A Lament for Palm; Praise for HiveMinder

Many years ago now, I had a Palm IIIxe. It's still the best handheld device I've ever owned. Palm invested countless man-hours in making sure that every operation could be performed with a minimum number of clicks and that the Palm's user interface was always zippy. No wading through layers of menus, and no waiting for an application to load. Palm understood that if a user perceived the device as a slow, they wouldn't bother to pull it out in order to take a quick note.

Holy Palm

There were some excellent applications for the Palm III, many of which I have not seen replicated for other systems. For example, Quicken (and Mint) have budget features. It's a big part of why people use financial software. However, they still can't distinguish between budgets that should accumulate money (rainy-day budgets like car repairs) and budgets where any savings should be swept into another account (if I save money on food, I don't need to eat more next month). A dinky little shareware application that ran on a 160x160 display did it a decade ago. Why can't modern companies get with the program?

The only reasonable explanation is Palm's market share was swallowed by a sarlacc pit, preventing Palm's competitors from borrowing the best ideas from the platform. I certainly can't think of a more logical explanation.

Of all the applications, the one I missed the most was the to-do list manager. I had a neat little app that let me create links between items, so that I could prioritize and organize the dependencies between tasks. Over the years, I've tried several other to-do list managers, but they all fell flat. Most often, they simply didn't provide a good way for me to organize my mammoth supply of tasks. When I finally retired my Palm, I felt like I had abruptly lost a cybernetic brain implant. Ow.

That finally changed a few months ago when I found HiveMinder. The killer feature here is the ability to specify that task B depends on task A. Once that dependency has been set, task B won't show up in my to-do list until task A is done. That lets me focus on the tasks that I can actually work on right now. HiveMinder also lets me sets priorities and deadlines for tasks, and sorts them accordingly. Web, email, Twitter, and IM interfaces make it easy to create and manipulate tasks from any phone that lets you type.

HiveMinder screenshot

To top it all off, HiveMinder provides a complete API so I can write my own programs to interact with my task list. All the data is sent in YAML (a superset of JSON), which is geek-tastic.

It's nice having an external brain organizer again!


1 comment to A Lament for Palm; Praise for HiveMinder

  • I share your frustration. I gave up on personal “to do” applications, and have been using a check list text file for years. It would be nice to have a good app – I’ll check out HiveMinder.

    I once had a very simple and useful relational database whose name I can’t remember – and it ran on an Atari 800!