App of the Week: Kickoff (Beta)
One of the great things about the Internet is the ability to get work done and communicate with each other faster and over greater differences than ever before. If you’re working with a team on a project, whether it be developing your own app, a new business plan, or a school project, you may need an app for those times when you can’t meet your teammates face to face. Kickoff wants to help your team get work done.
After you make a free account with Kickoff, you sign into the app and start making teams. You create different teams for different project. For example, I’m working on a podcast with Reagan on one team, while I have another team for learning to code something, etc. Then the team maker can invite other users to their team.
Kickoff looks like a modified version of the Messages app introduced with OS 10.8 Mountain Lion. This is actually a good thing as it’s very clean and straightforward. On the left is a sidebar that serves as your chat window, with the default chat open being the Meeting Room; this is where you talk to all of your team. You’ll notice just above the chat window is a tabbed section where you can choose to chat with individual team members. This is especially useful when you need to talk about something private with them, but also so you don’t bother your other teammates with unnecessary chatter. You can also tag someone in the Meeting Room chat, so that when you use their name, the chat bubble turns yellow for them to see (and only them). You cannot delete messages in a chat though.
On the right hand side is the tasks and lists view. Tasks are assigned to a list made by the team for things that need to be accomplished. A task maker can assign these tasks as general or to individuals in each list. Each user then has the option of viewing all task the team needs to complete, or limiting it only their tasks than need to be complete. Once a task is done, the team member(s) can check it off the list and the task fades away. The nice thing about this setup is that you’ll only see the tasks for that team and not the other teams. It would be cool to have an integrated view of tasks, where you could see all of your own open tasks at once sorted by team. You can, however, drag lists up to the favorites bar next to the “All Tasks” button, so that you have quick access to the ones that are most important to you for that team. Scheduled tasks are also not available in Kickoff, meaning you can’t assign a teammate a task and a specific due date all within the app.
Kickoff only communicates via chat, though you can drag and drop pictures, videos, documents, and links into the chat window for all to see and access. Other collaboration tools, such as Citrix Go-To Meeting have video and audio chat built in, as well as screen sharing built in, and Skype has the features of Kickoff built in except for the task manager and assignment features. I think if the developers can add these features in the future, Kickoff really stand out even more as a collaboration tool. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t do an excellent job as it stands now. Kickoff isn’t trying to be a Skype competitor and be solely a communication tool, rather it wants to be a tool for teams to quickly and effectively communicate with each other and get things done.
Currently, the app is free for the Mac while in beta (OS 10.6 and higher), but the developers say it will be a one time pay app and released in the Mac App Store once it is complete. An iOS client is also in the works, but as of this writing it has not been released. We will hopefully give another review of this app when it has been released as a final version, and its iOS companion app. You can download the free beta in the meantime from http://kickoffapp.com/.
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