Potion Factory Blog

Better Software Through Less UI

The Hit List 0.9.3 is out. A lot of work went into this release but the two main user visible changes are repeating tasks and AppleScript support. Of those two features, repeating tasks took a surprisingly long time to implement. The code itself wasn't too hard to write, but as usual, settling on a design was the hardest and the most hair-pulling part of the job.

The Cultured Code guys behind the excellent application Things have also written about this particular problem so I thought I'd add to the discussion and explain my design decisions on what ended up being a completely different implementation.


I started the design process by mocking up some UI to satisfy all the different ways of setting up repeating tasks.

Specifically, I wanted the application to be sophisticated enough to accommodate the following cases:

  • Repeat every n days
  • Repeat every n weeks, optionally on specific days of the week
  • Repeat every n months, optionally on specific days of the month or on specific days of the nth week
  • Repeat every n years, optionally on days of the month or days of the week on specific months
  • Whenever possible, allow repeating after completing the task.


I spent quite a bit of time creating mockups. While they technically satisfied the requirements, none of them struck me as being elegant or easy to use. For one thing the designs always required the user to translate a simple thought into many small interface manipulations. Sure, this is true with any user interface, but it seemed especially true for this problem. From the very beginning, a goal for The Hit List has been to create an application that is as frictionless as possible. I wanted the application to make the most out of each user interaction.

Not being satisfied, and after throwing away all of my mockups and even code, I went back to the drawing board. I'm glad I did because here is the end result:

There is no myriad of buttons and fields to choose from. All the user has to do is directly type in what he wants.

After you type in a recurrence rule, the window resizes to reveal additional options relevant to the new rule.

Example Rules

For this to work without driving the user mad, the natural language parser has to be near perfect. The last thing I want is for this to come out smelling like AppleScript.

Take a look at what the application can understand.

Every day
Every single day

Every 2 days
Every two days

Every week on Mondays
Every Monday
Every mon

Every other Monday
On Mondays every other week

Every third Saturday
Every three weeks on Saturdays

Every week on Monday and Tuesday
Every mon & tue
Mondays or Tuesdays

Every Monday through Thursday
Every Monday to Thursday
mon to thu

Every 2w on wed, thu, and fri

Every other month

Every month on the 1st
On each first of the month
Monthly on the first
Every month on the 1st of the month

Every month on the 5th and the 20th day
On the 5th and 20th of the month

Every month on the 1st through the 6th
Monthly on the first through the sixth
On the 1st through the 6th of every month

On every second Monday of the month
Monthly on every 2nd Monday
Every month on second Mondays

Every year on January first
On January 1st of every year

Every last sun of October through April
Every oct through apr on the last Sunday

Even with all this I missed the rules "on the last day of the month" and "on the last nth day of the month". A future update will remedy this shortcoming.

If you find any other text that isn't parsed correctly, please let me know.


This design isn't perfect as it has two glaring problems. One is that the user has no easy way of discovering how complex the recurrence rules can be. This isn't such a huge problem, but a way to solve this is to include a help button to show example rules or to include an accompanying iCal style UI to let the user setup the recurrence rule in a more typical fashion. I didn't include these in the initial implementation though because I wanted to see how users would react to this kind of UI.

Another problem is localization. Even if I write parsers for a few more popular languages, it won't accommodate the rest of the users in the world. Again, the solution is an accompanying traditional UI, but for now, I'm leaving it the way it is until I get some feedback.

Closing Thoughts

The Hit List has been my playground for trying out different ideas. This repeating task UI is just another example of me having fun even at the cost of disregarding some users.

My hope is that the net result will be more happier users even when I don't satisfy everyone.

UPDATE: If you'd like see how this works out in real life, you can download the public preview of The Hit List. You'll need Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard.



Brandon Walkin

You've reduced visual complexity by greatly increasing cognitive complexity. The tradeoff is just not worth it in this case. The user is given a text field with no indication of what input is valid, and since textual recurrence input is uncommon (which is not the case for textual date input, for instance), the user is left without an good idea of what would be considered valid input. Any attempt at formulating input would be with the mindset of "I hope this works" rather than with confidence.

I'd much rather present to users a more visually complex interface, if it means that a significantly higher percentage of users can just "figure it out" without having to reference help documentation. You have to weigh the cost of visual complexity and cost of the interface being difficult to learn.

