Nozbe Reviews

Comment by Wrzoo
about Nozbe · Jul 2017 ·

Simple, yet powerful; modern, yet reliable. A truly great to-do app.

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Not the most convenient or attractively priced.

about Nozbe and Asana, Simpletask Cloudless, Todoist · · 2 Helpful

Nozbe is a to-do list/task manager. It aims primarily at organizations rather than individuals. It has some features others in this space don't, but it falls short on multiple levels. And, despite how this review might seem in the end, I started out really wanting to like Nozbe. But I can't like it because its flaws are too serious.

The positives

  • One of the few commercial to-do/task managers that has a native Linux client. (However, see the second negative point below.)
  • Attractive, minimalistic interface and uniform experience on Windows, Mac, Linux and Android. (I didn't try iOS.)
  • Excellent system of icons and colours to help organize things visually. Probably the best of all task management apps I've seen.
  • Customizable Android gestures (e.g. you can choose what swipe right and swipe left do).
  • Very fast, dedicated customer service.
  • An integrated mini-calendar that apps like ToDoIst are missing. This makes easier finding a particular task.
  • Easy syntax. In Todoist and most other apps, you specify a specific list or project for a task with a hash, e.g. writing #Work will put that task into the "Work" list. Contexts are assigned with '@'. Prorities with '!!' and an integer. Nozbe does away with all that. It just uses '#' and a dropdown menu appears inviting you to choose what you want to add. A nice touch that simplifies life a little.
  • The Android app doesn't ask for every imaginable permission from Google Play Services. Which is a big privacy win.
  • You can use it to manage projects and tasks between members of a large team (from 2-literally thousands).
  • Each project supports comments and attachments in a relatively sophisticated way.
  • Comments support markdown formatting. That's a nice touch, but there are so many other features Nozbe should have included before this (see below).
  • Free (as in beer) if you have fewer than 5 active projects.
  • There is a scheme for educators can get a free and presumably fully-featured account for projects shared with students. I've not heard about that from Asana or ToDoIst.

The neutrals

  • Heavily oriented around the GTD time-management system. Neither good nor bad; it's up to you.
  • Gmail inspired "flat" design. No nested projects/sub-projects like in, e.g. ToDoIst. Instead you can sort your projects by tagging them (that's a separate tagging system to "categories" (the GTD equivalent of "contexts"), which you can use to tag your tasks.

The negatives

There are big negatives. I start with the most egregious:

1. Negligence over security/privacy information

Before March 2017, Nozbe's website claimed:

We take pride in our server infrastructure which we designed with customer data safety in mind. Our main data servers are located outside of the USA (NSA-safe!) - in the European Union.

Absolute bullsh*t. The NSA (National Security Agency) is an extremely powerful intelligence organization that has orchestrated some of the most sophisticated cyber attacks in history, including on non-US targets such as the data of EU politicians and companies.

I specifically contacted Nozbe about this. Here is what their customer support said (12th January 2017):

[W]e must recognize and apologize for the information that was published on our Help Page about Nozbe being NSA-proof. As I was informed, measures were taken to remove that information from our website.

When I pointed out the next day that no measures seem to have been taken:

Regarding the NSA claim, I'm sorry, it was my mistake - of course, we'll remove the information from our main page, as well as from our help page. I've already contacted our site administrator, they'll do this as soon as possible.

It took for them until the end of February (7 weeks) to sort this out. It didn't bother them sufficiently to get it right as a matter of priority. Their customer support guy also told me they have servers in Germany, Ireland, Australia and Japan. How are Australia and Japan in the EU?

By the way: Nozbe rent Amazon S3 server space, they encrypt user data at rest, and they say that if you delete your account, they will wipe all your data within 2 weeks, saving only the email account you signed up with. It's beyond me why they don't offer this information up front on their website in clear text so that customers know more about where they can expect their data to be stored.


UPDATE (2017-03-08): Nozbe's CEO has blogged about Nozbe's privacy (see "Your data privacy explained"). The idea is to impress upon (potential) customers just how seriously they take it all. However, the post is essentially useless because it simply repeats what is already published on their site. The key points are: 1) They're crazy about backup; 2) They store data in Germany, Ireland, Japan and Australia on servers belonging to Amazon; 3) They use Comodo's services to ensure they are compliant to PCI banking security standards; 4) Nozby's CEO and CTO are the only people with full access to data stored by Nozbe; all other employees have some access, depending on needs, but cannot see full details of what you're storing.

