Review: Things 3 for Mac and iOS

A task manager you will actually want to use

Things 3 on iPad
Things 3 on iPad

I’ve never been a fan of to-do apps. I don’t use them. People everywhere seem to swear by these things. There’s much talk about the whole GTD mentality, and what app is the best for getting things done.

Table of Contents Chevron Icon

  1. First Impressions
  2. Design
  3. Organizing Tasks
  4. Tags
  5. Things Cloud
  6. A Quick Aside on Shared Lists
  7. Other Features You Should Know About
  8. Final Thoughts

The methodology didn’t make sense to me, and I condescendingly felt that the key to getting things done was just action. Then I grew up, and realized that when you’re juggling a plethora of responsibilities, it’s incredibly easy for tasks to fall through the cracks. Writing down what needs to get done is not just smart, it’s necessary.

I came across Things years ago. I owned the first version of the app, but didn’t end up using it. Someone I know recently started using Things 3 and I was intrigued. I’d been using Trello to keep track of my ideas for articles on this site, video ideas, and jobs that I’d applied to. I have a love/hate relationship with Trello. I feel that parts of the app are very well designed, and others not so much.

After watching and reading some positive reviews, I decided to give Things 3 a try. Cultured Code offers a generous fifteen-day trial of the Mac app.

I was in love. Things 3 is the first to-do app that I actually use. The design is beautiful and easy to use, has many of the features I want, and led to a more organized life.

First Impressions

  • I’m delighted by the big facelift given to the UI.
  • Areas and Projects are exactly what I want from a to-do app.
  • There is a wonderful satisfaction in looking at the Logbook and seeing all the things you’ve accomplished.

Design

Cultured Code has hit it out of the park. The design of the Mac app, the iPad app, and the iPhone app are nothing less than superb. The Apple Watch app is excellent too, which I’ll touch on a little bit later.

Gone are the days of the pale colors, and a design reminiscent of skeuomorphism. The new interface sports brightly-colored icons, revamped typography, and beautiful use of white space. While the aesthetic and experience is consistent across platforms, Cultured Code has done a wonderful job of tailoring each interface to get the most out of each operating system.

Cultured Code has achieved an incredible feat here. These are four different apps they’ve made you believe are one. And in contrast to some apps where the functionality is drastically reduced on iOS, I could never touch my Mac again and still have all the same control of my to-dos.

Organizing Tasks

Where most to-do apps only allow you to create lists, Things 3 recognizes two types of lists: Projects and Areas. You can create tasks in both, but this type of organization has helped my workflow.

Things 3 gives you verious ways to manage to-dos
Things 3 gives you verious ways to manage to-dos

An area can be used to group projects and to-dos based on general responsibilities. For example, I have areas for work, side projects, personal, and family. Inside those areas I have projects for this site, my job search, etc.

Furthermore, you can organize tasks inside a project with headings. I often use headings to organize the type of tasks that need to be done. When Kelly and I went on a cruise recently, I used Things to organize my packing list. I had headings for my computer stuff, the clothes I needed, and my camera gear. This is one of the first trips I’ve ever taken without that horrible sensation of forgetting something.

Tags

Each person will have their own way of using tags, I tend to use mine for quick bits of information that I can see at a glance.

Tags can be a very powerful way of organizing your tasks
Tags can be a very powerful way of organizing your tasks

For example, I tag jobs that I apply for as either “remote” or “onsite”. This helps me keep track of what types of jobs I’m applying for. I tag YouTube video ideas with the category the video fits into. It helps me plan videos so I don’t do too much of the same.

Overall, I like the implementation of tags. I wish I could make certain tags limited to a particular project or area, but I understand that most people aren’t using tags like I do.

Things Cloud

Any modern to-do app needs some way to sync. Things does this via Things Cloud and doesn’t offer any alternate way of syncing. Thankfully, Cultured Code has a whole page explaining what this service is and how they’ve ensured its security.

Things Cloud allows you to see all your tasks on any device
Things Cloud allows you to see all your tasks on any device

Syncing works flawlessly. The best type of syncing is the syncing you don’t think about, and Things Cloud achieves this. I input tasks on iOS either via the app or share sheet, then organize those tasks on the Mac. Not once have I arrived at my Mac with tasks missing.

A Quick Aside on Shared Lists

The vital missing ingredient to the almost-perfect dish that is Things 3 is shared lists. As of this writing, Things 3 doesn’t allow you to share any type of list or task with someone else. Well, technically that’s not true, you can share them as plain text, but why the hell would you want to do that?

From what I’ve read, it’s a future possibility. I hope Cultured Code decides to include this key feature in a later update.

Other Features You Should Know About

  • Quick Entry
    Things 3 has a well-designed Quick Entry window, but I don’t use it often since my tasks get input on iOS. You can customize the keyboard shortcut for Quick Entry to be whatever you’d. I have mine set to the longest keyboard shortcut ever, ⌃⌥⌘ + space, which might add to the reasons I don’t use it. Quick Entry is incredibly powerful, allowing you to enter almost all the same information you can input in the app, without moving your mouse.

  • Apple Watch App
    Cultured Code was very smart when designing the Apple Watch app. All you can do is dictate a new task and decided whether to put it in your Inbox or Today. That’s it. After seeing many Watch apps try to do more and fail, this is exactly what I want and need.

  • Checklists
    If you need to go further down the to-do-ception, Things 3 offers checklists inside of tasks. After you begin a checklist, you can hit enter to continue adding items. I appreciate Cultured Code for adding this type of deep granularity without it feeling cumbersome.

Final Thoughts

I’m convinced that Things 3 is the best to-do app. No matter what Apple-made operating system you’re using, Things 3 is delightful to use. If you, like me, are unsure of to-do apps, I encourage you to give Things 3 a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


Kindly edited by TJ Draper

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