This week's sponsor


An app for every job, already on your Mac

Posts tagged with "task management"

Things 3.4 Brings Powerful New Automation Features and App Integrations

I switched to Things as my task manager late last year, sometime before the holidays. While I discussed this decision at length on Connected and AppStories, I didn't write about it on MacStories because I didn't want to rehash Ryan's in-depth review of Things 3. In terms of design and features, everything I like about Things is covered in his original review.

My personal motivation for switching to Things boils down to this: the way projects and the Today screen are designed in Things fits well with my schedule, and doesn't stress me out. Things has a "calm" interface that doesn't turn overdue tasks red, making me feel guilty; projects are clearly laid out with a tasteful use of San Francisco, and further organization can be applied to a project using headings, a feature I've never seen in any other task manager. And among dozens of thoughtful touches, Things' separation of Today and This Evening for the current day is absolutely in line with how I think about my typical day. In short: I want 2018 to be less stressful than last year, and Things is helping with the task management part.

That said, as someone who used 2Do and Todoist in the past and heavily automated them for integration with other apps, I was missing some solid automation options from Things. Cultured Code has offered a basic URL scheme in their iOS app for a few years now, but the supported commands never went beyond the ability to create basic, metadata-free tasks in the app.

This is changing today with Things 3.4, which I've had the opportunity to test and experiment with for the past couple of months. With this new version, the folks at Cultured Code have shipped one of the most powerful and versatile URL scheme action libraries seen in a task manager for iOS – comparable to Omni's work on OmniFocus, and, in a way, perhaps even more flexible.

The new Things URL scheme, which has been documented here, lets you create tasks, projects, show specific sections of the app, and search across your entire Things database. This may not sound too impressive on paper, but what sets this feature apart is the level of customization and detail that can be applied to every single parameter of every action. As a result, Things is now a first-class citizen of the iOS automation scene, and, within the limitations of iOS inter-app communication, its URL scheme unlocks several new possible integrations with apps and workflows.

Furthermore, Cultured Code wants to make it easy for third-party developers to natively support sending data to Things from their apps. Today, the company is also introducing a JSON-based command to allow more control when adding items to Things from external apps, and they've created a set of Swift helper classes that apps can use to easily generate the JSON needed to pass data to Things. As I'll demonstrate later in this article, a couple developers of two of my favorite iOS apps are already taking advantage of these capabilities to great effect.

As you can imagine, I've been busy experimenting with the new automation features of Things and identifying aspects of the app I wanted to speed up by integrating them with other apps. Below, you'll find a collection of the launchers and workflows I've put together for Things 3.4. These are the actions and scripts I find myself using the most on a daily basis, and which I believe considerably extend Things' capabilities on the iPhone and iPad. More advanced workflows will follow over the next couple of weeks (and months) exclusively for Club MacStories members in the Workflow Corner section of MacStories Weekly.

Let's dig in.

Read more

Apple’s Reminders App Reimagined

Source: Tim Nahumck

Source: Tim Nahumck

Tim Nahumck has outlined his vision for a new and improved Reminders app, inspired by the iOS 11 design language and existing concepts found in apps like Files. I’ve long hoped for a full Reminders revamp to make the app look and feel more modern, and Nahumck has some good ideas for what Apple could do. The words that resonated most with me, however, are where Nahumck explains why Apple should do this:

I think a lot of people’s lives can be improved by task management. For years, I’ve tried to get family and friends to see the benefits; sometimes they do, most times they don’t. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

What I have often found is that the idea of downloading a separate app bothers people. Sure, they’ll have a few dozen free apps – camera and photo editing apps, several social media apps, a bunch of couponing apps – but heaven forbid they get a paid productivity app involved in the mix. The mental friction of having a separate app to manage their lives can be difficult to get over. This is usually the point where I suggest simply using Reminders: it’s basic enough to get the job done, it’s a part of the OS, and they don’t have to pay to try it out. But the app isn’t where it needs to be.

These words highlight the inspiration that I believe Apple should take in approaching a full Reminders rebuild. I know tons of people whose lives would be improved by a bit of task management help; the number of people in this category among all iOS users has to be enormous. As such there’s great potential for a new Reminders – rethought from the ground up – to add true benefit to the lives of millions of users. Like Nahumck’s concept shows, I think this could be done in a way that still offers significant utility to power users, while keeping it simple for those who want it so.

For the last several years I’ve had a refreshed Reminders on my WWDC wish list, only to be disappointed. Maybe with the important groundwork of drag and drop and the new iOS design language now taken care of, 2018 will be the year my wish comes true.