There are problems with this, including:

  • Backup (point 1 above) has nothing to do with privacy.
  • If the CEO, CTO and Nozbe itself are all Polish, but they store data in countries on 3 different continents, which laws apply to the data? Can a Japanese court subpoena them to give up data of users in the EU? Can the Polish court subpoena them even though the data is not in Poland? Can a US court subpoena them even if the data is not in the US but because Amazon and/or Comodo are US-based.
  • Ever log into online banking? You'll be using 2-factor authentication (2FA) for that. A mobile app perhaps, or a little electronic dongle or elements of a secret phrase or a text message to your phone. That's because a password isn't really enough any more. (Btw: you should enable 2FA on as many online services as you can.) So if Nozbe are as secure as a bank (and their CEO says he likes to think of it as a bank for people's ideas and tasks), why doesn't Nozbe support 2FA? No authenticator app, no Yubikey support... just a password between a hacker and the database.

What's most alarming about that blog post is that it's title suggests a detailed review/intro to Nozbe's absolutely tiny privacy policy (102 words, half of it about their newsletter), but in fact it muddles up backup, server security and privacy all in one bundle and it provides absolutely nothing in addition to the info already on their site.


2. Important functionality is missing or immature

  • You can't integrate Nozbe with any Calendar app other than Google's. How does that help my company if we don't use Google?
  • You can't search through completed tasks. (Nozbe says it plans to include this in a future version.)
  • Putting tasks into the mobile app is inconvenient compared to Todoist, Asana, or even SimpleTask Cloudless (which I highly recommend, btw). Instead of easy-to-hit buttons that bring up projects or categories to assign, you have to type the "#" symbol, which is on the second (hidden) part of the keyboard. So you have to go there just get the "#" for everything you want to assign.
  • No parsing of language input. E.g. "Meet Bob Monday" doesn't get turned into a task called "Meet Bob" assigned for Monday. It does on Todoist. In Nozbe you have to input "Meet Bob #Monday", which seems as easy, until you realize that it takes 3 key strokes just to get the #.
  • Similarly, modifying a task - either in the mobile or desktop apps - is too click intensive.
  • Limited options for repeating tasks. You're limited to options they thought to put in, not what you need. Need a task to repeat every 4 days? No. Can't have that. (You can in Todoist: you just type "Meet Bob every 4 days" and a task called "Meet Bob" will appear every 4 days.) Don't know what you're supposed to do in Nozbe for that.
  • You can't create custom filters and save them for quick access. (e.g. if I want to see all tasks in Project 1 that are labelled "email" and are due in the next 14 days. Nope, can't have that.
  • Reminders: another immature part of Nozbe. Yes, you can have them, but you can't decide when. Which is ridiculous. Reminders come as a package: 9 am for everything that's due that day, 30 min before each task with a specified time. Do you want that setup, yes or no? You can't have it at 7 am and 45 min before.
  • By the same token, you can't have reminders for one task with a specified time but not another. E.g. If you have "Meet Bob" for 10:30 and "Meet Jane" for 13:30, you can't be reminded of one but not the other. Reminders are on or they are not. And if they are on, you'll be reminded at 10 am about Bob and Jane at 13:00. No other options. Ridiculous.
  • No browser integration. (Not a biggie because the apps have you covered on every platform - well... except BSD.)

3. Their weirdness about Linux

As I wrote above, Nozbe support Linux. Great! Better than Wunderlist, Todoist and Asana.
But their devs decided to offer a script that downloads the binary, instead of the binary directly. It's an extra pointless step. Here are the link to the binaries.

4. The unsubtle self-promotion of their CEO

It's par for the course that productivity software would come included with advice, tips, newsletters and other guff advising users on how to use their time well. To that end, Nozbe's CEO, Michael Sliwinski offers a series of YouTube videos. These reveal his willingness to promote himself far more than any useful tricks for getting anything done. Also:
- How can a YouTube video be personal, when everyone can see it and all customers are offered the same set of videos?
- Michael Sliwinski calls himself "The Productivity Guy". That little trick works for Bill Nye, so why not for Michael Sliwinski ,right? (Oh... wait... I see the problem...)
- Who goes round calling themselves "The Productivity Guy"? I mean, really. And, by the way, he is at best a productivity guy.
- In his YouTube vids, Sliwinski spends more time discussing how important it is to be productive than how to actually be productive.
- Some of his videos are awkward Skype interviews with other business people. Boring and unhelpful. You get the impression the calculation might be for followers of his guests to find the video, rather than it doing anything for existing Nozbe customers.
- In one video Sliwinski promises to show you how he uses Nozbe on his very own personal device. Except, to obscure business sensitive information (very wise: you wouldn't want the NSA seeing!), he shows you his iPad's display only at a shallow angle so that you can't... see... what is happening... on... the... screen. On the plus side, you get to see Sliwinski's lovely fingers in fine close-up, dancing across an iPad screen to his strongly accented staccato verbiage. You stand to learn that he doesn't use the calendar function much and reads only "comments which are interesting to me". The prescience.

