in Articles

Things vs The Hit List vs Omnifocus

I have been using Things for a long time, both on my Mac and iPhone. While being very good at what it does and being visually beautiful, I have lately been having lots of trouble finding a good solution for a “Waiting For” focus, planner, setting a starting date, subtasks and other minor things. Their support forum is full of these requests and many other too.

Both The Hit List and Omnifocus do not suffer from these shortcomings, and have other benefits too. THL has a very nice planner where you can see items due today, the next days, next week, month etc. It makes it very easy to get an overview on what and when things have to be done.

The one thing missing in THL at the moment is iPhone sync, which is where Omnifocus shines! It has a very competent syncing framework and a native iPhone client (a bit pricey though). Omnifocus follows the principles of Getting Things Done almost to the letter, which may be too rigid at times, and it does not have support for tags at the moment.

What to do? I have invested in Things for the Mac and for the iPhone, but I have considered the idea of moving to Omnifocus for the moment, and maybe returning to Things when it has matured somewhat. I like THL quite a lot, but without syncing with an iPhone application, it’s useless for me.

Leave a Reply

26 Comments

  1. One of the things missing in Things is subtasks. Larger projects can get pretty unwieldy without the ability to break them down into smaller items. I also like to group related actions into groups like “pre-launch”, “launch” and “post-launch” for web projects. As far as I can see there's no way to do that in Things.

    I've been using OmniFocus since it's launched and while it's not as approachable as Things or THL, once you get used to it, it's very powerful.

  2. I have been using Omnifocus in parallell with Things for a while now, and I really like it. It just works!

    If Things haven't shaped up in the upcoming release, I might have to purchase a license for Omnifocus and the iPhone version, even though it's expensive. It gets the job done at least!

    Things looks very nice though, and is a real eye-catcher for people who glance at my screen at meeting etc.

  3. I’ve been using Things since early beta. I think that its interface is simple and looks very good. And if you’re not a strict GTD user it's perfect choice.

    But since I started to follow GTD more I had to switch to OmniFocus. The reason is that Things lack sequential projects. Without them all contexts are useless. And working strict GTD style is simply impossible. You can't filter only next actions for given context (tag). And 90% of my projects are sequential so until Thing would implement this feature i'll stick with OF.

    And I have to say that OF is a great app. You've got to get used to interface and workflow but then working with it very easy and intuitive.

  4. I share your concern for Things regarding the sequential projects problem. Their forums are overflowing with these kinds of requests, so they will hopefully implement something similar to what Omnifocus has, further down the road.

    Omnifocus is available now though, so it's not hard to motivate a switch. I will wait until the next version of Things comes out, which should be any day now. (as soon as Apple approves the new Things in the App Store)

  5. Hmm… I tend to think of Things as a to-think/do app and OmniFocus as a planning app (where you plan everything in Projects mode and do everything in Contexts mode).

    I like to collect my thoughts and weigh my options through writing, so I use Things to think-then-do: I create a new to-do and then in the notes section, I just type. The whole to-do when fanned out then actually looks like a page out of say, a memopad.

    Then I have another new to-do for the actual thing that needs to be done. And in the notes, it'll contain information that helps me with the action—what I may need to bring, for example.

    This isn't very GTD of course, since the thinking part is hardly an action but in my practice, it is. It is also reassuring and encouraging for me to see that I have ticked off a “to-think” to-do.

  6. That was a very interesting use of Things! How it Things responding to the (I assume) very large database file? I have heard reports on Things behaving badly if the database becomes too large.

    If you really like writing longer sections in the todos, you should have a look at The Hit List. It has a mode where a single todo can take up the entire application window and gives you lots of room to write on.

    On a side note, I have come to terms with how Things work now, except for one thing – start dates for todos in projects! I miss that particular feature every single day.

  7. Nah, I don't have a large database. I push anything “interesting” into “Print as PDF”, saved in my Downloads folder or just add it to Inbox in OmniFocus.

    It'd be awesome be try Hit List but I'm not on Leopard.

    As for start dates: Maybe it's a bit of an overkill, but have you ever tried doing to-dos in a project management app like Merlin? There are some simpler project apps that just let you see everything visually.

    I'm not a very busy person so my needs for now are fairly simple.

  8. Merlin looks interesting, but just like you say, overkill. Having that feature in Things would be amazing, but I might make the switch to OmniFocus (or THL) in the future if the development team won't implement this for some reason.

    My needs are varying though. For some projects, a normal unstructured list is enough, but there are some big projects which I really need to track start/finish dates, and possibly even have subtasks to be able to get an overview of everything.

