Five Best To-Do List Managers

Five Best To-Do List Managers

The humble to-do list hasn’t changed much over the years, but the methods we use to manage it have. Here’s a look at five of the most popular tools for helping you manage your to-do list.

Picture by davidsilver

Note: Due to technical difficulties with the US Lifehacker image server, we chose videos to represent each item in today's Hive Five. Some are a better fit than others.

Google Tasks (Web-Based, Free)

Google Tasks has been around since 2008, but just this year was moved from Google Labs to mainstream Google accounts—Google's signal that it's ready for prime time. You can access Google Tasks from your Gmail, Google Calendar, and iGoogle interface, as well as from an interface optimised for mobile phones. Google Tasks is a very simple to-do list manager, limited to task lists, sub-tasks, and shuttling tasks from your task list to your Google Calendar. If you're already relying on Gmail for your email and Google Calendar for your scheduling needs, it's an easy step to start using Google Tasks.


Technology will change a lot in the next twenty years, but one thing's certain: If we asked our future selves what they're managing their lists with, pen and paper will still rank high on the list of the most popular responses. All the fancy software-based bells and whistles, wireless syncing, and location-aware alerts can't replace the simple tactile pleasure of writing something down and then firmly crossing it off when the task is completely. A paper-based to-do list might lack a quick search and tag-based organisation, but it never crashes, runs out of batteries, or fails to update because you've got a bad data connection. Whether for the hands-on satisfaction of striking an item off the list with a nice thick line of ink or the reliability of using an analogue system, paper remains a loved to-do list tool.

Remember The Milk (Web-Based/Android/Blackberry/iPhone, Basic: Free / Pro: $US25 per year)

Remember The Milk (RTM) is a veritable Swiss Army knife of to-do list management. You can access your lists from the web, from your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry device, using third-party desktop clients, or any other web-enabled smartphone with the mobile interface. You can email and text in entries to your RTM address, which is really handy for things like shopping lists where multiple people will be contributing to the list. RTM also has location-based tasks. You can, for example, flag errands located near your office so that you're only reminded of them when you've commuted into work and are near them.

Things (Mac OS X, $US49.95)

Things is as polished and pretty as you'd expect the single Mac-only entry in today's Hive Five to be. Things makes it easy to stay on top of your tasks. It integrates with iCal for seamless scheduling, sports a custom dock badge to notify you of impending tasks, syncs with the $US10 Things iPhone app, and works with Spotlight for lightning fast searching. You can group your tasks by projects, by area of responsibility—a sort of super-charged contexts—and heavily tag everything to make sorting and filtering a snap. Things isn't an impulse purchase at $US49.95, but if you're heavily invested in your Mac and wanted a to-do list manager that meshes well with your Mac-based workflow, it's a sound investment.

Toodledo (Web-Based/iPhone, Basic: Free / Premium: $US14.95 per year)

If Remember The Milk aims to dazzle you with multiple methods of inputting tasks, Toodledo aims to dazzle you with an astronomical number of features and settings compared to any other task manager out there. You can search your task history, set deadlines, establish and track goals, update your task list by email, text message, instant message, via its browser extension, and more. You can import your existing task list from Outlook, Remember the Milk, and iCal, among others. You can customise the interface to look how you want (or select from one of their many templates to try out a new look without all the sweating over layouts). You can even print off your tasks on a single sheet that folds down into a pocket-sized notebook for those times you really want to take your tasks with you in analogue form. Toodledo comes in three flavors: Free, Pro (which adds subtasks, stats about your tasks, and automatic scheduling), and Pro Plus (everything plus file uploads).

Have a to-do list manager you didn't see here but want to give a nod? Let's hear about it in the comments.


    • Hive Fives are based on votes on the US Lifehacker site. In this case, Outlook didn’t make the cut. (I use it myself, so it would be top of my own list, but clearly it’s not the go-to to-do solution for a large number of readers.)

      • The silent majority fails to strike again!
        These other options are great and all, but outlook seamlessly works between my winmo, Outlook and Exchange. To my knowledge none of these alternatives do this.

  • Todoist ( because it provides enormous power with a well designed user interface that doesn’t get it the way of what you’re trying to do.
    With many of these other products, you spend so much time “managing” your todo list, you don’t actually have time for anything else!

  • I’d add reQall to the head of the list. It has apps for iPhones and other phones, also has a web interface and allows you to add items by voice on your iPhone (which is then transcribed), by email or a phone call. It integrates with your calendar (e.g. Google Calendar) and with Evernote, shows time- and location-specific lists (using the GPS in your phone or a location you select) and offers automatic timed, reminders of specific events as well as occasional random reminders of things you might have forgotten.

  • I’ve tried a number of these and was disappointed. I now use wunderlist, very nice to use and bet of all it’s free. Unbelievable as I’d just spent a fortune on thing for three devices.

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