Many companies and individuals use Basecamp to organize their tasks and projects, assign them to different people, communicate between each other and keep track of ideas and deadlines. However, unfortunately, Basecamp has long been limited to a web application, with no easy access on mobile platforms. Given that Basecamp is a part of my job, I fiddled with a few Android application alternatives, but they were either dreadful to look at or work on – often neglected apps stuck with little functionality and no recent updates.
Enter Camper, a free and beautiful Android application that started small around the end of last year but has been updated very regularly over the past months to reach an almost perfect state.
Editor’s Note: Since this article was written, Basecamp has split into two projects: Basecamp Classic and New Basecamp. Camper does not yet support New Basecamp, as there is not yet an API for it, so the app (and this article) is for Basecamp Classic.
A Gorgeously Clean Interface
One thing you can say for sure about Android applications is that the grand majority of them are a textbook example of horrible design. As many developers will show you, it’s possible to make a highly functional application, yet stick it with a UI that doesn’t look any better than running a command-line. And while that might be okay every once in a while, I do enjoy applications that come with a decent interface, as they subtly show that the developer cares enough about his work. Camper perfectly demonstrates that.
Camper has a clean and gorgeous design
The design isn’t anything over the top, but it’s clean, simple and functional. The backgrounds and icons follow a light beige/grey color, with a few blue accents interspersed. It’s all reminiscent of a very minimal and professional layout, and in this case, it works. However, the usability of Camper doesn’t stop here. The UI is full of smart ideas, like swiping between different tabs, drop downs to expand task and message views, clicking on a contact to call or email them, and separate scrolling between the original task and the comments on it. Everything also scales well on tablets, although the UI isn’t optimized to take advantage of them.
The dashboard in Camper is a bird’s eye view of what you need to keep a tab on: the Activity Stream and your own ToDos. The Stream, as on the Basecamp website, is where you find all the latest tasks, messages, replies and comments that have been posted to all the projects. It’s a highly useful feature as it doesn’t require you to check every project, list or task separately for new additions from your collaborators. The “My ToDos” column, as the name suggests, is a filtered view of your own tasks. A handy icon allows you to change that to any other collaborator, and should prove essential for project managers who need to keep track of all team members.
To-Do list view
Opening a project in Camper gives you five tabs, similarly to the Basecamp website:
ToDo Lists: a categorized view of your lists, with a visual reminder of how many tasks are pending out of the total. Subsequently clicking on a list shows the pending tasks expanded, and the completed tasks stashed in the bottom. Opening a task will let you see it and all comments posted on it, as well as add your own.
Messages: a view of the different conversation threads exchanged between collaborators. Messages use a similar interface to tasks, with original post and comments and a text box to add your own.
Milestones: a list of the past milestones related to the current project.
Files: a directory of all the files that have been shared on your Basecamp, regardless of the projects.
Time: a time-tracking billing system for time-sensitive tasks.
Project list view with pending and completed tasks
Sync and Settings
Camper offers very few settings, given that there isn’t any need to modify a lot in the application. You can enable time-tracking and specify the rate and currency per hour; but the most important feature is background syncing. With this enabled, Camper will auto-refresh in the background with your projects, favorites, and everything else.
So Is It Really Perfect?
Camper was only released last December and is still clocked at version 0.2.1, so it’s still a baby project by any definition. However, over the past three months, it has received nine updates, and the developer is actively adding new functions. There may still be a few bugs and some missing features like the Writeboard, but overall it has reached a stable and highly functional state.
If you use Basecamp for your projects, there is no better choice on Android right now. Camper is free, full of functions, with a simply wonderful UI, and a quick look at the Market rating will show you that I’m not the only one who thinks so.