BackPackIt by 37 Signals has gotten a lot of press lately. Besides being one of the two most highly publicized applications by them, BackPack is built with Ruby on Rails. It was about time for me to learn what all the fuss was about. I have a number of projects and lists in my head aching for an out, and with Googles Todo list addon for their Calendar not yet released (only hinted at in the code), thought I'd give something else a try. I'd used Tada List for the extremely simple lists on the side only to be impressed by the user interface. BackPack is quite an impressive ap. Filling the application with small elements that update independently of each other makes for a much quicker user experience, cutting page requests down to a minimum. The list ui is about the same as TadaList, without a few of the bells. The way a lot of the features are worked into the interface is innovative. For instance, the Edit and Delete options on any list, list item or note aren't easily visible as they are on most tools. Instead, they only show the links to those items when moused over — keeping the GUI clean. Adding new lists, list items, notes, pictures and everything else on "page” is all contained to a single page load. The concept of a Page is to organize information. This might be an event, a project, a list of projects, as well as many other options. I can't say i've checked out the files, images or writeboard sections. A few issues did come up though. When you create a new list on a new page the list doesn't automatically have a title. This makes adding multiple lists awkward at first. It makes sense to not have a name when you only have one list. The only other awkward part was that when I added a new link to a page it did not show up on the public version. It took recreating it a few times and disabling the sharing to finally get it to show up. Now, that option may have just been cached, but it did take some time. Overall it's an amazing ap that gave me a few good ideas on interface design. Oh yeah, here's my public page. Not too much there so far, but I'm getting there.
Published August 27, 2006 on adamfortuna