Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Simple tools/hack for small project management
106 points by waqasaday on Feb 7, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 83 comments
I am looking for an equivalent of Google Keep for project management. Appreciate any help in advance.


I've used https://trello.com/ for most of my projects even when I am working with a team. We love it. Here are some basics on how to manage a project with Trello: https://trello.com/inspiration/project-management.

Ditto with Trello. A Kanban workflow is almost ideal for all small (and even some larger) projects...


Absolutely, With Trello you can always scale from small beginnings to full fledged system with plugins. And if you have a DIY nature you can write your own plugins the same isnt true for say JIRA.

Is there somewhere a plugin to make shortcut buttons for filtering? I label my cards, but filtering by labels is real pain in the ass process.

I've had a look at their API but it does not seems too straightforward. :(

You can always program something if you want. Their client ibrary is excellent https://trello.readme.io/v1.0/reference#client-library There are assortment of ways to get data which you can filter and show the cards that you want.

I've been using MS TFS scrum workow which is pretty much Trello without editable columns. Pretty good after other task management systems. Very responsive and easy to edit tasks/user stories.

Edit: also integrates with your version control, build and test systems if you manage them with TFS as well. Pretty much what atlassian was trying to do when buying Trello.

Also check out https://helloepics.com which adds parent child relationships across boards to Trello. I worked on it, but I wouldn’t (and didn’t) want to use Trello without it.

If you guys also need time tracking along with KanBan be sure to check out Paymo (shameless plug) https://www.paymoapp.com/kanban-software/

Ditto with Trello, and not just for software. I love the 'email to board' feature where I can forward supplier quotes/docs straight to the board from my inbox, so I can find them later!

I hope Atlassian look after it

Didn't Atlassian buy Trello some time ago?

I second the vote for Trello. I find it simple enough that even novice software users can understand it. As a team, we've recently switched to Asana which I find more feature rich, but overwhelming because of this.

Has the web interface for Trello got better (more fluid, less laggy) in the past year? What about the native app (or is it another electron crap?)?

Org mode. I put a Readme.org in every project I start, and it can help with most project management tasks. You can also hook these files up to your Org agenda, so that issues (i.e. TODO items) show up there.

Edit: I should also mention the Dired mode in Emacs, which is a directory browser. I use "% g" quite frequently, and it has useful extensions like wdired and dired-hacks.

Org-mode also offers tagging support.

If you add it to your agenda, you can filter things out by tags.

Org mode also has excellent mobile support. All your todo items, schedules etc. can also be viewed in your phone.

Another plus-side is that it is completely text based. You don't have to worry about internet access, operating system, age of the machine, the medium you want to use.

You can quickly export org-mode schedules as pdf/tex/html/txt etc.

If you cannot meet your schedules, you can make a note yourself on why you couldn't meet it and simply reschedule.

The core functionality of org-mode is actually simple. I'd suggest giving org-mode a chance.

1) Create an org document 2) Set some tasks as headlines 3) make them todo items by typing C-c C-t 4) schedule them to a certain date with C-c C-s 5) add the org-file to your agenda by C-c C-[

And you've got a working project schedule. M-x org-agenda to view your schedule.

Could you elaborate on Org mode's excellent mobile support? Are you talking iPhone, Android or both?

I've only got experience with Android and MobileOrg is a pain in the ass to setup and sync. The workflow is a hassle.

Orgzly looks nice and is good for read-only usage but entering notes in it is awkward. Takes too much time compared to, for example, Google Keep.

Are there other solution out there that I am not aware of or am I just not using the existing apps correctly?

Seconded. I've been repeatedly trying to work with MobileOrg and Orgzly, and while the latter had finally turned into something functional, stable and actually usable day-to-day, I'd still call Org mobile support severely lacking.

I keep my org files in dropbox and use beorg on my iphone. Whenever I make changes it immidiately shows up on my phone. I get notifications at scheduled times.

I've set it up once and never had to configure anything again.

Although I must admit that I only use the app passively to look at my weekly schedule. I haven't used it to make quick captures.

Could you and GP share more about your project management setup (and ways you use it) in org-mode?

