Asana’s task pane is where you go to manage the details of your tasks, and it is where most of the action in Asana happens. Today, we are happy to announce that we’ve given the task pane’s design a major upgrade.
The new design makes the task pane simpler, more elegant, and more delightful to use, without adding or removing any features. We’ll be rolling out the new design slowly, so you will see it in your Asana account sometime over the next few weeks.
The improvements we’ve made
See critical information at a glance
One of the biggest changes you’ll notice is the toolbar at the top of the task pane. Before, the critical details of a task were strewn across the pane. Now, they key information about a task (Assignee and Due Date) are always visible in the top-left corner of the pane.
Asana works at its best when it is used as a communication tool, so we made changes to the look and feel of commenting and following to promote communication.
- We’ve moved task followers to the bottom of the task pane and made them always visible so that you know who is involved in the conversation.
- We switched the display of followers from a list of names to a row of faces so that Asana feels more personal. (If you haven’t added your picture to your Asana profile, you should!)
- We’ve ensured comments always stay on screen when you’re typing in them, even as you scroll up to look at comment history.
Make keyboard shortcuts obvious
Many of Asana’s biggest advocates love the keyboard shortcuts that exist throughout Asana, but many people never find out about them. To address this, we added keyboard shortcut prompts to the tooltips that were already present in the app. We’ve seen some shortcuts quadruple in usage because of this small change.
In the past, an empty task could feel overwhelming because the task pane was so cluttered. With our redesign, the task pane is much cleaner in its empty state. The pane is also physically smaller, and grows vertically as more information is added into it.
As part of this change, we’ve reduced the prominence of the “Today/Upcoming/Later” setting, so it is no longer visible all the time. But don’t worry, it’s still there: simply click on the “Assignee” button when the task is assigned to someone the settings will appear. For power users, this feature is still quickly accessible via keyboard shortcuts:
- TAB+Y: Today
- TAB+U: Upcoming
- TAB+L: Later
Improving everyday experiences
We believe that when the tools you use are well designed, you are more effective at what you do. You are able to grok information more clearly, your mind feels less cluttered, and you feel more in control. When you collaborate with others, everyone experiences the same clarity and control, so your team is able to get and stay on the same page.
Most of our users spend a large proportion of their time in Asana using the task pane, so it is important for it to be well designed. We believe that you deserve to look at and interact with something that is beautiful as well as functional.
We’ve been testing the redesign with volunteers, a subset of users, and internally at our company. The feedback has been really positive, so we’re excited to roll this out. We hope you enjoy this change as much as we do.
by Dan Kaplan
March 29th, 2013
It’s hard to imagine that in another 10 years, today’s incarnation of email will still be the de-facto communication tool we use to organize ourselves, to manage our work and to collaborate with our teams.
But, despite our belief that workplace communications tools must and will evolve, we understand that old-school email will not vanish immediately, or even particularly soon.
This is why we built the email bridge.
What is the email bridge?
The email bridge is the system we built to connect message-centric email to task-centric Asana. It lets you and your team do two main things.
- Send emails to Asana to turn them into tasks.
- Reply to task emails from Asana to turn them into comments on the original task.
Turning emails into tasks
To send messages and turn them into tasks, you’ll need to choose the Asana Workspace the emails you send to Asana should go to. This can be done in three steps:
- Go into your Account Settings by clicking your name in the lower left corner of Asana’s interface.
- Select the “Email Dropbox” tab
- Choose the Workspace you’d like to use.
Your Email Dropbox can now receive emails. The email bridge will turn them into tasks with these conventions:
- Email subject —> Task name
- Email body —> Task notes
- Email attachments —> Task attachments
- People in the CC field —> Task Followers
Once you’ve created an Email Dropbox with the above steps, there are three main ways to use it:
- Email tasks to your personal task list. Using the email address associated with your main Asana Workspace, simply send (or forward) an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This will create a new task in your “My Tasks” list. If this is something you will do frequently, you should add email@example.com to your address book.
- Email tasks straight to a project. To do this, you’ll need the Project ID, which can be found in the URL of the project. The Project ID is the first string of numbers in the URL when you’ve selected a project: Once you’ve got this number, you can send emails to at the address x+PROJECTID@mail.asana.com. If you’d like to automatically assign the task to someone on your team, include them in the “To” field of the email.
- Auto-forward emails to a project. If you have an email address like “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “bugs@yourcompany” and you’d like to automatically turn emails to that address into tasks, you can set up auto-forwarding.
- First, add the forwarding email address (e.g. jobs@yourcompany) to your Workspace as a Workspace member.