If you want to keep the textual recurrence input, I'd suggest adding some common examples below the text field. Most users should be able to formulate a recurrence statement with confidence after they've seen an example that resembles the input they have in mind.


While I agree that this kind of input needs some hinting (and ideally the content of this hinting would be contextually sensitive and adjust itself based on what the user has typed so far - and optional elements of the hinting might appear in a more faded/grey color to help imply that they are optional), I disagree that a more visually complex interface is of value in an application like THL. I'm an OmniFocus user and for me, one of the best features is simply that I can quickly and easily enter task after task after task when my brain is in "task capture mode". None of the fields in a task require a visually complex UI that requires me to break from typing mode and fool around with pick lists and buttons (although I have the option of doing that through an inspector if I wish).

However, it wasn't immediately that I started typing into fields like "Due Date" - at first I was setting this through the inspector, because I didn't know the "rules" of the "Due Date" field for a task. I still don't really know the rules, but I've learned through trial and error what it accepts. The hinting is a good idea and I was thinking the same thing while I was reading this blog post.

Tim Watt

Very impressed so far - although I find the implementation is far less elegant and self-explanatory than Things - eg tagging is clunky, Areas are missing and no syncing yet.

Things missed an opportunity, for me, in not recognising this user who contributed to their beta for a promised discount in a reasonable timescale.

But, my oh my, it includes an outliner - how long have I wanted such a thing to manage and think about projects!!! This does seem to have some faults, eg why when you complete a sub-task the whole task is ticked as done???

Keep up the good work as obviously a beta (why not construct a help or FAQ - that should be easy enough)....

Thanks for that e-mail, to get me started,



Brandon has a good point, in that an empty text box is very intimidating, and without hints, "I hope this works" is definitely in the front of your mind.
(However!) Many, many times using THL I have thought, "I hope this works," and more times than not it DOES. In this case too, this UI is crazy enough (intuitive enough?) to work.
I'm willing to try it. I usually don't have especially complex repeat patterns (but I note there are complex variations possible). I love how Andy (in classic Andy style) has enabled shortcut abbreviations. I don't need to click four dropdown boxes, or give verbose instructions. I just need to type (Cmd-R) "2w fri." So quick, so easy, so awesome.

Rory Prior

Nice update Andy. Could I suggest adding a little example rule beneath the repeat text field like "E.g. every other Monday", just because most people don't expect software to quite that clever ;)


I think Andy is onto something here, and I want to publicly applaud his efforts.

This is how software _should_ work. I disagree with Brandon Walkin's comment that this solution amounts to "greatly increasing cognitive complexity". If anything, it is a successful attempt to decrease cognitive complexity. As Neil's comment implies, Brandon seems to be mistaking "cognitive complexity" for psychological comfort. I agree that the dialog is startling at first, and discomfits the user. But then it works! The problem, then, is how to relieve the discomfort. I am sure Andy is not going to relieve it by building a wind-tamer with seven pinwheels. More verbal solutions, please. More of this:

"From the very beginning, a goal for The Hit List has been to create an application that is as frictionless as possible. I wanted the application to make the most out of each user interaction."


my 2c fwiw...
awesome implementation... this application just goes from better to best to ... um... bestesterer.

very good work.


I'll add one more addition. "weekday" as in "last weekday of the month" or "3rd to last weekday of the month".

Bonus for "workday" support but that requires a calendar of business holidays be maintained.


I find the repeating task dialog absolutely fine. If I understand correctly the reason I like THL, it has to do with making that little effort to remember the shortcuts in order to gain a level of interaction comfort that is rarely seen around in applications of this class.
A bit of smartness on your side, a bit of smartness on THL's side and and you get the best of what a biological brain can do together with an electronic one.

And kudos for THL's colour scheme. It's so confusing and boring to see every other app around copying iTunes blueish sidebar... at least someone here got the point and improved over the existing without breaking it. And you can spot THL at a glance even in a mosaic of tiny windows in expose'.


What about the popular recurrence description "biweekly" "bimonthly" "semi-anually" not that I ever see myself using THL for recurring tasks, ever, but those are popular. Wish you had spent your time on other things.

Christoph Spiegl

I think the implementation is just perfect. But like you already mentioned, the user should get a little help in what he can write.

Love the release so far!

Pedro Murillo

Very bright implementation of the repetitive tasks feature. An awesome application overall. I own both Omnifocus and Things and I'm currently using THL because I found its interface very intuitive and useful.


