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Wunderlist 3 makes many nice improvements

Wunderlist 3

Wunderlist is the cloud-based, task- and project-management solution from Germany's 6Wunderkinder. I say "solution" because it's available for iOS, OS X, Kindle Fire, Chromebook and the web. I've been playing with it for a few weeks and I'm quite happy. However, I don't think all users will be. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Version 3.0 is an interesting release. Many of the service's eight million users have been hoping for two things: a public API and integration with services like Dropbox and Evernote. Many of the 400+ comments on the announcement blog post attest. A major release, four years after its introduction, seems like a logical time to address those requests. Instead, the developers at 6Wunderkinder focused on what they called "...the number one problem our customers were having": sync.

Wunderlist 3 offers real-time sync. I can tell you, it's very fast. In the weeks that I've spend with beta builds, I've been delighted with how quickly changes are synchronized between my iPhone, Mac and the Web. There's no need to initiate a sync manually, though you still can. I've added more than a dozen items at a time on my Mac only to find them waiting for me on my iPhone. Wi-Fi is not required.

By focusing on sync in this release, Wunderlist's developers have done three main things. First, they've addressed a major concern, as I mentioned. They also laid the groundwork for other highly anticipated features, like integration with third-party apps. "Since we've also built [sync] to be scalable for the tens of millions," says community manager Simon Chan, "it'll be easier for us to turn our attention to the number 2 most requested feature, which is service integration by way of Public API."

Wunderlist 3

I'm glad that the Wunderlist team took the time to get sync working well (and it definitely does). Still, I suspect that this will be a divisive release among the service's long-time users. Some will appreciate the result as I do, while others will lament that this is just one more release that doesn't support [x].

Let's look at some other changes.

Wunderlist 3 has a whole new look and that's quite apparent on iOS. A new overview screen is the app's default look and that's a huge improvement over version 2.x, which plopped you on whatever screen you viewed last. If you were grocery shopping last, you'd open to your grocery list. That wasn't very helpful while at the office.

Now you get this great new welcome screen. There are four icons across the top, starting from the left: 1. Alerts 2. Conversations 3. Preferences 4. Search

Swipe up to scroll through your lists or tap the big "+" that lives at the bottom of the screen to create a new list. Scrolling is nice and snappy, as is reordering. Tap a list to view its contents and you'll find another nice change in the form of several new ways to act on your tasks.

A new Share button lets you invite collaborators with a tap. The Publish button is very cool. It creates a public URL that anyone can access. While you might not want to do this with work items, it's quite nice for lists you'd like to share. You can also sort alphabetically, just as you could in version 2.x, but the More button offers...well, more.

Tap it to see four options. The first lets you edit a list's options, like who's invited and Do Not Disturb settings. This is separate from Apple's DND feature, although it works in a similar fashion. It lets you silence reminders on a list-by-list basis. Say you're going to be away from the office for the day. Well, all of those office-specific tasks aren't going to get done, so silence their alarms and avoid the guilt of, "Oh, I should be working on such-and-such a project now."

Finally, you can email and print a list right from the app (provided that you've got an iOS-ready printer available).

Other changes include free commenting (formerly a premium-only feature) and gesture support in iOS (swipe to edit or delete a list item).

On a personal note, I'm thrilled that version 3.0 for iPhone addressed my two major gripes about its predecessor. First, tags are supported. Wunderlist doesn't have a full category feature. Instead, the OS X version lets you add a hashtag term to an action item. For example, "#errands" or "#email." They become clickable and searchable. Unfortunately, these "hash-categories" weren't available on iOS, so all of you careful tagging was for naught once you left home. Wunderlist 3 introduces full support for these tags on iOS, and they sync nicely, too.

Second, the placement of the button that saves a note on the iOS app has been re-worked. Previously, saving a note meant tapping two buttons: one labeled "Done" for when you had finished typing, and a second labeled "Close" to put the note away. This was redundant at best, and it became quite problematic when you wanted to paste text into a note. The modal Paste button appeared in front of but not quite covering the Close button, with the result that I often closed a note by accident without adding any text. Annoying!

Once again, version 3 comes to the rescue. Now there's a single button in the upper right that becomes "Save" while you're typing, and "Done" when you're not. Fantastic.

I'm quite happy with this update. To me, it feels like Apple's transition from Leopard to Snow Leopard. There weren't a huge number of marquee features, just smart changes that made its software better. 6Wunderkinder has pulled off something very similar with Wunderlist 3. It still lacks features that many users want, but it makes very nice improvements while setting the stage for those future changes very nicely.

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