After stumbling onto www.37signals.com at least a dozen times in poking around Ruby on Rails, I got on with it and signed up for a basic backpack account. I logged into the system, poked around for a moment and got on with my life.

Not long after, we started evaluating Basecamp at work. Evaluation started slow but I can now say that I see some real value to this system. Most handy so far are the “To-Do” lists and “Messages”. The ability to assign multiple to-do lists and items, attach messages and corresponding threads to a specific project is a huge improvement to the previous alternative – email and disjoint email threads combined with loose paper and individuals to-do lists. We haven’t used the milestones all that much just yet but from what I have seen thus far, they will be a fantastic way to keep us all reminded and on track.

Back to 37signals, I truly appreciate their intent:

Our products do less than the competition intentionally

Far too often we see the “if we build it, they will come” approach and I personally don’t believe in that. It seems much of the software out there is laden with features and bloated to the point the features are difficult to find and/or use and just as important, the application/system is weighed down. Specifically, I recall an Visual Studio working on my Pentium 200 with 16MB of RAM and 2GB HDD back in University. Like hell it would now!! Sure, it’s great to have feature X and feature Y, but we’re talking feature A-Z in a product when I only need A, B and sometimes C. The same can be said for Windows XP. It’s all about balance and perhaps a plug-in architecture.

The unfortunate reality is, to stay competitive most software firms simple resort to “more is better” as opposed to something more like “innovation is better” or “simplicity is better”. This is where I like the simplicity of Basecamp and Backpack. They have a purpose and they fulfil that purpose very well. Nothing more, nothing less.

Simple, focused software that does just what you need and nothing you don’t

Basecamp – read what others have to say.

Backpack – read what others have to say.

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