Things and Things for iPad in Review – Task Management Maestros

Back in late 2007 I ran across a free public alpha of a Mac program called Things from a small German company called Cultured Code. People were raving about it because unlike most To-Do list productivity apps at the time, which were complex and tedious to use, Things was designed to provide an intuitive interface for quickly entering and managing tasks such that the process did not get in the way of getting work done.

During the summer of 2008, Things for iPhone ($9.99) was among the first apps in the App Store and it quickly became one of its most successful productivity apps. When the iPad was released last April, Cultured Code was ready with Things for iPad ($19.99) from day one. The developers at Cultured Code should be applauded for not straying from their original design goals as they’ve moved Things into the mobile world.

Things is a To-Do list manager with easily grasped functionality to assist users in organising their tasks. Active tasks show up in the “Next” list, inactive tasks are put in the “Someday” list and tasks that aren’t assigned yet are entered into an “Inbox” for later assignment. All tasks can be dated, tagged, made repeatable (Mac only) and given notes. In addition, tasks with due dates on or before the current date show up by default in a special list called “Today,” which for me, is the place I work out of the most. Tasks can be moved into and out of the Today list to help me focus on those things I want to accomplish on the current day without affecting underlying task data. When a task has been completed, a tap checks it off and it gets dated and saved for posterity in the Logbook.

Things also has two useful task organisational constructs called Projects and Areas. Projects range from small to huge collections of tasks that are used to contain all the separate tasks required to complete a major effort (i.e., a project). Tasks are added to a Project by entering them directly or moving them from one of the task lists.

Areas might seem similar to Projects, but the difference is that Areas aren’t typically completed. Areas are organizational buckets for both individual tasks and Projects that follow a similar activity theme such as Gardening, Home Repairs, Church Activities, etc. Choosing Areas that correspond to your primary values and interests can provide a good measurement of where you spend your time — and whether your activities are in line with what’s most important to you.

Things has remained very popular due to its incredibly loyal Mac following and because it is so easy to get started and use. Limitations do exist on the iPhone and iPad versions, so if you don’t have a Mac to drive them, you may have to be a little patient until Cultured Code evolves them to meet their full potential.

The extra screen area available to Things for iPad combines the list view, details and editing all on the same screen with a user interface designed for a touch. Managing and updating tasks is a breeze and I highly prefer it to the Mac’s mouse driven UI.

Things on the iPad  and iPhone have the potential to become exceptional standalone task managers, but for now, they miss a few key features that limit their ability to provide the necessary functionality to compete with desktop solutions. If you have a Mac that’s also running Things, however, then your mobile experience will be fabulous.

For example, tasks in Things can be positioned within lists by dragging and dropping into any desired order on the Mac (this is useful for ordering project tasks), however, there is no way at this time to move a task within a list on the iPhone or iPad.

Support for creating recurring tasks is also available on the Mac, but is still a work in progress on the iPhone and iPad.

For this reason, bi-directional syncing between devices is essential and it works great with Things. Once paired with a Mac, Things maintains task ordering and changes across devices. Unfortunately, sync does not function via a 3G connection and must be done over WiFi. Expanding OTA (over the air) syncing options between devices is perhaps the most requested feature and Cultured Code is intensively working on a cloud-based solution.

There are cheaper task managers on the App Store, but Things still stands out as a frontrunner. It’s pricey, but I guess you get what you pay for with a solid app backed by a motivated company that consistently evolves and improves its products. You can keep up with Cultured Code’s plans by watching updates on their Development Status Page.

App Summary
Title: Things
Things for iPad
Developer: Werner Jainek
Reviewed Ver: 1.6 (iPhone), 1.2 (iPad) Min OS Req: 3.0, 3.2
Price: Things – $9.99
Things for iPad – $19.99
App Size: 6.4 MB
5.0 MB
  • Straightforward task creation and management becomes an asset to getting things done
  • Projects and areas allow tasks to be organized quickly and intuitively
  • Simple bi-directonal sync with a Mac running Things keeps changes current across all devices
  • WiFi sync to Mac only
  • List ordering and recurring task creation only supported on Mac


Ray Gans works as a Community Manager for an open source software vendor in the SF Bay Area and loves apps, wine & cheese and boardgames. He bought his first Mac in 1984 and has been one of the Apple faithful ever since. You can catch him on the TMA forums as Aeaea.

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