Things Review: Getting Things Done With Style

A
Things

Cost:

$49.95 (USD)

By:

Cultured Code
- Beautiful Interface
- Easily organize your projects and actions - Includes default lists like "Someday" and "Today"
- A couple view hitches but nothing major
- Interface can feel bulky sometimes
- The price can be a tad expensive

things1The Mac platform is no stranger to applications that handle your To-Do lists.  Apps like iCal and Mail “which ship with every Mac” come with built in To-Do list features.  A common misconception is that using these types of To-Do lists are the easiest way to go, however there is a much more useful way to organize your life and Get Things Done.  Introducing Things: A way of getting your stuff done with style.

Getting Things Done

Let’s start off with a quick overview of David Allen’s system of Getting Things Done.  It all starts with the idea of getting everything out of your head, and onto paper.  This way, you don’t have to worry about holding every little detail in your head, which in turn will give you less stress.  Once you’ve downloaded the information into one easily accessible source, you now can organize your information into projects and assign contexts.  

What are projects and contexts?  Projects are tasks that require multiple steps.  For instance: The task of Painting the garage requires you to get paint, then Organize the garage for painting, then after that - Start painting the first coat.  The project is called “Paint the garage” while the actions (the steps or to-dos associated with this project) are “get paint” and such.

Contexts are the tactile and physical aspects of your projects and actions.  Every project and action should have a context.  Organizing your projects by context is one of Getting Things Done or GTD‘s greatest features.  Using the same example, a couple of contexts for this project might be Home or Errands.

Things’s Interface

Things Main Interface

The developers of Things certainly made a huge effort on making the app’s interface as streamlined and as beautiful as possible.  Using the iTunes-like sidebar along with the iPhoto-like toolbar at the bottom makes Things blend right in with your iLife apps.  The interface is divided into 2 parts.  The first part “on the left” is used for navigation, while the second part “on the right” is where you view and edit all of your actions.

The Sidebar

focusinbox-20At the very top of the sidebar you’ll notice it says collect, followed by an item called the Inbox.  The inbox is where you download all of the information from your head and into Things.  Don’t worry about projects or contexts just yet.  You just get it out and into the Inbox.  Clicking the “New” toolbar item or pressing Command + N makes a new action.

Action Details

Once you’ve done that, double click on an action to see its details.  At the top, next to the check box is where the title of the action is located.  Below that is a section for your contexts “in the form of tags” and under that is where you can add any notes that are associated with this action.  At the bottom of the action is where you can assign a due date as well as a spot where you can tell Things when to move this action into the “Today” section (more on that later).

Below the Inbox in the sidebar is the section entitled “Focus”.  This is where Things really shines.  The “Focus” section is divided into 5 parts:

focustoday-20The first part is called “Today”.  In “Today”,  Things allows you to create your own “agenda” for the day by devoting a special  list for just the items that you want or need to do today.  

focusnextactions-20Below that is the “Next” part.  Here is where Things lets you review your up-coming projects and actions. (The screenshot above is of the “Next” part.)  Please note that items in either the “Scheduled” or “Someday” lists will not be shown in the “Next” list.

focustickler-20Under that is the “Scheduled” part.  If you ever want Things to remind you about a certain project or action in the future, this is the place to go.  Drag an item into the Scheduled list to assign a day when you want Things to remind you to review a certain project or action. 

focusmaybe-20Beneath the “Scheduled” list is the “Someday” list.  If you ever have an action or project that you want to do someday, but can’t really decide on a certain time to review or actually do it, put it in the “Someday” list.

focustodo-1-16Finally, in the Focus section we have the “Projects” list.  Simply put – it displays all of your projects including the non-active ones.  Non-active in this case means a project that has been moved into the “Someday” list or is at least not pressed to be completed.  Below this, Things automatically displays your active projects for easy navigation.

focustodo-2-16The next section is called “Areas” or Areas of Responsibility.  Think of these as folders for your projects.  Using the example above, one might create an area called “Garage” and put the “Paint the Garage” project inside it.  It’s just another way of organizing your projects and actions.

The bottom of the sidebar is home to two items:

focuslogbook-20The “Logbook” is where Things puts all of your completed items.  You can tell things to log completed items automatically, or manually do it by hitting the proper toolbar item.

focustrashempty-20The Trash should be the most recognizable and understandable element of the sidebar.  Think of it as the trash in your dock.  If you delete an item, it will go inside the trash.  When you want to free up space, control click it and choose empty trash.

The Action Toolbar

This toolbar is found in the main content view at the bottom.  The “New” and “Edit” toolbar items should be self explanatory.

