To-do lists are essential for helping many of us stay organized and productive. Sometimes even just the act of writing something down can help you achieve your goals or at least reduce the weight of that task from your mind. Here are a few of the best online, mobile, and desktop applications for managing your tasks, chosen because of their multi-platform capabilities, their ease of use, and their rich features sets.
Desktop To-Do List Apps
There are only 2 desktop apps in this list, both Microsoft products, and both very useful as standalone personal information managers (PIMs). Unfortunately, as proprietary applications, they sometimes don't play as well with other applications.
- Microsoft Outlook (reviewed on About.com's Email site) is the king of desktop calendar, task management, contact lists, and email software. All those features seamlessly integrate with each other; you can flag an email message as a task (with follow-up date), for example, and view tasks on your calendar. For integration with other apps, however, such as Google Calendar, you'll need to rely on 3rd-party syncing tools, and those might not even be available (as of this writing, for example, Office 2011 for Mac lacks calendar and task syncing with Google services). Outlook tasks only sync well with Windows-based mobile phones, so taking your to-do list with you can be tricky if you use a different mobile platform.
- Microsoft OneNote: is an organizational tool with many list management features built-in, like the ability to insert checkboxes into tabbed pages and integrate them with Outlook's tasks list. OneNote syncs with Office Web Apps, but only on a very basic level.
Online To-Do List Apps
There are many dedicated to-do list apps online, all very capable of maintaining your tasks lists. The problem is they don't interact with each other, as there isn't a universal "to-do" item format (yet), in which you can easily export and import tasks or sync them with other programs. Still, the online, cloud-based to-do list apps win for overall accessibility -- as long as you have an Internet connection, you have access to your list of things to-do.
- Remember the Milk (or RTM) is one of the most popular Web-based to-do list managers, and for good reason: The interface is intuitive, it works with multiple email, SMS, and IM services, and has a host of other features like task reminders, saving task searches, tagging tasks, prioritizing and estimating task time, and more. It even has apps for mobile devices and other online apps like Google Calendar. While the iPhone/iPod touch app is free, however, you'll need to upgrade to a Pro account ($25/year) for Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Outlook syncing, which seems a little unfair.
- ToodleDo: is similar to RTM. Though the interface is a little more cluttered, ToodleDo offers more functionality and integration that other online to-do list services, including: setting project/task goals, OpenID integration, and exporting/importing from CSV and Excel. Free 3rd party syncing apps like Got 2 Do on Android make this a more Android-friendly to-do list solution.
- Ta-Da List: Imagine the most simple online to-do list, and what you come up with will probably be just like Ta-da List. Made by 37signals, who provide the popular project management and collaboration tools Basecamp and Backpack, Ta-da List is really a bare-bones system whose strength is its simplicity. You can access your lists via mobile web browser pretty easily.
- Producteev: This online task management tool implores you to get your to-dos out of your email inbox. It is a robust online app that lets you add tasks via email, IM, Google apps, and iPhone apps, and the tasks can be color-coded, flagged, prioritized and otherwise finely managed. A Mac desktop app is slated for release soon.
Mobile To-Do List Apps
If your mobile phone is your task organizer of choice, you have a lot of list making apps to choose from. Besides task or to-do list apps, there are apps for creating shopping, wedding lists, and more. If you don't want to be restricted to accessing your list only on your smartphone, your best bet is to use one of the online apps above with a mobile app or their mobile website. The mobile apps below, however, excel at helping you track your tasks on your smartphone, specifically.
- Zenbe Lists: Available for iPhone and iPad, Zenbe Lists has a clean user interface while still providing features like due dates, priority, and custom sorting. You can also share your lists with friends on the web. The app is $3.99.
- 2Do: This to-do app for iOS has one of the most elegant user interfaces and assortment of features, including colored tabs, geo-location task sorting, projects and checklists, drag and drop task management, multiple calendars, syncing with MobileMe, ToodleDo, iCal, and Outlook, and more. There's a free limited version, but most users will want to get the $6.99 premium edition.
- Astrid: Astrid is one of the most powerful to-do list and task tracking apps for Android phones, with easy task adding, sorting, and categorizing. Tasks can be exported/backed up to SD card, synced with Producteev, and, in some cases, synced with Remember The Milk. Free.
- Got 2 Do: If you're an Android smartphone owner and a ToodleDo online task manager user, then the Got To Do app is ideal for you, since it syncs with ToodleDo. Even if you don't use ToodleDo, however, Got 2 Do is a feature-rich mobile to-do app, with task reminders, task contexts and folders, sorting by multiple categories, tagging, and more. There's a free and non-ad pro version available in Android market.