I like the way you are trying to find new and better ways. But it would be a petty if the Hit List would become something for which you first need to write down all kkinds of tricks before you can work it.
I would prefer something that has proven to be working her. Have a look at how it's done in iCal. It should be more complicated that that..



In keeping with the easy keyboard commands of this product, I LOVE the way y9ou do repeating tasks. When you get to the point where you are living in this product for a large portion of the day, being able to use the keyboard is crucial. That's not to say for newbies or people who like the mouse that you shouldn't do an alternative dialog-like system to allow them to be happy as well. THL is coming along great and is increasingly becoming a big part of my Mac Happiness.


You've reduced visual complexity by greatly increasing cognitive complexity.

But the cognitive complexity here only needs to be resolved once, and this is an application that people will be using daily. Hitting tab into small fields and typing cannot be sped up by learning, but needs to be done, over and over again. I'll take the cognitive complexity any day, and an example directly in the dialog will reduce the thought needed by 70% (SWAG).

Scott G

Definitely like the minimal UI -- it matches THL's clean feel. But I'm actually posting to say.... Wow, AppleScript support already!!!!

I stumbled upon this just I was thinking how cool it would be to be able to sync a THL folder with a Lighthouse project for an upcoming beta release. Looks like putting some code together to do this wouldn't take much at all and could probably all be written in Ruby (not really a fan of AppleScript's smell either).

Of course... before I get started, what would really help is if I had some sort of tool to help me break this project down into smaller tasks, then track them as they get completed. Something that was easy to use, ran native on my mac, didn't get in my way. Bonus if it also looks good. Hmm... any ideas? ;-)

Kiran P

I think this is an amazing demonstration of the 80/20 rule in action. I believe most recurring tasks that people setup can be easily entered using the single text field without a need to think twice. If needed one might have to read some examples - but that should be a one time thing. The extended UI is the perfect way to tackle the problem of setting up more complicated recurring tasks.

Excellent implementation that is bound to make a lot of users happy!


Oh please come out with the iphone app. The Hit List is by far the best GTD app for macs. Things doesn't even come close.

David Leppik

Reminds me a lot of the GNU implementation of the Unix date command. (Used in Linux; not to be confused with the BSD version that's on the Mac.) It prints today's date by default, but also understands "yesterday", "two days ago", "next Monday" and the like.


Does it support constructs such as "the last day of the month" or the "the last day of each month"? Or "the next to last day of each month"? Or "two days before the last day of the month"? These kinds of recurring events are impossible to configure in the iCal GUI, but the ics standard does support them.


Very interesting approach, but I somewhat agree with comments suggesting it's intimidating because of the thought required. I guess a combination of syntax and a blank field and the more typical selection controls (revealing as needed) would work.

That being said, it sure would be nice to be able to say

2hrs monthly avoiding holidays and conflicts

and have the non uniform recurrence suggestions worked out for you :-)


I love it - I don't agree with the cognitive load argument at all - the load is taken care of by the computer, and most of the time it seems to get it right.

I want to also weigh in and say that an iPhone app is the one thing that's keeping me from ditching Things right NOW. I'd even settle for a very simple app that just let you remotely enter items and view/check off items, at least until you could get the time to write a full blown app.

Something that leverages CoreLocation on the iPhone would be awesome too - OF tries to do this, but IMO gets it badly wrong.


There is something interesting about this approach, but I do have one observation.

After entering the natural-language description of the recurrence, the UI then shows what it has understood by means of a set of form elements appropriate to what has been entered. I like the way that it's unafraid to show different elements depending on what has been entered.

However, I question why these are editable fields. If the user wants to change some aspect of the recurrence, why should it be assumed that she wants to change only the elements 'scraped' from the last natural-language input? Just because she entered 'every Monday' last time, why does it assume she will only want to change it to a recurrence of the form 'every X' in future? This is what the presence of the form widgets seem to suggest.

I would propose only having the natural language input, and using the space below to describe, in a read-only format, how the input was understood. If the user wishes to refine that description, they can refine the natural language version.

I always find it useful on such things, by the way, to display the next time the task will run, the last time it will run, and the number of times it will run in total. I can understand if this is a little verbose for a pop-up, though. :)

Andy Matuschak

Your work on this is phenomenal. I was incredibly surprised when I discovered that this field behaved this way, and I actually started giggling. Well done.


