Hands on: Mac and iOS task management with Things 2

A long time ago, I used Things by Cultured Code to track my to-do items. Having a day job and a freelance business I required something other than a slip of paper to manage them. Things had an uncluttered interface and relatively uncomplicated nature of adding tasks and reminding me of upcoming due dates. I’d also use a “freelance” project to track article ideas so when an editor says “pitch me, baby” I’ve got a list handy.

I lived in simpler times then. My Mac(s AAPL) was my primary work and home machine. The App Store was in its infancy. Cloud computing was barely on the radar, and our cars were large metal beasts with fins on the back and double-barreled carburetors (that’s a joke, folks).  As the years went on, the cloud has become more than something that just causes rain delays at baseball games. The number of devices I own has grown and Things’ lack of cloud syncing became a major hassle. So, I switched to OmniFocus. It was not, as they say, a match made in heaven. OmniFocus is a fantastic app. It wasn’t the app for me, though, and I used it sparingly. My chief complaint was that I felt like I was bending to OmniFocus’s will instead of the other way around. I don’t have complicated task management needs. I just needed a way to track things I’m afraid I will forget.

When Cultured Code announced recently that, finally, after four [censored] years that stinking syncing was finally here, I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to try it out. Here’s my take on the new software.

Your tasks, flinging through the air

Things 2 (available via the Mac App Store and the iOS App Store) allows you to sync your tasks using Cultured Code’s free Sync Server; it does not use iCloud. When I think about syncing, I equate it to watching a routine double play with one out in baseball. Shortstop grabs the ball, flips it to the second baseman for the force out, who tosses it to first for the final out. End of the inning. In syncing with Things now, when I make a change on one device, all the other devices get the change. End of the process.

Double plays and syncing are supposed to be so routine that most of the time you never take notice of them. So far in my testing and usage, Things has made the routine double plays. It hasn’t launched the ball into the stands or let the grounder dribble through its legs. The syncing has been fast with no lag. I check off a task on my iPhone and a split second later it’s checked off my iPad and Mac. While Things Cloud is clearly designed for syncing data, the benefit to single device users is easy data recovery in the event of a hard drive failure. Just reinstall Things and turn Things Cloud back on. Boom, your tasks are back.

Yeah, it took them four years. I have no idea why it took so long and at this point I don’t care why. I’m just glad it’s here.

The Today view

Responding to customer feedback, Cultured Code has improved the Today view to give you the flexibility to easily flag a task as one you will complete today or move the end date. Previously, it would automatically place tasks due today in the view, but there was no way to tell if you had placed in your task in the Today view, or if Things placed it there. It was also a little cumbersome moving the tasks around if your priorities changed.

The new and improved Today view gives you a list of tasks due today (or overdue tasks). From there you can either tell Things you’re planning on working on that task today, or you can tap “Later” and quickly assign a new date for it. I really like this view. It’s pretty easy for me to look at my day and quickly prioritize my tasks.

Things also has a Someday view where you can put tasks you don’t want to commit to a completion date. That’s where a lot of my article ideas that I haven’t pitched yet go, for instance.

The final checkbox

I like Things 2 enough to be a replacement for my daily driver for task management. I love the clean layout and for my relatively modest needs it doesn’t feel like overkill. If you need a task management system that has more features than Apple’s Reminders app, Things is a good suite that I’m glad to add back to my toolbox.