- Set up auto-forwarding in your email service to send emails to Asana.
- Your email service will send a confirmation link to Asana. Go to the task created by the bridge and click that link.
Turning email replies into comments
The email bridge also turns replies to emails from Asana into comments on tasks. If anyone on your team prefers to stay in email, this can be a great way to keep the conversation around your team’s tasks organized in Asana.
There are a couple of ways this works:
- Assign a task to a teammate. When your teammate receives the task notification email, he or she can simply reply to it. The email bridge will automatically turn that reply into a comment on the task.
- Comment on a task that has followers. The task’s followers will all receive an email with your comment. Any of them can reply to this message and the bridge will add their reply as a comment.
Mind the gap
Here at Asana, email represents a small fraction of our internal communication. Instead of sending email messages back and forth, we send tasks. Instead of creating multi-person email threads with CC, we simply add followers. And instead of spending hours each week staying on top of email, we rely on Asana’s Inbox to keep us connected and up to speed.
But for many teams, email remains a way of life. Asana’s email bridge is our way of acknowledging this fact, spanning the gap between messages and tasks and giving you and your teammates a way to incorporate Asana into your workflow while keeping a foot in email’s message-centric world.
by Justin Rosenstein
March 21st, 2013
Doing great things takes more than a great vision and a great team, it takes great execution, down to the nuts and bolts of day-to-day organization.
Meetings get a bad rap, and deservedly so — most meetings are disorganized and distracted. But they can be a critical tool for getting your team on the same page.
Over years of iteration while working at Google, Facebook, and Asana, I’ve found a way of doing meetings that ensures we discuss the most important things, quickly and efficiently, and that things never fall through the cracks.
1. Know when to email vs. when to meet
Logistics are best done over a non-immediate communication channel like email or Asana tasks. Detailed status meetings will suck the life out of your day.
But when topics are complex and meaty, don’t create a never-ending email thread. It’s amazing how much time people waste composing and reading carefully-worded essays, when a 5 minute in-person chat would resolve the whole thing.
2. Capture goals ahead of time
Throughout the week, as you find those meaty topics, don’t keep everything in your head. Remembering is stressful, and you’ll forget important questions. Just add it to the agenda, in a shared Google Doc or, better yet, an Asana project.
Everyone can do this. By the time the meeting starts, the agenda already includes everyone’s ideas. No more wasting the first 10 minutes figuring out what to talk about.
3. Timebox aggressively
Establish how long you’re going to spend on each topic, and stick to it. Talking about a topic for 20 minutes will probably lead to a better decision than talking about it for 5. But if the topic only deserved 5 minutes, you’re not gonna have a chance to talk about all the other important items. Or, worse, you’ll spend all day in meetings. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the great.
4. Make each agenda item a race to clarity
Go through each item: Extract information and perspective from the team, identify next actions, and owners for each action — as quickly as possible. If you’ve extracted all the perspective but it’s not clear what the right decision is, don’t debate or ruminate. Assign someone to think about it and trust them to make the decision — even if it’s not how you would have made it.
5. Guarantee follow through
By the end, you should have a written list of every new action item. Each should have one owner (not two) and a timeline. Keep that list in the same place you’re keeping the running agenda.
Then, when it’s time for the next meeting, you can immediately see all the items from last week. Hopefully each owner will just nod that they did what they committed to. Now things won’t fall through the cracks, and you won’t spend the first 10 minutes remembering what you decided last time.
The bottom line
When leaders know how to lead great meetings, there’s less time wasted and less frustration. We have more energy to do the work that matters, realize our full potential, and do great things.
What’s worked for you for having great meetings? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
by David Braginsky and S. Alex Smith
March 14th, 2013
When your team first starts using Asana, you usually begin with a single project and a few dozen tasks. At this stage, it’s easy to look at the project to make sure everything’s on track or scan for a task that you want to update.
But over time, as you start to manage more projects and work with more people, it can be really helpful to get a comprehensive view of all the tasks you care about. You might want to see all of the tasks you’ve followed to quickly find a task when you don’t remember its name. If you’re a manager, you might want to follow up on all of the tasks you’ve created or delegated to other people.
Today we’re introducing three new ways to search across your entire workspace to find the tasks that are important to you: Tasks I’m Following, Tasks I Created, or Tasks I’ve Assigned. To get to any of these, just click on the arrow next to the Search box.