The “Today” toolbar item adds the currently selected action or project to your “Today” list.

The “File” toolbar item brings down a sheet that allows you to move the currently selected action(s) into one of your projects, schedule it for later review, add it to the “Someday” list, or add it to one of your “Areas of Responsibility”.  It pretty much allows you to do everything without dragging and dropping an item.

The “Quick Entry” toolbar item brings up the quick entry box (talked about later on).

The “Tags” toolbar item brings up a dashboard that allows you to organize your tags aka “Contexts”.  Here you can nest contexts for instance: Mac > Online > Blog.

The Quick Entry Box

picture-42

Assigned to a shortcut key value that you can customize in Things’s preferences, you can bring up this box to quickly add an action into your inbox from any application “as long as Things is already open”.  Simply fill it out and hit save.

A Quick Walkthrough Tutorial

Let’s walk through an example of how to use Things starting from when you first download the app to using it in your daily life.

You’ve downloaded Things, and you’re ready to embark on your journey through stress-free productivity!  You are now ready to pour all of your current projects and ideas into Things to fill up your empty inbox.

Choose Inbox at the top of the sidebar and press Command + N to create a new item.  Once you’ve filled out the title, hit tab to move on to adding tags aka contexts.  Already created contexts autocomplete for quicker item creation.  If the default contexts don’t suffice, just enter a new one and hit return.  Feel free to add a due date, however the best thing to do right now, is to get everything out of your head and onto “paper” as it were.

picture-15When you’re finished putting everything in the Inbox, think about which actions are related.  If there is more than one step to an action, it’s now time to turn it into a project.  Choose the New Project button in the bottom toolbar.  It’s the second one in from the left that looks like a book in case you get confused with the New Action button to the left of it.  Creating a new project is just like creating a new action.  The only differences is that you can drag, add or create your your actions inside of them.

Now that Things has all of your information organized into projects, it’s time to use Things’s Focus lists to help you get these items done.  

Click on any action or project and choose the Today toolbar item at the bottom.  That item has now been added to your agenda for today.  Another way to have Things automatically do this for you is to schedule an event to be reviewed.  To do this, drag an item onto the Scheduled list in the sidebar.  Choose a date or a length of time and Things will move that event into Today when it is time to do so.

picture-24

There are always those tasks that you would like to do, but don’t really need to finish them at a certain time or feel like doing them now.  Things has a list for this too called Someday.  Just drag your actions and projects into this list, and you will never be bothered about them unless you decide to view this list.

 What happens every day

Everything is added and organized, so what do you have to do now?  Click on the Next list in the sidebar.  This is where you’ll usually spend most of your time.  Organized by project, Things automatically puts your up-and-coming items in this list for you.  All you have to do is check it, and check off your tasks.

picture-35Once you’ve completed a task, click the check box to the left of completed task or project causing Things to gray it out.  When you want to clear out all of your competed items, click the Log Completed toolbar item at the bottom to clean them out and put them in the Log Book located in the bottom left-hand corner of Things’s main window.

Performance and Other Information

Things is required to be run on a system with Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later.  Although speed will vary depending on your processing power and memory storage capacity, Things runs extremely quickly even with a very large and extensive library.  Things has just reached the magic 1.0 mark releasing it from beta just recently at MacWorld `09.  I’ve barely run into any bugs or hitches when using Things, and if there were any, they weren’t huge – a few view refreshing problems, but none that could be fixed by clicking again.

I’ve found Things to be very good at what it does.  There isn’t any extra features or fluff that doesn’t really need to be there.

One might compare Things to an app like OmniFocus.  Both have their strengths and weaknesses.  Both apps are based on the GTD system, but go about them in different ways.  Things is more visual, while OmniFocus is more list-oriented.

Price and Availability 

Things is available at http://culturedcode.com/things/ for the price of $49.95 (USD).  Be sure to check out Things’s product page for more details.

Comments

58 Responses to “Things Review: Getting Things Done With Style”

  1. Question on January 27th, 2009 6:38 am

    Do you actually do something, apart from reviewing “Getting Things Done” apps ? If not, these are probably pointless…

  2. Greg Holdsworth on January 27th, 2009 7:40 am

    Awesome app for GTD… clean, simple and functional. The UI is very nice and the app doesn’t over-deliver.

  3. Tim Stringer on January 27th, 2009 12:00 pm

    Things combined with the GTD methodology works beautifully in my experience. I’m more productive and organized than I’ve ever been. I also use the Things iPhone application regularly and appreciate being able to take my lists with me and the ability to add items as I think of them. I’m hoping they’ll add a web app at some point (similar to Evernote) and the ability to sync between multiple computers (Mac and Windows would be ideal).

