“Things 3”, or, “it’s like they brought the best of Material Design to iOS”
So, in my last post about what apps I use I gave a fairly glowing review of Things 2, my to-do list app of choice. The third version of the app has finally been released, and now that I’ve been using it for a few weeks I figured I’d give it a bit of a review.1
Things is a suite of apps: it’s available on macOS and separately on iPhone and iPad. They’re linked together by Things Cloud, a free account for a service that works incredibly well.
The main paradigm hasn’t changed all that much since Things 2: it’s still (roughly) a Getting Things Done style, with the centerpiece being the ‘Today’ list and the various Areas of Responsibility. The biggest change, aside from the UI, is how Projects are handled: you can now create subheadings within projects, to keep everything a bit more organized, and each individual task can now have a ‘checklist’, so you’ve got another layer of hierarchical organization to take advantage of.2
Where Things 3 really shines is the UI, and it’s pretty clear why it took Cultured Code so long to release a new version: a ton of work went into it. To be honest, my main guess about what happened is “they started work on an Android version, then quit on that to go back to working in the Apple ecosystem, and stole all the best ideas from Material Design along the way.”3 Adding a task is as simple as the plus button that now lives in the very reachable bottom-right corner; if you want to put it somewhere specific, you drag the plus button over the area you’d like the to-do to go, and it gets smoothly inserted there. Drag an item to the right to schedule it for a later date – or to set a reminder at a certain time of a day, another new (and much-awaited) feature – and to the left to send it to an Area or delete it. Projects are even easier to work with, thanks to a filling-circle motif for their completion status.4
Getting somewhere is easier, as well – on macOS, you can just start typing, and as long as you didn’t begin with the spacebar5 it starts searching in your Areas and Projects for whatever list you’re typing. iOS includes the same mechanic, with the added step of pulling down6 to open the keyboard.
Beyond that, it’s just little touches that make everything nicer: the UI as a whole is brighter and more open; setting the ‘when’ for an item on macOS accepts natural language input, so I can just start typing ‘tomorrow’ and it’ll know what I mean; you can close the sidebar, or pull it open wider, on macOS. The biggest win for me is the ‘Upcoming’ view – it links in with your calendar7 to show events as scheduled8 alongside all of your Scheduled items and anything with a due date. OmniFocus has had a feature like this for a while, and it was one of the biggest things that almost got me to switch, so seeing that come to Things is delightful; it’s nice being able to see the whole week (or as far as you’d like) in advance.
All told, I consider Things 3 a great update to a great app, and I can happily continue to recommend it. If you don’t have any sort of to-do list manager, pick it up on your iPhone and Mac; if you’re all-in on it, like me, or are just one of those people who can actually get all of their work done on an iPad, get it there too.
- This blog used to be for stuff other than reviews, but I’ve run out of fun travels and I don’t do much else so… here we are, I guess. ↩
- It’s nice for, say, a grocery list: going grocery shopping is only one Thing To Do, so it makes sense to keep it as a single item, but you still want to be able to check off the various items you’ve got to buy. ↩
- And yes, that’s where I got the title of the post from: roll credits. ↩
- It’s reminiscent of the way Things 2 handled Projects in the ‘Projects’ view of the macOS app, with a progress bar filling the space behind the name, but now consistent across all of the apps. ↩
- Which remains the ‘add new’ shortcut, so you won’t even need to rewrite any muscle memory. ↩
- Think ‘pull to refresh,’ it’s a pretty standard pattern in iOS. ↩
- Very easily, too; macOS and iOS include some very nice calendar APIs ↩
- That link also makes an appearance in the Today view, where you get a quick overview of your schedule for the day; if I didn’t add calendar events as often as I do, I could actually stop having Calendar.app open on all of my devices all of the time, and let Things handle that as well. ↩