Seeing the amount of different apps available on the App Store, it's difficult to believe that there's people who have never downloaded a task manager for their iPhone and iPad. Almost every Mac developer has worked on a portable version of their GTD app, and if you're serious about your personal organization, you'll be spoilt for choice.
I say almost everyone, because that app with the green tab called The Hit List never got its iOS counterpart. The wait is now over: the desktop version is finally out of the lengthy beta and it's coming with the always required cloud sync for a brand new iPhone app.
The Hit List [iTunes Link] by Potion Factory is the latest Getting Things Done app to arrive to the already saturated task manager section for iOS devices. The app has the credentials of its desktop big brother and is using the right philosophy to convince people to ditch their favourite task manager app.
Simplicity takes a new level thanks to colour coding, no nonsense search and a clever way to input tasks. First up, your typical inbox to collect your thoughts, a direct link to today's and upcoming tasks and a selection of your lists – which are simply groups of tasks. This clearly caters for both pros and newbies, allowing you to dump your ideas in the inbox to process them later or just to make a grocery list.
Although The Hit List borrows the colour scheme from the Mac app, it has been designed with the mobile user in mind. Navigating through screens that look the same is always confusing and the limited screen real state only leaves the top bar to tell you where you are. Potion Factory has chosen to label the very important "Today" and "Upcoming" with green and purple, an awkward combination – except for Wimbledon fans – that success at telling me I have to complete these tasks today, without having to look at the heading. A simple idea that works because it saves you time figuring out where you left when you last used the app.
I normally wouldn't highlight the search function in a GTD app, since they all have it and using it is pretty straight forward. In The Hit List, however, the lack of elaborate grouping, projects and filing leaves it as a feature worth commenting. Since tags can be added to every task, you can filter these to work on things depending on your situation – which reminds me of "Contexts" in OmniFocus.
I have created tags for "Computer", for things that require me to use my laptop and "Commute" when I don't require internet access. Using tags as locations can work too to distinguish between home and office, or even for project related tags where you see everything independent of their due date. The search screen also remembers your frequent tags, but in version 1.0 it's impossible to create and save custom searches – only available after a sync with the desktop app.
A master at collecting your thoughts
The crucial area in every to-do list app and its variants has to be the ease to input data. Dumping your ideas should be something quick and the interface should be designed for that. Typing on a tiny keyboard is a big distraction already, so data input should be stripped of any superficial clutter.
I'm happy to tell you that this is the best thing about The Hit List for iPhone. Simply tap on that plus icon on the bottom right corner and the "Add task" screen will slide upwards. We're used to these graceful transitions, but this is not a gimmick: both the input area and the keyboard appear at the same time. Yes, at the same time. If you try to do the same with Things for iPhone, the "New To Do" window appears, followed by the keyboard a second later. It's not about the second, its about having to wait for the keyboard to show up, making you tap somewhere to confirm you want to write something right now.
The data entry goodness doesn't stop there. Every time you add a new task, a little plus badge appears offering you to empty your head of worries. This is a unique addition that shows all the smart coding and thoughtful design that went in creating the app.
Minimalist or simplistic?
Moving to areas of improvement, The Hit List feels at times like a watered down version of the big GTD mammoth alternatives for iOS. To start with, it's only available for iPhone. I do not expect to see an app of this calibre being made Universal, but as an iPad user, I wish there was a dedicated app for the device, perhaps with some of the features that were left in the desktop version. And this is an important point to if you're considering using the app for your daily workflow. Casual users will enjoy its simplicity, but the hardcore folk will miss things like repeating tasks, projects, review mode, iCal integration or more sync options.
Overall, The Hit List is a very smart piece of software that might leave productivity gluttons hungry for more. Without doubt, the sync over the cloud feature is going to make some people switch from Things and others, but with Apple updating this area in the next iOS release, the advantage will be minimal in some months. I do value the app for its approach and perfect understanding of the mobile user, plus the small details included everywhere that make for a pleasant experience.
The Hit List is minimal in every aspect and includes small innovations to a saturated category. Instead of basic, I prefer to think of it as uncluttered, so if you also appreciate this kind of approach, please go ahead and give it a go.