Promising Prospect: Things Folders 0.9.8
I’m a big fan of Cultured Code’s Things, the task and project manager for Mac. As I mentioned in my review of Things, it finds the near-ideal middle ground—for me, at least—between simple to-do lists and overly complex, Getting Things Done project organizers.
One of Things’ useful features is that you can attach files to tasks by dragging them into a task entry in Things’ window. However, I’ve found this feature to be better suited to the occasional “take care of this” file than for keeping track of all the files associated with a project. After all, attached files must still reside somewhere on your hard drive, so why not keep your files organized by project in the Finder?
Jazzaround’s Things Folders, currently in late beta, helps you do just that while keeping your files in sync, so to speak, with your Things-based projects. The first time you launch Things Folders, you choose some basic settings, such as where you want your project folders to reside. Click On to enable folder syncing, and Things Folders creates a set of folders that matches your list of projects in Things—as well as folders for each of the stock Inbox, Logbook, Scheduled, Someday, Today, Trash, and Areas items. (If you have any projects with characters—such as a colon—that can’t be used in file or folder names, or if you have a project with no name, Things Folders will prompt you to rename those projects.) With the default settings, Things Folders even applies a custom icon to each Finder folder so it visually matches its corresponding area in Things.
But this isn’t a one-time action: Things Folders also spawns a background process that watches Things for any changes to your projects and automatically updates this Finder folder hierarchy accordingly—although the Finder changes don’t always happen immediately, because Things Folders must wait until Things changes its database, which can take up to a minute. If you complete a project in Things, Things Folders moves that project’s Finder folder to the Logbook folder. (Since Things’ Logbook can quickly fill with completed tasks and projects, Things Folders can organize the Logbook folder by moving projects into subfolders based on the month and year of each project's completion date.) If you delete a project in Things, Things Folders moves that project’s folder to the Trash folder—not the actual Trash, as Things Folders will never delete files.
This background process carries out its duties even if you quit the main Things Folders program. And if you’ve installed Growl, Things Folders can use Growl to notify you when folders have been modified or created.
Things Folders also makes it easier—and quicker—to access a project’s files by creating, in each project’s Notes field within Things, a link to that project’s Finder folder. (If a task or project already has notes, Things Folders appends these links to the existing notes.) Just click this link to open the project's folder in the Finder. Similarly, the Today folder automatically contains an alias to each folder whose project has tasks in Things’s Today list.
It’s important to note that these Finder folders, and any files in them, are separate from Things’ own file-attachment feature. You can, however, place files related to a project in the appropriate Things-Folders-created folder in the Finder, and then drag those files into the specific tasks within that project—in Things—to associate files with a particular task.
If you’ve got recurring projects and tasks, Things Folders can avoid folder-name conflicts (due to Things allowing multiple projects with the same name) by automatically appending the creation date to a folder’s name.
There are a couple unexpected features I also appreciated while testing Things Folders. If you drop a file into the Inbox folder in the Finder, Things Folder creates (or updates) a task in Things’ Inbox list titled, “Review your Things Folders Inbox (# files),” where # is the number of files in the folder. That task’s Notes field contains links to both the Inbox folder and each file within it—click a link to open the file or folder. I found this feature useful for reminding myself to deal with particular files. Similarly, whenever you delete a project in Things, which causes Things Folders to move the Finder folder for the project into the Trash folder, You get a similar Inbox task titled, “Review your Things Folders Trash (# files).”
Finally, Things Folders can use OpenMeta—an OS X hack that uses an unofficial area of file metadata to store Finder “tags”—to apply Finder tags that mirror your Things tags. If you install OpenMeta, this means you can use Spotlight to find files based on your Things tags. (I didn’t test this feature.)
I did experience a couple minor issues with Things Folders. First, the program didn’t work until I moved it into my main Applications folder (/Applications). Second, I occasionally found that Things Folders’ background process wasn't working; launching and quitting Things Folders itself seemed to jump-start the process.
It’s also worth noting that even though you can sync your Things Folders folders between multiple Macs using Dropbox, Things Folders doesn’t automatically sync those folders with Things on every computer, since Things itself doesn’t currently sync across multiple Macs (at least not officially). Once Things finally supports multiple-Mac syncing—a long-promised feature—I hope Things Folders will follow.