Agenda, the missing piece in my workflow … almost

After having worked for a couple of months almost exclusively in Windows 10, with my iPad Pro gathering dust, I’m back to the Apple Ecosystem. While Windows has made giant steps towards a more functional system, my – old – brain is currently so wired iOS that I will use Windows 10 when I have to, but I’m back to the ultimate portability of my iPad Pro. The almost obligatory mono-tasking obligation is not bad either … it does avoid you getting distracted.

Missing piece

For years I’ve been trying to find a digital equivalent to paper notebooks. I have always been an avid user of notebooks, having one around me at all times. It went well with my penchant for fountain pens, so that was good too.

The problem is that few tools come close to replacing a real notebook, and to date none has really. But in the past few days I’ve discovered one tool that comes close. And especially looking at the feature development roadmap the developers were so kind to publish in their help pages, this tool will, in the longer term, fill in the gap I’ve never really been able to fill in.

Other tools

I’ve used DevonThink, in pretty much every version that exists. I’ve used Evernote, I’ve spent some time really investing in OneNote. I’ve used Sharepoint for storage of files, and Dropbox, and pretty much any alternative under the sun. Each tool scratches a part of the itch, but none cover all the issues.

The tool? Agenda

Then I discovered Agenda. And this tool comes in its current version tantalisingly close to responding to my needs. Now, I’m using the iOS version of the tool which is a version 1, hence there is a lot of upside still to come.

The good

Agenda, through its premium features for which you pay approximately 30 EUR per year, allows you to integrate your calendar in the app. Appointments can be linked to notes which allows you to prepare and document meetings as you see fit. Meeting preparation and documentation for me is a key feature. I need to be able to quickly retrieve a meeting and find specific notes I took.

For retrieval purposes, I can easily tag each note with multiple tags. The application allows me to identify categories which hold projects, and assign notes to projects in these categories. In this, the notes tool comes close in structure to another favourite tool I have, Things for task management.

Another plus is the fact the tool allows the use of Markdown, my preferred markup language for notes (I find myself writing Markdown when I’m taking handwritten notes, go figure).

Search allows in category or in project search as well as search across all projects. In addition, I can zoom in on specific days to limit search.

The integration with the calendar of choice (or calendars of choice) makes it very easy to document meetings, but also to prepare them. At the end of the day I take a couple of minutes to go through my calendar for the next day, create a note per meeting and quickly note down key considerations or points I should not forget during the meeting. This actually allows me to focus more on what is going on.

Still missing … several integrations on iPad and automation

I really like and use this application, which is in its early days. What I am missing are integrations with some of the other tools I use or at least the opening up to automation which would allow me to roll my own integrations.

Let me take one example: whereas the Agenda Mac application (which I use on occasion) provides some limited integration with different tools, Things, probably one of the more automation friendly tools is not among them. Right now, I manually copy my areas of focus to categories and projects to projects. This is not a lot of work, but it is work which is avoidable with a proper integration and/or automation. There are to date no real integrations in the iOS app. This would significantly optimise my workflow. Ideally for an iPad app I am looking for feature parity with its MacOS counterpart.

Also missing is an attachment option. If I am to review documents, I would love to be able to easily push the email with attachment to the app for integration. Few apps do this right … Things isn’t there yet either, but here is hoping 🙂

This said, I am looking forward to the next iterations of both products, with a focus for me on the iOS application.

Smaller points

A couple of smaller remarks that I have for the developers:

  • I can only assign notes to projects, not to categories. Not a dealbreaker, I now have a category “other”, but it would be interesting to be able to assign a note to a general category.
  • Maybe because I am running iOS 12 beta, but the iPad battery consumption is very high. I usually last easily one day on a full iPad Pro 10.5 inch battery, the albeit heavy use of this app sees me recharging my iPad towards the end of the day.

Overall impression

This app is a true discovery, and an essential addition to my workflow which I try to limit to as few tools as possible. I am looking forward to further development from the developers of this app. Great job!