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The Aphrodite of Productivity

A Few Things About Things 3

Tom Littrell
Aug 20, 2017 · 6 min read

High on my to-do list right now is to capture the essence of Things 3 in a Medium review. And here we are! Why? Because Things 3 by Cultured Code is absolutely, brilliantly beautiful. Not one more word from me until you see it yourself…

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No need to wrack about for adjectives, here. Look. Omph! So good. That #negativespace. Things 3 is incredibly clean. Not to be fooled, though — a bounty of features patiently wait within the crannies of the application. When you need them, there are there, exactly where you’d expect to find them.

Years ago, I was a Wunderlist junkie. They were scooped up by Microsoft — bleh. I migrated all of my precious lists to the Apple ecosystem, placing each item into the Reminders app so they would sync flawlessly across iCloud. Reminders is very stripped down and, quite frankly, ugly. We did away with skeuomorphism years ago! Why the hell does the Reminders app have little index cards to flip through? It’s also majorly lacking in the necessary features department. I had skimmed through various paid productivity softwares but never really considered one before I got fed up with the free options. I’m not compensated by Cultured Code when I say that with them, you get what you pay for.


Within the first few days of toying around with Things 3, I compiled three lists of pros, cons, and stand-out characteristics. The items addressed are in no particular order…

Positives

  • The “Logbook” is a cute-ass tab in the side bar that compiles all of my reminders and other miscellaneous items. While it’s not quite original to integrate such an archive, the word choice is A+. For whatever reason, it feels super personal — more akin to a “Captain’s Log” or little journal than a dusty library “Archive.” Click it for a mental back-pat.
  • The “Someday” shoebox stores all of my lofty (and not so lofty) goals: publish a novel, attend Burning Man, hike El Camino de Santiago, learn such-and-such song on piano, etcetera. I used to have my own labeled “Someday” tab in Wunderlist and Reminders, but Things’ keeps such items under the proverbial bed and out of the way of more pressing matters.
  • Each item with a due date displays the amount of days remaining until it is due. I find this very, very useful. It’s also something I haven’t seen in similar apps.
  • Pause repeats! When I leave for vacation, Things won’t remind me to do my monthly computer backup or buy kitty food. With the tap of a button, I can easily halt recurring reminders.

Negatives

  • Items are sorted by time of entry — no choice to alphabetize or sort by due date. However! There is an “Upcoming” tab which displays a calendar timeline of items by due date. Unfortunately, this does not apply within individual projects (grouped items) or categories.
  • I can tag items as “Important,” “Financial,” etcetera, but finding these tags to refer to later is rather convoluted. Why don’t tags optionally live in the sidebar?
  • A rather small detail, but a detail nonetheless — If I go to create an item (⌘N) and change my mind, Things leaves a blank space where the transient item was until I manually delete it.

Stand-Out

While not fundamentally good or bad, these characteristics popped out to me…

  • There are many hidden elements to discover. It is not obvious that you are able to hide the sidebar, though if you hover over the divider for a hot sec, a slider appears hinting at the ability to drag the sidebar shut. Alternatively, you may dual-finger slide it shut (this is only on the Mac version). Also, a few of the icons are un-intuitive, e.g., the icon to set a reminder looks like a little calendar. I initially assumed that was meant to set a deadline. The deadline icon appears as a flag, which is not meant to flag items (flag and tag are similar actions). A wee bit confusing at first.
  • While Things is astoundingly minimal, certain things are set in stone. Projects, for example, may be moved into “Areas” (categories), yet Areas may not be collapsed in the sidebar. This means, if you have a lot of projects going at once, they’ll all be visible. Maybe it’s encouragement to get them done!
  • This is pretty standard for to-do software, but I cannot add reminders to sublist items.
  • Cultured Code got a little cheeky with the “Import” feature, listing Wunderlist and Todoist as options to import from. I’m guessing they both import in different formats, however, it’s fun to imagine Things feeling upper-crust and syphoning users from its competitors.

I don’t want to spoil any of the subtle animations for you. Almost every interaction within both the Mac and iPhone apps excited me, which is part of the enjoyment of trying out a software you spent a good chunk of change on. Cultured Code’s creation is a display of impeccable detail. After a good few weeks of using the apps as my sole tools for lists and reminders, I can say with honesty that there isn’t really anything particularly irksome about them.

Things 3 looks good, feels good, and is completely practical.

On top of that, Cultured Code’s site and support links are robust and just as visually stunning as their apps. Peep this graphic from their mini-guide:

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It’s wise to think of possible sacrifices to be made when switching from your current software to something fresh. One downside with a third-party application is that sync won’t be as purportedly smooth as with the Apple ecosystem’s integrated iCloud. The good news? Every Things customer receives free cloud real estate for seamless multi-platform sync. While the idea of storing data on yet another server is rather annoying, the Things Cloud is pretty out of the way and has yet to show any signs of weakness or vulnerability.

I also thought I’d be giving up the total OS integration that comes with built-in Reminders, but Things works un-intrusively on my Apple Watch and even takes orders from Siri in a sort-of roundabout way (SiriKit integration in-progress). I’m not complaining.

One last tidbit — the iPhone app features a magic plus-button in the bottom right corner. It’s been done. I’m not so much a fan of this UX featurette. A tap on the + from the anchor screen will present you with a few action options, accompanied by descriptions. It’s draggable, too. I’m certain this trend will vanish as soon as someone conjures up something better. For now, plus away!


There are dozens of juicy screenshots I could’ve included in this review, but I’ll leave perusal to you. Hop on over to the What’s New page to indulge before you reduce your wallet-bulge. The Mac app will set you back $49.99, iPhone $9.99, and iPad $19.99. Your efficiency is well worth furnishing, especially when the tools of the trade are so polished and tastefully simple. It’s still a lot of cash, though, so try before you buy. An upgrade to the ol’ productivity toolkit could be just the right kick-in-the-pants — and if you’re going to invest in your future, might as well treat yourself.

Things 3 — Website, Facebook, Twitter

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