I have been waiting patiently for the next product from B. Adam Howell and was very excited to find it was released this morning. It is called, TracksLife. The idea is simple. Track anything you want. It is “Your Friendly, Personal, Online Spread-abase” according to TracksLife. Picture this: keep track of your diet, projects, posting habits, work, track time taken for breaks in a work day, budgeting, you name it. Now that you have that picture, let me explain how it works.

To get an idea, you can view any of the public tracks that B. Adam Howell created, Tyler Durden’s created, or any other availably public tracks. This can give you an idea of what you can do. If you like what you see, lets continue to signing up for the free account or the other paid plans. There are 4 plans. Free, which gives you one free track. Good will give you 10 for $3.99/month, Better will give 30 for $5.99/month, and lastly, Best will give you 100 tracks for $10.99/month. I would probably be set with 10 myself, but maybe you have more uses than I. Lets continue, shall we? So, I did the free signup and created my account. Once created you will receive a nice confirmation email and you will be directed to your new tracking page. It will tell you (in a bright yellow box) that you have no tracks and to create one. So, that’s what I did!

You will see a form similar to the above format. It will ask you for the title, columns, and reminders. Title is the name of what you want to track, columns will define what you are recording, and reminders will allow you to send an email to you or update RSS feeds to remind you to get tracking. The way the column selection has been setup is very easy and I couldn’t have done it better myself. You get the choice of selecting columns that deal with numbers, money, yes/no, words, or paragraphs. For example, you can add a number column to track totals, money to track your spending of the day, yes/no to note completion of a task, words to summarize something, or paragraphs to describe something. For testing, I added a yes/no, words, and money.

Once you are set with selecting your columns, you can now add your reminders. You can set it to remind you by email and/or RSS daily, weekly, or monthly. You can also choose a time for the reminder in 24 hour time format. If you are serious about something, like dieting, sending an reminder everyday would be wise. Now, lets actually track something. Submit your new track and you will then see the main page again but this time saying to record a new entry to your track, like below:

At default the form will not be shown when adding an entry. You will have to select, “New Entry” on the top left to open up the form. The form will consist of all the columns you have created for your track and a date column by default. The form fields will differentiate depending on what columns you have chosen when creating your track. Fill in the forms and then click on the “add” button. Look out for the AJAXy goodness. It will show loading on the top right and then it will add to the list and use a nice touch of the yellow fade technique to show focus to it. You now have tracked your first entry.

Now, let me point out one issue I have found. It is very minor and I am sure it can be fixed very easily. Simply, it deals with the formatting of money when inserting a record. For example, my first try I input, “$5,000.00″ and it brought up loading but it did not add the entry. I then tried just entering, “5000″ and it worked fine. So, characters seem to mess that up just a little. No biggy. I would suggest allowing us to enter whatever characters and then having TracksLife just ignore our characters besides numbers? Just a suggestion because sometimes I feel I must place commas or dollar signs when talking money.

So, after adding a few, you will have a nice organized listing of entries that you want to track. You can click on each column name to sort the table too. So, if you have a listing of numbers or money and want to get the largest value, you can easily sort this to see the largest value. Now, say you entered something incorrectly or want to remove an entry. How do you do this? Well, it is very simple, but unfortunately, it is kind of hard to tell how to do this. Let me explain…

It uses the double click method, which is excellent in my opinion, but it is not an obvious attribute to the table that you can tell. I suggest maybe adding a cell highlight feature or maybe something when you mouse over the date that says, “Double click to edit this entry.” Something of that sort would be helpful. Now, back to editing. Assume you already double clicked an entry, you will see a form appear, just like what you would see when adding an entry. This time though, the fields are filled in with your already existing values and another button below allowing you to delete the record. When you make a change, just click the “save” button and you are all set. Very easy and works great. I just suggest, like I said, a way of pointing this out better.

Few last notes. You may also want to know about editing your track settings and making them public. Simply click on “Track Settings” on the top left and you will have a form allowing you to modify your track and its columns. You can also turn your track public by checking the “Make this track public” box. Now when someone views your address (same one you use to manage it) it will show your public choices. Easy! The last thing I want to mention are the RSS feeds. It did not allow me to add my feed to Bloglines, saying that it was not a feed. Not sure what that was about because I was able to view the actual RSS for it. Another thing was on the main page when logging in and getting an overview of your tracks. On the bottom there is a link for the “All your updates feed.” When clicking this, it was bringing up an rails application error. I am sure these will be fixed once TracksLife is aware of this though. That’s it! Now, to the conclusion!

TracksLife did an excellent job at attacking the, track anything you want, idea. It is very simple to use but also very effective when used right. Just an idea that I was thinking of while writing about TracksLife. I think it would be great if we can get a way to see a total for a specific number or money column. Maybe where it says the column name, in parenthesis or saying the total? Oh, maybe even add for the Yes/No columns in parenthesis what value you select more. So, if you select yes more then no, it would say you select yes more. This would be useful for GTD (getting things done) type tracking. If you haven’t done a task in a while, it will eventually change the most selected to “No” and this will pressure you to do more to get the value back to “Yes.” I would like that.

Great work to the guys at WebJillion for creating TracksLife. I love it and I am sure others will find it just as useful as I do. Now, excuse me while I go remake my free track columns and start really using it!

View TacksLife: Your Friendly, Personal, Online Spread-abase.

Update: B. Adam has mentioned in the comments that RSS feeds are now fixed! Enjoy!


6 Comments on “TracksLife: Your Friendly, Personal, Online Spread-abase”

  1. B. Adam says:

    Brian,

    Thanks so much for such a great, in-depth review! It is simple right now and I’m glad in comes across as reasonably straight forward to use. It really starts to shine once the reminders start showing up in your inbox.

    I’ll take a hard look at all the stumbling blocks you encountered and make sure they get paved over just as soon as possible.

  2. Brian Benzinger says:

    Welcome! Yeah, I am excited to receive my first reminder… its set for 2PM tomorrow. Thanks for a taking a look and once again, great work.

  3. B. Adam says:

    Brian: Just wanted to let you know the RSS problem has been fixed and we’re talking about different ways to handle input errors (probably more descriptive error messages). Thanks for your input!

  4. jtnt says:

    One more poke? Ok. I’m just wondering if you vetted this review with the 37signals guys to make sure they approved of you posting a review of this app. ;-)

  5. Lazybase - Instant Online Databases » Solution Watch says:

    [...] Seeing services with the aim of simple database creation online has always struck my interest. Maybe it is because I work with databases everyday, or maybe just because I find them very useful. I have reviewed Dabble DB (very powerful), TracksLife (simple and more personal), tested ZohoCreator, and now there is a new online database service called Lazybase, that is so simple, it only takes a few clicks to get going. What I like about Lazybase is that its uses are endless and just about anyone can use it. It’s not better then Dabble DB and probably isn’t too good of an option if your looking to store sensative information, but it’s aim wasn’t meant to be. It’s aim was allow anyone to go to Lazyweb, instantly create a database by just entering a name, and record data for whatever you may need, whether it be for recording notes, saving a database of members, or maybe even for simple recording of expenses. What’s more is that you can share them with anyone, stick them on your website, subscribe to RSS feeds, and my favorite feature, creating custom bookmarklets to instantly save data on the go. For the most part, it works great, but there are a few things here and there that could use some work. Lets take a look. [...]

  6. Jake says:

    I just got an interview with TracksLife’s founder Scott. Such an awesome interview,check it out!

    http://insidethesites.com/2008/06/30/interview-with-trackslifecom-your-friendly-personal-everything-tracker/