I do use org-mode quite a bit, but for project-specific notebooks, I usually quickly get mentally overwhelmed with the volume and mix of finished/unfinished tasks. I can feel the problem is in the way I use it. Somehow the same content, put in a crappy kanban-style web board, doesn't seem as overwhelming (even though it's an order of magnitude less efficient to work on than it is with org).

I keep all paid work in a work.org file and clock in/out of headings there. The basic structure is

* Projects Customer X * TODO issue 42 breakage SCHEDULED: <2018-02-12> Customer Y * subproject foo TODO fix slow frobnication SCHEDULED: <2018-02-09> * Ideas * Misc

When I get an e-mail or something about a new task, I use org-capture to turn it into a TODO with a link back to the e-mail and a default SCHEDULED value, and I hit C-c C-w to refile it directly into customers/subprojects (otherwise they end up under Misc and I'll refile later). I always clock into the task I'm doing, and I use the clocktable (limited to a time range) to figure out how long I've worked on what for my invoices. Since I switch tasks a lot, and didn't like how the recent-tasks-lists was emptied on restarting Emacs, I ended up writing a little helper package at https://github.com/unhammer/org-mru-clock to let me quickly clock in to recent tasks (also lets you navigate to recent tasks if you use ivy).

I do something similar to user terminalcommand, where I schedule tasks in my agenda, so when I open my work-agenda, the stuff that needs doing is always there. I might leave "sometime-maybe" tasks/ideas unscheduled (like "try shiny new library"), but anything people are actually asking me fix will be scheduled. It's really easy to push things towards the future in the agenda, so it's not really overwhelming, even though my work.org file is now at 11677 lines (and I see my work.org_archive is at 6403 – maybe I should archive more things, but it's not like I notice the size).

For collaboration, I use whatever other people use (trello, wikis, meeting notes in etherpad checked into SVN).

ugh, my line breaks got lost. Trying again since I can't edit:

    * Projects

    ** Customer X
    *** TODO issue 42 breakage
        SCHEDULED: <2018-02-12>

    ** Customer Y
    *** Fooproject
    **** TODO fix slow frobnication
         SCHEDULED: <2018-02-09>

    * Ideas

    * Misc

I mainly use org as my daily agenda. Inside my agenda I keep my projects. I note when I've worked on them, what problems I encountered etc. Then I schedule tasks to certain days. I always make sure that I leave enough free time inbetween and if I'm feeling tired I reschedule the items.

This workflow works for my side projects.

For more serious work I open up a seperate org file. I quickly note what parts need to be done, capture my thoughts on them, make a plan and start. If my plan doesn't work I note why it hasn't worked, my current thoughts then I alter the plan.

The most important thing IMHO is to be able to capture what you're thinking honestly. Over a time you can analyze the logs and make better decisions.

In the past I've tried GTD, no plan and just Pomodoro, kanban etc. and they all worked miraclously at the start but my productivity suffered as time passed by. Because with these constructs I was forcing myself to work all the time.

My new method is to treat my org-agenda as sacred, I try not to schedule many items for a day. I give an honest effort to make them happen, but if I can't or psychologically don't want to I reschedule/cancel them without feeling any guilt.

Org-mode is fairly simple if you stick to the basics. You need to devise something that will work for you. Be that a giant file where you keep everything with tags. Or be that a Readme.org for every project. What matters is that you plan ahead and actually stick to it.

Org has archiving and sorting built in, you can sort entries such that the completed ones sink to the bottom, and archive them to an archive file. With sparse trees you can filter out uninteresting entries, and with org-goto jump around more easily. Frankly I haven't maintained any big or medium sized projects, and for anything with more than one regular committer I'd probably want to have something like Trac or Github or just make it a GNU project if applicable. Still though I can imagine using an org file in conjunction with a mailing list (a Google group, even), but I don't have practical experience with such setup.

A Readme.org for me is a description of the project followed by notes and a hierarchy of issues i.e. to-do items. Also, when starting out sometimes I use src blocks to write initial bits of a script while exploring the data or the library I'm planning to work with.

I want to try Org-mode but the problem is I don't know Emacs (and am very proficient at Vim).

> I use "% g" quite frequently

Do you mean the command "Mark files containing"? I didn't know about this one before.. Could you expand on how you fit it in your workflow?