    The Hit List have everything I mentioned in a nice package – except for an iPhone app, which is absolutely necessary these days. I've heard that it's on its way though.

  9. Merlin looks interesting, but just like you say, overkill. Having that feature in Things would be amazing, but I might make the switch to OmniFocus (or THL) in the future if the development team won't implement this for some reason.

    My needs are varying though. For some projects, a normal unstructured list is enough, but there are some big projects which I really need to track start/finish dates, and possibly even have subtasks to be able to get an overview of everything.

    The Hit List have everything I mentioned in a nice package – except for an iPhone app, which is absolutely necessary these days. I've heard that it's on its way though.

  10. I would recommend checking out http://www.Gtdagenda.com for an online GTD manager.

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    Comes with a mobile version too, and with an Android app.

  11. Hi Johnny,

    great review and good, intelligent comments as well. I find Alastair’s usage intriguing as well and will give it a shot.

    I have been using both apps almost in parallel but recently I started developing my projects in OF. Granted, the UI is not the nicest and there are many clicks but the way Contexts and especially NEXT, behave, makes it worthwhile. I love being able to click completed on one action and the next one popping out immediately. With Things, I spent time prioritizing actions and then placing them in the Today folder. OF does this automatically once you’ve performed an initial priority placement in your projects.

    On the desktop, I prefer the interaction of OF with documents and pictures. Whereas Things just gives you a link, OF shows the picture and the type of document through an icon and text. I gather all client’s information and use OF as a control center.

    Things is beautiful but after you have 75 plus projects the scrolling is endless. I wish OF had Things UI.

    • Thank you!

      I have actually come to terms with Things and now that there is support for setting start dates on tasks (scheduling), it is actually becoming quite useful. The “only” remaining gripe I have with Things is the lack of sub-projects. Granted, it’s not necessary 75% of the time, but on large projects when you really need it, I wish I would have chosen OF instead.

      I haven’t even thought of the difference in how OF and Things handles documents and pictures to be frank, but I understand and agree with your points and will have a look at it.

      One thing I really enjoy with OF though, is Perspectives. It is amazing to just have a “work” perspective which makes everything else filter out. You can achieve this in Things as well, except that you will still see all projects in the sidebar regardless of any filters.

      Like you say, Things is beautiful and simple, while OF has the great features. I am not entirely sure that I will be sticking with Things in the long run. OF definitely has the advantage of making it easier to get an overview and actually work with large projects.

      Thank you again for your insight!

  12. I’m looking for a basic project management app for my mac that I can sync with my iphone. Although I need time logging functionality as I’m a consultant and need to bill time to my clients. Does Things or OmniFocus have this functionality? I didn’t see anything on either site regarding this.

    • Mike

      You can do it with OF. All you need to do is set the due time and date. Then, when you actually start the action, click “Start” and upon finishing click “Completed”. It doesn’t do it automatically but it gives you a window with a drop down menu to set the completion time. Very useful, not time consuming at all. I use it all the time.

      Unfortunately, you can’t do it with Things since it does not feature time.

      Let us know what you decided to use.

      Cheers

      • Thanks, I actually found a time logging system which syncs with the accounting system I use which was a real bonus (i.e. sends data for invoicing automatically). Going to try that out and see how it goes. It doesn’t have an iphone app but hopefully there is one in the works.

      • I’m going to see how the time logging system works out as it has very basic task management which may be enough. Otherwise Things and Minco looks like it would be a good combo. Would probably go with that. Thanks for the suggestion.

      • I noticed that as well. I think the developer has done an outstanding job but it’s too much for one person. He could really rock the entire GTD market if he came up with an iPhone app and started selling The Hit List at a nominal amount just like RTM started. I like that app a lot and the fact that it’s online creates a huge advantage and a disadvantage as well. The advantage is OTA sync and the the access from any point. he disadvantage is the generalized feeling towards free online apps that they could disappear overnight.

  13. Any news on the THL’s development the syncing function? I like the Hit List’s immediate ease of use and would like to make it my primary GTD app, except for the critical fact that it doesn’t sync. I would like for it to sync between computers, my iPhone and a future iPad preferably through Mobile Me.

    • Stephanie,

      unfortunately, I think it is getting more difficult for THL to become a real solution. Their resources appear to be limited since it isn’t too hard to come up with an iPhone app and they still haven’t. Many times the developer doesn’t even have to invest on developing an iPhone app. A good example is Todoist. There are 3 or 4 apps for iPhone that sync with it. Coming up with one for THL shouldn’t be very hard to do .

      I have e feeling that the project is being abandoned. I wouldn’t trust my information on an abandoned project. I hope I am wrong on this one because I like THL.