Competition for Mac Task Management Heats Up


Like Mike, I’ve been using the alpha releases of OmniFocus for a while now and I was thisclose to taking advantage of their pre-sale deal to buy the application for $40. But wait. CulturedCode has thrown their hat into the ring with Things. Yet another stand-alone and pretty GTD app for Mac OS X? Maybe.

A preview version is trickling out to newsletter subscribers. For those who can’t wait, the developers are promoting a screencast of the application’s main features. Looks promising. Much of the same functionality as OmniFocus, including a quick entry window for doing a brain dump of tasks to process later. But Things doesn’t force a project/context/task structure the way OmniFocus and other GTD-focused apps do.

So now I’ll wait to get my preview invite before deciding which application I’ll end up paying for. As with email, I’ve found that I prefer using a stand-alone application for task management instead of a browser-based one.

Are you already overloaded on to-do apps or are you giving these newbies a try?


John Richardson

Both of these apps sound promising. I currently use Outlook with a Treo phone as a mobile solution, but I find that my paper based Walleteer and daily route sheet are my GTD staples.

With these apps, the Mac side of my Macbook may now become my GTD solution.


I used iGTD for a few months on and off and couldn’t really fully wrap my head around it – it just got too complicated for me.

For the past week, I’ve been using an alpha version of Things and I have to say that I REALLY like it. Its simple, smart and beautiful! The guys at culture code have also been real good at getting back to me via email regarding my feedback.

Joe Flood

Count me as another happy Backpack user. I really like what I’ve seen of OmniFocus but I like being able to get to my to do list from work, home and elsewhere.

Judi Sohn

I agree with you about Adobe AIR. I really like what I see so far with it as a “best of both worlds” solution…in the foreseeable future.


Fair enough, thanks for answering. Adobe’s AIR is a platform that allows people to build apps that answer most of your concerns (it can be always on, it can have notifications, it supports online/offline, it’s plenty fast), effectively bridging the gap from traditional web 2.0 ajax-y apps and desktop apps, but it hasn’t even shipped yet, so maybe I should just wait a year or two for developers to catch up… :)

Judi Sohn

Peldi, everything you say is true. It’s a tradeoff. Here’s why I ultimately prefer desktop apps for task management:

* I can add tasks as soon as they’re on my mind with a keystroke, from wherever on my computer I happen to be working, rather than waiting to load a browser page.
* My browser environment tends to be in flux, with tabs opening and closing all the time. I need my task management (and email) to be always persistent.
* Desktop task managers tend to have reminder systems that work outside of browsers/email. I want them to pop in my face when a deadline looms, not just send me a message.
* I can work in a desktop application regardless of the state of my Internet connection (Google Gears isn’t there yet).
* Desktop applications tend to be faster and have more flexible design than browser apps.
* Desktop applications better integrate with the operating system…in the case of the Mac OS X applications, they may work with Spotlight, Mail or iCal. Browser applications tend to only work with other browser applications.

I’ve tried many of the web apps, and I think many are outstanding in their own right. But I tend to abandon them eventually, sticking with something that’s more accessible while I’m working.

Things does promise an XML file format that may address some of the issues you mention.


“As with email, I’ve found that I prefer using a stand-alone application for task management instead of a browser-based one.”

Could you please add more color about that? I looked both at Things and Omnifocus, and both times I was amazed at the fact that people are still writing applications that are not cross-platform, that I can only access from one computer, with my data saved only locally…it just seems silly when you could build the same thing as a RIA / web app.

If it’s not an RIA, why bother? Dealing with copying files, needing your own pc/mac to do work and dealing with the risk of losing your data is over (or at least there’s no reason in my mind why it shouldn’t be).

Judi Sohn

Marc, I’ve been doing what I like to call a “Kool-Aid free” version of GTD for the past couple of years. It’s more complicated and structured than basic list management, but it’s not nearly as rigid as something like Midnight Inbox requires. Sometimes I apply contexts, sometimes not. Sometimes I tie things together into projects, sometimes not.

For me, it comes down to a balance between how much time I’m spending doing stuff as opposed to how much time I’m spending managing the stuff I’m doing. Personally, I’ve found that true GTD takes more babysitting than I’m able to give it.

Matthew Lang

Things certainly looks nice, simple and easy to use.

I’ve also tried a number of GTD tools out there. I even stuck with Backpack for over 2 months!

For some reason though I can never stick to a paperless solution! I prefer to use a moleskine and index cards for my gtd solution.

Marc Orchant

Judi – it’s not really clear what you’re looking for. If you want an unstructured list manager, there are plenty of choices available. If you are doing GTD, why would a project/context/action be anything other than desirable?

I’ve also been using OmniFocus for a couple of months now and like a lot of what Omni has done to create a good GTD app with a nice degree of flexibility. I also like iGTD and have been evaluating Midnight Inbox most recently. iGTD, like OmniFocus, uses a project/context/action structure and has some well-thought out features for anytime access, quick data entry, and integration with other apps and services including QuickSilver.

A lot of people really struggle with GTD process and for those who really want to work through David Allen’s 5-stage process for knocking off actions and projects, I think the approach Midnight Inbox takes might be quite useful. It’s less free-form and flexible than these other tools but definitely helps promote good GTD habits.

Jeff Mackey

I definitely give each new GTD tool (and development team) a whole-hearted try, both if it’s an online app (like Backpack or Vitalist) or installed app (like Things or Omnifocus).

I may be biased, but the tool I keep going back to is Backpack. It’s not billed as a true GTD app like the others but I love the flexibility it brings.

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