  4. A Review of Things by Cultured Code ? | Clay Carson on January 27th, 2009 3:48 pm

    [...] you haven’t checked out Things, head over and read a pretty detailed review by MacApper. From their, go to the Cultured Code site and try the 30 day [...]

  5. Sven Fechner on January 27th, 2009 6:51 pm

    Things hits the sweet spot of keeping you in control of your actions, commitments and project and not overwhelming you with endless features and a overloaded UI. I switch from OmniFocus to Things for this exact reason. Together with it iPhone/Ipod Touch companion, it really keeps you focused also when on the road.

    There are still some features missing and the team of CultureCode seems to pretty committed to address these by at the same time retain the simplicity of the application. One of the missing features is syncing Things across multiple Macs, but there are good work-arounds using Dropbox or MobileMe’s iDisk – check this tutorial to make Things sync across multiple machine: http://tinyurl.com/dea63a

    Also to mention: There is great support and a lively community on Things. The Wiki and Forum at the Cultured Code page holds real gems.

  6. Steve on January 29th, 2009 3:41 am

    I have been using Things since early beta and it has continued to impress as more features are released. The developers know how to add functionality without a bloated UI.

    I was happy to pay the price as it has truly helped my productivity level.

  7. Barfney on March 5th, 2009 5:02 pm

    This looks like a good idea, no doubt.
    But $49.95 is a bit steep really…
    Ten to fifteen bucks cheaper and I might bite, and probably a whole bunch others.

  8. Snouter Jones on March 11th, 2009 10:30 am

    Price is just too high. Nice app otherwise, I’ve run the timed demo and like it a lot, just not $49 a lot.

  9. Rich on March 18th, 2009 4:49 pm

    So, how does this compare with OmniFocus, the current king of Mac GTD software? I notice it does do iPhone sync. OmniFocus is pretty good, I’d like to hear a comparison.

  10. prix on May 12th, 2009 10:02 am

    It’s a nice looking and overall well working tool, but comparing with the tools on the market – MUCH TOO EXPENSIVE. EasyTask is a third of the price (iPhone programm is free), not so good looking like Things but works well in every day life. So for Things:
    Look: *****
    Functionality: ****
    Price/Effort: *

  11. Robert on May 26th, 2009 8:47 pm

    i want to buy it. but $49? way too expensive.

  12. GTD Tools die ich nutze | flexiabler Titel on June 1st, 2009 11:19 am

    [...] einfacher und mächtiger “Aufgaben Verwalter”. Macapper Review Things for [...]

  13. luke the earth on June 9th, 2009 3:35 am

    As a student, I say I love Things very much. It helps me out in many works and projects very effective and easy. I’m now using it everyday on my Ipod Touch 2nd gen. and on my Mac.

    Compare to OmniFocus? Things looks a lot easier while provide you with necessary features. I love the Someday box, Today box, and Inbox box of Things. But more importantly, I love how both Things on Mac and iPod Touch sync with each other EVEN WITHOUT wireless network.

    49$ isn’t that costly when compare to what I get in return. Very good spending of money.

  14. Trent on July 19th, 2009 10:03 pm

    Is Things perfect? No. Are there things about it I would change? Yes. All in all, this is THE most important app…Mac or iPhone that I use. I have tried so many GTD apps and add-ins and this is, lights out, the best one I have found.

    Determining whether or not $49 is too high, is really up to the user. Personally, I feel there is way more value in Things than I would get out of holding on to my $49 and I believe there is a market out there who agrees. If you are considering Things, I would recommend giving it an honest test drive. I firmly believe you will agree. You may not like parting with the dough, but likely will, because in this day and time, time is money.

  15. Rich on July 19th, 2009 10:08 pm

    The major feature of a competitor, OmniFocus, which I use (and I don’t work for them) that I don’t see mentioned here, is that OFocus syncs with my iPhone. A contextual to-do list is not that useful if you cannot take it with you, and having to print out your lists each day sounds a bit of a PITA. Does Things sync with iPhone or blackberry or anything like that?

  16. Review: Things at Under The Bridge on September 30th, 2009 3:09 am

    [...] popping up all over the web (just check the product pages above on the right for lots of examples, a particularly good one here) and we figured hey, if the desktop and iPhone versions actually worked well together, this could [...]

  17. Mike on November 7th, 2009 3:50 pm

    For everyone who is having doubts (as the interface looks so simple): THINGS is most definitely a must have.

    It works flawlessly with iCal and I find it very nice that you have the option to create different projects to which you can assign reminders and tasks. I wish it would also be available on Windows, so I could use the software at work as well.

