The Hit List for iPhone: Worth the Wait?

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!

Introduction

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:

Adding Tasks

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.

Adding a task to The Hit List

Adding a task to The Hit List

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.

I find it strange that more apps don't support sub-tasks

I find it strange that more apps don't support sub-tasks

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.

I find this a much better interface for choosing dates than the spin wheel

I find this a much better interface for choosing dates than the spin wheel

Managing Tasks

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.

Editing a task list

Editing a task list

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.

Sync

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.

An Alternative

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.

Conclusion

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!


Summary

The Hit List for iPhone is the fully-featured companion to the popular Mac GTD app, featuring support for tagging, multiple lists, hierarchical tasks and due date management.

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  • Vlad

    Different web services can offer a great number of various apps which can be used in a field one needs. For my apps I used (snappii.com) web service and truthly speaking I got pleasure. Did anybody have the similar experience? Unfortunately I’m not a programmer and find such services a real and probably a single low cost possibility how to make an iPhone app.

  • http://www.appforthat.de Julia Altermann

    Hi Tessa,

    thanks for referencing my article about the 2do / THL sync :) Glad it’s still of use, even after all this time.

    Since you tried it, you must have 2do as well. How does it compare – in your personal opinion – to THL?

    For my part, I’m madly in love with the THL desktop app, but I still like the 2do mobile app much much better, even though I’m using THL touch at the moment.

    I’d be really interested in your view of how the two stack up against each other.

    Thanks,
    Julia

  • Dexter

    Addition: OmniFocus recently added their Beta Cloud sync (currently free, doesn’t mean it will stay free in the future)

    I have been using THL Mac app for a long time and I waited patiently for the iPhone companion… I’m happy using it but I really don’t like the fact that there’s no free Wi-Fi sync at least…

  • http://www.richardholloway.co.uk Richard Holloway

    I can do practically the same things for free using GoTasks and Google Tasks (including notifications and sub tasks). Why would I pay for this?

  • http://www.potionfactory.com Andy Kim

    Hi Tessa,

    I’m glad to hear that you liked The Hit List for iPhone as well as the version for Mac. It was a lot of work finishing it and its custom built sync solution. There is a saying, “shipping a 1.0 product is not going to kill you, but it will try.” In my case I was shipping three 1.0 products at once, so you can imagine what I went through.

    If I was not communicative, please understand that it was only because I was so focused on coding. The truth is that I never stopped working on The Hit List.

    There are some pretty cool things coming up for the version 1.1s of both the Mac and the iPhone apps as well as an iPad version of The Hit List. Then I have some other neat things planned for the version 2s.

    I hope that you and your readers will continue to watch my progress in the times ahead.

    - Andy Kim (The guy who makes The Hit List)

    • mr.wu

      I was a really big fan of THL, but now I’m forced to use things, which I don’t like that much especially after the experience of using THL, just because things have iPhone, iPad apps and can sync between devices easier than THL. Why did u keep us waiting so long for iPhone app? When is the iPad companion coming out? If you solve the sycning problem for users as the article mentioned, and release iPad companion soon, THL will beat Things and Omnifocus just like that! and I’ll embrace THL again!

  • Stephen

    OmniFocus on Mac, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad syncs with MobileMe, Bonjour, OmniSync and WebDAV. Omni do not charge for any of these.

    One poster says “Addition: OmniFocus recently added their Beta Cloud sync (currently free, doesn’t mean it will stay free in the future)”

    It does actually; from the Omni web site, “There’s no charge to access your data or store files on the server. We may add additional for-pay services in the future, but they’ll be optional.” In other words, the sync service as currently provided will remain free.

    I have no connection with Omni at all other than as a satisfied and impressed user of their products. I have used the MobileMe sync since I got it for my iPod touch and recently switched to using the OmniSync given that Apple will be pulling the plug in the near(ish) future. Both sync methods are a doddle to configure and Omni’s customer service is absolutely superb.

  • Rohit

    I tried Hit List, Things, OmniFocus and Apiggo ToDo. In the end, settled for the whole ToDo package (Mac, iPhone, iPad) and ToDo Online syncing. Agreed that it doesn’t have the awesome UI as Things/Hit List, but it has one thing that was a deal-breaker for me. Push notifications on all three platforms! I want to be notified at the specified time that I have to do a certain thing. I don’t find it productive enough to open the app every now and then to see what todos I have.

    • mr.wu

      Good point!! Push notification should be a built-in function!

  • http://Productivemac.net Phillip Johns

    Are subtask really apart of GTD though? If I am not mistaken true GTD says that when you have more than two actionable task then that is a project. This is probably why the other apps do not have subtask. So in Omnifocus you would have a project Write Hit list Review with corresponding task of screenshots, etc. I use Omnifocus and am very happy with it and Omnifocus 2.0 might be out by the end of the year so it shall be interesting to see the new features.

  • Tim

    I have observed many people who use todo apps and GTD apps and I have noticed something very interesting… These people seem to spend more time organizing their todos than actually doing things that need to be done. It’s time people stopped making lists and started doing things instead.

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  • chris carter

    after a ton of time spent with Things, Omnifocus, and The Hit List, i went with The Hit List. The sync is killer fast, the keyboard controls and other details like them make for a super fast experience getting into your lists and entering data and getting out. I use several devices across the day and i love knowing all my stuff is synced so quickly and easily across all my Macs and iPhone.

    happy to spend the money on sync if its going to work that well. good luck to Andy Kim on development. the work that has gone into THL thus far has clearly been thoughtful and creative.

  • http://www.massagista.org Portal Massagista

    I’m happy using it but I really don’t like the fact that there’s no free Wi-Fi sync at least…

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