Sliwinski seems to think customers would be more interested in what he does than on what Nozbe can do for you. He's also happy for you to see his fingers more than to learn anything useful. It seems to me he likes himself just a little too much. In all, the YouTube videos are all a bit of a waste of time. Which is ironic, really.

Other efforts to promote Nozbe include Sliwinski leaning on the reputation of Michael Hyatt, an even better known productivity guru. (What?! Even better?) It's a veritable symbiotic diMichaelopoly, if you will. (No, I didn't think you would.)

Hyatt writes Nozbe-promoting material on his own site, including:

The founder of Nozbe, Michael Silwinski, is a personal friend of mine.

But not close enough that you'd spell his name right. How convincing.

Also, if he's Sliwinski's friend, Hyatt's opinion about Nozbe is hardly likely to be objective, is it? So, in the end... that's worth a whole bunch of absolutely nothing. (Hyatt's list of Nozbe's benefits include that it syncs (which is true), that it allows you to share projects with others (so does Asana), and that it integrates with other apps. (Almost every app in this market does that.)

There's nothing professional, informative or confidence-inspiring about Sliwinski's thinly veiled screen-hogging, self-promoting 'tutorials'. Nor about persuading, by whatever means, a more famous man to sing his praises in meaningless, orthographically inaccurate ways. I can't help feeling Sliwinski would better spend his time on learning why "privacy", "security" and "backup" are different, and then implementing proper calendar support and completed task searches in his software.


The Bottom Line

Nozbe is (slighly) less convenient to use and (a lot) more expensive than ToDoIst for individuals. For teams it is less functional than Asana and much more expensive if you're fewer than 15 people.

By the way, you don't have to give your private information to any company. If you're an individual looking for a decent to-do list that's private and open source, try SimpleTask Cloudless. It's an incredibly functional and convenient Android app based on a formatting system for to-do lists called todo.txt (see here for more info). If Android isn't your thing, there are lots of other apps that are based on the same system. You can use the syncing service of your own choice to sync between devices, including desktop apps. It will be perhaps less shiny than some paid-for solution, but it will be free and privacy-respecting and every bit as useful once you get used to it.

[Edited by JohnFastman, March 12]

Your reviews are my favorites in the whole of AlternativeTo. Not only that, but they have been very useful to me.

Thanks for the in-depth thoughts, solid review and talking about what matters rather than about some app's minimalistic design. It's really refreshing. Above of all, thanks for taking the additional step: contacting support about your insecurities and questions rather than just speculating about a company's policies.

Security should always come first, and it baffles me how many people judge it wiser to put anything else above that both when reviewing and when using a product.

You're reviews are fantastic, and you are a splendid person for going ahead and getting them done.