With anything I'm working on, the first place I go is the dired buffer for the project root. When say I'm trying to find in which file a certain thing is, I narrow the search down with % g, then search with isearch or M-x occur in the marked files. When I do know the actual string I want to find, I run M-x grep instead. I do whatever I do with the project and use VC mode to check in my changes if necessary. As I work most often with plain text documents, using TAGS files is often not an option.

Not Google Keep, but part of "Simple tools/hack for small project management".

I do a lot of work from the commandline, and have a few simple macros to do simple timestamped tags. Eg "ttag started on proj ABC", "ttag debugging this", "ttag stopped for today". The tags are stored in a text file. Some work when going back to sum up hours spent on project X, hours on Y etc, but very simple.


    alias ttag='/cygdrive/c/Dropbox/tools/ttag/ttag.sh'
    alias ttagcat='cat /cygdrive/c/Dropbox/tools/ttag/ttag-logfile.txt'
    alias ttago='open /cygdrive/c/Dropbox/tools/ttag/ttag-logfile.txt'

    >cat /cygdrive/c/Dropbox/tools/ttag/ttag.sh
    TIMESTAMP_NICE=$(date +"%F %H.%M.%S - %s:")
    echo $TIMESTAMP_NICE "$@" >> $LOGFILE
works well enough for me.

I wholeheartedly recommend WorkFlowy - https://workflowy.com

For me, its focus on text and deep hierarchical breakdown, in combination with tagging is potent. You may need to figure out your own way to adapt to your PM style though. For example, some common tags I use are "#next", "#someday", "#2018-02-08" and such.

If you like this I'd recommend giving dynalist a try. It's like workflowy, but less purist, with enough bells and whistles to really make it viable day to day.

I second Workflowy for reference, but I'd suggest using something else for todos. Having commitments and reference separated was a game changer for me coming from a GTD workflow without a dedicated reference tool. Personally I use OmniFocus for commitments, but that's neither particularly cheap or simple.

If you're doing client work or have other external stakeholders involved I'd recommend trello to keep things simple and transparent.

The problem with WF is external stake holders. While subtrees can be shared for read-only or edit, that makes me sorely miss change tracking. Basically I don't want to lose a history, period. So mostly I use it in solo mode.

But I do have a system that lets me use WF as reference as well as for task tracking and PM.

the landing page is horrible though. Literally no informations apart from "these guys use it"

I would not use it simply because of this

It is good for Personal Workflows but lacks any feature that Org-agenda offers. It is a dumb down org-mode for web.

Its available everywhere and is smoother to use than org agenda. Org + fold comes close and I did use it for some time, but WF got me into the zone more easily than org.

Apologies for procrastinating earlier, just went through Workflowy's documentation this morning. It does have some scheduling features still lacks reminders though which we can easily program in org-mode. All in all it could be used for project management for teams provided they give support for github which seems unlikely since their focus is to be as generic as possible.

I just keep a text file near the project and jot down notes / other things accordingly in free form.

This even includes recaps for freelance work. Like I would have an entry of:

2/7/2018: 3 hours

- Did such and such

- Implemented this and that

- Fixed foobar to return foo

I keep to that exact date / hours worked format so when I invoice clients I just grep the file and cut / sum the total hours (if I'm not doing project based pricing).

It works really well for the solo developer / freelancer. No time is wasted on BS and there's a log of work rendered + notes + TODOs + etc..

I like it because I can do all of this from within my code editor which is where I'm doing the work. The efficiency level is very high.

I do this too, but I have 1 file for everything, with each project having a section. At the end of the day, I rotate the file and archive it in a directory. I can run a script and figure out how much time I spent on a project over several years.

hboon - that ability to run a script and see time spent from a text file sounds like a fantastic combo of simplicity to use and the ability to mine data. I'd love to see an example of your file format and script to see exactly how it all works together, if you are up for sharing.

