3 Things About Things 3

I recently picked up the iOS version of Things 3 for both iPhone and iPad. And there’s a lot to love about the new version: the new look is great; the simplicity of the layout is fantastic; and all of the small, purposeful animations are phenomenal.

As an app developer, giving users options — even if your own opinions don’t match those users’ thought patterns — is ultimately the best way to go forward. This doesn’t have to be tweaks to everything in the app and giving the user options upon options. But often, these features would benefit the app for both novice and power users, increasing the flexibility and functionality of the app. And I believe that there are some very meaningful changes that could be made in Things 3.

Here are 3 things I want to see in Things 3:

1. Complete Feature Parity

At this point in macOS and iOS development, the feature parity between the Mac and iOS apps should be the same, except where Apple places a limitation. And when there is a redesign of an app, there really shouldn’t be any difference between the two. As more and more users are going iOS only, the functionality of the app should not depend, in any way, on having a Mac. And there are several examples of ways that the Things iOS apps are not on par with the Mac app.

Things 2 had several keyboard shortcuts in iOS. If nothing more, they allowed a user – more specifically iPad Pro users – to quickly create a new task via the ⌘ N shortcut. And it’s a big omission for the growing base of iOS-only users. They exist in the Mac app, I would like to see these get added to iOS, as to make the app more usable when using an iPad Pro and an external keyboard.

The Today view is a great way to view your tasks for Day/Night. But one advantage that the Mac app gives you is the ability to sort based on Area; once set on the Mac, this option syncs over to iOS. It’s an odd choice that you can set it on macOS, but not set it on iOS. This could simply be another sort option placed in the upper right carrot icon, where you find the sorting by tag, select, and share options.

Speaking of tags, there should be a proper way to manage your tags on iOS. As of now, the only way to manage tags would be when editing a single task. What I would propose is an added menu item in the settings list, so that tags can be managed outside of tasks. This will allow you to organize your thoughts on them in one clear list, group them together, and become more useful as you manage your tasks going forward.

2. Dark Mode

The look of Things 3 is clean. Bleach clean. Almost too clean. And while that’s awesome at times for clarity, it is almost too much white. I would love to see a dark mode added. The development cycle has been slow and deliberate with Things, and I feel like this was a miss for some polish and user-facing customization.

As much as I don’t like it, there are are many times that I will dump tasks into my inbox just before bed, because I’m thinking of them and I need to remember them for later. Having the dark mode/theme added would be a welcome change. There are elements of it already on watchOS, and something I’d like to see carried into the app.

3. URL Scheme Support

I am a huge proponent of iOS automation. I am constantly using Drafts and Workflow to get things accomplished on iOS. But there aren’t too many URL schemes available.

What I would like to see them do, at the very minimum, is open up the app from a URL standpoint to allow the use of an x-callback-URL perspective. This will allow other apps to chain into task creation. Rather than send a list from Drafts to Reminders to Things, I could send that list over iterations from Drafts.

Once that is added, adding additional items like due/reminder times, tags, etc. would be easier. There are many reasons to do this: if you’re a new user, you can simply import a text list of items into the app and get going; if you have meeting minutes, you can export the tasks for further processing in Things; and you could build templates outside of the app for importing, similar to how OmniFocus and 2Do currently support. It would make it more powerful while remaining simplistic, which is really what this app strives to be.

Trusted Capture with Drafts

Recently I started playing around with different systems, making different changes to how I work. This should surprise exactly no one. Long story short, I’m reading Getting Things Done for the first time:1 not just passively reading and finding little hacks, but rather studying the material. I’m reading it very slowly; I’m using iBooks, highlighting passages and taking notes in various places on how it applies to me. So many people swear by the system, and I want to see what this system could do for me. With all that I have going on, I wanted to make sure that I have a handle on anything and everything that needs to get done.
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The Sum of the Parts

This summer opened my eyes to trying new things with task management. I had a great, wonderful system, and then split it in two. Then I tried Reminders instead, and loved it even more when I got my Apple Watch. And life as I knew it was going along just fine. Until something just felt off.

I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was accomplishing what I needed, and there wasn’t really a hole in my system. Life had just gone from chaotic to simplistic. And maybe that’s why things felt wrong. I can’t explain why, but it just didn’t feel right anymore. I’m sure it’s a bit of a sickness, but I have come to realize I need to have some complexity in my life.

So I started thinking of what to do next. Did I need to try a new system? I’ve tried OmniFocus, Things, Due, etc. and nothing really stuck, despite those apps being great in their own ways. I thought about what made the Reminders experiment so great: the simplicity. But yet, when I needed to look at everything going on, it was cumbersome at best. I tried to make something work, but it just felt wrong to me. So maybe it wasn’t a problem of the tools I have and what I’m using, but rather how I’m using them (or not).

And it’s led me to a strange, crazy place.
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Trials and Experiments

There are many times with many things where I can be afraid to try something new. Trying something not in my comfort zone can be downright frightening. Other times, I’m plagued by the friction that comes from doing the new thing. But for all of the reasons not to do it, I still want to try them: I’m curious about new things, new possibilities, and wonder if there are better tools out there for me to use. And I’m easily distracted by new, shiny things.

Recently, tried using new task management apps.1 There have been updates to several apps, most notably Todoist and OmniFocus. I wanted to see what benefits they could offer me over my current app, 2Do. There was a huge group of people that really started loving 2Do on iOS. Many users switched over. But for many [private] reasons, there had been a slowdown in development. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t worry me a bit; after all, it’s one person doing the entire app.

So in this slowdown, I wanted to experiment to see what else was out there. The first point of friction was moving select things over; most apps don’t have easy ways of export/import. The second was the nomenclature: can often get lost with naming conventions until I have an equivalency to something that I know, something that is familiar. With those things out of the way, I could try doing things in a new way.
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