Things: Task Management With Style

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:

Inbox

The Sidebar

The Sidebar

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.

Today

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.

Next/Scheduled

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 Interface

The Interface

The Interface

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:

Quickly enter a task by tapping your chosen key combination

Quickly enter a task by tapping your chosen 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

The iPhone version is a great counterpart

The iPhone version is a great counterpart

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!

Competition

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!

Conclusion

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.


  • Arik

    Too bad I’m too poor to buy a Mac lol, it’s apps like this that makes me want to switch. The fact alone that when I google for “Windows Task management application” or anything similiar all my results yield the default Windows task manager, shows how frustrating Winblows can be at times.

    • http://jashsayani.com Jash Sayani

      Yeah. Macs are really expensive! However, I got a Mac mini last year and really love it! Worth switching to a Mac. Its the future!!

    • http://pixelgraphics.us Douglas Neiner

      When you consider the decreased frustration, less expensive operating system upgrades, and longer use life, Apple computers aren’t as expensive as they appear. Add to that the actual ENJOYMENT of using your computer all day every day… the difference is surreal! :) I switched a 1.5 years ago, and would never go back.

    • http://tvorici.eu Jan Blazicek

      Same here…I switched about year and half ago and I continue to be impressed. The price one has to pay for a new mac around Czech Republic are almost double the US prices, but it was worth every last penny. The system has it’s problems as every single one out there, but compared to windows it seems like comparing grandpa’s bike to Harley Davidson. It just lets you do your work while it does its. No questions asked. The wireless conectivity is also amazing. It took my friend 3 weeks to figure out how to connect to my school network with his Asus (considering we both study IT and we had a manual from our administrator). It was just a matter of seconds for me with my MacBook pro. There are only few things I am a bit dissapointed about, but nothing major. E.g. I wish they used more robust dvd burners in their MacBook products, the LCD display has few…I am not sure how to describe it…stains on it after like year of HEAVY usage…They call it ion pollution or whatever. I am sure they will repair it for me, but I just can’t afford to not have my Mac around for that long (it isn’t that fast around Czech as there are only Apple resellers here). I am a bit dissapointed that new macbook pro’s 15″ don’t come with matte screen anymore, but I suppose they know what they’re doing. 15″ can’t be considered a pro graphic designer product anyway. If you ever get your hands on enough money to buy it, go for it. You won’t regret.

      • Arik

        Thanks for the reply, I live in The Netherlands. The prices here are pretty high as well, it’s actually the same amount except the dollars are Euro’s and right now that means that a Mac is 1.3x more expensive than in the US. A few months ago the Euro was worth 1.5 dollars, so go figure.

        Most people I know who own a Mac, do run bootcamp on it in order to run Windows and OS X just so that you can still use certain Windows applications

      • Matias

        Yeah! In my country (Argentina) Mac prices are outrageous. Apart from being in US dollars, and a normal wage around 450 USD, they are 1.5x to 2x the US price in dollars, because of VAT, import taxes and greedy distributors :-(

        The cheapest mac mini (intel) retails for around USD 1000 here.

        But, hey, I live in a third world country that is broke, and hackintoshes are becoming more and more common.

    • tnt-tek

      arik,

      There is an app on windows that does this very thing, It’s called Outlook.

      • Arik

        It hogs my resources if I am running apps such as Photoshop and Illustrator alongside. I prefer to stay lightweight, yes I am very demanding. I now use RememberTheMilk. I have it integrated into my Gmail mailbox, it works fine for me.

      • dude

        lollc

      • http://inspiredbywordpress.co.uk Daniel Groves

        It’s honestly the worse, least user friendly and biggest resource hog ever. Since getting my mac well… 1/2 the spec of my Windows XP desktop that is optimised to hell and back, yet still faster :D

    • http://www.subooa.com Matt

      Have you considered trying to run osx on pc hardware? Check out osx86project.org. Just make sure you buy yourself a copy of osx.

  • http://www.appleinfused.com Ray

    I use this application and it’s definitely worth the big price tag. It’s so useful when synced with my iPhone. I’ve been using “things” for a while now and it’s been a great help to remember those little things that pop into your head which later you smash up your keyboard trying to remember. Invest and enjoy.

  • http://www.werewp.com hd-J

    Looks great, easy to use, simple and efficient! I am waiting for the contest! :)

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      The contest will likely be kicking off tomorrow or Monday, so the wait won’t be too long!