Mr. Fastman makes some good points, but I think he gets pretty hung up smaller issues, because I have looked and used more task management apps than I care to list, and Nozbe consistently comes out ahead. Nozbe's NSA-related claim is stupid, but does it mean the company does not secure its data? No. Nozbe uses industry standard security. Moreover, the fact that a small company uses its founder as its spokesperson is completely understandable. Maybe it is an ego trip for the founder, but it usually is just a function of how a small company operates. (The videos are excellent, by the way, and my new employees have found them to be extremely useful.) Similarly, the reviewer denigrates Michael Hyatt 's endorsement because Hyatt's copy mentions that Nozbe's founder is a "friend." That is a lame critique. The endorsement is legit. Any reader/reviewer who thinks that as careful a consultant as Michael Hyatt would endorse anything that he does not feel 100% confident is a solid product has not followed Hyatt very much.
Nozbe is not perfect, but it is a fantastic task management product. It offers a consistent interface across multiple platforms, with delegation and tracking and communication options that are better than every other program I have tried. I disagree with the review that tasks are hard to enter. On my laptop or my handheld, I just click the "plus" button and start typing or dictating and hit enter. The task is created and in my inbox. I can come back later and add contexts or associate it with a project or tags or do whatever I want. (Creating tasks from emails is similarly super easy.) One great feature is the ability to add an estimated length of time for a task. If I assign a task, that parameter is a wonderful took at prevently the person handling the task from going off the deep end by trying to complete the task in a crazy way. Instead, they know that the task should only take, e.g., 30 minutes. If it takes longer than that, they know to come see me. I can then give them more guidance on how to do the task -- or I can realize that the task is much more involved than I first thought. In addition, the ability to see tasks on the calendar and by team member makes the critical weekly review much easier. Nozbe is far from perfect. For example, one shortcoming not noted in this review is Nozbe's inability to sequence tasks in a project so that, when you complete a task, the next one in the project that must be completed automatically becomes the "next action" for that project. Asana has a wonderful implementation of this feature and Nozbe is supposedly working on adding it.
"The bottom line" for me is that these programs are a lot about your personal tastes and the specifics of your situation. I am a GTD adherent, if one who largely lives in sin. In that realm, there are many good alternatives, such as Asana and Zendone (the latter being very interested, but dramatically undercapitalized), or Omnifocus is you are a Mac-only environment and by yourself (so that you need no delegation ability, which is lacking in Omnifocus). For any team or individual, however, I do not hesitate to recommend Nozbe. As with

Thank you in turn to Mr Stubbs for relating his own experience and use case of Nozbe. I think, however, the relevance of some of my own points were missed. So to clarify:

> Nozbe's NSA-related claim is stupid, but does it mean the company does not secure its data? No. Nozbe uses industry standard security.

The point isn't that Nozbe's false NSA claim is stupid or that they don't secure their data in reasonable ways. The point is that 1) they NSA claim is false (not just stupid), b) that Nozbe have admitted it is false and c) that they have not removed it from their website. The implication isn't that the data isn't reasonably secure, it's that they are happy for a misleading claim about their security to continue being displayed uncorrected on their website. That is to say, they are happy to lie. They also don't use two-factor authentication, which - let's face it - in 2017 is basically unforgiveable for a company that hosts others' sensitive data.

> Similarly, the reviewer denigrates Michael Hyatt 's endorsement because Hyatt's copy mentions that Nozbe's founder is a "friend." That is a lame critique... as Michael Hyatt would endorse anything that he does not feel 100% confident is a solid product.

Here again my point was missed. If anything, being someone's friend detracts from one's ability to judge their product objectively. It is not an assett in this context. For similar reasons, scientific papers are reviewed anonymously: authors don't get to choose their friends to do the refereeing. Or, to make the same point a third way, suppose Hyatt told you that his wife is the most beautiful woman on Earth. Would his relationship to her make you more or less confident his opinion was objectively true? Would it then be even relevant to defend that by saying Hyatt is a solid guy? No. It is not an unfair, let alone a "lame" critique, to point out that personal relationships get in the way of objective judgement. And Hyatt claims exactly that: "The founder of Nozbe, Michael Silwinski, is a personal friend of mine." Personal. Friend. There it is. You'll also note that he's not such a good friend as to ensure he's written Sliwinski's name correctly.

To add to my remarks about Nozbe being slower to use than competing apps, especially on mobile:

> I disagree with the review that tasks are hard to enter. On my laptop or my handheld, I just click the "plus" button and start typing or dictating and hit enter. The task is created and in my inbox. I can come back later and add contexts or associate it with a project or tags or do whatever I want.

I never wrote that tasks are "hard to enter". I said they're unnecessarily click-intensive. All apps in this space allow you to return to a task and add labels, for example. Nozbe's interface makes that a less efficient process than is the case for ToDoIst, for example.

That said, I appreciate Nozbe has features which others might find sway the balance in favour of Nozbe's usability, such as the task delegation. Nevertheless, Nozbe remains more expensive and less fully featured than Asana.

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Selected Nozbe after many other tests

about Nozbe · · 2 Helpful

I tested my "task management" applications (my best ones being MylifeOrganised, GTasks and LifeBalance).
But Nozbe is clearly my favourite :
- really GTD compliant
- (somewhat) simple
- mulitplatform (Web, native, Windows, iOS, Android)
- integrated with mail (you can create tasks with labels and projects via mail), Evernote
- excellent support (multilingual) and VERY quick to respond
- extraordinary support information (video , newsletter, ...)
- It's recommended by key influencers (David Allen, Michael Hyatts, ...)
I stop here.

No tool can replace bad habits and lack of motivation
I would not change for any other software now

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