When you select one of these views, you’ll see the matching tasks in the center pane. By default, these tasks will be sorted with the most recently-modified task first. You can also sort by the date they were created or the date they’re due, and you can scroll to go as far back in time as you’d like. If you want to take action on multiple tasks, like setting a due date on several tasks at a time, you can multi-select and edit them all at once.
These three new views are enabled by a powerful new search system, and are just the beginning of our work this Episode on Memory Retrieval.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
by Dan Kaplan
March 8th, 2013
For non-technical people like me, APIs tend to be fairly useless. Sure, I might be able to follow a basic how-to guide for a really well-documented API and produce something marginally functional, but until the day comes that I decide to learn to code, that’s about as far as it’s going to go.
But I use a lot of web services, and many of these have APIs. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could connect them without having to spend a large chunk of time on Codecademy or with a big, fat book from O’Reilly?
Indeed, it would be cool, and thankfully, the good people of a startup called Zapier agree.
What is Zapier?
Zapier is sort of like the Ring Of Power from the Lord of the Rings, but instead of ruling other rings, it’s One Service to Connect Them All. Zapier’s team has built a wide range of integrations that make it easy to connect a large and ever-growing set of business apps, so that when you do something in one app, it pushes information to another. Other services, like IFTTT (“If this, than that”), and CloudWork do similar things.
Setting It Up
Setting up a “Zap” in Zapier is fast and pretty straightforward: You create a “Trigger” (an event in one app) that sets off an “Action” (the resulting push of information to another app). Let’s walk through the steps:
- Go into Zapier and “Create A New Zap”
- On the left side of the Zap, pick the app you want to use for your trigger, and choose the event that makes the most sense. For example, if you were connecting Wufoo to Asana, that event might be whenever someone completes a form. On the right side, you choose which app will receive the data whenever the trigger happens. To follow the Wufoo example again, that will be “Create A New Task.”
- Next, you’ll need to connect your accounts to Zapier. Some services, like Evernote, will let you authorize Zapier with your name and password. For others, you’ll need to use your API keys. You can find your Asana API key in your Account Settings, under the API tab.
- Next, you’ll build the Zap. In our Wufoo example, we use the most important form field as the task title and put the context fields in the notes, but you can customize your Zaps with any data the various APIs make available.
- Last, test the Zap with existing data. When you’ve made sure it works the way you want it to, name the Zap and you’re done!
How Can I Use It with Asana?
There are a lot of ways to use Zapier to bridge the gaps between Asana and your favorite apps – too many to list in one post. But here are just three of the most popular ways we’ve heard about:
Turn Wufoo Form Entries Into Asana Tasks
There are all sorts of ways this can be useful. Here are two:
- Processing Orders: One of our customers (a biotech lab) has a Wufoo form that scientists can use to request biological samples. This customer uses Zapier to turn those orders into Asana tasks, which instantly get assigned to the person in charge of fufilling them.
- Receiving job applications: This same workflow can be used to quickly turn Asana into an applicant tracking system. Instead of having job applicants email in their resumes and cover letter, you have them fill out a form. With Zapier, applicants become individual tasks in the Asana project that you choose, with their name as the task title and links to their cover letters and resumes in the notes.
Turn Evernote Notes Into Asana Tasks
Let’s say you’re a big user of Evernote, and you want to use Asana to remind you to read the articles you’ve saved (or to share them with your team). You could (if you had the technical chops), write a service that polls Evernote to check for newly-created notes, then sends them to Asana when it finds them. Or you could just create a Zap to do it all for you.
Send New Asana Tasks Into Hipchat (or Campfire)
If your team uses a group chat app like Hipchat to collaborate, this can be a great way to have real-time dicsussions around individal tasks. You set the creation of an Asana task as the trigger and then use Zapier to send an update with the task name and a link to it to your team’s room in Hipchat. This is especially useful for remote teams.
Other popular connections we’ve seen include creating a task whenever there’s a new ticket in Zendesk, or when there’s a new update in Yammer.
With Zapier’s team adding new integrations all the time, the possibilities keep expanding. Let us know if you’ve got some of your own.
by Andrew Watterson
March 7th, 2013
I learned early in my career that on a healthy startup team, everyone needs to pull for all the many elements that make a company successful. Sort of.
On a small team, everyone works with everyone else: you have to care about and be able to communicate with every part of the business. So everyone: PMs, engineers, designers, the sales team, and marketing folks have to care about everything: shipping the product, maintainable code, a great user experience, and honing the business model. But each role has the one thing they’re more responsible for than anything else, so when push comes to shove, what are they quickest to compromise on? Sales people often care about a great user experience until it gets in the way of making deals quickly, and designers are sympathetic to the engineers’ architectural concerns until it threatens to delay their pet interaction.
