OverTask Sorts Chrome’s Tabs Into Task-Oriented Groups

The modern browser is becoming more than just a tool to get to the internet. It’s now almost synonymous with our usage of a computer itself. Most of the things we do are online, and a lot of times, each task requires certain websites to do the job.

OverTask, an extension for Google Chrome, wants to help you sort through the websites you visit when you are doing anything. It’s been getting a lot of buzz about its ability to automatically “convert tabs into tasks”. It’s unclear how that works, but we were intrigued and took it for a spin.

Unfortunately, OverTask seems as confused in its execution as it does in its idea.

What’s It About?

OverTask works entirely out of the ‘New Tab’ page, transforming it into a productivity-oriented list. The design keeps Chrome’s colour scheme of red, blue, yellow and green in mind, but there doesn’t seem to be any consistency. Some menu buttons are blue, others green, a few red, while yellow is relegated to denoting “medium importance” to a task.

Overtask-Header

Creating a new task is a simple process, where you input the name, select a category (General, Programming, Personal, Writing, Fun, Cooking, Work) and hit Add Task. I wish there was a way to create custom categories though.

Create a new task, set a due date, assign priority... it's got all the basics

Create a new task, set a due date, assign priority… it’s got all the basics

The advanced options in the task creation process also offer the ability to prioritise the task (low, medium, high) and set a due date if needed. You can also choose to add the tabs you currently have open to this task.

Once you’re done, the tasks will all show up in a grid on the New Tab page. This grid can be searched, filtered by task priority, and browsed by completed or trashed tasks.

Click any of them and it will instantly open the last tabs you were working with on that project. In short, it’s a sessions manager, but a cool one at that.

What you browse after opening a task are its contents i.e. any website you visit from within an open task is added to that task.

The 3 pillars of OverTask: Do, Research, Communicate

The 3 pillars of OverTask: Do, Research and Communicate

OverTask also divides the task into three panes automatically: Do, Research and Communicate. Do is meant for tabs that are needed to complete a task, like Dropbox or Evernote. Research is where your information is stored, such as web articles. Communicate offers an easy way to get to email and social networking. Each category has a few shortcuts already listed in a recommendations bar at the bottom.

Meh…

And here’s where we hit the first hurdle. OverTask does an atrocious job of figuring out which site should be categorised where. And I’m not talking about small-time sites either. Twitter and Pinterest show up in Research, not in Communicate where Facebook and Google+ are. Simplenote and Box show up in Research while Evernote finds a place in Do.

The auto-sorting is, frankly, ridiculous and I would have liked the ability to at least manually drag-and-drop sites to the right place, but even that’s not available. What’s the point of this sorting if it’s wrong?

Where's my Twitter? Where's my Outlook? Where's my Pinterest? Where's...

Where’s my Twitter? Where’s my Outlook? Where’s my Pinterest? Where’s…

For each site, the previews also don’t show up by default. Hit the ‘View’ button and it’ll pop up, but otherwise, you can stare at the ugly OverTask logo place-marker.

And why am I still getting prompts on the third day of using this extension? Hit Ctrl+T and there’s a prompt at the top saying “Search / Go to websites using the search bar above!” Yeah, I got it on the first day, OverTask — and this might come as news to you, but that’s how I always go to sites!

A Flawed Concept

The more I used it, the more I realised that OverTask’s problem isn’t the bad categorisation or constant prompts or any other execution element — it’s the idea itself that doesn’t work. The point of a modern browser is to switch between different tabs for different needs, like you would switch between different apps on an operating system.

You might be working in Microsoft Excel and have the Calculator app open to help you along, but if a friend pings on GTalk, you move to that and chat, and then get back to work. Similarly, when you are working on a project, those unrelated tabs are not entirely unwanted.

Tabs aren't about tasks. A browser isn't a window to doing one thing at a time any more.

Tabs aren’t about tasks. A browser isn’t a window to doing one thing at a time any more.

“Sessions” that allow you to group tabs are good, but there’s no reason for that control to be taken away from the user. It’s a one-time activity with rich rewards in the long run. If an auto-sorter were to work intelligently, perhaps I’d consider it, but OverTask’s implementation is anything but smart.

The basic point I am making is that a browser is meant to have a variety of tabs. To turn them into individual task-related groups is a neat idea on paper (and which is why I wanted to try out OverTask) but not something that you would actually use in a practical scenario.

Therein lies the sad part about OverTask. As an app, it has its faults, whether it’s the sloppy categorisation or the weird colour scheme, but its biggest problem, unfortunately, it is that it’s based on a flawed premise.


Summary

OverTask turns the New Tab page of Chrome into a to-do list of tasks, but the concept and execution is poor

4

Comments are closed.