Wednesday, July 10, 2013

SDK to Sync Tasks: Dropbox vs Evernote vs Google Apps Tasks vs Jira

Today Dropbox published a blog post for their new Datastore API, the amazing feature is offline support. I have ever investigated other popular tasks API providers, and want to share some quick summary. I didn't discuss outlook/skydrive/calender staff, and would be focusing company who intent to be service providers.

1. Introduction to Providers

  • Dropbox: Datastore API in Beta, well designed and elegant API for Tasks.
  • Evernote: Evernote does not provide a really SDK or functionality for tasks, but personally I want to make evernote a tasks/project management tool. You can attach your own data to ever note, this would be enough for client tools to filter the note marked as tasks, and category them. The API Documetation here
  • Google: Google Apps Tasks API. Google have provided the tasks API for several years, and there are some tools, chrome plugins.
  • Jira: The enterprise project management tool. They also provided REST API. Jira provided best-in-class feature set.

2. Features, Pros, Cons

  • Dropbox
    • Features: 
      • Provided data store API to handle Table/Record. The data store API is the API to handle generic remote key-value database. You can easily build your task management tool based on it.
      • Support offline temporarily. The SDK works when your apps go offline temporarily, with all its data locally. Accordingly, it provided a way to sync data, and resolve conflicts.
      • SDK: Provided SDK in JavaScript for Web, and iOS/Android SDK.
    • Pros:
      • Flexibility: Because the API is to handle generic NoSQL database remotely, it has enough flexibility for app developers to add their own fields, and store what they need.
      • Temporarily Offline Support: this is essential for mobile apps because they can easily be offline. I can imagine that the Dropbox API would improve the user experience greatly on mobile devices.
      • SDK in JavaScript, iOS, Android can bootstrap the integration quickly.
      • Potentially when you need larger storage for content/attachment of a task, Dropbox would be the best candidate.
    • Cons:
      • It's still in Beta, so not enough support on Search/Filter on server side. So when you have a big data set, it would be a problem in current release. However, I can expect that Dropbox will improve it very quickly!
  • Evernote:
    • Features:
      • Evernote does not provide a way to direct create tasks and projects. It provided SDK to create and manage notes. Notes can contain rich format of text, images, and other resources. You can categories them by Notebooks, or Tags. Application Data can be attached to notes, so you can manage status/estimations/priorities with application data for a note. A task management model for Evernote can be:
        • Put all tasks notes in a special notebooks
        • Use Tags/Parent Tags to build hierarchy of projects
      • SDK: Objective-C, Java, PHP, Ruby, Python, Perl, C#, C++, ActionScript
    • Pros:
      • All your data can be visible in Evernote Client Tools from Web, Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. The official Evernote apps has very high quality.
      • You an do search on server, and leverage great Evernote features like OCR. This is unique comparing with all the other providers.
    • Cons:
      • Even you can add some tasks/checkbox in a note, but that's not a direct way to manage them.
      • Evernote is designed for notes, you need some workaround to make it works as task management tool.
  • Google Apps Tasks API:
    • Features:
    • Pros:
      • Better for integration with other google apps.
      • Simple but complete feature for task management.
    • Cons:
      • No way to extend. For example, if I want to add estimation for a tasks, then there is no tasks properties supported, and there is no flexibility to add customized fields.
  • Jira
    • Features:
      • Jira is already an ENTERPRISE task management tool for team planning and project tracking.
      • SDK: Rest API
    • Pros:
      • Really feature rich, and generally you can get everything done on web.
      • You can deploy Jira Server to your private cloud or internal networks.

3. Summary of Unique Features

  • Dropbox: Allow temporarily offline, and handled sync/conflict resolve well inside SDK, developers don't need to worry about it. Also provided the best flexibility on apps design.
  • Evernote: Rich format for contents in a note, and provided powerful search capability.
  • Google Apps Tasks: Compete API dedicated for simple tasks management.
  • Jira: Provided a way to deploy server to your internal network.

Finally let's back to TeamViz, my task management tool. The goal is to support completely offline work. User can use it as a standalone tool, and also can sync with other desktop apps and mobile apps. None of the modal above can meet my goal, the most close one is the what Dropbox released today, datastore API. But it supports only temporarily offline, you still need to be online to access data.


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