Things: An Intuitive Productivity Tool

It’s Productivity Week here at iPhone.AppStorm, and all week we’re going to have app reviews and how-tos, all based on getting things done. Plus, we’ll even pull some classic reviews out of the archives. Stay tuned all week!

If there is one absolutely necessary app I have to have on a fresh installation of iOS, it’s a powerful task manager. Noticeably missing from iOS as a native feature is the ability to create to-do lists, manage tasks and stay on top of your day-to-day schedule.

There is definitely no shortage of task managers and to-do apps available on the App Store. Apple is even planning their own Reminders offering that aims to do away with third-party apps like Things in the upcoming launch of iOS 5. However, a dedicated user base and a strong word-of-mouth reputation have urged us to see if Things really has what it takes to compete with the countless alternatives.

Getting Started

When Things first launches, you’re taken directly to the app’s main Lists screen. This gives you a simplified view of your Inbox (which stores to-dos not yet assigned to a folder) and a number of other folders that newly created to-dos can be assigned to. Among the default folders are Today, Next, Scheduled, Someday, Projects and Logbook.

View of the main Lists screen upon launching the app

View of the main Lists screen upon launching the app

The majority of the default folders are pretty straightforward. For example, Today displays to-dos you want to complete that day, Next displays the most urgent upcoming to-dos and Scheduled is for your to-dos set to start at a later date.

The Projects folder is a little less straightforward, but extremely useful. Projects are used to allow you to create tasks that require more than one step to accomplish. We will explore projects more in-depth below, but it is certainly a smooth implementation of a must-have feature that many of Thing’s competitors are lacking.

Creating to-dos

When inside the Things app you will pretty much always have access to creating a new task, which is referred to as a to-do, by tapping the small “+” icon in the bottom left corner of your screen.

Enter a title and tap the optional sections to add tags, notes, and a due date on the new to do screen

Enter a title and tap the optional sections to add tags, notes, and a due date on the new to do screen

Creating the to-do is as easy as entering a title and selecting which folder you want to place it. You can also, however, tap the Show Details tab to add optional tags, notes and a due date.  When setting a due date you can get more control over your Today folder by setting when exactly the to-do will appear in it. You can also assign the to-do to a folder by tapping the Create in tab and selecting your preference.

Creating projects is another welcomed aspect of Things that, for me, gave it just enough functionality to make it useful for larger, more in-depth tasks. You can create a project by tapping the Projects folder from the main Lists screen followed by the “+” sign in the bottom left corner. After creating a project, select it from the Projects screen. From there you can create to-dos within that newly created project the same way as described earlier, allowing you to create multiple to-dos for that one project.

View of multiple to-dos within a Project

View of multiple to-dos within a Project

The lack of organization among tasks involving long detailed steps is something that made me shy away from many other similar apps in the past and instead opt for a good old note taking app. However, ThingsProjects feature definitely provides a great alternative.

Exploring the Settings

A quick look over the Settings page of the app reveals more features that make Things an even more enticing task manager. The Manage Areas tab lets you create new custom folders.  You can also set time to review a notification for pending tasks, set which folders will push badge notifications and manage your logged tasks.

Manage your notification preferences and old logged to-dos from the General tab within Settings

Manage your notification preferences and old logged to-dos from the General tab within Settings

Price

Things isn’t really on the low end when it comes to price, coming in at $9.99. While there are certainly a bunch of cheaper apps on the App Store, a quick test drive of the alternatives proves you get what you pay for. We wouldn’t hesitate recommending it at $10, but also wouldn’t be surprised if adoption significantly increases if it drops a few dollars.

Comparison to Other Apps

It’s not secret there are hundreds, if not thousands of task manager and to-do list related apps available for iOS. There are scenarios where many of these apps shine, but the majority seem to lack the polish that has made Things the go-to app for so many.

It’s clear Things biggest competitor on the horizon is Apple’s own Reminders app slated to ship in iOS 5. While the reminders app clearly has a few tricks up its sleeve (location-based notifications), at this point it’s hard to tell if its first iteration will compete with Things on a day-to-day basis.

Conclusion

There are a lot of free and cheap to-do list and task manager apps available for the iPhone. Unfortunately, many of them have proven to be a frustrating experience and often either too overwhelming, or too lackluster in terms of features.

While the feature set and implementation of the app at this point was able to keep me satisfied, it was clear it lacked a number of the features that many of the more complex alternatives offer. However, these are also many of the features that often make these apps a frustrating experience, which made Things’ simplicity refreshing after an extended period of use.

Things seems to be a good alternative to the overly complicated by providing a nice balance of a clean, intuitive UI, and features that provide more than enough to get the task done.


Summary

Things is a powerful, yet simplistic and intuitive task manger and to-list app for iPhone.

8
  • SrTapir

    7.99$ for the iPhone version
    39,99€ for the Desktop version

    Too much for something that will be free with iOS 5, fully integrated with iCal and Apple devices, and will have full cloud support..

    I think 90% of the people needs something straightforward, easy, synced and cheap..

    Things seems a good app, but ultra-expensive..

    My opinion…

  • Sai

    Hi, I’ve been using Things both on my mac and iPhone for quite sometime and really like the ecosystem these apps provide. I cannot vouch for things iPhone just as a standalone to-do list manager, because I’ve been using it with the mac version to implement GTD for myself. The best part of this application is its simplicity and the UI (though not as good as the mac or iPad versions). It’s really satisfying to do a weekly review on the mac version and tick things off when completed on the iPhone version. Or in doing a quick entry on the iPhone and organizing on the mac.

    As you said, inbox is the place to “dump” stump after you do a mind sweep;
    However, the “next” section is the one where all your next actions related to all your projects and Areas (you missed mentioning this).
    Scheduled is where tasks with a ‘start date’ go.
    Someday is where the tasks you haven’t decided to do; but would like to get to in sometime in the future.
    Projects is where you see all the actions you need to complete to call the project complete.

    Contexts are implemented as “tags” in this app.
    tasks can have a due date (as mentioned).

    If you see, it includes almost all the critical workflows according to GTD, sure, there are some features missing – but hey, there’s no “One” productivity app with all the features for everyone.

    But, what’s missing is the cloud syncing. It’s high time the developers come out with it. Also, options to see all your entries/tags (from inbox, next, scheduled, someday)in one place; time based reminders and an option for saved searches would be good.

    This is an app which helps more things get done by calling less attention to itself.

    As, I said, I like “Things” and the way it works for me. I’m happy with it.

  • http://www.beeze.de Holger

    @SrTapir
    Interesting, do you have some source that IOS5 will have such a Task Manager out of the box? I am not familliar with IOS cause I am currently using an Android Phone but I think I wil switch to Apple when iPhone 5 will be released.

  • Mark

    I’ve been using Things since it first came out, and I have the iPad, iPhone, and desktop versions. As a GTD, it’s pretty awesome. Great functionality and it looks amazing. But it’s dead without cloud sync. Us users have been promised it forever. Once you buy all of them, you have too much money invested to get out! If you haven’t bought it, don’t. There’s tons of free alternatives that are just as good.

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