Streaks 3 Review

Streaks helps you set personal goals and stick to them using a combination of reminders and tracking. One of the hallmarks of the app, and what undoubtedly won it an Apple Design Award in 2016, is its obsessive attention to ease-of-use. By the very nature of its mission, Streaks is an app in which you shouldn’t spend a lot of time. Whether it’s in the main app, widget, or Apple Watch app, Streaks is designed to remove the friction of turning goals into habits by tracking tasks in a way that doesn’t become tedious, which makes it important to be able to mark items as completed quickly and easily.

It’s been interesting to watch Streaks evolve. As Streaks has added functionality and customization options with each version, the simplicity of its design has remained the app’s core design principle. One of the app’s most opinionated design decisions from the start was to limit users to tracking just six goals. Limiting the number of goals was meant to constrain users to an achievable number of goals and helped reduce complexity.

When I heard that Streaks was doubling the number of goals that can be tracked and adding in-depth statistics and other customizations, I immediately wondered whether that could be pulled off while maintaining Streaks’ signature design. The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ Version 3.0 of Streaks not only remains true to its roots, but it’s also the best version of the app yet.

Read more

Things 3: Beauty and Delight in a Task Manager

Today Cultured Code launched the long-anticipated next version of its task management app, Things, for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Things has been one of the go-to task managers on Apple platforms since its initial release in 2008, and for good reason; the team at Cultured Code is known for the thought and care they put into their apps. For much of its life, Things has been a shining example of quality iOS and macOS development.

Over the last nine years, Things has been quick to adopt the latest OS features introduced by Apple in an effort to keep the app current; more substantial updates, however, have been few and far between. It took four years for Things 1 to give way to Things 2, and the gap between versions 2 and 3 has been even longer. Many of the once-loyal Things users have moved on to newer, more modern options for task management. But now, Things 3 has finally arrived.

Was it worth the wait?

Read more

The Successor to Wunderlist Is Here: Microsoft To-Do

Microsoft To-Do is the official successor to Wunderlist, the popular task management app acquired by Microsoft in mid-2015. Microsoft unveiled To-Do today in Preview, which is essentially a public beta. The service is built on Office 365 technologies, but according to ZDNet it is available to anyone with a Microsoft account; Office 365 is not required.

To-Do launches today on several major platforms, including iPhone, Android, Windows, and the web. Unfortunately iPad and Mac versions are not available at this time, but Microsoft says those apps will be available in the coming months.

After spending some time with To-Do on iPhone, my initial impressions are that it's a beautiful, simple task management tool that very much feels like a worthy successor to Wunderlist.

Read more

Todoist Launches Native Amazon Echo Integration

Since moving back to Todoist, I've been looking for a way to easily add tasks using the Amazon Echo, which has become a staple in our household for a variety of voice commands. Today, the Todoist team has rolled out a native Amazon Echo integration that lets you create tasks and manage your todo list just by talking to Alexa.

Nathan Ingraham, writing for Engadget:

It works much like you'd expect: you can ask Alexa to add items to the various lists that you have in your Todoist account, and you can also ask it to tell you everything that's on your to-do list for that day. And Alexa works with Todoist's natural language processing, so you can ask it to add things to your list "tomorrow" or "next Wednesday" and it'll know just what you're asking it for. It's not clear if you'll be able to tell Alexa to add items to specific projects or to-do lists in your account -- they probably get added to whatever your default list is for you to sort out on your phone or computer.

The Todoist blog has more details on how the integration works:

Over the past months, we’ve worked closely with Amazon as part of a limited participation beta of their Alexa integration platform, and we’re thrilled to be able to share the results with you today.


When dictating a task, Todoist’s smart date recognition will automatically recognize and add any due date you say. For example, saying, “Alexa, add pay the rent every first of the month to my to-do list,” will automatically add a recurring task to “Pay the rent” to your Todoist, due on the first day of every month. The task will disappear from your Alexa To-do list until the day your task is due.

Essentially, Todoist can now sync its Inbox list with the Echo's own todo list; the Echo's built-in shopping list also gets recreated inside Todoist as an 'Alexa Shopping List' project. This allows you to say "add task to my todo list" instead of using a specific Todoist terminology. There are some caveats (you can't specify Todoist projects, for instance), but this looks like a solid first step.

I configured Todoist with my Amazon Echo earlier today, and everything was up and running in less than two minutes. The Amazon Echo's excellent voice recognition helps Todoist understand natural language queries for due dates, and I've been positively impressed with the speed and consistency so far. I think I'm going to be using this very often.