Does it handle "the Tuesday after the first Monday in November" or "the Monday before the first Thursday of the month"?

The first example is how the November US election is scheduled. The second is my non-profit's executive committee meeting.

Cody Brimhall

Awesome. A lot of people have mentioned above that it's hard to discover what the interface can accept... which is true. But a little bit of trial and error clears that right up, and then the user has an interface that is much, much less fiddly and involved than the iCal-style interface.

I think it was probably Gruber who said that interfaces like iCal's optimize for the first-time user; interfaces like THL optimize for the experienced user, and the learning curve isn't that steep. I definitely prefer the latter approach.


This UI probably works well for you, but I - not having written the code which powers the field - would be unsure what to enter. Discoverability is pretty poor with this type of UI. Did you do any usability tests?

Another problem is - as you've pointed out - localization. Worse, people who use languages which don't get a localized version may be able to use your application because they understand the relevant words, but may not be able to figure out how to use that particular field because they don't know how to put what they want in English. In a more traditional UI, they would probably be able to figure out what to do.

Rachel 'Groby' Blum

That's a very interesting UI, and I love the idea behind it. I do believe 37signals had a blog post about something similar a long time ago, and they addressed the issue of the missing syntax help in there.

IIRC, they first went with an example in smaller, lighter text below the field, and then switched to a greyed out example in the field - might be worth a try. (Or I'm totally crazy, which is also a possibility ;)

Also, where can I sign over my soul to get on the beta? ;)


"One [problem] is that the user has no easy way of discovering how complex the recurrence rules can be."

Easy. Show both the text field and the traditional UI at the same time right from the beginning and link them together so that manipulating the traditional UI updates the text field and vice-versa. Have an area where you show a few additional alternate syntaxes for the same "sentence" so that users can see that the syntax is far from being rigid, however if you input a sentence and then later manipulate the UI, the text field should retain the original style (not canonicalize to the default syntax).

Ok, this might not be so easy to implement but I'm pretty sure it's the best solution for the user as it scales from beginner to expert.


The one that I really need, but don't think I see, exactly, is:
Recur N days after I do it last.
i.e. I have to clean the catbox every other day, but if I don't get to it Saturday I want it overdue. When I do it on Sunday, I don't need to clean it again until Tuesday.


I agree with Brandon Walkin - the UI is clever, but you need to have *some* kind of indication as to what input is valid. Most software doesn't work this way, so I don't think the user will feel comfortable typing in a sentence, even if that's technically easier than ticking a bunch of checkboxes. I could easily envision a user typing "yes" into the box - that would seem to make sense, yet it wouldn't work. A simple example underneath the text box ("E.g. every Thursday") would go a long way.

Personally, I'd be uncomfortable with such an interface because I'd never know for sure what would work until I tried it, and that's a bad thing when I'm trying to schedule something. If I typed "every Monday at 4" would it be smart enough to ask me if I meant 4 in the morning or 4 in the evening? If I typed "every other Saturday and Monday," would it parse that as "every other Saturday and every other Monday" or "every other Saturday and every Monday"? Etc.

Paul Farnell

I think this is fantastic. I'd love "weekday" to be an option though, as I need to run payroll on the last weekday of the month. Keep up the great work!


Good example of a design that is clever and elegant but I believe it will ultimately fail the most important test: usability.

To keep this positive, I would suggest enjoying the compliment and then get to work solving the rest of the problem.


I hate interfaces like this. There's no indication of what words and/or word sequences are valid. It's like throwing a natural language command line at the user; users inevitably come up with an alternate, unsupported way to ask for something the program can actually support.


  • The second day of each week.
  • Twice a week.
  • Friday.
  • 2 times a week.

Note that two of them were made before checking the supported syntax.

Sam Danielson

benp said:

> I would propose only having the natural language input, and using the space below to describe, in a read-only format, how the input was understood. If the user wishes to refine that description, they can refine the natural language version.

I don't really like that because I would have to guess at the function from natural language to the formalism. Instead I would suggest letting the user edit the output form at their option and let the natural language act like a real time WYSIWYG editor where changes to the output formalism (grammar or graphic) would back-propigate to the expected natural language to facilitate leaning.

James Andrix

My first though for what a user might try to type in was:


Ahmad Alhashemi

Two problems with this solution.

First, if other developers start using this approach in their own application, the differences in syntax allowed can become maddening.

