Things vs. Todoist, Or Why I Abandoned an Old Favorite GTD App of Mine

After a brief hiatus, Daily Mac View contributor Alain Latour returns to discuss why he switched sides in the war between productivity apps.

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Red (Todoist] takes on blue (Things).

The decision to switch apps is not to be made lightly. For one thing, it entails the time-consuming and tedious process of transferring tasks and related information. And in some cases, you may have developed a fondness for a particular app and the company behind it. Out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, you hesitate to switch sides.

Out of these two reasons, it was mostly the latter that kept me from dumping Cultured Code’s Things for Mac. I loved the simplicity of the product and its elegant design, not to mention the company’s excellent customer service. I even called it the perfect app for people who want a simple, yet powerful GTD solution.

But in time, reality became impossible to ignore: despite its elegance and ease of use, Things badly needed a major update. Worse, it didn’t seem it would arrive anytime soon, despite the fact that many fellow Things users have long been clamoring for features offered by the competition, including location-based alerts, calendar integration, attachment support, and the ability to export to other formats.

For a long time, many of us pinned our hopes on Things 3, a unicorn of an update which the company has been promising for a long time. Based on my research, I wrongly predicted in April of last year that Cultured Code would likely release Things 3 sometime in 2015. Yet here we are, over a year later, and Things 3 for Mac remains MIA, even though it’s being beta tested for quite some time now.

Just as I was contemplating switching apps, I came across an article singing the praises of Todoist. I checked it out, and I was impressed. Not only did it look as elegant and easy to use as Things, it also had most of the features I really wanted Things to have. What’s more, it had a reputation for frequent updates, and was cross-platform to boot. So take it out for a spin, and was hooked.

screenshot of Todoist on iPhone

Todoist proves Things isn’t the only simple, yet elegant app in town.

Like Things, Todoist is indeed easy to use and boasts a fast and reliable sync feature. But it goes further than its German counterpart, offering excellent natural language support (a feature fellow Fantastical users are sure to appreciate) and support for collaborators. It also lets you add and complete tasks from any browser, a useful feature that I haven’t used yet, but still appreciate having at my disposal.

I especially like Todoist’s support for custom filters that work with Boolean operators. (Federico Viticci compared them to OmniFocus perspectives, but “based on a simple syntax and entirely under your control.”)

Thanks to these filters, I was able to create different categories, like “Today’s professional tasks, “today’s personal tasks,” “overdue,” “tomorrow’s personal tasks” and “tomorrow’s professional tasks,” as well as four quadrants based on Stephen Covey’s management grid. Armed with these categories, I know I can easily search for and find whatever tasks lie ahead. (Please note that labels and filters are available only to premium users; more on that later.)

screenshot of Todoist for Mac

But my favorite Todoist feature, and one of the main reasons why I dumped Things, is the attachment support feature. I often need to add PDFs, documents and images to my tasks, and I can’t understand why Culture Code doesn’t seem to make this a priority.

An interest Todoist feature, called Karma, aims to motivate users by tracking their task management and displaying it in “colorful, easy to read graphs based on daily and weekly trends.” While I don’t use Karma all that much, many people seem to love it.

Of course, no product is perfect. For some reason, Todoist only lets you add notes or comments to tasks, but not to projects, a limitation that I find pretty frustrating. And on the iPhone, you can’t add tasks to Todoist via Siri. (This, however, isn’t Todoist’s fault; Siri doesn’t currently support any native integrations.) A workaround involves a number of IFTTT recipes, but I never got them to work properly. (Yes, Todoist supports IFTTT integration.)

Price

Unlike Things and Omnifocus, Todoist doesn’t sell any apps. Instead, you can download and use them for free—with a quite a few major limitations: you won’t be able to use labels or reminders, get location-based notifications, add tasks via email, upload files, use Karma, and many more.

In other words, the free plan is quite limited, but it does let you play with the app(s) to get an idea and decide whether you want to go up to Todoist Premium, which will cost you USD $28.99 per year (or, as Todoist prefers to say, less than $2.5/month).

Summary

I have been using Todoist for almost a year now. I’m very satisfied. I admit there was one brief moment when I wondered what Cultured Code was up to. But when I saw that they have yet to deliver Things 3, I was immediately reassured that I’d made the right decision.

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