  • http://jashsayani.com Jash Sayani

    Things is a great app. However, I prefer Remember The Milk. Here’s a great app to manage RTT tasks: http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/exchange/index.cfm?event=extensionDetail&loc=en_us&extid=1705522

  • http://www.suberapps.com Ben

    Like many others, I’m using things, still using it and can’t live without it. I think what makes it a hit is because the structure of how you need to manage your to-dos makes sense. Recently there’s a potential competitor to Things, users who have not bought Things might want to take a look before making a decision -> http://suberapps.com/u/244/

  • Ryan D.

    As a developer and a consumer I’m not really all that impressed with Things. As far as GTD apps go it doesn’t bring anything new to the table, to me that slapped a fancy UI and website to it and re-sold the same old “to-do list”. $50 for a todo list and another $10 for the iPhone app which should be free…I’m sorry but for what it does that seems really over priced.

    • http://www.haganora.com Haris N.

      I agree. My Nokia scheduler is doing fine with me, all to do, meetings and importand dates ;) heh
      Maybe in some future releases Things can be sync with my Nokia :D

  • http://www.rule-twentynine.com Starstuff

    I tried Things during the beta phase and found once more that apps of this kind don’t add value to my workflow. The time it takes me to input all the data could be spent actually tackling the tasks.
    As a web designer, I do have lots of stuff going on, but I still find it easiest to just jot stuff down on a piece of paper or into a widget on my dashboard so I can go and see what I need to do. But I see no point in spending that much money on an app that essentially does not enhance my workflow.
    I’d love to see reviews of project management apps though, something that compares to Microsoft project (Merlin and the likes).

  • http://www.digitalthink.fr/wordpress/ Denis

    I love this app. I have bought the mac and the touch version.
    The synch is working well.
    Definitively a great app !

  • http://blog.factor1studios.com matt

    i like things. Its super easy to use at any GTD level. Many of the other GTD apps are very strict in their process and flow. Not always helpful. I usually spent too long working ON the the app, tan letting the app work for me.

    Things lets me be lazy and just fill my inbox, so I can sort and manage on my own time.

    My one feature request: sync to blackberry & winMo. Not all of us can use the terrible network that is at&t. some of us like to leave the big city and still need cell service.

  • http://blog.curtismchale.ca curtismchale

    Things is great. I use it for everything from the grocery list to reminding me to do laundry to writing down neat ideas for sites I am building. The only draw back currently is the poor sync with iPod/iPhone. I know that not everyone has trouble getting it to work but if you look through their support forum there are a bunch of people (me included) that find is doesn’t always sync all of the information. Even with the latest upgrade for the iPhone/iPod version it still isn’t perfect. Be ready to manually enter some tasks back into the desktop version from time to time. Overall I still love it and Cultured Code knows about the problems and is working to get the sync done properly.

  • http://www.caffeinatedstudio.com Brad Parnell

    I’ve been using things for a couple of months, and i’ve found it quite helpful to manage everything from quick grocery store runs, to large scale projects, and my ongoing honey-do list.

    My only gripe is the wifi syncing, would be nice if they had a similar setup to Evernote that bundled a desktop app, web based version, and iPhone app that synced wirelessly, THAT would be spot on.

    • http://blog.factor1studios.com matt

      yeah, make things more like evernote for the cross platform syncing. That would be amazing!

  • http://alishabdar.com Ali Shabdar

    I’m using Things since beta. It’s amazing and proves GTD is not necessarily boring!
    The iPhone app is unbeatable too. I waited a long time for Mac/iPhone sync which now works perfectly.
    The release price tag is a bit expensive though!

    Thanks for the great review.

  • http://jrtashjian.com JR Tashjian

    I have purchased Things for both Mac and iPhone a couple months ago and enjoy using both. I switched from OmniFocus for various reasons but also because Things looks cleaner and is much simpler to use. OmniFocus does have some sweet features, but a lot of those features I don’t use. I would much rather pay $50 for a program I use fully, than $80 for a program with a lot of features I don’t use.

    I agree with Brad Parnell, they should do something else with syncing. I don’t mind having to open both to sync but, would like something quicker.

  • http://nickcharlton.org.uk Nick Charlton

    I don’t feel that the syncing is an issue. Whilst Mail and NetNewsWire (as mentioned) will sync over any network it is important to understand what they sync with. They sync with a remote server, not an application.

    If it were to sync with a remote server, it would add another layer of complexity and possibly cost to as you would either have to run this yourself or pay for it to be provided. OmniOutliner uses either MobileMe or another WebDav based web server, this is quite an expensive solution if you neither have MobileMe or a web server and adds an extra hurdle to the software.

    I think that Cultured Code took the best solution to the problem here, it’s a solution that will work with any Mac, not just certain users. The advantage of the way the data is held (that is, just XML) means that someone could at some point produce something to sync Things with an online service.

