It was early spring 2011 when the MetaLab team announced their intentions to make a brand new task management app for the web: Flow. With their signature style, the MetaLab team made a beautifully designed web app for managing tasks — only this web app didn’t feel like a web app. It worked so nicely that our former editor compared it to the best native Mac apps and picked it as his go-to todo list app. He wasn’t the only one: organizations around the globe from the likes of Adobe and MIT picked Flow as the app to help them manage tasks.
Along the way, Flow has picked up companion iOS and Mac apps, and even had a personal assistant tool built in for a time. But behind the scenes, Flow was being recreated for 2013 to be the very best task app all over again. The new Flow was just released yesterday, and it’s better than ever. Here’s why Flow can easily compete with the best task apps on any platform.
It’s Still Flow, but It’s All New
If you’ve ever taken Flow for a spin over the past two years, you’d still recognize the new Flow. It’s still all about your tasks, organized to lists, in a beautiful web app — but that’s where the similarities end. Where the original Flow was bright blue with plenty of rounded, plastic-shiny chrome, the new Flow has a much more subdued palette and a UI that’s more content-focused (and less bubbly). It’s not flat, but instead embraces the layered style that so many apps sport these days in a way that’s both recognizable and unique all at once. And it’s fast — it really feels as fast as a native app on par with lighter alternates like Wunderlist, and is easily faster than the new Basecamp.
Speaking of Basecamp, the new Flow is much more team centric than before. Instead of being based around individual accounts, the new Flow is built around workspaces — places you and your team can keep up with everything about your projects. Each Workspace has its own members, icon, and lists that are kept separate from your other workspaces, linked only by your Flow notifications that appear throughout the app no matter where you’re working. That makes it even easier to use Flow to manage everything, with separate dashboards, calendars, and everything for each place you work.
It also changes Flow’s pricing, which now starts at $19/month for 1 workspace and 2 users, $49/month for 5 workspaces and 10 people, and so on. That’s far cheaper than Flow’s old pricing at $9/person/month, and simpler to bring on new team members since you won’t have to worry about buying new accounts each time. It’s also relatively in-line with its business-focused competitors — Basecamp starts at $20/month for 10 projects (where each “project” is more like one list in Flow), Asana Premium starts at $50/month for 15 members, and even Wunderlist for Business costs $39.99/month for 10 members. Individuals and small teams will find a wide variety of cheaper options, but Flow’s seeking to provide the best possible workplace for medium to large teams, and charges accordingly.
The Tools to Keep You Productive
And premium it is. The new Flow is not only nicely designed, but it’s easy to use and get started with. The first time you sign in, you’ll find a brilliant tutorial that takes you through every part of the app, showing you what’s new and how Flow can keep you productive. You’ll then find smaller tutorials that take you through using tasks, lists, the calendar, and more whenever you first use those tools.
Everything starts with the Dashboard in the new Flow, which you’ll see pictured at the top of the article. There, you’ll be able to see everything that’s been going on in your team, from new and completed tasks to comments and file uploads. Select a task anywhere — in the dashboard, a list, or in a notification — and you’ll see the full in-depth task view in the 3rd right pane.
The task pane gives you everything you need to get your tasks done. You’ll be able to assign tasks to others, bring on team mates as followers to add input or see when a task is completed, and schedule it with simple English dates (say, tomorrow or +1w like you’d use in a native app like OmniFocus). There’s no notes on tasks, per se, but you can leave a comment with Markdown formatting on any task to add extra info or to communicate with your task collaborators. You’ll also be able to upload files straight from your desktop or from your Dropbox account without leaving Flow. And, best of all, Flow has keyboard shortcuts throughout the app, making navigating the app or creating new tasks from anywhere a breeze.
You’ll have to have some order, or everything would end up being a mess. So, in Flow, you’ve got Workspaces as complete areas for stuff you’re working on — say, everything happening on one project, or in one department of your company. Inside each Workspace, you can create as many lists and folders of lists as you want to organize the stuff you’re working on. You can share each list with everyone on your team, with specific people, or with no one, so everyone on the team can keep track of their own private work (including your inbox in every Workspace, which isn’t shared), their immediate team’s work, and the bigger picture of the whole group. Throw in tags on tasks, and you’ve got every way to organize every part of your work you’d want, in much the same way as in the original Flow but now with workplaces.
Flow then lets you easily search through everything — though only inside of your current workplace, which is somewhat disappointing. Moving tasks is also easy, with a simple drag-and-drop to the list of your choice (or reschedule tasks by moving them around on the calendar), and you can even more whole lists to different workspaces if you need. And wherever you are, you can quick-add tasks right from the lowest line in a list — though unfortunately, there’s still no way to quickly add tags and due dates directly in the task text with a hash or @ sign, so you’ll still have to tab your way through the options. Those are small complaints overall, though, compared to how nice the rest of Flow works together — complete with the full-featured iPhone app that’s been redesigned from the new Flow, and the Mac app to quickly add tasks from your menubar.
If you’re looking for a full-featured task management app for your team that both looks and works great, you can’t go wrong with Flow. It’s incredible to see how nicely the new version has turned out, once again making Flow one of the very nicest apps online. It’s a web app that doesn’t feel like a web app, one with the collaboration power to keep even the largest teams organized and productive with the tasks and lists for each part of your company in their own area. It’s a bit pricey, but go give the 30 day free trial a shot if you’re interested — I happen to bet you’ll enjoy it.
Oh, there’s one more thing you might like to know: the Flow team is giving away a MacBook Air to celebrate the New Flow launch, so be sure to check out that page to get your entry in if you’d fancy getting a new MacBook to go with your new task app!
Small disclosure: I worked on the Flow team a couple years back in support and documentation, but no longer have any ties to the company. My recomendation of Flow today is simply because it’s a great app on its own — even more so in this release.
Radically revamped from its original design, the new Flow is9
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