The Hit List is an excellent new Getting Things Done (GTD) application from Potion Factory. Many GTD applications suffer from an overly complex experience that leaves you spending your days creating and customizing your task list rather than completing it. The Hit List instead opts for a simple, streamlined interface void of clutter and big on productivity.
This review will cover the basic functionality of The Hit List as well as it’s major selling points and shortcomings. Keep in mind that The Hit List hasn’t reached version 1.0 yet, so anything lacking may be addressed before the official launch.
The Hit List features a notebook themed user interface similar to the built-in iPhone notes application (with a much easier to read font). The default destination upon opening the app is the inbox. This is where any uncategorized tasks will appear. The menu down the left side features lists of tasks, some of which are automatic and others that you create yourself. The two lists under the heading “Hit Lists” are automatically generated. The “Today” list features tasks that have either a “start” or “due” date set as today.
The “Upcoming” is a handy list of things to be done in the next 30, 14, or 7 days.
Below these lists under the “Folders” heading is where the user generated lists are stored and categorized into separate folders. As you can see, last semester I organized all my class work in a “School” folder. This is a great application for students to keep track of the endless wave of assignments and homework that accompany higher education.
Along the top of a given list is a bar that features various display options along with a forward and backward button. Here the user can select between list view (Cmd-1) and card view (Cmd-2). List view is the default and shows you all of the tasks in a given list while card view focuses on a single task along with any notes associated with the task. Also along the top bar is the option to show or hide archived tasks that you have already completed.
The key to the fast and user friendly experience of The Hit List is the extensive keyboard shortcuts. For a quick look at some of the most used shortcuts click on the “Hints” icon along the bottom of the screen.
For a more extensive list look under “File” and “Task” in the menu bar at the top. One of the great things about The Hit List is that there are several customizable features regarding a task, but almost none of them are required. To create a new task, simply hit “Return” and start typing, hit “Return” again to lock in the task. If you’re in a hurry, you can stop there and your task is all ready to go.
However, if you want more features, they’re just a few keystrokes away. Here’s an example that utilizes the full range of options:
Hit “Return” to create a new task, type your task, hit “Tab” to select a start date and “Tab” again to select a due date. Type “/” to add a tag and “@” to add a context tag (I’m honestly not sure why you need both). To set a priority, simply type a number (1-9). To add an hour to the estimated time it will take to complete the task type “.” or type “>” to add only 30 minutes (use “,” and “<" to reduce the time. To add notes to a task, hit "Cmd-Apostrophe" and begin typing, hit "return" when you are finished. If you've created the task in the Inbox (or any other list) and wish to move it somewhere else, hit "F" and type the name of the list you want it to move to. Finally, hit "Space" to complete the task or "X" to cancel the task.
The Hit List includes a timer to help you keep track of how long you’ve spent on a given task. This is a great feature for freelancers like me who have to keep track of the time spent against each project. To begin timing a given task, select the task hit “B”. You should see a little timer pop up with buttons to play, pause and stop the timer. To see the time tracked for a given task click on the task and hit “Cmd-Shift-I” or go to View>Show Info.
In the bottom left of the main window you should see a panel with various information regarding the task. The time tracked for the task is labeled “actual” and is compared to the estimate that you assigned for the task.
To cause a task to repeat on a regular basis, select the task and hit “Cmd-R”. A lot of thought and work went into the little window that you see as a result. To tell The Hit List how often to repeat the task, simply use plain English. Go ahead, type in a complex command like “On the 1st through the 6th of every month” or “Every second tuesday”. The Hit List is cleverly programmed to accept these types of commands. For the full story and a list of accepted commands, go here.
Quick entry is by far my favorite feature in The Hit List. As I said before, I tend to not like GTD apps because they generally take too much work to setup and use. The Hit List bypasses this problem with a global shortcut that brings up a little window that allows you to enter a task from any application.
So if you’re reading through your emails and come across something you need to do, hit your shortcut, enter the task and get back to what you were doing without getting sidetracked by switching applications. To use this feature go to The Hit List and type “Cmd-Comma” to open preferences. Next click on “Shortcuts”.
Here you can enter the shortcut you’d like to use for the quick entry window (I use Control-L). Now switch to a different application, type your designated shortcut to bring up the quick entry window, type your task and specify a start/due date and time estimation (only if you want to), and then hit save to exit or “return” to enter another task. Voilá, global task management in a few short keystrokes.
Syncing to iCal (and someday to iPhone)
Inside the preferences window you’ll see an option to sync THL tasks to iCal ToDos. Simply check the calendars and tags you wish to sync and you’re ready to go. Now open iCal and hit “Cmd-Opt-T” to show the ToDo items. If you’re suddenly excited at the prospect of now syncing these iCal ToDos to your iPhone/iPod Touch, you’re out of luck. iCal only syncs “events” with your mobile devices, not ToDos.
But that’s OK because there’s an iPhone sync option in The Hit List right? Wrong again, click on iPhone sync in preferences and you’ll get a promise that one day an accompanying iPhone app will make syncing possible… but not today.
Syncing Task Lists Across Macs with DropBoxAnother thing that you can’t do with The Hit List is sync your lists across multiple computers… unless you’re tricky. The online backup application DropBox actually accomplishes this task quite easily. If you don’t have a DropBox, first harshly berate yourself for living without such a great free tool and then go here to downloadand learn all about it.
After you recover from the emotional damage of missing out on DropBox for so long, launch The Hit List while holding down the “option” key. Choose the option to create a new library and place the library in your DropBox.
Now on your other Mac(s), launch The Hit List while holding “option” and select the library in your DropBox. Now whenever you make a change on one Mac, it will be reflected on any other Mac sharing the same library.
Note: This trick works with any application that contains a moveable library!
In my opinion, Things is the most significant competitor for The Hit List. Things boasts many of the same features and has already launched an accompanying iPhone app. The Hit List is what I personally use for task management, but our editor David Appleyard was blown away by the functionality of Things in an earlier review. I recommend trying both and deciding for yourself (let us know what you think). The simple interface and shortcut driven user experience of The Hit List won me over instantly.
I do find myself immensely frustrated that I have no way to sync my tasks to my iPod Touch, but I’m sure it won’t be too long before the Potion Factory rolls the mobile app out. Aside from the current lack of an iPhone app, my one complaint about The Hit List is its price tag. $59.95 is a lot to pay for a glorified checklist, but to be fair, Things has the exact same price point. Fortunately for you, we were able to score 2 free copies of The Hit List for our readers. We’ll be posting the details of the giveaway very soon so be sure to check back often!