Forgot something:

One benefit with marking tasks with a @@. I move the current project I'm working in wip.md to the top, so if I do a search from the top for @@, the first hit will be the task I am currently working on. I wrote a plugin in https://getbitbar.com to put that first (and thus current task) in my menubar. I get distracted easily.. so every bit helps :)

I have another BitBar plugin that scans my wip.md file and run the same script (which I run end of the day) to compute totals and then put it in my menu bar. Since I have something like this:

    11:10 PM - 11:21 PM Mimic
    12:10 PM
It can detect the start time of my current task or how long since I haven't worked and display them in green or red in the menu bar.

I would love to see this as well. My workflow would benefit greatly from this.

Replied above.

Sure, here's an example from 2 days ago.

During the day, my wip.md file looks like this https://gist.githubusercontent.com/hboon/cd7ffa9ed94ce3a8bc8...

I abuse the Markdown format:

    * "projects" marked with headers, with a prefix :: so I can search for it

    * I mark "tasks" as done with an *

    * I mark uncompleted tasks with @@

    * When I start to work on a project, I add a line near the top with the start time and when I finish, I mark the end time too, using a vim macro.
I use MacVim all the time, so my wip.md is always open as the first tab. And I bind cmd+1 to it.

At the end of the day:

I run a vim macro which runs a script to generate the total time for each project ending up with: https://gist.githubusercontent.com/hboon/b8770dea077f67664d9...

I then go through it manually and delete the tasks that are still marked as @@ just keeping those with an asterisk. So this effectively becomes my journal for that day. I keep a short note under the Notes: line. For eg. I might say that I didn't work because I went out with my family, or if I'm sick. I delete those mark with an asterisk in wip.md, add more or tweak the remaining ones and I have the file ready for the next day. I do my daily review at this time, so the macro which I mentioned actually opens a few other files including one called on-deck which is basically where I can grab things over from to add to wip.md. Over the years, I sometimes end up with wip.md growing too much, making it quite inhibiting. I try to keep the wip.md to ~1 page so it's more manageable.

I'm ashamed to share the script which I wrote a few years ago :P But it's simple, it just goes through each line looking for a regex match for:

    11:10 PM - 11:21 PM Mimic
I have a config file that looks like this:




So it can figure out the project name from the regex and only include the relevant ones. Then compute a total for each project, for AM/PM, as well as a grand total for the day.

You can see the result in that second gist link.

I think I got the idea from John Carmack's .plan files https://github.com/ESWAT/john-carmack-plan-archive/blob/mast.... My original version back in 2009 only had this:

    11:57 AM - 12:17 PM	Code: Check conversation view problems

    12:19 PM - 12:23 PM	Code: Crash when timeline->avatar->followers->back (not home, probably), probably problem with ContactsPicker
It just evolved from there.

I do almost the same.

My setup is with Dropbox, though. I have a symbolic link named `/Projects/Foo/_misc` ( the root directory of the git repository ) pointing to `/Dropbox/Projects/Foo`. The link is excluded via .gitignore . Then I use the extra _misc directory for everything related to this project, like notes, assets, experiments that I run, etc.

With dropbox I can be sure that I have all the information on my laptop as well as on my work computer.

Here's my project: https://www.contabulo.com.

It hasn't gotten any love via Show HN, but it's relevant to the thread, so :)

Basically I wanted something sort of like Trello, but more geared toward Knowledge and Content management and collaboration. I was unaware of the existence of Google Keep at the time, but it does look vaguely similar, doesn't it?

Oh yea, example (read-only) board: https://app.contabulo.com/boards/a5e413d1-8fe3-4b42-a8f1-b4f...

Little bit of feedback: "Contabulo’s flexibility enables a wide variety of uses" would be a lot stronger if it specifically named a use for a problem that I encounter.

Thanks for that. Yea, I need to work more on the landing page. Being too close to the product myself (having built it) of course I think the utility is obvious (and I don't think it's an outlandishly new concept), but I definitely need to work on my marketing-speak and salesmanship (not my forte, apparently). :)

I recommend Asana. It is simple when you get started, but can also grow with you as your project increases in complexity with numerous task organization options.

Useful features:

- Browse tasks with keyboard like a text file.

- Tasks can be in multiple projects.

- Tasks can have sub tasks.

- Big ecosystem - lots of integrations with other tools.

I use the following alongside it:

- Everhour for time tracking.