    I use Things for absolutely everything, from blog projects to work stuff to reminders to do this or that. It’s definitely something I now could not live without.

  • http://www.drewbarontini.com Drew Barontini

    I can’t live without things. It’s an incredible app. I sync it with my iPhone and I can always check what I need to be doing. Cultured Code did an amazing job with this application. However, I do agree with your issue about not being able to schedule the Project todo’s. It is a bit bothersome, but I’m sure it could be improved in an update.

  • jeroen

    for now I think the posts are rather outdated. I hope to see top of the shell material and -new- updates / apps soon..

  • ben stewart

    Things (with iCal/Mail integration) + Anxiety + MailActOn (and a little AppleScript) + Things iPhone App = The Perfect Task Management Setup.

    I love it. The only thing missing is syncing in the cloud but I don’t really miss it. WiFi syncing is good enough for me.

  • Kwitt

    I’ve been using things on the mac for a couple of weeks now. It works great and is very effective for me!

  • http://www.constantinpotorac.com Constantin Potorac

    Great app… just got it. I bet it will help me a lot.

  • http://www.svenskaauktioner.se/ Fredrik Hed

    nice review, David, but in the future, why not compare it to other relevant apps as well?

    in this case, you could in just a few sentences compare it to RTM, iGTD and similar apps. this would be more useful.

  • t5tr

    I’d tried things during its beta time, and it worked fine. IMHO it’s a bit expensive for what it does, or just not so essential because I’m already using MenuCalendarClock for helping with my day-to-day tasks, so I’d stopped using it for a while. However I had left things queued and it is being considered every time I’m buying any other app that fits into my workflow.

  • http://www.tutorialsfornoobs.com David Turnbull

    It looks very elegant, but I don’t think anything beats a good old fashioned piece of paper. If you have a small piece of paper you’re limited to what you can write down which encourages you to only focus on the really important tasks.

  • http://dezinerfolio.com Navdeep

    I use Doomi, very clean and simple http://doominow.com

    • Alex

      I use Doomi as well. But Doomi ain’t got ANYTHING on Things.

      I mean, hell, you can’t even set a specific time for an alert message! So lame.

      • http://doominow.com John

        Heh. You can now, update.

  • Simon

    I bought this a while ago and it really is a fantastic app!

  • http://www.worst-music.de/ Kim Spillner

    I already use this software and it ist a gread tool for managing your tasks.

    BTW great article and website!

  • http://www.lorettesamuel.be Samuel Lorette

    Thanks for this great description. I’ll be trying this app!

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  • pushpull

    Please, Spotify ;)

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  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/remmac/ Remco van der Meer

    Great app, i’d like to see a review of Flow , it arrives late februari…
    http://www.gridironsoftware.com/blog

  • Peter Kaizer

    How does this compare to Remember the Milk?

  • http://polypink.com simplywit

    I’ve used iGTD for months (http://www.igtd.pl/iGTD/) it’s free. but there’re some downside. the biggest one for me is it often crashes and lost the unsaved data. Anyway, i still use it because changing task management app isn’t easy.

    Things is very interesting and this review interest me to try it. hope I’d have an answer if I should spend 50$ and change from iGTD to Things by the time demo expire.

  • Alen

    Things….the best thing after a Mac….

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  • http://www.rossgardt.de Benedikt R.

    Awesome! This application is just perfect! There should be an an application for the iPhone that syncs the tasks.

    That’s just the thing I was looking for.

    • http://www.rossgardt.de Benedikt R.

      Oh, sorry – There is an app o.O! Yeah!

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  • Matthew Lowery

    Quite simply one of the best apps of ANY CATEGORY on the Mac.
    It’s simple, powerful, beautiful, fast, and can be synced with the iPhone one which is just as good as the Mac one.
    Although $50 is an extremely steep price, you will not regret it.

  • Benny

    I am in love with this app.
    I am now saving up for and iPod Touch and Things app is what drew me towards it in the first place I used to mess up my work and do it at the last minute but this app saved me!
    : )

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  • http://oldtimer-guide.com/ Ron

    i used iGTD, but now that i’ve seen you post i will try out this neat lil’ tool. BTW: i had to copy and paste this comment, since it is not possible to send any keypress to you web site. it was not possible to write any text into the comment formular.

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  • Marina

    I use Thing, but I am wondering how to sync that with other applications. I like pocket informant but there is no way to get the tasks out of Things.

  • Miguel

    An alternative for windows users could be HiTask (http://hitask.com), it’s an online task management tool. I use it through mozilla prism as an application and it’s great.

    And it’s free.

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