When was the last time you tried out new Mac software and got a warm and fuzzy because it was so good? The iPhone notwithstanding, that doesn’t happen often these days. It happened with me when I tried out Things.
I’m big on finding more ways for my Mac to do more for me, but I draw the line at complex, complicated, expensive Mac software that requires a manual or a night class at the community college to figure out. Things may be the best new software I’ve used on my Mac in a few years.
There’s no shortage of utilities to help Mac users manage tasks, projects, to-do lists. Many are more complicated than the projects and tasks we want them to manage.
Is there a handy, intuitive, manageable, affordable utility that can manage what I need to get done?
I found two, similar, yet different. Free, yet affordable. Intuitive, yes, but with a need for a little discipline. Both follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done task process, GTD.
The Case for Things
Things sits somewhere between iGTD and to-do lists and task managers, and a project management application. It does more than the former, not as complex as the latter.
Things combines powerful features with simplicity through the use of tags and its intelligent filter bar. A Leopard style source list allows for quick and easy focusing. Together with a beautiful user interface, Things aims at the seemingly impossible: making task management both easy and fun.
Things is as close to ready for prime-time as any Mac software still in pre-release. It’s worked rock solid for me for months.
Familiarity is a virtue. Things opens to a familiar left column, right column display that looks like iTunes without Cover Flow or music. To the left is an Inbox which stores everything; tasks, to-do’s, whatever, ready to be assigned to a project (click on the image below for more detail).
Below the Inbox is the Focus area for GTD buffs which lists what you intend to work on and when. Next, Someday, Scheduled. Below Focus categories are your Projects.
At the bottom is a Logbook which tracks everything you do. Start Things by creating a simple Project which contains two or three or more Tasks that need to be completed.
Enter the Tasks below the Project. That’s the ultimate simplicity in managing the tasks of a project. Now, assign a due date to various Tasks and a completion date for the Project.
Double-click the Task to see more detail; tags, notes, details. Click the Due Date button to enter a date, and the Reminder button for, you guessed it, a reminder.
Whether it’s multiple tags, dates or notes, To-Do items display their information on an as needed basis. No more space wasted by empty or irrelevant column cells!
This whole Task and Project process is incredibly intuitive. Your screen is not cluttered with a massive toolbar or a huge list of features. It’s not cluttered at all.
Things is focused. You see what you need to see when you need to see it.
Click on the Plus sign in the bottom left of the Things window. Add a New Project, a New Area of Responsibility, or a New Teammate. Teammate? Yes (click on the image below for more detail).
Things collaborates. Rather, Things lets you delegate and keep track of what assignments you give to others. I keep looking for ways that Things is too complicated to use but haven’t found any.
Use it as a simple to-do list manager, but remember that to-do items are tasks. Projects are merely a series of tasks strung together. When the tasks are done, the project is done.
Management of tasks could not be much easier. Stuff your Inbox with tasks. Then, assign them to a Project. Then, assign due dates for completion, or dates to actually do the work.
Things then shows you what needs to get done next, get done today, or when a task is scheduled to be worked on. Click on any Project to see up to the minute status of tasks.
The To-Do List
The heart of Things is the to-do list, of course. Click the Quick Entry button and an attractive pop up window lets you add a to-do item, even assigning it to a project, and adding extra detail (click on the image below for a close up view).
Once you understand the relationship between a Task, a Project full of tasks, and the context of Focus, when you work on the Tasks, organizing becomes much easier.
A quick entry HUD lets you enter any idea the moment it hits you. Never let the thought of an unfinished business distract you again.
What is so great about tracking to-do items, Tasks, and Projects, if the details are always stuck in your Mac?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep our Macs and iPhones in sync with our Tasks and Projects? Things plans to have an iPhone version in a few months, too.
Your professional and personal to-dos are an important part of your life. Take them with you no matter where you go. And we are not just talking about a simple to-do list. We’ll put the whole application in your pocket.
Things stores your data, all those Tasks and Projects and corresponding detail, in XML files, so the data can be sucked out and used in other utilities.
That’s a good thing, because once you start with a few Tasks, and add them to a few Projects, suddenly you’re depending on Things to handle a lot of your workload for details. Try it. Things is free. For now.