  18. Greg May on November 16th, 2009 11:52 pm

    I bought it but have not fully implemented it. To me, the biggest missing feature is saved searches. While it is fairly easy to filter your lists on the
    mac, it is a pain on the iPhone. Saved searches that sync to the phone would really make the iPhone aOremore useful.

  19. Mel on December 23rd, 2009 12:36 pm

    Not only is Things too expensive for me at $49, but if you want to use it with the iPhone app as well, you’ll also shell out separately for that. The funny thing is, I wouldn’t flinch at a $20 pricetag and would probably recommend it to everyone I know. But the price is really getting me.

  20. work from home stuffing envelopes on January 28th, 2010 11:07 am

    I also purchased the iphone but i really like it though because of the conventionality and it boosts features that most phones do not even come close to touching. I always say there is an app for everything except to scratch yourback. The internet on the iphone is also outstanding and I find I am able to even use it in class to take notes.

  21. CHAD on February 26th, 2010 9:57 pm

    Researching GTD (management) software: Currently, I have narrowed it to four (OmniFocus, Pagico Professional, Merlin 2.7, & Things). I have the trial version of Things, which I enjoy. However, I “prefer” having Gnatt view and reminders with any manual dragging. I, otherwise, like Things, especially considering I will use the iPhone capability ALOT.

    Since I am new to Things, I welcome any feedback regarding my two “preferences”.

    Thanks,
    Chad

  22. Rich on February 27th, 2010 12:22 pm

    @CHAD: I use Omnifocus (OF). I think OF is like democracy: it is the worst method possible, except all the others. Things that keep me from buying something else:
    1) I have multiple computers to keep synchronized, plus an iPhone, and OF will sync all of them automatically, consistently and accurately.
    2) It’s actively developed, although I’m not sure they know what to do next with it.
    3) It’s reasonably priced IMO, although the iPhone app is a separate purchase

    Downsides:
    1) There is no calendaring capability, no alarms and only a clunky way to tie in to iCal
    2) It is kind of tough to keep a running to-do list that you keep procrastinating, which is realistically the way a lot of my GTD ends up working.
    3) There is no Web 2.0 online component thingy. Might be a good thing.

    It’s been a while since I looked at Things, I’ll have to revisit it.

  23. JJ on March 5th, 2010 6:09 pm

    I use PI. Tried to love things – the interface is nice but:
    1. no landscape in iphone app
    2. no ota sync
    3. no alerts / times
    4. been no substantial update for a long time
    5. expensive to get the desktop and iphone app. toodledo.com offers a free account with much of the same functionality.

    PI offers:
    1. landscape
    2. OTA sync to toodledo and google calendar (and then to ical with spanning sync)
    3. alerts, times etc and can easily move a task to the calendar
    4. seems to be updated regularly with new features but I have just got it recently so not sure what it will be like in the future.
    5. costs $10.00 and you have a gtd and calendar app for the price of things. toodledo is free so a pretty cost effective investment!

  24. Tweetomatic Profiteer on March 9th, 2010 3:57 pm

    Robert, $49 is too expensive for You ? Are you kidding ?
    It is really good think and worth $49!
    Best Regards!

  25. Tweetomatic Profiteer on March 10th, 2010 8:23 am

    Robert, $49 is too expensive for You ? Are you kidding ?
    It is really good think and worth $49!
    Best Regards!

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    There is no Web 2.0 online component thingy.
    Might be really good thing.
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  29. Mac+iPhone App Review: Things | MacTalk Australia on April 30th, 2010 5:14 am

    [...] Best of Show award in its release year (2009) and glowing press from sites like Lifehack and MacApper. The hype, I'm excited to say, is accurate. Things are good… both of [...]

  30. 6 Essential Steps for Multitasking and Getting Things Done | Bitmag on January 12th, 2011 9:06 am

    [...] You most likely have other projects already going on. So, instead of thinking big, try to break them into tasks and milestones. This will make it much easier to achieve success. Just like in my previous article, I have a suggestion of an app I use and find a perfect fit to keep track of it all. For breaking projects down into tasks, I use Things for both Mac and the iPhone (iPad version available too). You can find a very extensive review of the Mac app here. [...]

  31. A Review of Things by Cultured Code | Clay Carson's Blog on January 20th, 2011 5:09 pm

    [...] A Review of Things by Cultured CodeBeta testing for “Things” had been out for some time before version 1.0 was released during the week of Macworld. While testing Things, I had began to work my way off of using pen and paper to-do lists and moved everything to the computer. With the Things iPhone app and simple syncing, it was made possible that I had my to-do list with me everywhere I went. [...]

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