Finding the right tool to track your to-dos is a highly individual choice. The top options offer flexible syncing and scheduling options, great apps, notifications and reminders, and the right mix of features and flexibility that make it easy to stay organised. Here are five of the best, based on your nominations.
Photo by Kamilla Oliviera
Google Keep is a surprising contender, but a huge number of you rallied behind it. Not only is it simple, available on the web and for Android (sorry, iOS users), it’s fast, flexible, and easy to use. At its heart, Keep is a simple syncing notepad that can keep checklists, photos and images, voice notes, and other text notes synchronised across devices and stored in the cloud. It supports time and location-based reminders, in-note photos, and colour-coded notes. Everything is stored on the web, it’s easy to use, and if you’re an Android user, it’s already on your device. There’s no real barrier to entry — no accounts to set up, no lists to import or categories to set up.
At the same time, all of that ease-of-use makes it a very lightweight app that doesn’t ofer the features that other tools bring to the table. There are no recurring tasks, no calendar view, no sub-tasks or advanced features that could make it useful for planning bigger projects or handling regular tasks.
Any.do is a sharp, good-looking mobile to-do list manager (and Chrome add-on). It’s our current favourite to-do app for iPhone, and it’s a solid choice for Android, too. Any.do syncs smoothly between devices and platforms, can handle recurring tasks (although its recurring options are a little lacking in flexibility), offers timed and location-based reminders, and gets your day started with the Any.do “Moment,” a short review of everything you have on your agenda for the day. It also tries to keep your to-do list from seeming overwhelming by showing you “today”, “tomorrow” and “later” so you don’t get overwhelmed by dates and times. It handles multiple priorities, and it integrates nicely with Cal, the calendar app from the same team.
Any.do is packed with features you may not realise are there, even though its interface is designed to be simple and easy to learn. It’s not perfect — syncing can be tricky sometimes, and if you prefer to manage your to-dos from a desktop, you have to use the Chrome add-on, which can be a bit clunky.
Wunderlist is a cross-platform, desktop and mobile to-do list manager with apps for iOS and Android, Windows, Mac and Linux (although the Linux app is woefully out of date.) It’s also a webapp, so you seriously have no reason to be without your to-dos on any platform you choose to use. It’s our current pick for the best to-do app for Windows and Mac, and its most recent iteration and feature improvements have added a lot to the app. It’s easy to use, supports timed reminders, recurring to-dos (although its recurring feature is fairly basic), and offers separate reminders from the due date of the task and notes and additional info associated with your to-dos. You can star important tasks (but that’s as close to priority as you’ll get), and customise the look of the app. Broad platform support mean you’ll always have access to your list.
Wunderlist is great, but it’s not without its quirks. For example, it has had a few syncing problems in the past, and I’ve found recurring tasks to be quirky from time to time. There are pro accounts that add features like collaboration tools, file uploads, and comments on your to-dos, but the free version will be more than enough for most people.
Todoist has been around for a long time, but it has really evolved in recent years into a powerful, cross-platform productivity tool. It’s available on the web, for iOS and Android with desktop apps for Windows and Mac, add-ons for Firefox and Chrome, and plug-ins for email apps including Outlook, Gmail, Postbox and Thunderbird. It’s (mostly) free and feature-packed. Todoist offers recurring tasks with fine, plain-language recurrence options. It also offers sub-tasks and dependencies, real-time syncing, projects and sub-projects so you can manage daily checklists or big plans that involve lots of people, understandable due dates (like “Friday at 5pm”), multiple priorities, and categories and projects. $US30/yearr will get you a premium account, which is required if you want notifications or reminders via email or push notifications on your mobile device. The service very recently updated to add new visual scheduling options and email add-ins.
HabitRPG was a surprise inclusion on the list. It’s one of our favourite tools to productively gamify your life , and we’ve highlighted it on its own before. HabitRPG turns your to-dos and pet projects into a game, where you level up your character, defeat enemies, and collect loot and rewards for your characters by doing the things you need to do every day. It’s largely geared towards helping you build better habits. It’s available on the web and for iOS and Android, and while it doesn’t offer the advanced features that many other to-do apps have, it’s certainly a blast to use, and really addictive. As you cross off to-dos, you earn points, gold to spend on upgrades, experience, and your character improves. Fail and miss deadlines, and you take hits to your health and your character loses progress to the next level, or worse.
HabitRPG does support categories, but mostly in terms of “dailies” or things you want to do regularly and “todos”, items that just need to get done once or rarely (you can set due dates and reminders). Don’t expect things like recurring reminders, custom categories, or anything that makes for a more robust productivity tool, but if what you need is an engaging way to get things done, it’s worth a look. Plus, it’s completely free.
There are plenty of choices worth an honourable mention. Evernote only just missed the top five, and we know that it’s pretty awesome and a lot of you love it. TickTick, a great to-do app that we’ve featured before and that seems to be the spiritual successor to the long-lost Astrid, was also popular.
Remember, whatever to-do app you choose, it needs to work well for you, not just be a laundry list of features that sound useful but aren’t applicable to the way you work or the items you need to track. Sometimes it’s better to just go back to basics and start over with your to-do list , to make sure you’re really doing something that helps you be more productive and get things done, instead of just add “making a list of stuff to do” to your list of stuff to do.
Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Tell us (and tell us why) in the comments.