- Unito to sync my tasks to Github to track commits.

- Github issues.

- Instagantt for gantt charting the Asana tasks to see how reliable your time estimates were and plan ahead.

I'm a fan of OneNote for this. It's not perfect but it checks all the boxes I need and it's free.

Rather than making a list of tasks I have a whole section of them, and so I can attach files or notes to each one. This makes context switching between tasks fairly efficient.

https://kanboard.org/ as self hosted trello alternative, very good and obviously completely private.

Org-mode or https://github.com/jceb/vim-orgmode if you are using vim (I do).

http://tailordev.github.io/Watson/ for cli time tracking. Works beautifully.

I use (and develop) Standard Notes (https://standardnotes.org). It's dead simple, but that's good enough for me. I use the task editor to keep track of todos for updates and other projects.

Do you know whether its ticket management functionality is available from the CLI?

I open a Gdocs page and start writing a project diary. It serves the same purpose as the recording of transactions in accounting: rather than try to skip to a summary of tasks, bugs, or features, first I have to develop a "primary source of truth" about the project as a narrative - what I am developing, why I should prioritize something right now, and the feedback I hope to get from developing it.

As aspects of the project turn into specific tasks and data I can consider making formal artifacts for them, but it's unwise to do it too early in a solo project because of the added overhead and distraction from overall priorities. Structurally, coding on your own is really different from having a team to communicate with and leads or managers to specialize time allocation. You have the freedom to automate everything you are working with, and that's your biggest advantage. Where formality is added, it should be done with the support of a script that takes care of the technical details and keeps your friction down - it is not hard to automate turning TODO or FIXME source comments into a report, for example.

A simple GitHub or Gitlab repository is all that I need. Gitlab has the added advantage of a free CI (with 2k free build minutes per month), but for me git hosting + issues and boards + wiki pages are all I need for any project. I have used many, many project management solutions before, but if you use a sane methodology you don't really need anything else.

I'm using https://www.paymoapp.com for time-tracking and project management.

Next to that using https://trello.com for setting up Agile boards.

If I am not wrong you can have Agile boards in Paymo as well, it's called Kanban boards.

For small/solo projects I prefer to use a notebook with the first few pages reserved for an index. I complement it with a kanban board on the wall (post-it notes).

What I like about it:

No procrastination in a management tool (over-planning, formatting, etc).

No illusion of order (technology/computers have a tendency to make you appear disciplined, or to pretend you will be more disciplined by using them… I think it's bullshit. Discipline is a core skill, not the ability to use a tool).

No software can provide the feel of moving a post-it note to the "Done" column. Physical data (pages) is also supposed to help memorization.

> For small/solo projects I prefer to use a notebook with the first few pages reserved for an index.

You might consider starting your index on the back page, and let it grow "backwards" toward the content, sort of like stack and heap do in memory.

I think I first saw this suggested by the Humphrey/PMP people, where a notebook is (used to be?) a prominent tool. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capability_Maturity_Model

> No software can provide the feel of moving a post-it note to the "Done" column. Physical data (pages) is also supposed to help memorization.

I tear mine into little squares.

Occasionally I throw them at my colleagues (very small, very intense, on-site dev team) assuming they were somehow involved in creating the issue, and we are aligned on sense of humor.

We have been using Teamwork for a couple of years. It offers kanban card based paradigm as well as PERT/CPM. Our PD teams like the former while we in Consulting services like the latter best. One can project delivery dates in a timeline and with that do more refined risk management. Currently there are 455 running projects and 1603 stakeholders using the system including internal, customer and partners teams.

We built https://usebx.com/app for managing a small business. It includes a simple to do list type of project manager. Most of our users love the simplicity and the fact that it integrates with time tracking and invoicing. You may find it useful too.

Also, we're adding the ability to add files to tasks soon. If there's any particular functionality you're looking for but can't find, let us know - if we think it can make the app more useful, we'll build it. We're only at 30k active users, so are still small enough to be able cater to specific needs!

If it was just me, I’d use plain text files like people are suggesting in this thread. In particular, if you want to be able to track and do retrospectives of what’s been done, consider using jrnl[0] to log what you’ve done.