Second, the initial learning curve is steep and is only worth it if you are going to dedicate some time to learn the syntax and will be using it with all its complexity on a daily basis. I think that this will be hardly the case for most people. When I first setup Things three months back, I entered six recurring tasks and haven't entered anything else since.

Even if you read the help and learn all the commands, if you come two weeks later to use the feature again, you will be presented by a box, hardly helpful in bringing back any knowledge you gained from using the feature before.

An alternative might be in something a bit more structured. Like a sentence composed by a series of drop down boxes like:

Repeat [every|every other|every three] [day|week|month] on the [first day|last day|second day|tuesday] [indefinitely|until] .. etc.

Depending on the option the user chooses in the first drop down, the next drop down appears populated with options that are relevant and in wording that will help completing the sentence.


"Once a month"

Jerry Leichter

Natural text interfaces have to be damn good or they are just annoying. I think you took a hard approach.

As an alternative, you might consider something that was done in an old X calendar (actually, it may have been specific to DECwindows): You pick the first day on which the event occurs. There is a pulldown labeled "Repeats" which initially selects "None". If you pull it down, you get a large variety of possible repeats that could have matched the date you initially selected. For example, you will always get the obvious "Every day" and "Every [x]day" (where [x] is the day on which your initial event occurs) and "Every month on the [n]th" (where [n] is the day of the month for the initial event), and so on. But the list had some pretty complex things in it. I'm pretty sure it had "The [k]th [x]day of every month", for example.

The big, big advantage of this approach is that it's fully discoverable. Unless you think you can get the parser completely right the first time, discoverability is extremely important: Once people have learned that something doesn't work, they won't try it again, so adding it later usually doesn't help them.

-- Jerry


I'm expecting the THL for iPhone, otherwise it's a bit pain.

Mr. Reeee

This is a nice looking application. I like Things, until I used it for a few days. OmniFocus is a bit too complex for my needs. THL is looking just right. I'd love to be able to use it, especially when it can sync with an iPhone/iPod touch.

How can I import outlines from other applications? There's no import command.

I'm still using Brainforest (outliner) on a Palm TX (don't laugh) and Mac desktop versions. I'm supposedly getting an iPod touch in the next few days and need to import my old Brainforest files into whatever application I decide to use. I have dozens of lists for different types of tasks, some with hundreds of items. I do not want to rebuild them!

I can import those files into OmniOutliner, then open with OmniFocus. A clunky solution, but acceptable (sort of). The thought of using OmniFocus doesn't thrill me.

I WANT to set a default font of my choice, NOT Hellvetica. There's no way to do this.

Very nice work! Please get iPod touch/iPhone sync working soon! Make full creation and editing doable on the iApp.

Ahmad Alhashemi

Another way that would be cool is to give it the first couple of events and it will try to figure out the pattern.


Just the day, but repeated weekly. eg: "Mondays"

I think some more terse options that are discoverable for the advanced user might be nice. What about a '?' tooltip for a little hint?


Remember the Milk has natural language date and time parsing since the beginning and it's supports a ton of languages. RTM is translated by the community using a simple page which gives you untranslated strings.

The key is not to process English or another language directly, but nodes in a phrase. Think of Abstract Syntax Trees.

John Hall

Why not use something like a ComboBox. In the list add all the possible values for the "rules." The user can start typing and the autocomplete will select the matching rule/s, or they can just select from the dropdown menu...

BTW, I like the idea of a simple, "clean" interface. And I like what you've done so far!


How about use some abbreviations for Repeat expression:

/s,h,d,w,y represent "per sec, hour, day, week, year"
2s, 2h, 2w,2m... represent two(or any number) seconds, hours, week, month...etc.,
t denote "times"
/ denote "per"
#-# denote # through # (in month, second, hours...)
; use semi-coma as separator
5, 8, 15/m denote " 5th, 8th, 15th day of the month"
(mon, tue, wed, thu, fri, sat, sun)/w denote (Mon ~ Sun) in a week
(1-60)/s denote 1-60 seconds
(1-12)(am, pm)/d or (1-24)/d denote "hours per day"
(1st-5th)(mon, tue, wed, thu, fri, sat, sun)/m denote Monthly on every 2nd Monday

Then we can create simple but various expressions. For example:
/d means everyday
/s means every second
/h means every hour
/m means every month
/2d means every two days
mon, wed, fri/w means every Mon, Wed, and Fri
6am/2d; 4pm/2d; 8:30pm/2d means 6:00 am, 4:00 pm, and 8:30 pm every two days
1-5/m means Every month on the 1st through the 5th

Greg Slepak

Reading through the comments, I think a lot of people have made very good points as to why this is a very controversial decision. There's a lot to be said for why this is a bad idea (localization, doesn't actually do what it says: support natural language). Until we have real AIs this will never support all the possibilities of natural language, which you can pretty much translate to "not in our lifetime."

