A few months ago, Erin Hayes discussed how she manages her to-do list with Wunderlist. I’ve also been searching for a task management app that works for me. I’ve tried several different task management programs, some of them dating back to before I had a smartphone, and none of them has really stuck. As I looked for an app that would work well on both the web and my Android phone, I ended up with several lists spread out across different apps (Work, Personal, Movies to See, etc.). Admittedly, this hasn’t been the best way to keep on top of my to-do list.
I’ve Got Issues
For a task management app to work, you have to commit to using it — you have to put all your tasks in the app. But with my various lists in Wunderlist, Remember the Milk, and Google Tasks, I found that each application left something to be desired:
- Remember the Milk’s web interface has always seemed unintuitive and overly complicated to me. And with the free app, you can only sync manually once every 24 hours.
- I love how well Google Tasks integrates into Gmail when I’m on a desktop or laptop, but as Google products go, it’s not well supported. Google’s official mobile support for Tasks is a mobile-friendly website – not a particularly powerful solution, and unusable if you’re stuck somewhere without an internet connection. I also think that adding and editing deadlines is a little more complex than necessary. And I was surprised to find that task deadlines don’t display in my phone’s Android Calendar, even if they are visible in Google Calendar.
It’s possible I don’t have a real issue with Wunderlist and just need to use it more consistently. However, I don’t like that I can’t set reminders from the web or desktop app. I’ve also experienced some occasional problems with syncing and lagginess.
Surveying the Landscape
The options for Android task management have definitely improved in the two years since I got a smartphone. It’s time for me to take a good look at what’s out there. But before I consolidate my task lists into one app, I want to make sure the app I’m committing to has the functionality I need.
Over the next month or so, I’m going to commit myself to diligently testing a few different options, and I’ll report back on how these apps work for me. In this post, I’ll take a quick look at the apps that I’ll consider.
In addition to standard features like multiple lists and sorting by deadline and priority, I need:
- An Android app, but ideally it will be cross-platform, so that Mobilized readers can try it regardless of their device – and I can use it if I get an iPad!
- Ability to maintain my tasks from mobile and desktop/laptop
- Fast, reliable syncing to devices
- Reminders that just work. I want notifications pushed to my phone, not emails. I want the ability to snooze reminders and set different reminder times for different tasks.
I would also like:
- A clean, uncluttered interface. Advanced features should be available when I want them, but out of the way when I don’t.
- Ability to add tasks from Gmail. I generate a lot of personal tasks from my email.
- Deadlines that show up in my Google Calendar
- Widgets so I can keep a copy of my to-do list on my phone’s screen
- Sub-tasks for multi-step items
Here are the task managers I’m considering. As I was wrapping up this post, I saw that Lifehacker just posted its crowd-sourced 5 Best To-do-List Managers. I’m looking at most of the apps they mention.
Any.DO (Android, iOS, Chrome; free)
Winner of TechCrunch’s best Android app of 2011, and also getting high marks for the newer iOS version, Any.DO looks promising, and I’m excited to try it out. It has also received rave reviews from the New York Times and Lifehacker.
- The interface is clean and easy-to-read.
- It really takes advantage of touch and mobile: create tasks by voice dictation, drag to sort them, and swipe to complete.
- Integrates with Google Tasks.
- Reminders can be customized for each task.
- You can add notes which function like sub-tasks.
- While there is no web app, one is reportedly coming soon. An add-on for Chrome is available, and on first look, it seems to work well.
I could see myself using Google Tasks to quickly add tasks to my personal to-do list while in Gmail, and then syncing the tasks to Any.DO.
GTasks (not an official Google app, Android only; free)
I’ve been using Google Tasks for a long time. I knew there were various third-party apps available (as Google does not provide one; see above). However, it took me a long time to discover GTasks, which has high user ratings and a nice clean interface. GTasks won’t solve my issues with Google Tasks, but it looks like it will do a good job of getting my tasks onto my phone. I also like the widget functionality, and I’m looking forward to testing it further.
Astrid (no longer available as of 8/5/13)
I’d heard good things about Astrid for years, but had never explored it. It very recently won Most Popular To-Do List Manager on Lifehacker. The interface looks great, and from my early testing, is easy to use. Astrid uses cutesy reminder messages to inspire (or nag) you to complete your tasks. I’ll have to see whether they prove helpful or annoying.
Wunderlist (all major platforms and web; free)
I’m not giving up on Wunderlist quite yet. It gets such good reviews that I’ll take a more focused look at it. However, the fact that it doesn’t sync with Google Tasks and the lack of reminder functionality in the web version may mean it’s not the best choice for me.
Remember the Milk (many platforms and web; free basic account)
When I got my smartphone, Remember the Milk didn’t have an official Android app, and that contributed to my lack of commitment to it. Now that I’ve used the app a little, I think its interface is better than the web version. However, my issues with the web interface and the inability to sync frequently make Remember the Milk a less attractive option, so I won’t evaluate it further over the next month. For now, I’ll maintain a few lists that I have in it (my default packing list for travel, movies to see), but I won’t use it as my active task list.
Do you have a favorite task management app? Have I forgotten a feature that you think is important? For example, I haven’t talked about the ability to share tasks, which isn’t as important to me, but is a popular feature. Please reply in the comments below.