For small teams, I really like Dropbox Paper. It’s better than text files here because it’s real-time collaborative, but retains nearly all of the flexibility. It supports Markdown syntax, checkboxes, etc. You can tag members of your team, comment in the margins, and link to one doc quickly from another. For small teams that don’t need a heavyweight process, Dropbox Paper fills fits my needs here rather well.

[0] http://jrnl.sh

If you want a card-based planner, take a look at our Hyper Plan software: http://www.hyperplan.com

Where it differs from most other card-based planners is:

-any number of custom properties per card

-powerful visualization (layout and color your cards automatically by their properties or connectivity)

-powerful filtering

-supports dependencies between cards (including support for PERT type project scheduling)

-store different combinations of layout, coloring and filtering as 'views' you can swap between with a mouse click

-highly customizable appearance

-runs locally on Windows and Mac (which makes it very responsive) but plays nicely with DropBox

Telegram's Saved Messages feature (which is basically a chat with oneself) helps me a lot - it loads in the web interface instantly and works like an ultra-light notes app, where you can also post files and images, search your notes, edit and delete items. Everything is instantly shared between web and mobile.

The drawback is that you can have only one Saved Messages chat and no way to tag messages by project - it becomes messy when you use it for several projects at once.

For a small team, per-project chats are also very helpful - you can easily recall what you were discussing or planning to do several months ago.

You can add a #hashtag or even a bunch of them to every post though.

Makes it easy to filter by topic.

Another quick tip: you can have multiple chats with the exact same recipients. Nice if you have a running chat with someone and you also have one or more shared projects.

I'm from a small remote team of 8 employees, we use Riter (https://riter.co). It provides a basic set of necessary features for project management, time tracking, estimation and control. Here's an existing demo company for quick review https://demo.riter.co/login

Might want to disclose that your company creates this product.

Yes, it does, I had to mention that. However, it's free now. We tried to use some existing tools earlier, but the own one is always better suited for particular team needs. So Riter was developed primarily for personal use, not for sale. Maybe someone will also find it useful.

VivifyScrum - https://www.vivifyscrum.com. It's free for smaller projects (and very feature-complete) but robust enough for the largest of projects (and very affordable @ $8/user/mo.). They also have a native app for both desktop and mobile. I'm not affiliated with them in any way. I'm just a very satisfied user.

I design the workflow first. Starting sparingly with Github and G-Suite.

You can build your own webrtc-enabled video chat room in under 100 lines of javascript with PeerJS or the Twilio API. Or use Talky, Cyclops, etc.

If you need invoices, time tracking, and reports. You can always jump into something like Avaza


Keep it simple. And don't be afraid to roll your own tools. Good luck!

So what exactly are you looking for?

If Google Keep is what you're looking for, then use Google Keep.

If you want to share to-do lists, then use Asana or Trello.

If you want to manage tasks, I'd recommend http://clubhouse.io

It's hard to say what would fit your needs without saying what you need or want from a product other than "project management".

Invite URL for my project: https://ixberg.com/#/invite/2018-hn-1 (click sign in to do anything)

Make (sharable) projects. Add tasks. Break into subtasks (recursively). Defer anything you don't want to see yet. Focus on what you can do next and get things done.

I am happy enough with Github's Project feature. I create a simple kanban board and keep the tasks updated.

Not sure if you are working on a software related project or not. One of my favourite tool is GitHub Project Boards


Use Quip for documenting features, ideas, check-listing, task tracking https://quip.com/

Having one place for chats, documents, tasks is great. Its fast, simple and real-time!

https://www.getflow.com/ is pretty nice. But almost any kanban tool will do the job

excel/LO as a list of @#@#-that-needs-to-get-done. next column over is a r/b/g traffic lights. move them around in rough order. highlight those that are fixed dates. scribble on post it notes. lots and lots of post it notes and physically screw them up and throw them away. you'd be surprised how robust this is for single owner projects. managing a team? need different tool. i've used basecamp and was v happy.

If you're on a Mac, Things.app is great.


How large is the team? Specifically, is it project management for 1 person or more than 1 person?

Evernote is a lot like Google Keep. As you've mentioned GK I thought this was relevant.

Also check out notion.so

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact