The ideal for anyone interested in Getting Things Done (more on GTD, and more)–
or just being productive and organized, for that matter — is to be able
to quickly add things to your to-do lists without interrupting your
work; to be able to see what you need to do right now, without worrying
about everything else; to be able to organize stuff without too much
And of course, GTD fans like tools that are just cool.
Since switching back to the Mac OS a couple months ago, I’ve been
playing around with GTD apps for the Mac. I’m looking for something
very simple, something nice to use, something that I don’t have to play
around with a lot, something where I can add stuff instantly. And what
did I find? The are some amazing GTD apps for the Mac. Seriously.
When I used a PC, the only real desktop GTD app I saw was for
Outlook, which I do not like at all. So I used online apps
(recommendations at the bottom). But the Mac GTD apps are just great!
It’s super hard to choose — you basically have to play with all of them
and figure out what works for you.
What did I end up with? I like iGTD a lot, but I’ve settled (for
now) on a custom setup that is the height of simplicity. More about
that in a few. For now, let’s look at some great Mac GTD apps —
remembering that you don’t need to actually do GTD to use them.
While all the apps below are great, this is my personal favorite. It’s
simple, and you can add tasks and other items very quickly through
Quicksilver (my all-time favorite app) or other methods. It’s easy to
organize stuff, and you can just look at what you need to look at.
Plus, the interface is really nice. It works pretty much exactly how
you’d want a GTD app to work, and the clincher is that there’s some
cool integration with Mail.app so that you can email tasks to iGTD from
anywhere. This may be the most popular GTD app for the Mac (though I’m
not sure, so don’t quote me). The current version (188.8.131.52) is
donationware, and there’s a free alpha version of iGTD2 (which I think might require payment once it’s officially released).
2. Kinkless GTD.
If iGTD is the most popular GTD app for the Mac, then for a long time
that crown was held by Kinkless. It’s an ingenious workaround for
OmniOutliner, a popular outlining program for the Mac. Using a
well-written script, Kinkless automatically sorts and updates stuff.
This simplicity and automation makes for a lot of power, once you get
used to the system. Takes a little bit of learning, but it’s a great
system. The Kinkless script is free, but you have to own OmniOutliner
to use it.
If you liked Kinkless, you’ll love OmniFocus. The creator of Kinkless
was hired by the OmniOutliner folks (The Omni Group) to create a true
todo list and product-management app, a la Kinkless. It looks and works
great, but the drawback is the high price: $79.95. It’s a must-buy for
Kinkless fans, probably, but for the rest of us there is free or
cheaper software out there (like the other things on this list) that
Things caused a bit of a splash in the Mac GTD community when it came
out a few months ago, mostly because it looks so cool. A preview
version has been out that works pretty nicely, although it was a bit
limited when I tried it a little while ago. The full version (for $49)
is scheduled to come out sometime this Spring, and it’s something to
look out for. It’s not a strictly GTD program, so it can be used for a
variety of setups. Really slick.
5. Midnight Inbox. While there’s a version 2 coming out soon, version 1 is already pretty great. It has an interface
that’s just as slick as Things, works great, and is perhaps the easiest
to understand of all the apps on this list, right out of the box. You
don’t need to learn GTD or try to figure out the interface — it’s
readily apparent. Definitely worth a look. Has a free 14-day trial,
then costs $35 for a single license — which will get you free upgrades
to versions 2.o and 3.0 and everything in between.
My Custom Setup
While I love the apps mentioned above, I personally look for super
simple. So I’ve settled on a setup taken from Gina and Adam’s articles
on Lifehacker (read the tutorials: Geek to Live and Hack Attack).
Text files: Basically, I organize my tasks in a
series of text files. That’s because they’re super simple, easy to
manipulate, and small. My four files:
- @today: my three MITs for today, along with calls, batch tasks, and an inbox for new things added to the list.
- @ideas: any ideas for projects, posts, or anything really.
- @errands: includes regular errands and my shopping list.
- @todo: my list of 3 projects I’m working on and any other todo items I’m not going to do today.
Quicksilver append: I use the glorious program Quicksilver to quickly add things to any of my lists with the “append text”
command. So let’s say I think of a task or errand or idea to add to my
list. I call up Quicksilver (Cmd-Space), type the text of the idea or
task (hit period first), tab to the next pane and start typing “append
to” (it pops up as soon as I type the letter “a”), tab to the next pane
and start typing the list I want to add it to (@today, for example).
Basically takes just a few keystrokes, and then Quicksilver disappears
and I continue whatever I was doing. It’s simple and super fast.
Geektool to display: For myself, I forget to use
whatever to-do list program I’m using unless I see it all the time. So
I wanted a way to see my lists easily without having to open a program
all the time, or go to a website just to see what I need to do or add
something. So I use Geektool to display my files on my desktop — always available, and I never
forget them. It updates every 10 seconds. See the Geek to Live tutorial
mentioned above for more.
How I work: In case you’re curious, my basic
workflow: I set up my MITs every morning in my @today list. I add
smaller tasks and stuff to this list as the day goes on, but the only
things I really care about completing are the MITs. If I have an idea
or errand or other todo item, I’ll quickly add it to the appropriate
list. I’ll take my errand or shopping list with me if I go out. If I
need to write a post, I’ll check my @ideas list. Anytime I want to
check my lists, I just minimize whatever program I’m using (usually
either Firefox or a text program) and look at my desktop.
Recommendations for non-Mac users
If you don’t use a Mac, I recommend an online GTD or todo program.
There are many good ones. Some of the best, that I’ve actually tried: Vitalist, Nozbe, Backpack, Tadalists, Tracks, SimpleGTD, Mojonote, Tasktoy, Todoist, Remember the Milk, GTD Gmail.