There are a huge number of different task managers and “Getting Things Done” apps for the Mac, each of which has various strengths and features. I’ll be posting a roundup in the near future, but for now would like to focus on a fairly new entrant which has already received widespread accolade.
Things, developed by Cultured Code, launched officially on January 6th during the MacWorld conference, winning the Best of Show award. I have been using the application since November and have come to rely on it to organize my entire work schedule. The functionality which Things provides appears simple on the surface, but in terms of simple usability it is one of the most impressive Mac applications I’ve ever used.
Far from being a straight forward To Do list manager, Things provides separation between tasks due now, scheduled for a future date, postponed indefinitely, or completed. Let’s take a look at each of these in turn:
The Inbox provides a collect-all area when quickly adding a task. You can store an item here before assigning it to a particular project or scheduled date. A quick entry box can be brought up via a shortcut key to facilitate the speedy entry of a to do.
As you’d expect, Today holds all the tasks which are assigned to be done in the current day. These can be added directly, or automatically moved to the category on a scheduled date. The number of tasks to complete can be shown in the dock if desired, and Things will flag in red any tasks which are overdue.
When marking a task completed, it remains in the Today area for the rest of the day. At midnight, all completed tasks are automatically moved to the Logbook, and the next day’s items imported.
Scheduling allows you to assign a future date for a task to be completed. This can be a one-off to do, or recur at a given interval. I have recurring reminders for invoicing various clients and actioning different website updates. It allows me to completely forget about these necessities until they appear in the Today screen.
Projects / Areas of Responsibility
Finally, the Projects and Areas of Responsibility sections provide a way to organize Tasks by the project they are assigned to.
The user interface for Things has been heralded by many as exquisitely ‘Mac-like’. Icons, colors, graphics and gradients all take on a sleek and professional appearance. They have gradually evolved and improved through different beta versions, and lead to an app with an overwhelming sense of quality.
With many applications, you find yourself struggling a little at first to understand exactly how it works. Apple is exceptional at creating apps which just ‘feel’ right (have you ever been confused in iTunes?) and, similarly, Things can be mastered five minutes after opening. This is mainly due to the useful tips and comments scattered around the interface before you begin entering data. Personally, I find myself much more likely to use an app on a regular basis if the interface inspires and impresses me every time I open it. Things undoubtedly falls into this category.
Drag and drop functionality is used to great effect in Things. For instance, when dragging a task to Scheduled, a box intelligently appears asking you to specify when you’d like the item to be moved to Today. Dragging a task over the Project area will automatically create a new project with the name of the task. One issue I found was that it isn’t possible to schedule a task from within a project in this manner (it can only be moved to Today directly).
Entering Tasks & Notes
Things provides an elegant pop-up interface for quickly entering a new task, instigated with a key combination:
It makes it a quick and simple process to move a thought from your head to the Things inbox for later review. Whilst appearing simple at first glance, the information and data which can be added to a task is fairly extensive. It’s possible to drag and drop attachments, email messages, a URL (or anything else you can think of) into the ‘Notes’ section of a new task, to ensure you have all the required information at hand when coming to address it.
Dragging an attachment creates a dynamic link to that piece of information, meaning that it will adjust automatically if you move the location of the file.
Things for iPhone & iPod Touch
An accompanying application is also available for iPhone. The mobile version offers a very similar interface to the desktop version with the same categories and graphics. Syncing is facilitated via Wi-Fi when both your iPhone and Mac are on the same network. I don’t believe this is an ideal solution — it would be more practical to sync over whichever network is available (Wi-Fi, 3G, Edge etc) in a similar fashion to Mail or NetNewsWire.
The iPhone version of Things is similarly well designed, with a range of different time saving additions. To Do items can be added to today’s schedule through tapping a ’star’ icon next to each item, with different colors making it easy to see which items are scheduled, due today, or overdue. The mobile app manages to feel completely native on the iPhone, whilst retaining the functionality and style present on the Mac version.
If you aren’t near a wireless network it is still possible to sync with the iPhone by creating a network from your Mac. Click the airport icon in your menu bar, select ‘Create Network’, and proceed to join that network from your iPhone!
Cultured Code have kindly donated a copy of Things to give away through AppStorm in a couple of days time. To be sure you don’t miss out on your chance to enter, subscribe to the RSS feed or follow AppStorm on Twitter!
In case you haven’t figured by now, I’m quite a big fan of Things. Whilst by no means being perfect, it provides a great tool for managing your daily tasks and to dos. It’s simple to quickly put an idea or thought into the application, and the interface provides all the functionality you require without getting in the way. A few bugs occasionally pop up – as with any new software – but I’m confident enough to use it on a day to day basis.
A free trial can be downloaded from the Things site, and it costs $49.95 to purchase. Whilst not coming cheap, if you’re looking for a tool to stay organized and manage your life more effectively I expect you’d find this to be a great solution.
What are your thoughts? I’ll be publishing a roundup of various task management applications soon, so am interested to know what other applications you use for organizing your to do list.