For the last couple of weeks I've been using the free preview of Things, a task management application for OS X. I've just entered the final year of my PhD -- or rather the final year of my PhD scholarship, which may not be the same thing -- and so keeping track of everything I need to do is going to be critical. I've been looking for something like Things for ages, actually. Nearly all of this type of software seem to be based on Getting Things Done (GTD), a system for task management which is hugely popular, at least among techie types. But I've never been able to wrap my head around it, it seems too strict and hierarchical. The applications designed to help you follow it seem just as bad -- you're forced to fill in a bunch of text boxes or select from drop menus or whatever, and it's all just too annoying for me.

That's why I like Things, so far -- you can fill out as little or as much info as you want for each task. The organisation of tasks is logical (at least to me), the interface is polished but unobtrusive and the program lightweight. It just gets out of the way and lets you get on with things. Apparently it does actually conform to GTD principles, but doesn't force you to follow it if you don't want to. The data is stored in an XML file so you can retrieve it if something happens. Tags are used throughout, which is a nice touch. Tasks can be organised by time priority (eg 'Today', 'Next') or as part of a larger project. When you've completed a task, you tick a box on its pane and it will eventually vanish out of sight into a log of completed tasks. It's probably not the place for detailed notes (I use VoodooPad for that) but works well for jotting down things you need to do, when you think of them.

Things is only a time-crippled beta at the moment, but I've found it to be completely stable (there are features which aren't implemented yet, however, such as collaboration with other Things users). I'll almost certainly be buying the full version when it's released; but I have to say the price seems a little steep at US$49 for what, after all, is not a huge program. Being able to get things done is probably worth that; but I'd rather pay US$39, which is the price you can get it for if you sign up to their newsletter before 31 January (which I did a while back and haven't received a single email yet). Hopefully this doesn't sound like an ad (NB: I am not connected with Cultured Code in any way), but perhaps there are some Mac users out there who need task management as much as I do right now -- if so, Things is worth looking at.

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6 thoughts on “Things

  1. If you are looking for a web-based task management application that runs well on safari and firefox on the mac, i'd recommend Intervals. I'm one of the main developers on it, so i'm biased, but it does a great job at collaborative task management. It also has time tracking capabilities so you can run reports to see how much time you are spending on each task.

    If your needs are simply to get things done, there are many apps you could choose from. But if you are looking for task-based workflow and feedback, try something like Intervals.

  2. Post author

    Well, that does look like an ad, but since you're candid about it and it's not a spam, I'll let it pass! Intervals looks like a fine product, but it's massive overkill for me -- I don't need reports, invoices, etc. Things is about the right level for me. Also I tend to be wary of web-based apps; I like something that can work offline or on a degraded network connection. Of course, they have their pluses, especially for cross-platform work. Anyway, it's horses for courses.

  3. Post author

    I haven't -- it looks quite nice (and Australian, I see!), but it's also a web-based service. It actually has tools for offline use which answers that objection, but there are other reasons why I'd rather avoid a webapp for such things.

  4. Jakob

    Healthy Caution^H^H^H^H Paranoia, Brett? Some people's todo lists can never be too secure...

    *Loo Roll
    *Make photocopies before returning library books
    *Steal nuclear weapon, cause panic thru fear of knock-out blow

  5. Post author

    Well, there's a bit of that, I guess (NB. I'm not planning to steal a nuclear weapon!) though it's really just the principle that it's my data, it belongs to me and nobody else should have any control over it -- unless there's something in it for me. In this case, cross-platform web-access is not something I need. But in the case of something like LibraryThing, I gain from the social networking (eg suggesting books or authors I might like, based on similar libraries to my own), so I'm happy to give them data on all the books I own and buy.

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