30/30: A Pretty but Shy Taskmaster
Jun 19, 2012 5:00 AM PT
Why can't the iPad be a clock? What did it ever do, or not do, to convince Apple not to grant it that privilege?
It has a built-in Reminders app, just like the iPhone, and yes, the iPad will tell you what time it is in the digital readout at the top of the home screen.
But it has no built-in Clock app, with that familiar set of alarm, stopwatch and timer settings.
Why is that? An iPad looks fine on a nightstand or a desk, and you don't need to be hooked up to a cellphone network to keep track of how long the chicken's been on the grill. Why no Clock?
Luckily there's a wide assortment of third-party apps in the App Store that will do basically the same thing Clock will. Certain apps may even pull off certain functions better.
Get to Work
30/30 is an app that focuses entirely on the timer function. And it's not just a digital egg timer that counts down the minutes, goes bing and calls it a day. It's also a task manager. Use it to plan out a work day, a project, a series of tasks or any situation in which you need to rifle through a set of jobs in X number of hours.
The interface is big, minimalist and actually kind of satisfying to toy around with. Everything is done with gestures. The top is your timer, indicating how much time is left for the task at hand. Below that is your to-do list.
Start by adding tasks to your list. This is done by spreading two fingers between two existing tasks, or just reverse-pinching the space below the clock if no tasks are present yet. Sometimes this gesture makes it a little tricky to add a task to the bottom of the list. My fingers kept sliding off the screen and onto the iPad's bezel. Try pulling the entire list up, then making a downward motion directly under the list with you thumb.
Now you'll need to name the task, select an icon to go with it (an envelope, a paper airplane, a Facebook logo, or any of 22 others) and give it a color code. The allotted time of a task can be set in whole minutes anywhere from one minute to three hours.
Create a few tasks, then hit the clock to start the countdown. Once the first task's time is up, you'll hear a chime, at which point you'll need to manually move it on to the next task. The one you just finished will be placed at the end of your list. Yes, it's a never-ending circle of toil.
Tasks can be eliminated with a swipe, or moved around with a hold and drag. To pause for an unanticipated interruption, just touch the clock again.
30/30's minimalist design is pretty nice-looking; however, the app's settings and extra features are also kept to a minimum.
Hit the gear icon in the upper-left corner to get to the settings menu. The first row of icons aren't really settings so much as additional information. For example, the in-app shop isn't much of a shop. Basically, it's a function through which you can donate money if you like the app.
I Love This is simply an invite to rate 30/30 in the App Store. It seems odd to elevate this "function" (to use the term loosely) to a top-level entry in the settings menu, but at least it's less annoying than certain other apps that accost you with a plea for validation as you're trying to close out of the program and get on to something else.
The menu also includes a toggle for auto-pause (without it, the app will jump straight into the next task when the present one is finished) and for badge notifications. Its brightness toggle has two settings.
30/30's sound setting is also very constrained. I'm of the opinion that timers and task managers should be capable of everything from gently nudging users to bashing them over the head with a 20-pound nag hammer, depending on one's preference. I like to have a library of sounds at my disposal, from wine-glass-shattering ear-piercers to smooth bassy hums, as well as an array of repeating options. A timer app should be both a meek and mild servant as well as a vicious taskmaster that cuts through distraction with a chainsaw, depending on user preference.
Unfortunately, 30/30's only sound option is on or off. And when it's on, all you get is a shy little blip of a noise.
30/30 looks great, and its gesture-based control system is slick and intuitive. The "done and I'm onto the next one" concept is good for when you need to drill down into serious work mode and abide a rigid schedule.
But the app could benefit from some additional versatility, especially as far as sounds are concerned. 30/30 lends itself to tasks that may require deep concentration, and when you're really lost in your work, a gentle chime may not be enough to pull you out and get you moving to the next task.