As an amusing example, a user creates a new repeating task called "get welfare check" on "da first of da month". Wait. Holy crap I just tried that and it works. Impressive shit Andy! Perhaps you should try out for the Turing Award! ;-)

Craig Hocker

I don't agree with Brandon or the others arguing for visual complexity. The natural language is EXACTLY what you should be doing here. It needs to stay simple and quick, and I can type "every thur" a lot faster than looking up dates and filling boxes. One thing I like about Omnifocus is being able to type "thur" and it gets that I mean this Thursday and puts in the right date. A good example is http://deadlineapp.com that lets you enter stuff in plain English that it then parses. It's really nice and the only reason I am not using it is they don't have an iPhone app yet and so it's tied to my essentially desktop (using it online through iPhone Safari is the pits).


I think it is fantastic! Bravo!

I would just make the natural commands a little clearer.

It seems very powerful in that I was able to actually create a recurring task that was similar to something I would do in Sciral Consistency. Now that is impressive.

Too bad there is no easy way to incorporate that fuzzy date logic and grid view like Sciral. Joe's Goals is also very successful with that grid view approach. I have not seen an application merge both the grid and list views... it would be a very cool feature as both views are great for different things.


I hate to break up this very interesting discussion with a trivial date bug (I hope this isn't a repeat) but typing into the repeater, "Every month on the 13th" gets re-written to "... on the 13rd"

Not a big deal, but a bug nonetheless. Awesome app! Thanks for letting it be part of MacHeist3 :)


Cool idea, and I'll happily use it for a while.

A couple points:

I agree with procrastinator that it would be key to be able to set recurrence from when the task was completed. But the best recurrence system for my life seems to be the version in Sciral Consistency. It claims to be for a whole separate class of tasks, but wouldn't it be nice to get this kind of function in THL?


El Duce

Why not show a calendar view while the user is typing? First timers can click and the text gets filled in. After the first time they will get it. BTW people that have actually used the hit list will know that it is all about the home row. keep your hands on the keyboard and stop chasing mice.


Recurring tasks is *the* feature that attracted me to THL, and I like your implementation, which reminds me of Mitch Kapor's Lotus Agenda, DOS app I used in the 80s and 90s and mourned when it was no longer practical to keep around. Forget cognitive complexity--we will get past it quickly. Palm does recurring tasks reasonably well, but I'm retiring my Palm for an iPhone, looking forward to THL iPhone app.

I agree with adding "weekday" to the parser, as well as a help link with all your examples: even though the parser allows great flexibility (e.g. Monday through Wednesday) I was stuck trying to hammer "weekday" into the Repeat field until I reader your parser examples.

Feature request: adding time of day to due dates (I need to be reminded monthly on Saturday morning *by 10 a.m.* to clean the A/C filter, or it doesn't get done).


I absolutely love this implementation, i agree there might be a bit of a learning curve regarding this, but the idea seems so intuitive and i would rate this very highly from the usability perspective.

Kiel Oleson

It's great to see so many people wanting to make this software greater, but I think it's important for everyone to remember that if Andy listens to everyone, this software is going to satisfy noone. Some people prefer software with low cognitive load, some people prefer software that doesn't "get in your way"; there's a reason why nano and emacs both still exist and are actively maintained.

If you haven't already done so, I'd suggest everyone ranting about adding this or that "trivial feature" read Getting Real by 37signals. In particular, the chapter "Start With No" notes why these kinds of discussions can become detrimental.


Really looking forward to the final release and the iPhone app. Things just didn't click for me, but I immediately took to The Hit List as soon as I opened it. Thanks for including it in the MacHeist bundle!


Hey, just picked up THL through the Macheist bundle. I really enjoy it so far. I used Things during the beta a year ago and liked having the organization that iCal just doesn't provide for me.

