Things for Mac: Productivity Heaven

I’ve been a long time fan of David Allan’s Getting Things Done and I have tried to manage this with almost every app out there.

For the longest time I was using Todoist and loved it however as I got busier in 2017 for what I decided was going to be my big push on a number of projects Todoist just couldn’t keep up with the rate of change in my day. I started looking for new applications again.

I landed back with an old favourite – Things. I still have my licences (Mac, iPhone and iPad) so the cost of getting started was no longer an issue.

As with all new productivity apps I spent half a day adding all my tasks manually to ensure I had a clean start and wasn’t transferring clutter. In my case this took me around half a day but was worth it in the long run. I am now in love with Things.

There are few features Things has that just work with my way of getting stuff done.

  1. Projects can have due dates
    This is huge. I like to have small projects in GTD style any task that has more then 1 step is a project. Been about to assign the project a due date and have the project show in my Today view instead of its tasks is simple but powerful.
  2. Logging Daily
    Almost every todo app I have used hides completed tasks the moment they are completed – I don’t like this. Been able to see my Today list and everything I have completed is immensely motivating to get the rest of the tasks complete.
  3. Area’s of Responsibility
    Again something that is great for organising. I have 2 companies plus my home life inside this app. When planning a weekend’s jobs I don’t want to see anything related to work and Area’s of Responsibility does this
  4. No sharing
    Yes, even though I have to collaborate with my partners and team I don’t want them to mess with my task list. Things allows me to assign a task to a contact so I know they are responsible for it. And I can follow up on that task to check its completed when I do my daily mini reviews.
  5. Next
    A small overview showing the next 3 tasks in every project and area of responsibility I have allows me to quickly decide what I am going to do today and what can wait until tomorrow.
  6. Scheduled & Someday
    Both related but different. Both of these hide tasks and projects until you are ready to work on them. At the date specified they will re-appear in your today view for you to work on. This keeps my huge database under control and leaves me feeling in control and not overwhelmed every day when I do my mini review to decide on what needs completing today.

Dynalist

Dynalist is Workflowy on steroids. It follows the same basic principles and ideas but adds files and folders so instead of 1 massive piece of paper you can have 1 page per project and group projects by work or personal in folders.

Dynalist allow unlimited bullets for free per month and file attachments are a paid feature along with some of the functions around dates. Dynalist Pro is priced exactly the same as Workflowy Pro but brings a lot more functionality along with it.

The file upload feature is the only feature of Dynalist I wish Workflowy would have although its implementation could use a lot of work. At present to attach a file you drag and drop the file to the web app then you are given a Markdown string to copy and paste into your document creating a link to download what you uploaded.

Now as a web app downloading whatever you upload is the only way to go but I’d just a preview of images or a player for audio. I also don’t want to copy and paste the Markdown string. I wish it would automatically add this to the notes of the item I am editing and allow me to move it later if I wish to do so.

Apart from the above mentioned files and folders Dynalist also brings attached files, checkbox, numbered lists, dates and more to the table. They even have desktop apps although these are really just packaged up views of the web application they are still nice to have.

Dynalist also have a public Terllo board showing the development road map and history. They seem to be actively developing the application while Workflowy is a very stable, slow moving application.

The mobile experience for Dynalist is by far the better of the two. While both mobile apps can edit I consider Workflowy’s mobile app more a view on my list then a place I can edit it.

While on paper Dynalist blows Workflowy away it just didn’t have the same feel and flow for my style of working. There is something special that Workfloy’s 1 massive list has about it. Even the lack of features and its simplicity is attractive with Dynalist I sent too much time managing my list instead of doing work.

Dynalist is a steeler application and I highly recommend anybody give it try but it just didn’t work for me.

Bear Review

Bear is a fairly new application. Its been around on iOS for several months but I never really took interest in it until the macOS application was released.

So what is Bear? Well its a note taking application and a beautiful one. It is everything I need Evernote to be in a light weight package and did I mention it is beautiful.

