Task manager The Hit List

Karelia Software’s “The Hit List” is a GTD app, a shopping list or a database to collect your thoughts and ideas. It has all the features to make managing your time quick and easy. It comes in two flavours: Mac and iOS, with the iOS Universal version delivering a unique user experience on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Finally, Karelia Software has its own synchronisation server, just like OmniFocus and Things.

Lists are at the core of The Hit List. That’s why you can use the app as a shopping list manager just as effectively and efficiently as a task planner. Features include tasks and sub-tasks, a Today List, powerful filters for getting rid of distractions and focus on what matters, an Upcoming List for anything that isn’t meant to start today, and context and ordinary Tags to group similar tasks. The Hit List is the only task manager that offers you a Card view, which allows you to focus on one thing at a time.

the hit list on ipad
The Hit List on the iPad

Start and Due Dates allow you to schedule tasks for when they become relevant. Repeating Tasks round up its capabilities for task management. On the iPad, cards are accessed by tapping a task. The task card then slides open and you get a large Notes field into which you can drag images, type text, etc. — at least, if you have an iPad Pro or an iPad that supports multitasking.

The Hit List on iPad

On the iPad, The Hit List is a wonderful experience. The interface is really nice, yet unobtrusive. Everything is in its right place and gets out of the way if you don’t need it. If you have an Apple Watch, you can even see the status of today’s tasks from the convenience of your wrist. On my iPad Air 2, I could swipe down from the top of the screen to see the Today widget for The Hit List in Notification Center. The widget updates in realtime and gives you a quick overview of what’s due today.

Editing tasks is easy and quick. There’s no edit mode to switch in and out of. Tapping a task instantly slides open the task card and you can start typing. You adjust start and due dates using an integrated calendar. At first I had some difficulty finding the repetition and priority controls, because they’re hidden out of sight until you need them. Tapping an expansion triangle — much like on the Mac — lets you access these features in the task card. That same task card also gives immediate access to the creation of subtasks, which is very intuitive.

The hit list mac interface
The Hit List on the Mac

Via a sharing extension I could select text and URLs in other apps, and use them as notes attached to a new task that’s automatically prepared by The Hit List extension. There’s also an extensive URL Scheme for creating tasks available.

By trying out the Mac and iPad version, I could also test the synchronisation service, which is free to subscribe. It’s as fast as Things’ sync service and that’s very fast indeed.

Whenever I was using The Hit List on the iPad, I couldn’t stop thinking I must be missing something — something more complicated, requiring more steps to take. But in reality, your core activity in The Hit List is centralised and fully concentrated on the task card. Simple as pie and beautifully designed.

One thing you can’t do with the iPad version, which you can on the Mac is create filtered views. For people with a lot of tasks to manage, that might be handy than the basic search feature currently available.

The Hit List on the Mac

On the Mac, The Hit List offers an ad hoc search feature (Filter) as well as the ability to create Smart Folders. Those are quite powerful. For example, on the Mac you can set an estimated time for a task and one of the criteria for creating Smart Folders is exactly that. Whereas filters only work with tags or text, you can create a Smart Folder containing only those tasks that have an estimated time of one hour or more, combined with other search criteria. The possibilities are endless.

On the Mac, The Hit List is just as simple to use as on the iPad. There are a few extra features, such as the Smart Folder capability I just mentioned, but they don’t add to the complexity of the app. The app supports drag and drop between lists and from other apps. You can drag files to a task’s note area — an image, for example — and double-clicking that file will open it in its native app — QuickLook isn’t supported oddly enough. On the Mac you can also track your time. If you set an estimated time for a task, then the timer can be set to show you the remaining time allocated to the job or just the elapsed time spent on it. It’s The Hit List’s flirtation with project management…

hit list timer

The Hit List on the Mac can also be set to synchronise with OS X’s Reminders app and Gestimer if you have that on your system (I have, and it works fabulous!). Card view on the Mac is a separate view with the list view giving you access to tasks in a sort of outline arrangement.

However, no matter how enthusiastic I am about The Hit List’s capabilities, simplicity, user-friendliness and power under the hood, I did find the interface a bad fit for a Mac running El Capitan. The clean and modern interface of the iPad is replaced by an interface that seems to match an OS X system of a few years back. For example, the task outline view has a lined Post-It yellow background that harkens back to a legal pad. The icons not yet have the “flat” design that fit in with El Capitan, etc.

It’s mildly disturbing and if you’re really desperate for a good task manager, you’ll quickly learn to ignore it, but if Karelia Software would give the app a more modern design with its next update or upgrade, I believe nobody would complain.

That’s also my only criticism of The Hit List. Feature-wise and conceptually I think the app is even better than Things. In some respects it’s a lot better and it’s a lot more user-friendly and intuitive than OmniFocus while it has most of its features.

The Hit List for Mac costs approx. €46.00. The iPad (universal iOS) version is about €20.00.

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