuff in a separate .pst file, and the work stuff on the Exchange Server. You can also choose not to put any private stuff at all on the work computer.

This prompted me to update my GTD macros for Outlook 2007. The previous version always created tasks in the default folder, but now, tasks are created in the same folder as the task you’re standing on. So you can create work tasks as easily as private tasks. Previously I had all tasks in one folder, setting a certain category on the work tasks, letting PDASync filter on it for the work computer. Download here!

Gmail in Offline Mode

You can’t ignore that now, you can use Gmail in offline mode, with the help of Google Gears. I’m still using Outlook for offline email, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Google offering develops. With the recent introduction of tasks to Gmail, they’re close to being a complete productivity solution. If only those tasks could be synced to my phone, I believe I’d stop using Outlook.

Next attempt at PIM syncing

Now I’m trying OggSync for syncing my calendar. The professional subscription wasn’t that expensive, and a colleague of mine was using it without problems, so I’m giving it a try. Works well after two days’ of use!

So, now I’m syncing my two Outlook calendars with Google Calendar using OggSync (different calendars for private and work), my mobile phone directly with Google Calendar using OggSync, my tasks and contacts for my work computer using LapLink PDAsync (contact sync in OggSync doesn’t support categories), and tasks, contacts and notes for my home computer using Windows Mobile Device Center (Vista’s ActiveSync). What a mess! I haven’t found a better (that is, working) combination, though.

I’ll be back with a review later of whether this works over a longer period of time or not. My feeling is that OggSync is very stable indeed.

Syncing Private and Work Tasks, Calendar and Contacts

When you’ve got a setup with a home computer, a work computer and a PDA, you’ve got a syncing challenge, at least if you’re using some GTD-like methodology for organizing your life. After fiddling around with various non-working solutions, I’ve finally arrived at one that works for me. My system setup is one home computer with Windows Vista SP1 and Outlook 2007, one work laptop with Windows XP SP3 and Outlook 2007 and Exchange, and a mobile phone with HTC Touch with Windows Mobile 6.0.

My basic requirement is that private tasks, calendar and contact entries shouldn’t appear on the work computer (or Exchange Server) at all. Marking them “private” isn’t good enough for me (I know what a computer administrator can do… :-) ). So now, I’m setting a category “Work” on all items that I want synced to my work laptop. In addition to those, I also make the category “@Office” sync to that computer. This way, I turn the security situation around too, by requiring things to be marked in order to exist on the work computer, insted of marking them private if the aren’t to be shown on the work computer.

So, what’s the technical solution? The basis is the well tested synchronization mechanism represented by Windows Mobile Device Center. It syncs between my home computer and my PDA (Windows Mobile 6.0). For syncing between the PDA and the work computer, I use the software PDAsync from Laplink. It didn’t work for syncing from two sources, despite many rounds with their very helpful support organization. Events and tasks weren’t synced correctly, and I had to do “full synchronization” now and then having to deal with lots of duplicate events (none were lost at least). From PDAsync I get the ability to sync based on a filter, such as on the category “Work” and “@Office”, so only those events, tasks and contacts get onto the work computer. Problem solved!

Making sure that work events, tasks and contacs are marked “Work” is of course a bit annoying, but it’s manageable: now and then, I visit the category view on the work computer, and check if something isn’t marked.

Using my Outlook 2007 macros for GTD helps a lot, too.

Update 2008-10-29: You can get into trouble using this solution, too. Now I did. I’ll be back when I’ve got something better!

Getting Things Done with Outlook 2007

Now, the macro package has its own web page, so the information here won’t be updated from now on (2009-08-30).

The other week, I installed Outlook 2007. I knew that my GTD Outlook Add-in wouldn’t work perfectly after the installation (see this link), but somehow, I hoped that perhaps for me, it would work well enough. To make a long story short: no, it didn’t. And I didn’t want to go back to Outlook 2003.

Fortunately other people had this problem before me. Several of them had written macros of their own to do what they missed from the GTD Add-in, for example Simon Guest and Omar Shahine. Their solutions didn’t completely fulfill my requirements, though, and I wasn’t that interested in support for filing my mails automatically. Rather, much of the time I find myself creating several next actions out of one and the same email, so it’s just annoying if I have to go to where the mail was filed to do that.

Inspired by their VBA code, I created a macro package of my own (see below). If you run the function “SetupLeanGTD”, you’ll get three buttons on the toolbar. One for “Next Action”, which creates a task, and immediately prompts you for a category (where you have to add all your different kinds of actions), unless you’re positioned on another task. Then you’ll inherit the category from it. The “@Waiting For” category is treated specially; there you’ll get a prefix with name and date for free.

One button is “Act on Mail”. That one creates a task, attaches the mail to it, and prompts you for a category. It cleans up the title (removes “Re:”), too. And for “@Waiting For” tasks, it adds the recipient and the date to the task name, like for the task.

The last button is “Schedule Mail”. It creates an appointment, and attaches the mail to it.

None of the buttons do anything about the mail; you have to file it yourself, wherever you like. For me, that’s an advantage, since often I’d like to create perhaps two actions from a mail.

Don’t forget to add a rule so that all your sent mail gets into your inbox, too, so that you can easily make actions from these, too.

So, finally, here comes the code. Comments and improvements are welcome!

Download LeanGTD2007.bas

Updated 2006-12-07: Added better error handling.

Updated 2008-08-19: Added support for tasks with multiple categories.

Updated 2009-06-13: “Companies” is copied from the selected task, just like with categories.

Updated 2009-08-15: Tasks are created in the same folder that the selected task is in. Some code cleanup.

Updated 2009-08-20: There’s a problem if you select the “todo list” folder instead of the “Tasks” folder, when you create a task with another task selected (because you can’t create a task there). I’ll upload a fix today.

Updated 2009-08-20: Problem fixed! User manual added to the source code file.

Updated 2009-08-21: You never get your own name as the one to wait for in a @Waiting For task. Unless you put it there yourself, of course.

Updated 2009-08-28: Now the macros work for any item, not just mails. And the buttons are put on a command bar on their own. When scheduling a mail/an item, you get a prompt if you want this to be an all day event, and if you say yes, there’ll be no reminder for it.

Updated 2009-08-30: Future updates to the code will be noted on the new home page for the package.

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