NotePlan 3 vs. Things 3

Back in September I wrote about NotePlan 3 (which is now out of beta an in official release). Stephen asked in a comment on that article my impressions of NotePlan and Things. He said:

I think they overlap in function and even in elegant modern German software design. Do they seem redundant to you or complementary?

I agree completely that they are both elegantly designed. As to whether they are redundant or complementary, I reluctantly have to say they are mostly redundant, but that may depend somewhat on your needs. If you’re already a fan of Things and find it handles your task management well, you probably don’t also need NotePlan… and vice versa.

That isn’t to say that they are not different in many ways. NotePlan is a notes app that handles tasks adeptly. Things is a task app. NotePlan allows you to embed tasks within notes, while Things allows you to embed notes within tasks. Things also allows you to add meta data to a task: sub-tasks, urgency (deadline), task-specific notes. You can surround your tasks with this kind of information in NotePlan, but it doesn’t become part of the task itself, as it does with Things. Things also syncs with Calendar and Reminders, where NotePlan interfaces with your Calendar, but does not sync tasks in the notes to Reminders.

Here’s a little exercise demonstration to show the difference between the two:

I sometimes find it helpful to put together what I call an action dasboard when I need to get my head back in the game of an area of responsibility I may have neglected. Here is what an action dashboard looks like in each of the two apps:

An action dashboard in Things

This is the same action dashboard in NotePlan. Note that I can create wiki links to pages for upcoming events or goals so I can work on them in depth. That isn’t really possible in Things.

The advantage in this scenario goes to NotePlan, I believe, because it is so easy to add wiki links to other undated note pages to flesh out details of meetings, projects and goals.

Here is another image of NotePlan at work:

I’ve anotated this screen capture of NotePlan 3. I have experienced some hurdles trying to add events and reminders directly into the calendar panel. I think there might be a bug that needs exterminating.

It may not really be fair to compare Things to NotePlan. Things is a task management app and has no ambitions to be more than that. At that job it succeeds very well. NotePlan is a task planner, but more than that. It is the closest thing you’ll find to a digital bullet journal.

I hope I’ve provided some perspective on Things and NotePlan. As is likely evident, I prefer NotePlan, though I very much admire Things. Unfortunately for me, I spend my office hours on a Windows PC. Consequently, I don’t use either Things or NotePlan as much as I could. But web access to NotePlan data is supposedly in the pipeline. If that comes along, then I’ll be very happy.

2 thoughts on “NotePlan 3 vs. Things 3

  1. Hi Steve! Thanks for your analysis. It’s a (way) more sophisticated version of what I thought. At the moment, I have them both integrated into my work flow. Things has become a master list of actions and projects (collections of actions). I pull actions from it into NotePlan as I put my days or weeks together. When I’m working with NP, I block out time for the actions, integrate them with calendar events, and build time blocks into my days. I have DevonThink (to which I can link) for big-scale reference when I want to have backup for my actions handy and am starting to get into Keep it (don’t know about links to it yet) for smaller references like URLs or short writings. This is a relatively recent incarnation of my work flow, which will doubtless be tweaked as I discover greater efficiencies or have to address specific issues. If something dramatic changes in this, I may report back.
    Thanks again for being a lighthouse for all these products (my wallet does not agree with this sentiment!).

    Best wishes,


  2. Thanks, Stephen, for letting us know how you integrate Things and NotePlan. This is sort of what I had in mind when I wrote there may be some cases in which they are not redundant. Because I spend so much time on Windows, I use TickTick as my primary task manager. It’s a fine application availabe on any device I use. And, yes, I know what your wallet feel… mine feels the same.

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