In Valid Logic

Endlessly expanding technology

GTD on Mac with Things

In line with my New Years resolutions, I've been working on re-implementing GTD (Getting Things Done) throughout my life. So I've been evaluating GTD applications for OS X lately to figure out which one fits my needs the best. Overall, I was looking at three main contenders: iGTD, OmniFocus, and Things. After putting each through the tests since basically the day I brought my Mac Pro home, here is the conclusion I've reached.

iGTD: The first one I used, and liked it, though I was kind of disappointed with their UI. The main interface is just a little too busy. Then I checked out the preview information on iGTD2 and was completely turned off. It added a bunch of fluff I didn't really see useful to my needs, with even more clutter. Based on where the application was headed with iGTD2, decided to steer away.

OmniFocus: OmniFocus is poised to be released soon and is certainly impressive. It moves away from the "spreadsheet table" listing format in iGTD and has a nice, minimal interface. It has a nice way to organize projects and also has "single-action lists", which are kind of like projects that are never done (I use these for stuff like bugs, support issues, life, home improvement). I was a little disappointed it didn't really support anything for priorities. iGTD had 5 different levels, and while I didn't need that many, it would be nice to highlight some as high/medium/low. All it has was the order you put them in or you could flag certain ones. Flagging was a toss up though. I liked using flagging to mark ones I was going to focus on today, then narrow my view for the day to just those, but then I lost the way I was thinking of marking items as important. Important doesn't always equal now, it just means "do before the others" and "probably don't want to forget".

Things: I had almost settled on OmniFocus, but then I heard about Things from a smaller software company that was having a private alpha. I had emailed the company to ask about getting in on it and they graciously added me to the alpha. After using it for a little over a week, I am truly impressed. Instead of focusing on the traditional project/context type structure other GTD applications use, they went with a project/tags concept. First you have projects and areas (areas are equivalent to OmniFocus "single-action lists", projects that never end), which are just the same as in other applications, but then it adds on a simple and powerful tagging system.

Essentially, for most the tags equate to the context of the task (ie, @Home, @Computer, @Errands), but it can also be used for other things. I will also use the tags to mark some items as high priority or low priority, and it also includes some default tags for signifying effort (ie, show an action is 15mins, 1hour, or longer).

In addition, they also have a set of "focuses". Items you want to work on today can get flagged as "Today" and show up in a list of items marked accordingly. You then have the Next view, which shows an aggregate list of your items. And then you have Postponed and Someday. Some items you can't work on now and don't want to be bothered with them, so you can postpone them a week and they'll be hidden from your normal view (though can see them again by clicking a button at the bottom of the project view) until it is time to deal with them. Someday items are ones that are basically hidden as your "someday I'll do this". These are things that aren't really things you need to do, but would like to do at some point in the future. IE, want to climb Mount Everest? Mark it as a Someday. Have an idea for a cool program or site to make sometime? There you go.

Overall, Things was the one that was most in line with how I viewed my own GTD system. Think of something while in the middle of coding? Hit Control-Option-Space, up comes the quick entry box. I can quickly enter an item and hit C 1 to tag it as coding and high priority (you can assign shortcuts to tags too!), and I'm done. Each morning, I look through my Next view and mark things I plan on tackling today as Today, then I switch to my Today view and that is where I stay all day. Today is better than using due dates, since if I don't get something done that day, I don't want to see red text or get warnings something is overdue. I want to use due dates on things that are actually due by a certain time, like remember to pay gas bill by the 5th. Otherwise, due dates are arbitrary. Laundry isn't due today, if I don't get it done today, so what, it'll be on my list tomorrow still. Additionally, with the tags, I then get to mark items with priorities. I don't need the priorities so much for sorting and data purposes, but just rather when I look over my list so I can see if one is high or low. Additionally, OmniFocus didn't seem to have as much on the Postponed/Someday concept other than having things in a @Waiting context.

Things is currently in development, and while they still have a lot of must-have features to add (syncing, recurring tasks, etc), the features and methodology they already have certain make it a must-have for me. They recently released a public preview and would highly recommend giving it a look. I'm glad I did, since I just threw OmniFocus into AppZapper and will be sticking with Things. Also have a nice list of feature requests I'll be sending off which hopefully get included.

Friday, January 04, 2008

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