Productivity blogs were one of the first corners of the internet that ever felt like home to me. For a certain set of passionate, persnickety writers and readers, there was nothing so fun as debating the merits of Getting Things Done versus The Eisenhower Method. “Eat the frog!” was an inspirational quote, not worrying nonsense. Merlin Mann, Leo Babauta, and Lifehacker were required reading. And if you ever wanted to get everybody heated, all you had to do was bring up the unwinnable debate—our version of “cake or pie?”—and ask which Mac to-do list app is better, Omnifocus or Things?
I always liked Things. Made by Germany-based startup Cultured Code, the app won with design. Even if I had hundreds or even thousands of tasks, organized into dozens of projects on different timelines and priority levels, on Things, it all still looked and worked right.
Today, Cultured Code officially launches Things 3.0, an updated version that’s been in the works for the better part of five years. It’s a complete rewrite and redesign of the app, meant to bring it into 2017 (well, it was originally meant to bring it into 2013, but you gotta keep up). The app is cleaner and simpler than ever, full of white space and hidden menus. It works more like a super-clean messaging app than a heavy-duty task manager, and it’s better off for it.
At a glance, it seems so simple. There’s an inbox for quickly adding whatever’s on your mind (a “brain dump” in productivity parlance), and spaces for today’s tasks, upcoming tasks, and things you’ll get to eventually—or maybe never. Once you start digging, though, power-user features show up everywhere. You can add notes and checklists to each item, turning “plan vacation” from one monolithic task into a more manageable set of smaller tasks. You can connect your calendar to see your to-dos in context of your day, and the app integrates with both Siri and Apple Reminders.
Things never feels messy or overbearing, no matter the length of your task list. Lovely, unfolding animations keep your place, and there’s a super-fast search tool if you get lost. It’s the rare to-do list app that doesn’t try to force you into a particular way of thinking. You can have one list or a thousand; attach deadlines to everything or just pile it all messily into one task, call it “Do Today or Die,” and get on with it. It doesn’t shout in your face about all the work you have to do today. It’s more like a clean, crisp piece of paper, ready whenever you need it.
Unfortunately for some users, Things only works with Apple. You can buy the iPhone app for $10, the iPad app for $20, and the Mac app for $50, which, if you’re doing the math, is a lot of money. All that stuff stays in sync automatically, but there’s nothing for Android or Windows or even the web. Things also won’t integrate with your email, or IFTTT, or much of anything else. It’s a standalone, Apple-friendly app in an increasingly cross-platform and interconnected world. That’s a shame. But it’s still awfully nice to use.
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