There is one thing that would be nice, and Robb already mentioned it, but its the ability to put specific times into the due dates. For example, I just put in a project that I have to be sure to work on tomorrow starting at 10:00 AM and be done by 3:00. However, the start and end times are simply "tomorrow."

Also, another thing that might be in but since I'm a brand new user I just haven't found yet, but an reminder or a notice feature would be nice. Just something that pops up when we might not be paying attention to the program like we should be. Again, if there is something already in place that does that, awesome, I'm sure I'll stumble across it soon.


Agreed, I am in exactly the same situation. I would love notifications and smaller timescales, where you can specify hours of the day to be taken up with specific tasks.

My workload is constantly and in lots of bits, with deadlines peppered throughout the day, it would be nice to be able to say this task should be done by 3:30 PM.

I adore THL since I've been using it, great work - I have high hopes for this software. Great app.


I've tried about every GTD app out there, and this is by far the best suited to my needs. I like the visual simplicity, though I agree this release is less intuitive. For those of us who haven't read GTDF, a glossary might be helpful - I realize you don't market it as GTD, but David Allen doesn't own the word "context"... speaking of which, not sure I understand the benefit of @context.

LOVE the addition of the timer.

The only major change I'd like to see (echoing several people here) is a time deadline and scheduler. Because I'm a freelancer, a full project management program is way too complex for me. I just need to be able to plan my day (or I don't get anything done :/ )

Otherwise, unless you have a solution for procrastination (like the app reaching out of the screen and slapping my wrist), I love it.

Jennifer Trimboli

I'm loving this program so far. However, wondering if there are plans on making a version for the iphone that will sync with my mac? I'm always on the go and it would be wonderful to add tasks when not able to be at my computer. Let us know. I'm sure I'm not the only one out there that would find it very useful. Thank you.


I think this UI is great.

Hey Andy, let me know if you need help if someday you will decide to localize this in Italian ;)

Be well



Man! it's 15 mins I got this app and I'm already in love with it!
Some features are just genius..Simple and really good looking.


Rod Drury

Just having a play. Looks good. Can you guys do a screen cast? For me that's the best way to see the workflow as you intended.

New Zealand

John B

I think the new repeating task UI really fits well with the keyboard-centric theme that makes THL so efficient to use. I must agree that, initially, at some level I was thinking "I hope this works," however after using it a few times I found myself becoming more confident in what I was writing. I like the fact that the pop-up box makes it very clear as to how THL is interpreting your rule. I agree with some of the previous posts that more visual cues (similar to iCal) could be helpful. Overall, I am very pleased with this UI, now I can easily create all my weekly homework tasks!


I think one of the things that really kept me using The Hit List while I set up Things and then let it languish (having rejected OmniFocus pretty quickly as not for me) is the color. It's not like I used to ever use yellow legal pads, but I really appreciate some color in my apps. Possibly also the larger type (though I'd love to be able to set fonts for the list and card views).


I'm using gtd quite extensively and I am missing the "Focus" feature of Omnifocus. In Omnifocus you can put your projects in folders like in HitList. You can then focus on that folder. By that you only see the projects of that folder and in the context view only the tasks that belong to projects of the focused folder.
This is very handy if you manage work and private projects with GTD.

Maybe you can adress this use case somehow. Thanks for your awesome app.


I purchased THL through the MacHeist Bundle and have been very pleased with the application-in my opinion the best app. in the bundle. However, I'm going to have a difficult time waiting for syncing features without even an indefinite release date. And I don't have the luxury of just buying purchasing software only to buy a new piece of software months later. I read somewhere that someone was using Remember the Milk to sync with THL, but I can't find any information on how they did that or how one would go about attempting it. Needless to say, unless there's an estimated time of delivery for the Iphone app. I'll have to find another means of getting things done. Thanks for the hard work putting this together. A wonderful app.


I love the app so far!! I agree that just having a dialog box may be confusing for most users. Maybe if it was a smart box that would give you suggestions as you type then confirm it by showing a little mini calendar with the appropriate dates highlighted...i dunno, just user reassurance i guess is what comes to my mind.

I really hope the iphone app is in the works. I am sooo eager to ditch Things for THL if they get an iphone app out soon. Keep up the good work!


The hit list is an amazing program! It's very simple and easy to use. The ONLY problem that I have with it is that there isn't an iPhone app. This would be my dream task management software if there was an iPhone app.

Even if I knew that it was at least in Development I would be very happy and have peace at mind. Please let me know.

Thank you!


