Resurrected GTD App The Hit List Works Well, But Needs Improvements

screenshot of The Hit List for Mac

I wrote in my previous article that I’d take Karelia Software’s The Hit List for a test drive this week. I decided to do this out of frustration with the constant feet dragging that has become the trademark of Cultured Code, maker of GTD app Things. Initially impressed with its ease of use and elegant design, I no longer trust the company to release timely updates or to add much needed features, like a simple search function.

(I must say, however, that I remain pleased with its ease of use, if not with its by now somewhat outdated design. Whatever else anyone can say about Things, there’s no doubt that it just works.)

Before I go on with my review, it’s only fair that I list my expectations.

First, I want a GTD app that’s easy to use. Second, I’d love for it to offer some of the features Things lacks, such as time- and geo-based reminders, a search function, and an iOS equivalent of its Quick Entry function for Mac. Third, said app must have iOS and Mac versions. Lastly, it would be nice if it had a simple, eye-pleasing, elegant design—something which I suspect most Mac users would appreciate as well.

The good, the bad and the ugly

On many of these fronts, The Hit List qualifies. I initially didn’t find it that easy to use, but then I realized that’s partly because I’ve been a Things user for such a long time now that getting used to another GTD app would always take me some time. Once I did become a little more familiar with its interface, I stopped struggling to use it. (I will note, however, that the Mac app is very keyboard-friendly; I don’t use keyboard shortcuts that much, but if you’re a fan, you’ll love The Hit List. )

image of The Hit List for iPhone

*Breathtakingly simple. Alas, the same can’t be said of its Mac counterpart. *

I should also remark that the Mac app and the iPhone almost look like the work of different companies. The iPhone app is strikingly simple and beautiful—even more so than Cultured Code’s. But The Hit List Mac app is, at least to my eyes, not anywhere near the same level. It even lacks Retina display compatible icons.

That said, generally speaking, there’s no doubt that The Hit List is fairly easy to figure out and use.

It’s also feature-packed. Some of its features I didn’t even know I wanted until I used The Hit List, like the built-in Upcoming and Today views (Things only offers a Today view), or its built-in timer that allows you to track actual time spent on a task and to compare that to the time you’d estimated the task would take. (I use Vitamin R, to track time using the Pomodoro method, but had I found The Hit List sooner, I might have gone without.)

screenshot of The Hit List’s timer feature

*The timer is one of my favorite features. *

Another feature I quite like is the ability to create nested folders. If treated as projects, you can then easily create sub projects in the main project. Similarly, The Hit List supports subtasks. I’ve always thought it’d make perfect sense to be able to create sub projects, and I don’t understand why Things doesn’t offer something similar.

The Hit List Mac app also supports attachments, although there are some inconsistencies in the way it handles them. Drag a file onto a to-do shown in outline view mode, and The Hit List will convert it into another to-do. (In this case, after I dragged an image onto a to-do, the app created a new task called “view this file.”

Yet when I dragged the same file onto the same task, with the task shown in card view mode, the app treated it as an attachment, which is what I wanted.

This wasn’t the only problem I experienced. After I first downloaded the iPhone app, it took a good ten minutes to sync with the Mac app. Admittedly, many users praise The Hit List’s sync service, so this one instance may have been an exception rather than the norm.

On another occasion, I tried to use the iPhone app while I was on hold with a customer service rep, from an unrelated company, but the app just wouldn’t respond at all, at least not until I terminated the phone call.

Like Things (and unlike OmniFocus) The Hit List does not support an email to task feature. Smart folders, on the other hand, are supported and they provide almost SQL like functionality, a very advanced form of search also found in Todoist.

Price wise, The Hit List for Mac costs $49.99; the iPhone app will set you back $9.99. OmniFocus for Mac costs $39.99 (standard) or $79.99 (professional); its standard iOS app also costs $39.99 and the pro one goes for a hefty $59.98. Cultured Code’s Things for Mac goes for $49.99, and its iPhone app costs $9.99. I don’t mention iPad prices because The Hit List does not offer an iPad app. This alone may be a deal killer for some of you—Kerry Dawson, editor of The Daily Mac View and otherwise a big fan of The Hit List, called this omission a major problem.

Summary: Is it worth it?

The Hit Lost has a lot going for it. It’s fairly easy to use and it has plenty of nice features to boot. An easy way to describe it is to say that it’s somewhat more difficult to use, and less elegant, than Things, although it offers more features; conversely, you could say that it it’s probably easier to master and to use than OmniFocus, plus it looks better. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, but personally, I’m not ready to switch to it just yet.

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