I’ve been looking at various task management applications. My minimum requirements are:
- Cross platform: accessible from my Windows PC and my MacBook as well as my iOS devices.
- Not too expensive
- Email tasks into the app
- Recurring tasks
Other than this, I am open to different methods of organizing tasks, at least as far as trying them out to see if they work for me. Most of these apps have similar features, many designed with the getting things done model in mind. They have an inbox and built in views of what’s due today, tomorrow and other other points in the future. They let you break out your tasks into related groups. You can usually prioritize and add notes.
So when it comes right down to it, the “right” app is probably more about its feel and a few features that make that feeling.
Here is a partial list of apps I’ve looked at:
- OmniFocus (which is rolling out a web app)
As I said, that’s a partial list. There are dozens more available. In the last week I narrowed my choices to Todoist and TickTick, the main subjects of this post. But before I get to them some quick comments about a few of the others:
OmniFocus. This app seems to be the most popular among Mac users. I tried it for a while and liked it, but the more stuff I put into it, the more my eyes glazed over by the sameness of everything. The web app is still in its infancy, but for the most part it worked. Nevertheless I abandoned OF for another option.
Taskade. I like the concept behind this app very much. Basically, you create pages of notes and each note has the ability to be a task and all can have due dates. But it does not integrate with my Apple Calendar and it did not yet have recurring tasks… both of those were deal breakers. I believe those features may be added in the future. I’m going to keep an eye on this app.
Toodledo. I have a lot of affection for this multipurpose app, which hosts many productivity tools. I especially like that it has dedicated notes and tasks functions. The problem is that the interface is stodgy and not very intuitive. Regardless, if Toodledo integrated the notes with the tasks, I’d probably be using it. It doesn’t, so I don’t.
Wunderlist. This is a nice task manager. It is also free. As far as I can tell, it has much of the same basic functionality of TickTick. But it is owned by Microsoft and there is a sense that they are phasing it out for a new task manager.
So on to the two finalists:
After I gave up on OmniFocus, I used TickTick for a couple of weeks. Some features of TickTick that appeal to me:
- Meta data panel shows information for each task you select, including a large area for notes AND comments
- Built in calendar for viewing your task due dates
- Natural language parsing of due dates and priorities
- Web, Mac, Windows and iOS apps
- Ability to email tasks into TickTick
I like to make notes about many of my tasks, and TickTick handles this well. I also like that each task can have sub-tasks embedded in the notes area, and those sub-tasks can have due dates. Unfortunately, you have to choose between notes and sub-tasks, you can’t have both. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that you can add comments, which are basically dated notes. Although — in my mind — task description notes and comments should serve two purposes, even if you are using the app without collaborators.
You can group your projects (TickTick calls them lists) by combining at least two with drag and drop. But you can’t nest lists beyond this one level. This is one of the biggest limitations of TickTick and why I looked elsewhere eventually.
At this moment, I am using Todoist as my task manager. Like TickTick, there are web, Mac, Windows and iOS apps. I can email tasks to Todoist (and the facility seems to be a bit more agile than TickTick’s, though that is a cursory opinion). You can archive projects in Todoist, which is nice: get completed projects out of the way, but keep them around for reference.
The main reason I’ve settled on Todoist is because it allows me to nest projects down several levels. I find that helps keep the list of projects looking more manageable. Todoist also seems to have a wider support and user base; not crucial but comforting.
I can create sub-tasks easily, but they appear in the main list — not in the meta-data panel. This is only a personal preference, but I like TickTick’s way of isolating those sub-tasks. But Todoist’s method allows sub-tasks to have all the same features as any other task, which could be useful for more complex projects.
I am sacrificing the nice notes feature of TickTick, as Todoist only allows notes in the form of comments. I am also missing the calendar view. I can live with those limitations.
I’m not sure if this is a positive or a negative, but Todoist also has this productivity calculator which reports on your “karma.” That is, it tells you how you are doing at meeting your self-defined goals. This seems a bit silly to me, but who knows? Maybe I’ll get into the spirit of it and find it as a source of motivation.
So Todoist is an imperfect option, but it will work, I think.
Both TickTick and Todoist have similar subscription pricing, so that’s not an issue. They are both (as are most of the apps mentioned here) designed for collaboration. I don’t need collaboration, so all I require is that the collaboration features don’t get in my way. They don’t with either TickTick or Todoist.