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Editor's Note: Do.Com ended it's services January 31, 2014 and is no longer available.
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A Little About Do.Com
Developed by the team at Salesforce, Do.Com is a free online task management application that is trying to stand out in the crowded social productivity and collaboration market. In many ways, Do.Com is similar to Asana (see our review of Asana here) and suffers from some of the same limitations related to assigning task dependencies and defining user roles. On the other hand, Do.Com does tackle certain issues differently and it’s worth a look even if you’re not an Asana fan.
One of the first things I do when evaluating a free app – and, today, there are SO many of those – is to try to get an idea why the product is free. The last thing I want is to get attached to the software and then wake up one morning to find out that it isn’t available anymore because the developer decided to discontinue support, or that I suddenly need to shell out a hefty monthly payment if I want to continue using the application. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against paying for software. In fact, I’d much rather pay for a product that does what I need rather than try to work with a free app that doesn’t. But, when it comes to budgeting, I’m not a fan of surprises – especially if there’s a chance that the price of the software won’t fit into my budget at all.
Since Do is part of Salesforce.Com, a lot of my potential worries were put to rest. Salesforce is a stand-up organization, and I feel pretty confident that if the development team there decides to make some major change to Do (other than incorporating new features or improvements), they’ll give me ample time to transition to a different solution. Plus, according to Do’s About page, “Do works on a ‘freemium’ model. You can use Do, for free, forever. No credit card is needed to sign up. We'll be releasing additional premium features in the future.”
So, that answers my “Why is it free?” question quite well. My take is that the people at Salesforce plan to make money from Do by charging for extra premium features later on, but that the current base product will always be free. With that out of the way, let's take a look at the application itself.
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There are four levels of work organization in Do.Com: Groups, Projects, Sections and Tasks. For those who are familiar with Asana, Groups act like Workspaces and Sections are similar to Priority Headings. Basically, a group is a collection of projects and people – and every person within that group has access to general administrative abilities for that group as well as complete access to any project they’re connected with. That is, if you assign a person to a single task within a project, that person will be able to view and modify anything related to that project.
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Projects are… well, that’s fairly self-explanatory. However, you may also want to use the Project organizational level to group tasks related to programs, products or other major divisions of work. Within each project, you can input tasks and organize them by section. One thing I really like here is that you can toggle sections to show or hide all the tasks in that area – this makes it easy to zoom in and focus on the tasks related to one section of the project without losing sight of other things which need to be done. Even when the tasks for a particular section are hidden, a small number next to the section title lets you know how many tasks that section includes.
In addition to the Task tab which shows sections and tasks, the Project view has three other tabs: About, Activities and Attachments. On the About tab, you can input and view general information about the project, such as the target completion date and description. You can also specify who to share the project with, although you only have two options: all group members or project members only. In general, if you want to restrict access to a project, it’s probably best to create a new group to house that project. Even then, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that if you assign a task to one team member, that person will be able to see everything related to all tasks within the project.
On one hand, this simplified method of granting access is nice, since it removes the pain of getting tons of requests to be added to a particular task or project. On the flip side, this all-or-nothing approach makes it tough to invite clients and others to a project since you can’t restrict access to read-only or place finer limits on what they can see and/or change.
Also, while I like being able to organize tasks into collapsible sections, I miss the abilities of designating task dependencies and viewing tasks by team member. As a project manager, I feel these are crucial tools for resource and workflow management. Even for small projects, I like to be able to get a quick idea of what each person is doing, who they’re waiting on and how loaded their schedule is.
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In Do.Com, you can either attach files to a specific task or, more generally, add them at the project level. Even if you do add the attachment to an individual task, that file will still show on the Attachments tab on the Project view. I really love this feature because it makes it quick and easy to share and find files – there’s even a Search feature that’s quite handy for projects with a lot of attachments.
There are three types of attachments you can add to a project: Files, Notes (I’ll talk more about these in the next section) and Google Docs. If you connect Do.Com with your Google account, you don’t even have to leave the Do interface to attach a Google Doc. All you have to do is click on the “Add a Google Doc” icon and a pop-up window will appear (see the screenshot), allowing you to scroll through your documents and select the one you want to attach.
Also, whenever possible, Do will let you view attachments in your browser without having to download the files. Of course, this almost always works for Google Docs, but it also works for image and text files as well.
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The Notes tool is actually my favorite feature in Do.Com, and in my opinion, it’s the one that makes it stand out in the crowd of other task management tools. The Notebook is a freeform area where you can jot down ideas, notes, meeting minutes or anything else, and worry about categorizing them later. When you initially create a note, it’s not attached to any project. However, you can later add the entire note to a project or individual task – or you can highlight a section of the note and create a task based on that information with one click (see the screenshot).
I particularly like to use this tool when taking notes in meetings or on phone calls, since a call is rarely dedicated to discussing one specific task or even a single project – something else always comes up. I’ll also copy and paste important emails to the Notes area to make it easier to convert those messages to task items. As a bonus, you can search and color-code notes to make them easier to find.
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Do.Com’s Project Template feature is particularly nice for those teams that have to complete a certain set of tasks – like onboarding a new hire or designing a client website – over and over. As an example, in this screenshot, I started creating a template to be used for planning webinar events. Just like creating a standard project, you have the option of assigning a specific team member to a task. If a particular task isn’t assigned to someone, its owner will default to the person who created it.
This feature is still in beta, but there are definitely a couple of things that I believe would make it much smoother. For instance, when you assign a task to someone within a template, that person is sent a notification about that task and asked to accept even if a project hasn’t been created from that template yet. This could cause some confusion, since the only way to accept a task within a template is to go into the template creation tool. Plus, there’s really no need to actually accept the task since it’s not attached to any real work, yet.
Also, when you create a project template within a group, everyone in that group will be able to access it and use it. I love that feature, since it allows the entire team to share templates and saves a lot of time. However, if someone else creates a project using a template you created, all of the original default task assignments remain in place. This means that you, as the template creator, are still listed as the owner of any unassigned tasks until the project creator changes those assignments. Again, this could cause quite a bit of confusion. However, it’s a problem that could be easily remedied if all unassigned tasks defaulted to the project creator rather than the template creator.
Still, as I mentioned above, the Project Template tool is in beta, so it’s possible that these things could be changed at any time.
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For the most part, I’m quite impressed with Do.Com even though there are a few other features I’d like to see – such as designating task dependencies and having more control over user roles (seems like I’ve been saying that a lot lately). Since these capabilities are important components when managing large projects, you may want to take this into consideration when deciding if Do will handle your PM requirements.
If you’re part of a smaller team and you’re more concerned with the management of day-to-day tasks, improving workflow processes and increasing productivity, it’s definitely worth taking some time to evaluate Do to see if it works well in your environment. And, if you do decide to check it out (or you already have), please share your thoughts in the comments. What types of teams do you feel the software is best suited for?
- Screenshots taken by author.
- Official Do.Com website: https://www.do.com/