How this plays out on a macro level across the organization can be a result of who’s in charge, or it can be a conscious decision about what the organization should value, appealing to the part of every startupper that values each of these things.
This leads to five different types of companies:
The Engineering-led Company
Above all, engineering might (even above a coherent product strategy.)
In this type, engineers are given free reign to work on whatever is fun for them, both because great code is ultimately what the company wants to produce, and because that kind of culture attracts other great engineers. Early Google was most famously this type of company: although they made a number of compelling products, many were engineered without central oversight, making it difficult to do things like standardize a design, integrate different products with each other, or roll out global features like multiple sign-on.
The Design-led Company
Great ideas know no constraints.
These teams value great design brainstorms over shipped, maintainable code. You most often see this type of thinking at design agencies: they have to prove their value to the companies that hire them by presenting radical, completely new ideas. They pursue questions like “what product would be most compelling?” blind to whether the necessary engineering cost and timeline would be as compelling.
The Ideology-led Company
Live free, or don’t ship.
This is the type of organization that characterizes the Free Software Movement. Companies like The Mozilla Foundation make product decisions based not on what is most pragmatic for their users, but rather what fits their immutable values. Firefox still doesn’t support playing the most popular format of web video (H.264) because of a philosophical aversion to the licensing conditions of that format.
The Sales-led Company
The customer is always right.
Strong sales are important to any business, but this type of company skews their product and strategy decisions based on feedback from their sales team. The sales team primarily communicates with executive customers making purchasing decisions rather than daily users of the product. Salesforce is this type of company – they have well-selling products with feature sets and complexity (in the name of customizability) that appeal to those making buying decisions, but not the ultimate users.
The Product-led Company
Balance in all things.
I started this post talking about this type of company: where the rubric for decisions is based on people in every role stepping back and understanding how to best make a product that makes their users happy and productive, generates revenue, and ships.
Where Does Asana Land?
At Asana, we seek to balance our roles to create a superlative product for our friends, collaborators, and the world. It’s not that we don’t value fun engineering problems – our Luna framework performs tremendous feats behind the scenes to make development of user-facing features both faster and more consistently polished.
It’s not that we don’t value our business, but investing in a large sales team is only a Plan B for us. We believe that a great product aided by just the right amount of compelling marketing and sales touch can gain the financial momentum we need to keep growing.
It’s not that we don’t value our values – we go out of our way to articulate these on our jobs page, our blog, and on Quora. Our first principle, however, is pragmatism – the understanding that we must be sure to reflect on how well our most cherished processes have stood up to time: do they still support our goal of growing a superlative product that makes our customers more productive?
And it’s certainly not that we don’t value great design ideas – we’ve been devoting more resources than ever to growing our design team and thinking critically about our major design directives: Are we the command center for your work life? Are we accessible to those without a Master’s degree in task management? Do we reflect the humanity of your teammates as well as a tech product should?
We write code, design new UIs, grow our business, and hold to our principles for the purpose of enabling people to do great things. And that doesn’t happen without shipping. You won’t find our engineering team going off in a thousand different directions, our design team digging its heels in for something beautiful but infeasible, or our business team telling us to rewrite the entire product to make a mid-sized deal happen. Each of us does different work here at Asana, but no matter the role it’s in service of shipping a great product.
by Kris Rasmussen
March 5th, 2013
Today, we are releasing Kraken, the distributed pub/sub server we wrote to handle the performance and scalability demands of real-time web apps like Asana.
What problem does Kraken solve?
One of the key promises of real-time web applications is that users will see changes made by other users as they happen, without hitting reload or refresh. Many of the up-and-coming reactive web frameworks initially accomplish this by periodically re-executing queries against the database. When we were building the early prototypes of Asana, our reactive framework (Luna) was no different.
Unfortunately, most production-ready databases, from Mongo to Mysql, are unable to keep up with the query volume that even a moderate userbase creates when you frequently poll the database for changes. We recognized this problem early, and worked around it by designing an algorithm that incrementally updates queries in real time without putting any additional load on the database server. Key to this solution is the requirement that every query be notified about changes to objects that could potentially match, or stop matching the result set of each query.
That’s where Kraken comes into play. Kraken is responsible for routing data-invalidation messages between the processes that are running these queries so that they stay up-to-date.
Why is Kraken the right solution?
Before building Kraken, we searched for an existing open-source pub/sub solution that would satisfy our needs. At the time, we discovered that most solutions in this space were designed to solve a much wider set of problems than we had, and yet none were particularly well-suited to solve the specific requirements of real-time apps like Asana. Our team had experience writing routing-based infrastructure and ultimately decided to build a custom service that did exactly what we needed – and nothing more.
