In my never ending search for the ideal GTD system, I’ve tried out dozens of apps for both the Mac and iPhone. Early in my search, I came across The Hit List, and found myself very impressed with its stylish but casual interface and its complete, customizable feature set. Like many other users, I patiently waited for the promised iPhone companion app, only to realize that development on the whole project had apparently come to a halt. Now, over two years later, developer Andy Kim has finally released version 1.0 of The Hit List for Mac, and the much anticipated iPhone app. Was it worth the wait? Read on to find out!
Though the iPhone app could be used on its own, The Hit List was originally a Mac app, and the two work best together, so I’m mostly going to look at the iPhone app as a companion to the desktop version.
Like its main competitors, Things and OmniFocus, The Hit List is a fully-featured, powerful GTD app with support for multiple lists, tagging, priorities, and contexts. The iPhone app boasts just as many features and a similarly straight-forward layout. Lets take a look at using The Hit List for iPhone:
When you add a task, you can choose how much information you want to add. By default, the add task screen only shows a field for the name of the task, while clicking the down arrow reveals more options. You can select tags, start date, due date and priority, and decide where to file your task.
Unlike a lot of other GTD apps for iPhone and Mac (I’m looking at you, Things), The Hit List allows you to create subtasks. From the Add Task dialog, you can add a subtask by clicking the little plus sign at the lower right hand corner of the screen, or by clicking the regular Add Task button when editing a task.
I like the way The Hit List manages subtasks: when you’re viewing a list of tasks, those with subtasks associated with them have the number of subtasks listed, but they only display when you select the task. In the time-based views (“Today” and “Upcoming”), subtasks are displayed with the parent task.
Like its desktop companion, The Hit List for iPhone gets the little tihngs right. For example, when you add a start date or due date, you select from a calendar instead of a spin wheel. It’s a simple, obvious feature, and I’m surprised more apps don’t take this approach. When you’re creating a to-do list, you’re generally adding due dates in the near future, so it’s not really necessary to be able to easily change the year or month, and I would rather see a visual representation of upcoming dates.
From the main screen of The Hit List, you can filter apps either by list or by tag, or pull down to reveal a search bar. Clicking Edit allows you to manage lists or tags, letting you set different Sort preferences for each list or tag.
When you’re looking at a list of tasks, you can use the Edit button to bulk delete, reorder, or move tasks to a different list. This abiltiy to bulk edit tasks is another obvious, useful feature that is missing in similar apps.
The Hit List Sync is Not Free. I get the feeling a lot of people are going to stop reading right here.
If you want to sign up for the Hit List Sync, it’s going to cost you $1.99/month or $19.99/year. Maybe a year ago this wouldn’t have been surprising, but Potion Factory timed this poorly. With the annoucnement of iCloud, featuring 5GB of free storage, and the multitude of apps that sync freely through Dropbox, paying to sync your iPhone with your Mac is starting to look like a hard sell.
So what do you get for your money? A sync solution that works quite well. Currently, the competition isn’t quite up to the task: Things only syncs via Wi-Fi, with a cloud sync solution still in beta testing, and OmniFocus only syncs via Bonjour or MobileMe, or for free via WebDAV (which I’ve always found slow and sometimes tricky to configure). So is a fast, functional cloud sync solution worth $1.99/month? In my opinion, it is — for now. Come fall, when iOS5 users will be able to freely sync iCal in the cloud, it will be hard to justify, and when Things comes out with its own free cloud sync, that $1.99 will be looking mighty steep.
If you use The Hit List on your Mac, and want to be able to take your tasks with you on the go, you can still sync your tasks via Wi-Fi and iCal. I found a comprehensive write-up on how to sync The Hit List wth your iPhone using an app called 2do. It’s a bit involved, but I tried this solution a couple of months ago and it worked well.
Once iOS5 and iCloud are released, you’ll be able to sync your tasks from The Hit List right to iCal as Reminders.
I feel the same way about The Hit List for iPhone as I do about its Mac companion: I don’t really want to like it, but I do. I don’t appreciate the lack of support, communication and updates from the developer (which have inspired the label “abandonware”), but The Hit List fits the way I work. I love using apps that come with the promise of updates and improvements by developers that communicate with their users, but for me, The Hit List got it right the first time. The iPhone app is nothing revolutionary, but it is well done and works perfectly as a companion to the desktop version. The price is high (though not as high as OmniFocus) and the sync fee is hard to swallow, but I know a lot of people that are willing to pay for a solution that works. For me, The Hit List works.
I’d love to hear some thoughts on this topic, as I know a lot of Appstorm readers count themselves amoung The Hit List’s abandonned early users. How important is the relationship between user and devleoper to you? Can two years of abandonment be forgotten with a shiny new app? Are we all taking this a bit too personally? Let us know in the comments!