Headquarters: Basecamp For Your iPhone

It’s Productivity Week here at iPhone.AppStorm, and all week we’re going to have app reviews and how-tos, all based on getting things done. Plus, we’ll even pull some classic reviews out of the archives. Stay tuned all week!

Some of the editors here on the AppStorm network have recently taken to using 37signals’ project management web app Basecamp. If you’ve never used Basecamp before, I highly recommend you check it out. It’s a really great service for organizing multiple team members and collaborating on projects together, and I’m really enjoying using it so far.

However, I immediately noticed two things that I wanted as part of my Basecamp experience. The first thing is a native Mac client, so I didn’t have to be logged into the web app all day long. The second thing I was looking for, for which I have found a very satisfying solution, is the ability to check up on my Basecamp projects on my phone.

This is where Headquarters comes in. Headquarters is a beautifully designed third-party iPhone app designed to keep you connected to your projects when you’re away from your computer. Want more info? Find it after the jump.

Getting Started

When you first launch Headquarters, you’ll be prompted to add account information. This, of course, requires Basecamp account. Additionally, the app has an Accounts tab on the main screen where more accounts and projects can be added later. This is where the app really sings, in my opinion, providing me the ability to keep up with multiple projects simultaneously.

Add Accounts or change account settings.

Add Accounts or change account settings.

The opening screen, in addition to the Accounts tab, has a Projects tab and a Dashboard. The Projects tab is a table of contents of sorts, allowing you access your information by project. The Dashboard tab shows you all of your to-dos that are due today under one heading, as well as those due any time this week under a second heading. The Updates heading on the Dashboard shows you a combined list of recent to-dos, messages, files and milestones (more on those later) for all of your projects/accounts.

The Today and Updates views make the Dashboard useful for focused as well as broad productivity.

The Today and Updates views make the Dashboard useful for focused as well as broad productivity.

Managing Projects

Tapping on the Projects tab and then on one of your projects gives you a detailed view of that project and all of it’s components. From here, you have access to a project-specific Dashboard that functions the same way as the main Dashboard, but only displays information about the specific project in question. The other tabs allow you to view To-Do Lists, Files, Milestones and Messages.

Select a project to see items that only pertain to it.

Select a project to see items that only pertain to it.

Tapping on the blue sticky-note icon on a to-do item will automatically mark it as complete, whether you’re in the Dashboard view or the To-Do List view. Additionally, just about anything in Basecamp can be commented upon, and Headquarters handles this beautifully. Tapping on the arrow for any item of any category will allow you to add and view comments added by other members of your team.

The interface for creating To-Do items, as well as commenting on them.

The interface for creating To-Do items, as well as commenting on them.

As you’ll no doubt notice as you tap through each of the item categories, each type of item has a color associated with it. To-Do’s are blue, while Milestones are orange, Files are purple, Messages are pink, and a comment on any of these items is green. This comes in handy when viewing your dashboard, as the combined list would otherwise be rather confusing.

Milestones and Files.

Milestones and Files.

The Milestones tab gives you the control to manage your project’s milestones (naturally), which is useful for dynamically setting goals for your team. The Files tab will provide access to any collaborative files that are uploaded to your project’s Basecamp, but the app presently lacks the ability to add files. Hopefully, as file management on the iPhone becomes easier and more ubiquitous, Headquarters will get this functionality.

The Messages tab keeps you in contact with your team.

The Messages tab keeps you in contact with your team.

Hands-down, the most useful feature for me personally is the messages tab. While my to-do list doesn’t change all that rapidly and unexpectedly, the Messages tab lets me keep up with the ongoing dialogue that happens all day long on Basecamp.

Missing Features

There are a few things missing from Headquarters that, if added, would make it absolutely stellar. Firstly, the App doesn’t give access to your Basecamp’s calendar, which means that you don’t have the ability to create events (and you can only view them in the Updates on the Dashboard). While none of the Basecamp teams I work with rely very heavily on the calendar, this could pose an issue if your team’s workflow depends on it.

There is also no Writeboard functionality, although I could see the utility of this feature being creatively replicated with Messages. Finally, I noticed that there’s no access to the People tab that is on Basecamp. It would be nice to be able to see a directory of sorts that would let me send messages to my teammates, or perhaps to see what they’re working on at a glance.

As I mentioned, the addition of these features would certainly make Headquarters better, but their current absence certainly doesn’t render the app unusable.

Conclusion

While I haven’t discussed the interface in too much depth, I think it’s important to note that the UI is absolutely stunning (not to mention the icon — it looks gorgeous on your home screen). It looks sleek and professional, and organizes information in a clean and useful way.

I found using Headquarters to be an absolute joy, and I can only implore Select Start Studios to develop a desktop counterpart, so I can enjoy the same experience on my Mac. Aside from just a few missing features, Headquarters puts almost all of the functionality of the Basecamp web app onto your iPhone, making it a powerful option for mobile project management.

If you have a favorite mobile project management solution, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.


Summary

Headquarters is a professional-looking Basecamp client for your iPhone, and puts most of Basecamp's powerful project management tools at your fingertips.

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