The big pull for me was the recent news that All Evernote employees get access to all your notes by default. Well I keep some very sensitive information in Evernote and don’t want just anybody to be able to go and read that. Bear on the other hand don’t even store my notes on their server so there is no way the staff can can read it. Bear handles sync via iCloud which I’ll admit has its own issues with privacy and security but the thing here is I trust Apple more then Evernote.

The other thing Bear does right is not formatting. They support Markdown like syntax as well as attachments, linking to notes and hashtags instead of notebooks, folders, tags and everything else Evernote has going on.

The best comparison I can make is Evernote is the Swiss Army Knife of note taking applications it doesn’t everything and none of it very well but people use it and put up with it because nothing comes close – until now.

Because Bear supports Markdown I enjoy writing in the applications, in fact this blog post was drafted in Bear. I also picked up on the Markdown tweaks and additions very quickly and now I can take notes on a phone call faster then ever.

Bear has almost replaced IA Writer for me and will replace it completely once I find the time to copy over my current drafts.

Sync uses iCloud so if you only have a free iCloud account you are going to be limited to only having 5GB of notes at any one time but this is a huge limit if you are mostly keeping text based notes. I already pay for a 50GB iCloud account to house all my personal email so this is no issue for me.

I almost instantly paid for Bear Pro to get the syncing across devices and export to different formats. Exporting a PDF to email clients a copy of my notes is one of the surprise features here. I don’t care to much for the themes as the default theme is just simply gorgeous.

Bear has replaced Evernote for me as is also proving to be a good to do list manger are the same time. Bear provides everything I needed Evernote for with no monthly upload limits and at a fraction of the price.

Workflowy

Workflowy first an foremost is a god send. An outlining tool and notebook and task manager all in one. The website doesn’t tell you much about it but once you sign up you get a series of tutorial videos to watch that explain things in a lot of details. The power of the endless page and near endless hierarchy of nested lists is simply brilliant and inspiring. As a tool Workflowy is so flexible and packs a lot of hidden power.

In both my personal and business life (really one in the same) things change by the minute not the day. Traditional task management apps like Todoist, Omnifocus and Things just can’t keep up with the rate that information flows into my life. Not all of this information is a task or job some of it is notes that might be needed for an action later, some of it is random thoughts I don’t have time to flesh out right at the time they come to me.

Other things I use Workflowy for is actually writing. I don’t get time to sit and write a full article for this site or any others I manage in one go. A perfect solution to this is Workflowy, as an outlining tool this is what it was designed for and is perfect at it. I can list an idea and inside that a few bullets on bits I want to touch on and then when I have time to flesh out them points I can go to town and write a few words or even paragraphs in the notes of the bullet. This alone has increased the amount of content I have in draft for this site but it doesn’t feel overwhelming and there is always a plan laid out that I can follow no matter how much time passes.

There are a number of questions around this. The application hasn’t changed a lot in its 5 year existence. I am assured that they are still developing and working on the platform however Workflowy is a small team (2 people) and there is a limit to what they can do. I work as a small team and no all too well what this means.

They have a lot of plans and some big aspirations however when you have 6 or 7 full time jobs to cover as 1 person just to keep the product online developing new features on the product is a very very slow process.

Workflowy Pro, what do you get and it is worth the $50 a year? The short answer here is not a lot, Workflowy is still a fairly unknown product and that can earn you a lot of monthly bullets for free – I have 2500 at the time of writing this. That makes the unlimited bullets pro gives you only valuable for the heaviest of users.

The other features pro will buy you are some new themes and a choice of fonts. Password protected collaboration is a feature of pro to add a little security/privacy to your shared lists as well as backup to Dropbox.

Backup to Dropbox is something of a nice feature that drops a complete copy of your Workflowy account in plain text format into your Dropbox every morning so you always have a backup and can’t lose a thing.

Would I pay for Workflowy Pro, yes for the Dropbox backups and unlimited bullets. Although in the 3 months I’ve been using the application I have only come close to my 2000 bullets per month limit once and that was in the month I was moving house and had a literal ton of tasks that were added and completed. That said I would still pay $50 a year from the new year for the service just to know I am supporting the 2 guys and helping to keep the lights on as they don’t have any adverts even in the free version.