11 January 2008

Things: the Ultimate Todo/GTD App?

I've finally struck gold when it comes to a todo list/GTD app! I've recently switched to a new Mac app called Things, and I couldn't be happier. Finally, a system that works the way I do, is fast, looks nice, and has everything I need. Things is produced by Cultured Code, who also happen to make the excellent Xyle Scope product.

For the longest time, I used Backpack to manage my todo lists, and I've worked in a semi GTD way. I originally chose Backpack as it was relatively simple, I was using it for other things, and it provided access to my lists anywhere I had access to the 'net. When I was working at Adobe, and had many computers, plus my home machines, this was valuable. But, I disdained having to always keep a browser tab open for it, and have it mixed in with other browser use. I started working on an Apollo app to have a dedicated system for it, but that was in the early days of Apollo when the HTML view was buggy and prevented this app from working effectively. Along came Packrat and solved it, making a dedicated Backpack app, as well as providing offline storage, and much faster access. Yea! I still use this combo today, and that will be the subject of an upcoming post. But, alas, I was not happy with my todo system.

Now that I'm using essentially a single machine, and I wanted further speed for this commonly used app, as well as a better overall functionality, I started looking. This was stimulated when I saw Anxiety, which was a nice HUD implementation of a display for your iCal todos, which I'd been thinking about using to sync to my phone. I switched and tried it a while. Not bad, but definitely some issues (Anxiety was a pure viewer (you can add items) - you can't re-order, it doesn't pay attention to priority, and so on). But I'm babbling, get on with it right?

I found out about Things, I believe via Twitter I think. I watched the screencast, which starts a bit slow, but is a good display of the app. What immediately attracted me was the "Today" view, and it's separation from Next, as well as the abilities to tag, to postpone (with a timered re-add/check for re-add), and the whole Someday system.

I had been organizing my stuff more manually into a "to do today" list, and everything else. It was actually somewhat tedious to manage in Backpack, until they added dragging between lists. But still, Things just does it naturally and really well. Simple buttons to move things back and forth between Today and Next, or you can drag. Also, it pays attention to due dates on tasks, and automatically moves them into Today if they are due today.

Also, I really like the Areas of Responsibility and the Projects. I use Areas heavily, and Projects much less, but they are both useful and distinct. In general I organize all my different "work" items into areas (by client or project, or various other ways), and my personal stuff is area-less, with some exceptions. The Areas show up as distinct lists, or as separate lists in the Next and Today views. I could tell you more, but just check out the web site and/or the screencast.

So, what about web/network storage, and access from multiple machines? Nope, Things doesn't have this (yet?). Hasn't bothered me a bit though. It is an extremely rare day that I don't use Packrat to for Backpack, and with my single computer setup now, I just have much less need. Things will supposedly have some Export options later, and it's data is stored in an easily accessible and readable XML file, so I could create a simple solution for read-only data if I wanted to at least have it on the web, but I just haven't had the need or desire. The app itself works so darn well, that this aspect has barely even been on my radar.

I've looked at a variety of other apps and solutions over the last couple years, but hands down, Things is the best.


Grace said...

I'm responding because of your Eugene location - I'm looking for folks interested in some kind of GTD network/support in the Eugene OR area...mostly because I'm a lone GTD user having to work with system-less fly-by-seat-of-pants types and I dream of working with people who CAPTURE and PROCESS consistently (read AT ALL)...I feel tons of support via internet but would like local connections as well. Any interest??

Chris said...

Grace, if you did a meetup or something, I'd consider attending. However, I'm not super hardcore about GTD. It's probably the basis of my approach, but I am not generally concerned with other's uptake (in team environments I tend to be more focused on Agile methodologies and such). But, if you do set something up, let me know. Maybe check for GTD on meetup.com as well. Or, maybe Facebook. Either way, if you set it up, let me know. I'm also generally interested in finding other folks who might be tech oriented in the Eugene area.

Grace said...

Thanks, will do. And if anybody else out there hears this "message in a bottle" and feels mutual, pls respond and/or pass along...