Tasktop 1.3: Support Added for Firefox and Linux
Tasktop Technologies, the company which created Eclipse Mylyn and leads its development, released Tasktop version 1.3 today. InfoQ interviewed Tasktop CEO and Eclipse Mylyn project lead Mik Kersten to learn more about this release and what changes it brings for end users.
InfoQ: Can you describe the major new features in Tasktop v1.3?
Mik Kersten: With 1.3, which is named Tasktop Autumn 2008, the focus has been on integration. The two integrations which got the highest number of votes were a standalone Tasktop application for Linux and for the integration of task-focused browsing with Firefox. As of this release, both are now available. We had tremendous interest in the standalone Linux application from both project managers and from developers not using Eclipse. The Firefox integration was requested by both non-programmers and web developers who wanted to use Tasktop's browser integration inside of Firefox alongside add-ins such as Firebug.
This release also includes other enhancements, such as the ability to email the details of a task to a colleague and UI improvements to streamline creation of new tasks. For more details, please see the New & Noteworthy page for a complete list of features and enhancements included in this release.
InfoQ: What capabilities does the Linux-based Tasktop introduce?
Mik Kersten: Developers and project managers on Linux can now download Tasktop as a stand-alone application to get all of the team awareness benefits of Tasktop's bug and issue tracker integration. Once you start working with your tasks within Tasktop, you immediately get the benefits of the task-focused interface, such as instant per-task session restore for all browser tabs within Firefox, in addition to Tasktop's document tracking and focusing. The new Linux support also enables automatic time tracking while working within Tasktop or with other applications.
InfoQ: Are there plans to create a standalone Mac-based Tasktop?
Tasktop relies on considerable OS and browser extensions, and based on user votes, we did the integration for Linux before Mac. While you can use Tasktop for Eclipse on Mac, we are seeing an increasing number of requests for a standalone Mac version of Tasktop and we're working on that now. Anyone interested in getting their hands on that should indicate their interest in Mac support on our user survey and let us know that they would like to see in the early access version.
InfoQ: Can you describe the Firefox integration in more detail? And is it now possible for the community to add support for other browsers and applications through the same mechanisms?
Mik Kersten: For Windows users, Tasktop automatically tracks and displays the web pages that are most relevant to the currently active task via the Tasktop extension to Internet Explorer - this eliminates the need to bookmark those pages. Re-activating a task automatically restores browser tabs for each page relevant to the task-at-hand. The sessions are even restored across multiple windows, which is very useful if you've working with multiple monitors.
By installing the new Tasktop Firefox add-on and clicking the "less is more" button in Firefox, the web session restore will happen within the linked Firefox window instead of within the Tasktop window. Navigating to pages in Firefox will populate Tasktop's degree-of-interest model, meaning that manually tracking web pages becomes a thing of the past. With a click, all of your browser tabs are instantly restored. This is great for web developers because it means the pages they are testing are instantly restored when they return to the feature they were working on. For non-developers, it dramatically streamlines the web browsing experience, and helps reduce bookmark overload.
We have not yet standardized on a cross-browser protocol for the interaction monitoring and session management, so the implementations are very specific to Internet Explorer and Firefox. But anyone interested in extending this support to another browser should contact us as we would be very happy to generalize this.
InfoQ: How has the user community been reacting to Tasktop since 1.0, and how has that feedback helped to shape Tasktop's development?
Mik Kersten: With Eclipse Mylyn, we created a community that is empowered by the meritocracy of Eclipse. If a user or integrator wants to extend Mylyn they're easily able to do so thanks to our transparency and the tools we provide for streamlining contributions. But Mylyn's primary role is as a framework, and as such it is important for us to prioritize API enhancements over new features.
With Tasktop, we have finally been able to justify providing a very quick turn-around on feature requests, since we have paying customers. An example is printing support, which a considerable number of Tasktop users first asked for and then outlined the printing behavior they needed most. Our very quick turn-around time means that our user community is very empowered and engaged. This is why we have such thorough feedback integration within Tasktop. It makes us all very happy to be continually delivering Tasktop's productivity features and hearing all the great feedback, both for the big things such as time tracking, and the little things that save clicks, such as the new one-click working set switcher that I could no longer live without.
InfoQ: What are the future plans for Tasktop, in particular around the 2.0 release?
Mik Kersten: Yes, we have already made considerable progress towards Tasktop 2.0, which has more fundamental changes across the board in terms of the client, web services, and partner integrations. While I can't yet divulge what's coming, you can expect new integrations for application lifecycle management (ALM) tools that will bring focus and integrations into even more of the tools that developers use. On the client side there is a ton of streamlining coming, and some very cool planning, project management and collaboration features that will help everyone say goodbye to email being the primary vehicle for collaboration. Stay tuned to the Tasktop blog for more hints about upcoming features!