Wed, 23 September 2009

I’ve been using Things from Cultured Code for about two weeks now. The initial idea was to find a piece of software to store whatever I was now mostly using little pieces of paper for. Until recently, my ‘system’ for remembering tasks and ideas consisted of writing them down on Post-it notes, both the widget kind and the real paper kind, using the To Do features in iCal and Mail, and storing emails that required an action in a separate Needs Action mail folder. This clearly wasn’t ideal.

As I started using Things, I found it to be much more powerful than I had expected. For me, as a solo Mac developer, it’s turned out to be the perfect task management tool. I don’t need full-featured project management software for what I do, mostly because I have no strict deadlines to plan for.

General To Do Items

Things is very handy for storing unrelated small tasks. For example, I need to renew my iPhone developer license in two weeks from now. This is something for the Scheduled box. I also need to pay a bill today. This goes under Today. The number of tasks I need to do today is shown as a red badge on the dock icon, exactly like the number of new emails in Mail. Scheduled tasks are automatically put in the Today box on the day that they are due. It’s much more flexible than that, but that’s about all I need for storing and remembering general tasks.

Projects

Here’s where Things gets really useful for me and where the ease-of-use is making me enjoy using it every day. This is for the real work. I’ve divided my development activities up in different projects. The apps that I’m planning to release within the next few days or weeks are stored in the Active Projects section. These are the ones that get the current priority. As you can tell from the screenshot, the next releases will be minor updates to my Twitter plugins. I might still bump those version numbers to 1.6 as there is some new functionality, but project names can easily be renamed.

Things Screenshot

One of the cool features of Things is that you can simply drop an email from within Mail on one of your actions in Things to add a link to that email to your action item. I use this all the time. Whenever someone sends me a bug-report or a request for a new feature, I attach the email to one of my projects. Most bug-reports go in one of the active projects so that they can be fixed in the next minor update. Feature requests either go in one of the long-term projects, e.g. my Impression 2.0 project, or in a general Ideas project if it’s something that I’m willing to consider but haven’t decided on yet.

One small feature that’s missing in Things is the ability to option-drag items to copy them to other projects. My plugins exist for both iPhoto and Aperture, so I’m often working on two very similar projects at the same time. If I plan to change something in one of the plugins, I usually also have to change the same thing in the other plugin, or at least test it in the other project if it involves a change in shared code. I instinctively option-drag items, like in the Finder, but that doesn’t work in Things.

I’ve only just started using Things, but it looks like it’s going to be able to handle my growing list of tasks and projects.

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