Things for iPad is an elegantly designed to-do list application that aims to keep your life organized by helping you track all of your various projects and tasks. It is currently available on the Apple App Store for $19.99.
Getting started is as simple as purchasing and installing the app on your iPad. If you have the companion desktop application for your Mac (a separate $49.95 purchase), you’ll want to ensure that all of your data is in order before you sync.
Once the app is installed, tap on the plus sign in the top right corner of the screen to add new tasks. You can optionally add tags, notes, and due dates to each item, or leave things simple and just enter action items.
Features and Controls
The screen is divided into two main parts. The left side features the Inbox for uncategorized tasks, a starred Today section, Scheduled (for future tasks), Someday (for those items that don’t need a specific date), Projects, and the Logbook where completed tasks are archived. The right side of the screen is reserved for data entry and the various task lists.
When you first enter to-do items, they appear in the Inbox. If you would like to add additional details to the item, you simply tap on the task and the Info box pops up. Tapping on each area in turn allows you to add tags (for GTD context, categories, or anything else you might need), notes, or a due date. If you select a due date, you are also able to mark the item to be down in the Today view, either on the due date or a user-configurable number of days early. You can also move items to another list, or send an email related to the task.
The icon bar at the top of the Inbox has several controls; the edit buttons allows you to quickly delete tasks, or reorder them. The tag icon allows you to filter items by tag, to narrow the view, while the arrow allows you to move tasks to other lists, such as Next, Scheduled, or one of your projects.
To switch from list to list, simply tap on the relevant area on the left side of the screen. The Today view shows items that you have chosen to-do today; it is not strictly based on due dates, but also takes into account tickler dates you added during data entry.
The Next list shows a list of all of the next actions for each project, and is organized by project. You can optionally sort this list by due date by selecting the small alarm clock icon that appears in the icon bar when in this view.
The Scheduled list is in essence a view for tasks that you want to start at a future date, but that date is completely independent from the due date. This is a useful feature if you need to schedule something that may take several days to complete, but you have to remember to check the Scheduled list often to make sure that tasks on that list don’t fall through the cracks. Unlike most of the other lists, a badge doesn’t pop up next to the list name to show how many tasks are on the Scheduled list.
The Someday list is a great place to park all of the tasks that you’ll get around to “someday” whether that’s working toward a paperless existence or tracking a slow-moving home renovation project. There aren’t any task numbers here either, but since these tasks are supposed to be non-urgent, they aren’t really necessary.
The Projects area is where you can see lists of all of the tasks associated with each project; simply tap on a binder to open it and see the list. Like the other lists, there is an icon bar at the top where you can filter by tag, move an item to another list or project, mark the items you want to focus on today, or add new items. Any items that you add from within a particular project will automatically be associated with that project, which is a great timesaver.
Finally, the Logbook is where all of your completed tasks are moved, either at the end of the day or upon program launch, depending on the setting you choose. On a slow, relatively unproductive day, it’s nice to take a break to look at the Logbook area and see everything that you’ve accomplished.
No matter which view you are using, tags and due dates are always visible on the far right side of the screen. If an item has notes, a small notepad icon appears just after the task name. Tapping on that note icon brings up the Info box; the only way to see all of the notes for a given task is to tap on the arrow to the right of the note field in the Info box.
There are no import or export options for Things for iPad (aside from syncing with the desktop app), and no way to email a list of tasks to someone else, though it is possible to email individual tasks from each item’s Info box.
Performance & Ease of Use
Things for iPad is fast, and it’s very easy to use — you can start to work immediately, without having to read a manual in order to figure things out.
It is also quite elegant, but as a new user I was stymied by the lack of what I consider to be very basic features — the ability to search my to-dos, the ability to set alarms or email task lists (you can email individual items).
The most major issue for me is the lack of customization options. I follow the GTD methodology for getting stuff done, and I was surprised to see that there is no section for delegated/waiting for items. That in itself isn’t too much of a problem, but as I dug deeper I found that there is no option to create one.
I tried several different workarounds, such as creating a “waiting for” tag, using the someday function, etc. but never found a completely acceptable solution. At times, it can seem that Things for iPad is so elegant and so simple that it can be difficult to adapt the app to the way you want to work.
At this point, Things for iPad may not be the best value due to the relatively high $19.99 price tag. (The iPhone version of Things is $9.99 and is a separate purchase.) It is an undeniably beautiful app, and highly polished, but it is also a 1.0 release and therefore missing many of the features from the companion desktop application. If you already use Things on the Mac, you will get some extras like Areas, which can be created on the Mac and synced over, but they cannot be created on the iPad at this time.
If you’re a Windows user or someone just looking for a quick to-do application without a lot of bells and whistles, there are several free and low-cost solutions currently available on the App Store. Many of them are quite similar to Things, and will be covered in future reviews here on the site, but none of the ones I’ve tried so far are as compelling as Things, even with its current limitations.
At $19.99, Things for iPad isn’t exactly an easy sell, compared to the bargain basement prices for most apps in the Apple App Store. Then again, it’s a beautifully-designed app with an engaged user community, and very active support forums on the developer’s web site. It is also most likely a must-have if you already use the Things desktop application for the Mac.
The choice is more difficult for Windows users. The more I use Things, the more I like the elegant interface, though I am frustrated by some of the shortcomings of the app, such as not being able to create a top-level Waiting For list, or email a comprehensive list of tasks to myself for use during the day, since there is no desktop application available for Windows PC users.
I am hopeful that future versions of the app will correct some of those shortcomings. According to the development roadmap on the Cultured Code web site, Areas and search capabilities will be included in the next release, though no date has yet been announced for the update.