capsule review

Goalscape Desktop Project Manager Keeps Big Picture in Sight

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Goalscape Desktop

To-do lists are great for keeping track of the myriad little tasks we must accomplish every day. "Submit expense reports," "Take cat to vet," "Buy coffee," and so on. But what about the really big things--the dreams we want someday to come true? A to-do item like "get company onto Fortune 500 list" or "write prize-winning novel" may look a bit silly. But such lofty goals are made up of numerous subgoals, each of which can probably be broken down further. Goalscape Desktop (89 euro, $117 on March 12, 2012) is a tool for realizing your goals that does away with the list metaphor and uses an innovative circular interface instead.

Goalscape Desktop offers a striking way to balance your priorities, activities and progress on your way to success.
Goalscape's interface is very eye-catching, but its beautiful form has everything to do with function. This cross-platform, Adobe AIR-based application puts your "master goal" in the center of a circle, with subgoals surrounding it. So if you are trying to get to the Olympics as a competitive sailor and must perfect your boat handling, "boat handling" would take center stage, surrounded by specific areas of handling, such as "upwind," "downwind," and "start."

This particular example is interesting because that's what Marcus Baur, Goalscape's managing director, used to get to the Sydney Olympics in the 49er class. This was done on paper, before Goalscape existed as an application, but makes for a great use case for the methodology.

There are only so many hours in a day, and we all have just so many resources to work with. Having subgoals arranged as pieces of a pie reflects that, making for a clearer use of resources. You can also adjust each subgoal's size to reflect its relative importance, and track your progress by moving a slider from 0 percent to 100 percent. As you move the slider, the subgoal gradually fills with color, as does its "master" goal, proportionately to the subgoal's importance.

Goalscape Desktop avoids breaking things down to a to-do list, preferring to focus on the greater view. Even so, every goal can have a start and end date, tags, and a responsible person assigned to it. You can filter goals by these attributes, and there's also a search-as-you-type feature for quickly finding goals, no matter where they are located on the Goalscape.

The main drawback is that Goalscape doesn't tightly integrate with a to-do based workflow, so using the tool must be an intentional act: You must decide when to open Goalscape and start reviewing your progress. It's a habit that isn't always easy to build, and the biggest barrier for adoption (at least for me). Goalscape's iPhone companion app does offer a list view, and the company is considering integrating such functionality in future desktop and Web versions as well.

Since each subgoal can be further broken down, goalscapes can become very detailed. In my own use, I easily got to five levels of nested subgoals. Goalscape offers two ways to manage this visual overload: You can limit the depth of the current display, or you can double-click a subgoal to drill down into it, making it the center of the circle. You can also print out your entire Goalscape or a specific view of it, to make an interesting motivational poster.

Since Goalscape is so open-ended, it can be used for more than project management. I used it to get a bird's-eye view of my entire day-to-day existence, subdividing my life by areas such as family, work, health, learning, and so on. Having to resize each such area made me consider my priorities, and setting specific subgoals for each area made me consider what would make that area "successful" (reading enough books, planning to avoid overload, and so on). I wish Goalscape Desktop offered an easy way to transform those insights into complete to-do lists for implementation, but the application is more focused on the big picture view of things.

Goalscape also offers an online subscription-based service called Goalscape Connect that teams can use to set their priorities and monitor their progress. If you are looking to get a clearer picture of your activity and make tangible progress, Goalscape Desktop offers a unique and compelling way to get there.

Note: Clicking the Download link takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download Adobe AIR (if necessary) and install the desktop software.

--Erez Zukerman

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At a Glance
  • Goalscape Desktop offers a unique and visual way to realize your goals and make dreams a reality.


    • Cross-platform
    • Unique visuals that are not just a gimmick


    • Pricey
    • Does not integrate into a "to-do list" workflow
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