I reviewed the Things iPhone and Mac task management apps a few years ago on Just Another Mobile Monday and loved them, but as time wore on and convenient over-the-air (OTA) syncing became the standard for many task apps, Things started to feel woefully outdated.
The thing is that Things can currently only sync over a local Wi-Fi network, and only if you have the $50 Things Mac app functioning as the conduit. You can own the $10 Things iPhone app and the $20 Things iPad app, but if you don’t have the Mac version, the iOS apps will have absolutely no way of communicating with one another.
Things must be launched on at least two devices for the syncing process to start, and you have to launch the app up on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac to get all three databases to sync, so it’s best to have all of your devices at your desk when you prepare to sync. There’s also no way to start a sync from the iPad, without loading the app up again. This roundabout process means that you actually have to manage the syncing process to use Things properly, which is a little ironic, since the app is supposed to make the managing of tasks easier.
The devs at Culture Code are developing their own over-the-air Cloud Sync and it should help to solve these issues, but it has also been a long time coming. The beta has apparently reached iOS, but I still haven’t heard anything about how it works or what it’s like.
I use task managers for everyday chores, upcoming iSource posts, and for longer term items (sometimes called “dreams”), and I rely greatly upon being able to sync tasks on my iPhone and iPad while out and about – which is something Things simply cannot do right now. As a result, I’m reviewing this iPad version of Things as a bit of a guilty pleasure, as if it exists all on its own. I know that the app isn’t where I want it to be, and yet there’s something about the design behind Things that I find captivating.
For one thing, it’s very clean.
Clean (Like, Really Clean)
Things’ strength is its ultra-effective visual approach: by cutting down on the number of icons, colours, and sections on screen at a given time, the designers at Cultured Code have allowed for the truly relevant pieces of information to simply rise to the surface.
In landscape mode the top of the screen houses controls, the left side is navigation, and the right side is content. Portrait mode is even simpler, since it really only shows controls and content. The various sections of the app are also very clearly separated with the use of spacing and different designs, making it much easier for users to quickly identify where they are in the app.
The colours in Things are also very simple and manage to balance that fine line of being noticeable, but not too eye-catching. Yellow outlines for tasks signify that the task is due today or is a priority item. Red tasks are overdue, and everything else is in black. Simple and very legible.
I also appreciate how completed tasks stay ticked-off in a half-transparent state until the end of the day, allowing me to look over my list and realize just how much I’ve accomplished on a given day.
Simply put, Things for iPad has the cleanest UI I’ve ever used when it comes to the viewing and managing tasks – bar none.
Convoluted Task Creation
One complaint I leveled against the iPhone and Mac versions of Things was about how complicated task creation could be, and the same is unfortunately true of the iPad version. Tapping on the “+” button and titling a task is easy, but assigning tags, due dates, areas (categories), or projects are all parts of separate sub-menus – all of which require a tap to enter, a few taps to set, and then another tap to exit. I also don’t understand why Things for iPad uses the default iOS date roller, instead of a 31-day date picker, given all the real estate on the iPad.
Many other task apps streamline the creation process by adding quick category or due date buttons right within the same dialogue, and I’d love for Things to follow this trend (and I think the goal is achievable without sacrificing the clean design).
A Surprising Conclusion
There really is something to be said for how clear the design language of this app is. I’ve gone out of my way to try tens of other task managers on the App Store, and yet Things has somehow managed to cling to its position by the top of my list. It’s the kind of app that reviewers like myself can whine about and create wishlists for, but the surprising truth that bubbled up to the surface during these last two weeks of use is that Things is quite enjoyable and usable right now, even without the ever-elusive Cloud Sync. I own a number of other task apps with OTA sync and yet the draw to use Things is still very much present.
The only major barrier at this junction then is the price point. The entire Things suite for Mac, iPad, and iPhone costs $80, which seems astronomical to me, especially given the nature of other universal apps for iOS that cost less than $10. Then again, if you’re the type of person who (unfortunately) cares this much about clean design, the price may simply be a pill you have to swallow. After all, there is no other cross-platform task manager I know of (including Omnifocus) that has cut as cleanly through all of the usual UI clutter to expose the Things I really need to get done.
Things for iPad was provided by Cultured Code for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.