Also, if you could add the ability to use spell checking, that would be awesome.


Ok I love task management products and used Covey paper and then software for years. A few years ago we bought a Mac and I have unsuccessfully been looking for something to replace Covey. I finally resorted to using paper.

I am not tech savy and want something that feels like a paper calendar, with tabs etc. I have tried Omnifocus and found it complicated, Things...I don't know maybe too simplistic, maybe the Hit List will be for me. What I really want is someplace I can keep my to-do list,projects, ideas etc. I would like it to work with my Ical.

My hubby has a different set up. His personal computer is a Mac, but where he works he uses their outlook calendar and he also uses a blackberry. What he is looking for is someplace to keep his multiple projects for work, and it needs to be simple. He really isn't computer savvy.

Do you have trial version?

Matthew Norris

I love love love this app. As others have stated, the one thing that is holding me back from purchase is an iPhone app. With a to-do list that is a serious need. I don't even need anything fancy. Simply a way to add to-do's and have them sync over. Just an inbox would make me happy at this point.

This program is amazing and I "got it" with only a few minutes of using the program.


Joshua Mormann

First of all this is the best GTD app ever, Second of all, even though I already own "Things" for both the Mac and the iPhone, I still prefer to use The Hit List on the Mac, it's SOOO much nicer. I wish it synced up with iPhone "Things" while we wait for THL on the iPhone ;)

This is what I love about THL Compared to Things:
1. Hitting "enter" to start a new item compared to mouse clicking or typing "command + n"
2. Moving items around at keyboard level with the a w s d keys (makes use of both hands while at the keyboard) compared to mousing things around
3. Folders/subfolders/smart folders makes for far more flexible task organization than Areas and Projects.
4. Cascading tasks
5. Copying and or repeating Cascading Tasks works for real quick SOP check lists (awesome)
6. The GUI was hard to get used to being all colorful and stuff, at first, but I love it now, the product is so much better than anything else, that everything else looks ugly because I know it all sucks in comparison.
7. Okay one more... Until The Hit List, I was getting really sick of new GTD apps, because I'm an addict to trying new ones. And even though I wasn't in love with "Things" it had an iPhone sync-able offering, so I went ahead and bought one more. But I'm so glad Potion Factory gave the nearly over-done application concept a try, because this is by FAR the best implementation of the GTD model. You get the simplicity of a plain text file, but the GUI goodness of a well thought out/robust GUI checklist/GTD app.

Way to go Andy!!!!

You've outdone yourself. (now just hook us up with an iPhone companion app, and your customers will become the most effective "things done getters" on the planet)


You, sir, got me organized :-) Where every single app failed (has been either too simple, or too strict on GTD methods) The Hit List hit the nail. I have never been fan of strict GTD systems (too much folders, contexts etc. for me) because they tend to be "overorganized" (i.e. one spend too much time organizing everything instead of actually working) but The Hit List is flexible, intuitive and powerful enough that I was able to actually use it right away. It doesn't force me to adapt to anything, on the other hand, I can adapt the SW to my system.

Beau Ford

Still waiting on an iPhone App. I'm starting to wish i would have just paid for Things.

George Marez

I too am still waiting for the iPhone app. It's been quite a long time and no updates on the status...

Andy H

come on Andy, we believe in you...you might want to hire an iPhone developer to help finish the app.


Chad Engle

I think this app is amazing. I am currently comparing Things and this. So far this is easier on the eyes and has a better Hierarchy IMO. Do you plan on allowing multiple users as Things does? I think you are on an amazing start and I hope you continue in the manner you have been going because this app is awesome!


Overall looks great! And I just recently bought Things… *sigh*

Upon my initial and very quick review I already have one question. And it’s a fairly significant one for me… I missing something or is there no way to view a list of repeating tasks? Or the frequency of repeating tasks? It would be nice to be able to see that information to be able to correct it if it’s off slightly.

I’m hoping it’s there and I just can’t find it.
Can anyone point me in the right direction?



I don't know if this has been fixed for a long time or not, but I just downloaded the latest update, and I discovered that you can finally delete a task! Previously, the backspace key didn't do anything and the only way I had to remove a task was cmd-x.. Thanks!


Repeat every x minutes or hours after completion. Please?

Michael James

I don't mind the, "I hope this works" aspect of typing a rule. But I'd love a "Show me what this means in practice." button to pop up a calendar with the rule illustrated.