The decision to build Kraken paid off. For the last three years, Kraken has been fearlessly routing messages between our servers to keep your team in sync. During this time, it has yet to crash even once. We’re excited to finally release Kraken to the community!
You can get Kraken yourself at Github
by Bella Kazwell and Jennifer Nan
March 4th, 2013
Today, we have released an update to our iPhone app. The new version should be rolling out to the App Store over the next couple of hours.
This new version enables push notifications, including pop-up alerts and badge counters. We’ve been testing push notifications internally for a while, and think you’ll love how they help you stay connected to your work while you’re away from our desks.
We spent a lot of time debating our approach toward push notifications. One of our core goals is to improve team’s communication. Part of this means keeping you up-to-date with the latest information about your projects. At the same time, it also means not overwhelming you with too many updates.
So instead of sending you alerts with every single new thing that happens in Asana, we selected the most important events. We pop up alerts when you get assigned or unassigned a task, have a task due today, or have comments or task status updates on tasks you’re following. If you find that you’d rather get fewer alerts, you can always go to the iPhone’s Settings, then select Asana, then change the types of alerts you receive.
Likewise, instead of a badge count of all unread items in your Inbox that nags you until you completely clear out all unprocessed items, our badge count shows you how many items you’ve missed across all your Inboxes while you were away. Going to your Inbox to see your new items (in the mobile app or on desktop) will make the badge disappear.
Asana’s vision is to help you and your team get organized and stay on top of what needs to be done to achieve your goals. With push notifications, we hope to give you the peace-of-mind that you won’t miss anything important, regardless of where you are.
by Tim Bavaro and Kris Rasmussen
February 28th, 2013
Five months ago, we launched our first bonafide mobile app, for the iPhone, and we’ve been steadily improving it ever since. Focusing on a single platform at first allowed us to be meticulous about our mobile experience, adding new features and honing the design until we knew it was something people loved. After strong positive feedback from our customers and a solid rating in the iTunes App Store, we knew it was time.
Today, we are happy to announce that Asana for Android is here. You can get it right now in the Google Play store
With Asana’s Android app at your fingertips, you can create, assign and edit tasks on the go. With mobile Inbox, you can stay up to speed on with the tasks and projects that matter to you. And if you’ve been using the mobile web app, you’ll notice that the native app comes with some big improvements:
- Workspace search
- Smoother task creation and editing interface
- The ability to add due dates, notes, tags, and followers to any task
- Faster startup times
- Animated transitions
- Integration with Android’s Single Sign On, and more
At Asana, we believe that when you and your teammates have a single, shared tool to plan your work, communicate, and stay organized, your potential expands. But to stay coordinated in an always-on, ever-connected world, you need to take that tool with you everywhere, staying in sync with your team whether you’re at your desk or on the way to the airport or anywhere else you might go.
Now, whether you’re on an Android or iPhone, you can.
by Andrew Watterson
February 27th, 2013
We’re thrilled to announce that we’re participating in DesignerFund Bridge, a program that offers a three-month design residency to people outside the startup world. We’re joining a number of other design-savvy startups in this venture: AirBnb, Dropbox, Stripe, Path, and Pinterest (many of which use Asana).
As part of this program, we’ll be hiring an experienced designer this Spring to lend us fresh eyes and outside perspective. In exchange, we’ll offer a true look at the joy of designing – and shipping – experiences that have a deep positive impact on those who use them.
Asana is in a very solid place – the number of teams that use us is always growing and we have a large number of passionate users, but there are an endless number of things we’d be excited to pick up and work on next:
- Can we bring you a whole new way of looking at tasks, that’s simultaneously more powerful and more approachable?
- Now that we’ve got a great iPhone app and will be on Android soon, what’s next for mobile?
- Your email inbox and calendar have a lot of useful information about things you have to do that may not be in Asana yet – can we leverage them somehow?
We’re full of ideas, and the thing that allows us to get the fruit of these ideas to you is to hire engineers fast and hire designers almost as fast.
Along with DesignerFund, we’ll take good care of our Designer-in-Residence. It’s a paid position, we offer relocation benefits, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the great programming that DesignerFund has set up. DesignerFund Bridge is accepting applications through March 10, after which we’ll begin an interview process with selected candidates.
You might also check out co-founder Justin’s post on what it’s like to work with at Asana on the problem we’re trying to solve: Come Design the Future of Work.