Technology

Things 3 for Mac and iOS

A task manager you will actually want to use

I’ve nev­er been a fan of to-do apps. I don’t use them. Peo­ple every­where seem to swear by these things. There’s much talk about the whole GTD men­tal­i­ty, and what app is the best for get­ting things done.

The method­ol­o­gy didn’t make sense to me, and I con­de­scend­ing­ly felt that the key to get­ting things done was just action. Then I grew up, and real­ized that when you’re jug­gling a pletho­ra of respon­si­bil­i­ties, it’s incred­i­bly easy for tasks to fall through the cracks. Writ­ing down what needs to get done is not just smart, it’s necessary.

I came across Things years ago. I owned the first ver­sion of the app, but didn’t end up using it. Some­one I know recent­ly start­ed using Things 3 and I was intrigued. I’d been using Trel­lo to keep track of my ideas for arti­cles on this site, video ideas, and jobs that I’d applied to. I have a love/hate rela­tion­ship with Trel­lo. I feel that parts of the app are very well designed, and oth­ers not so much.

After watch­ing and read­ing some pos­i­tive reviews, I decid­ed to give Things 3 a try. Cul­tured Code offers a gen­er­ous fif­teen-day tri­al of the Mac app.

I was in love. Things 3 is the first to-do app that I actu­al­ly use. The design is beau­ti­ful and easy to use, has many of the fea­tures I want, and led to a more orga­nized life.

First Impressions

  • I’m delight­ed by the big facelift giv­en to the UI.
  • Areas and Projects are exact­ly what I want from a to-do app.
  • There is a won­der­ful sat­is­fac­tion in look­ing at the Log­book and see­ing all the things you’ve accomplished.

Design

Cul­tured Code has hit it out of the park. The design of the Mac app, the iPad app, and the iPhone app are noth­ing less than superb. The Apple Watch app is excel­lent too, which I’ll touch on a lit­tle bit later.

Gone are the days of the pale col­ors, and a design rem­i­nis­cent of skeuo­mor­phism. The new inter­face sports bright­ly-col­ored icons, revamped typog­ra­phy, and beau­ti­ful use of white space. While the aes­thet­ic and expe­ri­ence is con­sis­tent across plat­forms, Cul­tured Code has done a won­der­ful job of tai­lor­ing each inter­face to get the most out of each oper­at­ing system.

Cul­tured Code has achieved an incred­i­ble feat here. These are four dif­fer­ent apps they’ve made you believe are one. And in con­trast to some apps where the func­tion­al­i­ty is dras­ti­cal­ly reduced on iOS, I could nev­er touch my Mac again and still have all the same con­trol of my to-dos.

Organizing Tasks

Where most to-do apps only allow you to cre­ate lists, Things 3 rec­og­nizes two types of lists: Projects and Areas. You can cre­ate tasks in both, but this type of orga­ni­za­tion has helped my workflow.

An area can be used to group projects and to-dos based on gen­er­al respon­si­bil­i­ties. For exam­ple, I have areas for work, side projects, per­son­al, and fam­i­ly. Inside those areas I have projects for this site, my job search, etc.

Fur­ther­more, you can orga­nize tasks inside a project with head­ings. I often use head­ings to orga­nize the type of tasks that need to be done. When Kel­ly and I went on a cruise recent­ly, I used Things to orga­nize my pack­ing list.I had head­ings for my com­put­er stuff, the clothes I need­ed, and my cam­era gear. This is one of the first trips I’ve ever tak­en with­out that hor­ri­ble sen­sa­tion of for­get­ting something.

Each per­son will have their own way of using tags, I tend to use mine for quick bits of infor­ma­tion that I can see at a glance.

For exam­ple, I tag jobs that I apply for as either remote” or onsite”. This helps me keep track of what types of jobs I’m apply­ing for. I tag YouTube video ideas with the cat­e­go­ry the video fits into. It helps me plan videos so I don’t do too much of the same.

Over­all, I like the imple­men­ta­tion of tags. I wish I could make cer­tain tags lim­it­ed to a par­tic­u­lar project or area, but I under­stand that most peo­ple aren’t using tags like I do.

Things Cloud

Any mod­ern to-do app needs some way to sync. Things does this via Things Cloud and doesn’t offer any alter­nate way of sync­ing. Thank­ful­ly, Cul­tured Code has a whole page explain­ing what this ser­vice is and how they’ve ensured its security.

Sync­ing works flaw­less­ly. The best type of sync­ing is the sync­ing you don’t think about, and Things Cloud achieves this. I input tasks on iOS either via the app or share sheet, then orga­nize those tasks on the Mac. Not once have I arrived at my Mac with tasks missing.

The vital miss­ing ingre­di­ent to the almost-per­fect dish that is Things 3 is shared lists. As of this writ­ing, Things 3 doesn’t allow you to share any type of list or task with some­one else. Well, tech­ni­cal­ly that’s not true, you can share them as plain text, but why the hell would you want to do that?

From what I’ve read, it’s a future pos­si­bil­i­ty. I hope Cul­tured Code decides to include this key fea­ture in a lat­er update.

Other Features You Should Know About

  • Quick Entry — Things 3 has a well-designed Quick Entry win­dow, but I don’t use it often since my tasks get input on iOS. You can cus­tomize the key­board short­cut for Quick Entry to be what­ev­er you’d. I have mine set to the longest key­board short­cut ever, ⌃⌥⌘ + space, which might add to the rea­sons I don’t use it. Quick Entry is incred­i­bly pow­er­ful, allow­ing you to enter almost all the same infor­ma­tion you can input in the app, with­out mov­ing your mouse.
  • Apple Watch App — Cul­tured Code was very smart when design­ing the Apple Watch app. All you can do is dic­tate a new task and decid­ed whether to put it in your Inbox or Today. That’s it. After see­ing many Watch apps try to do more and fail, this is exact­ly what I want and need.
  • Check­lists — If you need to go fur­ther down the to-do-cep­tion, Things 3 offers check­lists inside of tasks. After you begin a check­list, you can hit enter to con­tin­ue adding items. I appre­ci­ate Cul­tured Code for adding this type of deep gran­u­lar­i­ty with­out it feel­ing cumbersome.

Final Thoughts

I’m con­vinced that Things 3 is the best to-do app. No mat­ter what Apple-made oper­at­ing sys­tem you’re using, Things 3 is delight­ful to use. If you, like me, are unsure of to-do apps, I encour­age you to give Things 3 a try. I think you’ll be pleas­ant­ly surprised.

Kind­ly edit­ed by TJ Drap­er