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Things 3 has kick-butt Siri support, including on Watch

“In Things, remind me to finish my blog posts tomorrow at 2pm.”

“Show my Today list in Things.”

“Add support Finer Things in Tech on Patreon using Things.”

Seems like it all works from Apple Watch too. Per this Twitter thread, it sounds like developers must deliberately add that; they don’t get it for free just by adding Siri support on iPhone.

Things 3 after 5 months

Over the past few years, I’ve been searching for the right task manager for my needs. Doing both client work and freelance writing—almost entirely on iPad now—I navigate a mix of teams, Slack channels, and tools. I’ve tried a number of apps including Todoist, 2Do, Trello, OmniFocus, and others. But when Cultured Code released Things 3 for iPad, iPhone, and Mac back in May, my interest piqued.

Getting started

My original goal for trying Todoist and Trello was that my clients and editors could collaborate on tasks with me. Unfortunately, more often than not, they either already had their own task manager or they couldn’t get into those options. I work in Trello a little with a couple clients, but it hasn’t become a staple.

I picked up Things 3 on iPad and iPhone toward the end of Cultured Code’s beta and moved over a couple small projects. It’s certainly a unique experience from most other task managers; surprisingly simple and focused. You can’t pick your favorite (or any) colors for projects or set a pretty wallpaper photo.

After a couple weeks, I found that simplicity and focus to be refreshing. Once I caught onto the flexibility in Things 3, it clicked.

One thing I’ve never liked about many task managers is how rigidly dependent they usually are on deadlines. Working with clients (mostly) in the indie app space, projects sometimes slip or suddenly grow in complexity. It means a lot of tedious fiddling with calendar pickers and number wheels.

“Today”

A core feature that draws me to Things is its clever, fast, no-pressure “Today” system. You can quickly and easily mark one or more tasks as “Today,” and they’ll all appear in that section in the sidebar. They don’t get stale or turn red if you don’t complete them today. It’s just an easy way to quickly build a list of tasks you want to focus on.

Now, you can set due dates, deadlines, and reminders for tasks, and I do for some. But these options are not a primary focus of the interface or organizing tasks. I like that.

Due dates, deadlines, and reminders

When you do want a due date or need a nudge to finish a task, Things 3 does some cool stuff. There are three options, which can be used separately or together:

  • Due Date – The task will appear in Today on the day you choose. Does not fire an alert, does not become overdue
  • Deadline – Similar to a Due Date, but can become Overdue and get marked as such. Does not fire an alert
  • Reminder – An actual task alert. Can fire at a specific time on a due date, deadline, or any other time

I thoroughly enjoy this system. For example: when I have a MacLife column due, I create a task with a deadline for a specific day. I also set a due date of a few days before. This makes the task appear in Today, but gives me a few days to finish it because I don’t always finish a column in one day. Sometimes I need to research or stew on a concept, or finish a first draft, trash it, and go for round two.

In most other task managers, a task simply has a due date. If not checked off that day, the task takes on some variety of scolding, anxiety-inducing OVERDUE badge. For a lot of my work, I don’t think or operate that way, so I’ve usually had trouble with this aspect (and others) of most task managers.

Drag & drop and headings

Another of my favorite aspects of Things 3 is how thoroughly it supports drag and drop. To reorder tasks or projects on any device, simply drag them up and down the list.

On iOS, you can tap and drag the new tasks (+) button anywhere in a list to creat a task right there. It’s very useful, especially with the next and final feature I’ll mention here: Headings.

You can now create multiple Headings in a project to organize tasks. I find it to be a great way to break down large projects or just create separate ‘buckets’ or types of tasks. For example: in the past few months, in my Finer Tech newsletter project (to which you should totally subscribe!), I had an “iOS 11” heading for collecting those tips. I also have an “Ideas” heading for saving ways to improve the newsletter.

Things 3 all the way

If it isn’t obvious by now, I fully switched to Things 3 for all of my personal and most work project management. Previous versions lacked a few things I wanted, but I’m very happy with 3. Since I work mostly on iPad and iPhone, I use it there the most.

I’m hopeful that Cultured Code will soon add iPad goodies like keyboard shortcuts and support for iOS 11 drag and drop from other apps. And, while we can filter by tags in a project on iOS, I’d like at least iPad to mirror the Mac version and place those tags under the project title at the top for easier access.

If you’re queasy about trying Things 3 on iOS, remember that the App Store has a decent refund policy now. For Mac users, Cultured Code’s website has a trial.

How to add tasks to Things 3 with Siri and Reminders

Things 3 iPhone Siri RemindersThings 3 can automatically import tasks from Reminders, which includes those added by Siri. You can use the default Reminders list or tell Things to watch a specific list for new tasks. Once Things notices them, it will bring those tasks into your Inbox and delete them from Reminders.

It’s worth noting that, once iOS 11 ships this fall, Things 3 will integrate directly with Siri and no longer require Reminders as a proxy. It was demoed on-stage at WWDC 2017, and Cultured Code confirmed this on its blog. If you want to keep Reminders as a proxy for other workflows or integrations, though, they’ll keep this feature around.

But if you want Things 3 + Siri today, here’s how to enable it:

  • Open Things 3 on an iPhone or iPad
  • At the bottom of the sidebar, tap the Settings gear
  • Tap Siri
  • Tap Show Reminders switch to turn it on
  • A “List” option appears at the bottom
  • Choose whether you want Things to watch your default Reminders list (where Siri puts everything unless otherwise specified) or a specific list you created

Things 3 can only watch one Reminders list, so you’ll have to decide how you want your setup to work. Personally, I use the default Reminders list; I manage all tasks in Things 3 now, and almost never open Reminders.

But, if you choose to use one of your other Reminders lists, adding tasks with Siri is still pretty easy. Say you created a Reminders list called “Things” specifically for this purpose. Just say to Siri “add Finish the blog post to my Things list,” and your task will make its way to your Things 3 inbox.

I really like Things 3 for iPad, iPhone, and Mac so far, and I’ve switched all my personal task management to it. That includes planning Finer Things in Tech articles and the newsletter (to which you should totally subscribe!), as well as all of my Bit & Pen client tasks that don’t need the collaboration of something like Trello.

The iOS apps don’t have any sort of trial. But you can grab a Mac demo from Cultured Code.

Reminder: I use affiliate links like App Store/iTunes and Amazon. If you tap through and buy something, you’ll help support Finer Things in Tech and my app habit.