Disappointing Things

June 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Things has been my go-to task management system for almost six months now. I have the desktop ($49.99), iPhone ($9.99), and iPad ($19.99) versions. Things was merry when it was just those. There were some issues, namely with syncing, but I still felt in control. I entered tasks, assigned them to groups and projects, and got stuff done. Trouble only arose when I attempted to add another computer into the mix.

Things manages device syncing over WiFi. It is one of a few syncing solutions. Other popular ones are over the air (cloudesque) based solutions, Dropbox / iDisk, and MobileMe. I could easily agree that a WiFi solution is the easiest one to implement quickly. However, this is not without some severe disadvantages.

  1. WiFi syncing requires that all devices be on the same WiFi network. This means I have to pull out every device and turn them on and then link to WiFi. In practice this is easier then it sounds if you have all your networks pre-assigned and you’re all defaulting to the same. In other conditions (work, conferences, places without WiFi (yes, they exist), trains, planes, boats, cars) it’s a royal pain in the ass.
  2. Things must be running on every device at the time of syncing. Understandable, though limiting. If Things is not the foreground application then you cannot sync with that device. If you forget that your iPhone is in your pocket while you sync your iPad, you will not have all the tasks on your phone.
  3. Adding a second computer reduces your syncing ability to a quivering pile of intestines. I’m quite serious about this one, at no point have I been able to get Things to play nice with other desktops. I had to choose between which I wanted as my “Things” computer, and since I spent most of my time in front of my work computer it ends up being that one. Repeated emails to CulturedCode have gone unanswered in regards to this.

On top of the glaring issue with WiFi, there are a couple more nuances with Things that put icing on the usability cake. Tags are a mess. An unsortable, unorganized, mile long scrolling list type of mess. The iPhone version is lightweight compared to the iPad or Mac versions, with a reduced ability to filter and focus on tasks. Creating tasks on iOS versions requires multiple steps, between adding descriptions and tagging it’s a good three or four taps. Considering the cost difference between the iPad and iPhone version ($19.99 and $9.99 respectively), it’s unacceptable to resell a slightly modified version of the application for double the cost to get it on a bigger screen.

In conclusion, I tried to like Things. I went full bore with it for over $80 and it disappoints me. The WiFi syncing tripped over itself with a second desktop client. iPhone version was best left as a task list instead of an actual interface. The price does not match expected quality. Comparatively I’ve spent a good amount of money on Panic products and never been disappointed. Time to try OmniFocus.

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June 2011

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