Things made it to its first release a couple of days ago. Things is competing with OmniFocus and every other GTD application for the Mac. It has a good chance of conquering a big chunk of the market. The reason: Things looks good, has a very well balanced feature set and never intrudes. It's also totally not complicated.What would people need most in a To-Do manager? Getting Things Done (GTD) compliance? Or just the right features to actually use the software and be able to manage tasks and responsibilities? One category of people will insist on GTD compliance. They believe the hype despite of the fact that we don’t need a crystal ball to know that in a couple of years some study will tell us GTD was useful, but not as useful as the GTD gurus would made us believe today.
Another category of people just wants to move on with their lives and be able to create some kind of order in the chaos of yellow stickies at the sides of their computer monitors, the loose leafs in their agendas, etc. They want a bit more than a simple list manager, but not a heavyweight GTD application.
In my eyes, Things got the second group’s needs met in a grand way. The application interface is dead-easy and very nicely designed—Cultured Code also develops the excellent Xyle Scope Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) editor / verification program)—and it has a nice Quick Entry HUD type of dialogue that allows you to enter notes quickly.
Integration with other applications is somewhat too simple in my opinion: it all happens through either the Quick Entry dialogue and you copying and pasting the text, or through the Services menu. The latter method is a bit more tedious to use, because it requires an extra step to a menu, but it has a bit more control over which text gets where in the note, and Services can be found in practically all Mac OS X applications.
Things keeps things simpleNot having a third and a fourth and a Nth method to enter text into Things can be viewed upon as not creating overload too—additional ways must be assigned a keystroke, which you must learn…
In Things, you can organise your notes using Tags (nesting is possible), Projects and Areas of Responsibility. The latter is great when you have ongoing tasks that don’t fit into a project but that will get you somewhere nevertheless. An example may be: taking better care of the dog.
Tags show only when it’s relevant, i.e. when you have assigned them. They can be used to sort notes, and parent tags can be used to group tagged items. Very neat, very easy to grasp and start using.
Synchronisation is exemplary with Things. iCal is covered, and so is the iPhone.
Personally, I don’t care much for GTD applications or To-Do managers, but for Things I’m making an exception. I usually find it easier to rapidly scribble my thoughts on paper on my desk, but lately I have started to throw away some of these pages and snippets by accident, and when that happens, it hurts, because there’s no way I can remember what I jotted down in a hurry. Was it important? Was it perhaps the first sentence of the next Nobel-prize winning novel? I’ll never know.
So I’m changing my habits and have Things running all the time. I’ve tried that before with OmniFocus—OmniFocus being so feature-rich that I thought it must be better—but I gave up. OmniFocus is great, but not for me. So far, I have not given up on Things. Given some time to getting used to not using my fountain pen and scribble urge, I think Things is going to be running a long time…
Oh, and by the way, Things notes can be shared too. You can add team mates and share notes with them. Not useful if you’re alone, but if you work in small groups, it can be an efficiency booster.