Thoughtboxes: Awesome Brainstorming Without Mindmaps

The world of web apps is full of productivity tools that promise to make it easy to organize your thoughts and tasks. From simple to-do lists to full-fledged project managers to mind-mapping tools, there’s more ways than ever to save the things you’re thinking about and need to get done. The problem is, it’s so easy to spend more time tweaking your tasks than actually getting your tasks done! You can obsess over the dates of your tasks, try to find the perfect tagging system, or get your mind-map to look as awesome as that snazzy infographic you saw the other day.

At the end of the day, though, usually it’s still difficult to keep track of everything. You’ve spent all of this time organizing, but now your tasks are so compartmentalized that you can’t find what you need to do.

Thoughtboxes is a brilliant solution to this problem. Similar to many of the simpler web apps I love, it’s been designed with less features than most other task management tools. Instead, it nails the essence of managing your projects, letting you create pages of tasks organized into sets that work the way you want. Let’s take a closer look.

Your Thoughts in Boxes

Thoughtboxes takes a simple approach to task management that makes it easy to jot down anything you’re thinking about as quick notes or tasks. You organize your thoughts in boxes inside Trains of Thought pages. This way, rather than organizing your tasks into projects, you can create free-form pages that let you add things you’d like to accomplish in any order you want. For personal tasks and simpler projects without precise deadlines, this is a much simpler approach than the average task management tool users.

To get started, just sign up for a free account, which gives you 3 free trains of thoughts. From the dashboard, you can quickly add a train of thought, and start organizing your thoughts.

Creating a new train of thought

Once you’ve got a train of thought, Thoughtboxes will show you a quick example of the way task boxes work. Each train of thought page can contain as many task boxes as you want. You can move these around the page, move tasks between boxes, or edit them any time you want. Or, if you need to make more space on your page and hide the things you’re not currently working on, you can minimize them as well.

Just about the only help documentation you'll need in Thoughtboxes

Adding a box is quick and simple. Just click the Add a box button in the top right, enter a name for your box, and select a color to easily identify it. You could make the box as specific or general as you want. For example, I made a Store List train of thought page, then added boxes for each store I need to buy stuff at. Or, I could switch and organize things into boxes of price ranges, or by how urgently I need each item. Just like Simplenote, the simplicity means you can use it however you’d like.

Thoughtboxes' great color options

Your box is now ready to have your thoughts added. Just type in anything you want to remember on the bottom, tap enter, then enter something else. You can quickly dash out everything your thinking about right from your keyboard, without tweaking any settings or scheduling any tasks. In fact, they don’t have to be tasks. You could write down random thoughts, put together your project objectives, or anything you want. Then, you can drag and drop entries to rearrange them, double-click to edit them, or add a start to mark an entry as an important thought.

Add thoughts quickly to boxes

As you’re working, you can add more boxes to your page to get more of your ideas down. Drag and drop the whole boxes to move them where you want, or double-click the top of a box to change its title or color. You can also drag and drop thoughts between boxes. You can make your perfect idea layout, without spending much time at all.

Make your train of thought pages work like you want

Working Together Like a Super User

Your free Thoughtboxes account lets you create up to three train of thought pages with as many boxes as you need in them. This is a great way to organize some of your own thoughts and projects. Thoughtboxes can also work great as a team collaboration tool, too, with a Super User account. For $5/month or $50/year, you can upgrade to a Super User account that lets you create unlimited thought pages and share them publicly or privately with others.

Once you’ve upgraded, click the Sharing button on the top of a page to change its sharing options. Slide the top slider to share that thought page publicly with the world, or enter another Thoughtboxes user’s username or email address to share the page privately with them. Then, click the eye to let them just see the page, or click the sync button to let them view and edit the page. Best of all, your collaborator can be using either a free or a paid Super account, so you can work together with anyone.

Simple sharing options

Once you’ve added others to your pages, everyone can work together on your thoughts and projects. You could use it as a corkboard for everyone’s upcoming projects, or a great way to share ideas with others. If you want to stop sharing a list, you can remove users individually, or they can remove their own account from the list. It’s a simple collaboration system that includes enough privacy features to bring the security you need, without overwhelming you with too many options.

A corkboard for collaboration

Finding All Your Thoughts

Back at your dashboard, it’s always easy to find the things you and others have been thinking about. Your own trains of thought will be listed in the left blue column, while pages others have shared with you will be on the right. Additionally, throughout the app you can access any of your own trains of thought from the top menu. There’s no way to search through your tasks, though, or get notifications when shared tasks are changed, so that would be one enhancement we’d like to see. Even still, it’s simple enough to use that it’s never difficult to find what you’ve been thinking about.

Find the train of thought you're looking for

Conclusion

It’s great to see such a unique concept for brainstorming and task management. So many web apps are very similar to existing apps, so I appriciate Thoughtboxes new way to manage the things you’re thinking about. I’m a fan of simpler apps that are more orientated around plain text, and Thoughtboxes works great for this. I review so many apps that I couldn’t possibly keep using all of them, but I’m pretty sure this is one I’ll keep using.

Just take a moment, and give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that Thoughtboxes works great for the way you work!


Summary

You've got big ideas, and need to quickly jot them down, organize them, and get your projects done without wasting time tweaking your tasks and scheduling. Thoughtboxes is a great app for brainstorming with yourself or others, so you'll get back to doing the things that need to get done.

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  • This is certainly an interesting system. Not too sure how it grabs me. The subscription cost puts me off and I’m not too sure how it appeals to my GTD sensibilities.

  • I love this service! It has a very easy ui to understand, and it’s very handy!

  • I ma using it from a long time its grate.