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Task Management With Things

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The latest application from Cultured Code is Things, a task organizer and to-do list manager for Mac and iPhone. It centers around the ideas encompassed in Getting Things Done (GTD) and makes it easy to break down and organize tasks.

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. Comprehensive features make searching and organizing your tasks a piece of cake.

Features and Function

Things is broken down into a number of different sections:

  • Next: The Next list contains single to-dos and action steps from active projects. These are items that you plan on completing in the near future.
  • Inbox: This provides a quick way to get an idea out of your head quickly and place it, unfiled, into Things.
  • Today: Your list of things you want to complete Today, along with scheduled items which are due today.
  • Scheduled: Used for all to-dos that you want to start at a later date. Once that date arrives, they will be automatically moved to Today.
  • Someday: A place for ideas you might want to pursue in the future.
  • Logbook: Every day when you open Things for the first time, all to-dos completed on the previous day are moved to the Logbook.

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; Things has 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, though unfortunately many other Mac developers aren’t quite as intuitive. Thankfully, Things is an app which can be mastered five minutes after opening, on account of the useful tips and comments scattered around the interface.

Things allows you to set a system-wide hotkey to open a “quick-entry” dialog, where you can enter a task, add tags, notes, and decide where to file it. 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.

Things for iPhone

An accompanying application is also available for iPhone. This offers very similar functionality to the desktop version, with identical separate areas for storing tasks. 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.


While Things has put itself forward as a powerful contender in the GTD software area, it does come up against a number of competing applications. Nick Cernis has conducted an in-depth analysis of the different competing applications.

The essential differences between each app are:

  • iGTD2 – Completely free, and designed specifically for GTD. Highlights include tabbing and a menu bar item for adding tasks quickly.
  • Midnight Inbox – $35 for a single user license, with features including automation of collecting tasks and a method to check you’re not drifting off track when working.
  • OmniFocus – $80 for a single user license. It allows you to easily ‘plan now, focus later’, with a satisfying “clean up” brush — almost as gratifying as crossing a To Do out on a paper pad.

The Road to Release

Things 1.0 is scheduled to be released in just over a week at the 2009 Macworld Expo. The application is available as a free download at present, and will cost $49 when released in January. A $10 discount is available if you subscribe to their email newsletter before the official launch. The team sounds as though they’ll be busy in the run up to Macworld:

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be hard at work finishing up the final features for the 1.0 release. We’ll also be working on some really cool accompanying details, including screencasts and a really cool print ad.

For those of you making the journey to the Moscone Center in San Francisco come January, Cultured Code will be located in the Mac Developer Pavilion (booth #1438).


Things 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.

I’m excited to see the features that will be added in the final version and will certainly be purchasing the application when released. If you’re looking for a tool to accompany an organized lifestyle, Things seems to be a great option.

15 Responses to “Task Management With Things”

  1. Don’t forget Thinkingrock:

    It gets good reviews over at Lifehacker, is free, uses java, and “The app also stores all its data in a transparent XML file for easy-peasy thumb drive access, which – in a cross-platform word – rocks. ThinkingRock is a free download, versions available for Mac, PC and Linux.”

    They are developing an iphone app that will sync with the iphone/ipod touch. Only drawback as far as I can tell is the interface isn’t the prettiest. It is very easy to use though.

  2. For me, the biggest problem is that emails that need a reply get lost in the shuffle. Sometimes, I respond at the moment I read an email, but more often, I say to myself, “Oh, I’ll get back to it,” and then I forget I ever received that email.

    If you’re using Apple’s (like I am), there’s a good article at Mac Guru Lounge on how to set up smart folders to track messages you need to reply to. This has greatly improved my workflow.

  3. I got sick of using a to-do list that isn’t what i want. so i did the next best thing which is to code it myself!

    Hope i get the chance to share it with all of you in the future.

    But the strong point of all apple to-do list. they look great compare to the windows ones.

  4. Wow, you forgot Evernotes. I just switched a couple of days ago from Things because Evernotes also syncs to the web, works with both windows and mac – and it even supports a free OCR service.

    One really neat feature is the ability to add a note via my webcam and to have Evernotes automatically OCR scan it for me.

  5. I have got used to SmartTime Plus. I love it’s flexibility and most importantly it’s latest version allows syncing to Google that solves the online web access and data backup. As a bonus, you can use free app called Calgoo Connect to sync that Google Calendar to iCal to act as your desktop app.
    Yes sound messy to it works fine. :)

  6. I recently switched from OmniFocus to Things and so far, so good. I like the flexible features of OmniFocus a bit more, but syncing with the iPhone app was consistently painful – slow and sometimes timing out. Things does the job for me and the syncing is quick and easy (though I agree I’d prefer more flexibility around available networks, as you note). Can’t wait to see the official version.

  7. Chris: Good points well made. I’m really hoping that the syncing functionality will become seamless with the launch version (or soon after). The method used by Net News Wire on the iPhone is one of my favorites, syncing with a central server upon launch and close. Something similar to that would be ideal.

  8. I have used Things for several months, but have recently made the switch to RememberTheMilk (RTM). My main gripe: In order to sync Things on your Iphone, you have to open the application on both your computer and iphone and have them both on the same WiFi network. Syncing should be effortless.

    • Because it is web-based, RTM syncs much easier.
    • Because it is web-based, you can access RTM on any computer.
    • RTM can now be used offline with Firefox or GoogleGears.

  9. I manage a team of 20 and with all my regular duties plus all of their requests, Things is all that stands between my work life being chaos. I don’t know how I could organize and remember the many tasks I have to handle each day without this tool. Others may be better or worse, but the desktop and iPhone combo of Things works very well for me.

  10. I have to agree with Dik, Things is a perfect application for organising you life. It is simple and intuitive, yet allows for extreme flexibility. Things has a bunch of features that make it an ideal application for GTD, and there are even more that are planned to be implemented before release (and it even tells you which features they are if you try and use one of them).

  11. I think Things is the best option. It’s not bloated, or over done in any way. Yet it provides a wide enough feature set to help you organize and get tasks done quickly and efficiently. And the iPhone app feels completely native and organic to the platform. It’s not yet as full featured as the desktop version, but I’m sure they’ll get there.

    The other apps I’ve tried, are either WAY too expensive, or way to complicated. Most people can spend more time organizing the tasks, then that actually spend performing the tasks. Things is clean and smooth.