iPhone To Do List Applications – Some Good Choices

Toodledomain ListinglyMain

I’m a huge fan of To Do lists – obsessed with them nearly. A good task management / to do list application is an absolute essential for me on any mobile device. So finding a to do program that worked well with the iPhone was one of my first missions once I realized there was no in-built tasks program (I still find this a bit of a shocking thing to leave out!).

Coming from being a long-time Windows Mobile user, and a heavy reliance on programs like Pocket Informant, Agenda One and others over the years, I did not feel real warm and fuzzy about changing to an online application for managing tasks.

I’m happy to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how easy I’ve found it to switch though.  Luckily, there are a number of very good online ToDo applications out there to choose from, that work very nicely with the iPhone – so my transition has not been as painful as I expected.

Here’s the shortlist of todo applications I’ve tried out over recent weeks:

  • Listingly
  • pTasks
  • TaDa Lists
  • Toodledo
  • Vitalist

Read on for lots of screencaps of some of the contenders I’ve tried out, impressions of each of them, and a few words on my favorite iPhone-friendly todo list application …

First, here’s a little table with a brief overview on: what you can specify when creating a new task on the iPhone, what are your options for sorting your tasks view, can you export your list (this seems a key feature to me when working with an online app), and what are some of the general, notable features of each.

Name New Task Options Sorting Options Export? Other Notable Features
Listingly task name, group, due date, notes None – sorts by due date No Sharing of tasks, skins
pTasks Just task name None No By default, shows items under these groups: Tasks, Appointments, Items To Send, Expected Items
Ta-da List Just task name Drag and Drop, from desktop browser only No Sharing of tasks, email yourself any of your lists, RSS notification of changes
Toodledo task name, folder / group, due date, repeat options, priority, notes Sort by due date, priority, folder, alphabetical – and can be set on iPhone as well as desktop browser Yes – from desktop only Sharing, create task via email, import options, export as iCal, XML, CSV, folders, goals, scheduler, booklet printer, Google gadget and Firefox extension
Vitalist task name, context, project, priority, due date, notes, reminder, repeat options projects, contexts, priority Yes – but via a clumsy, XML-only method GTD based – offers contexts, projects, Netvibes and Google gadgets, email reminders, allows 10 each of contacts, contexts, and projects in the free version

Now for a quick rundown on each of the 5 apps mentioned above. Please note, I have not (by any means) comprehensively tested each of these applications. I’ve tried each of them out a bit, got a good feel for their features and capabilities, and then used some more than others as they worked for me and felt comfortable to use.

Listingly

In a Nutshell: The prettiest on the iPhone.

Listingly looks gorgeous on the iPhone, with its black background and sharply colored main screens.  It’s easy to navigate around with its large arrows and sharp graphics, and is pleasant to work with, especially for simpler lists like its built-in ‘Grocery Smart List’.

The smart part of the grocery list is that once you have typed four letters, it will start making suggestions – so ‘toma’ will get you Tomato soup and other helpful choices.

It allows easy sharing of lists (see screencap below) and has recently added a Due Date field for tasks on the Create New Task screen.  You can also specify a group when adding a new task via an easy drop-down.

Listingly has very few options / settings that you can configure for it right now. The settings page on a desktop browser even starts by telling you “We’re keeping it simple folks.” So settings consists of a password change function and a Skins setting on the iPhone.

The biggest thing missing in Listingly right now is an ability to set priority on tasks and sorting preferences on your lists. The To Do List, for example automatically sorts by due date, but that is not always what is wanted.

listinglyaddnewtask listinglysharingtasks

Above are the Listingly Add New Task and Sharing Lists screens.

Listingly is at:

www.listingly.com

The iPhone site is: listingly.com/iphone

pTasks

In a Nutshell: The bare-bones solution.

pTasks is a good choice for those who want no frills at all. It allows you to enter tasks with a single tap, add them under a sort of general tasks heading or under its default sections: Appontments, Items To Send, or Expected Items.  You can also mark a task as urgent, which will highlight it in red so it stands out on the page.

And that’s just about it.  It has no further options at all for the moment – for assigning a due date, or sorting your tasks, or anything really. The stark, bare bones feel of it also hits home when you use it within a desktop browser (as everything sits in the middle of the screen as if it is still working within the iPhone screen space).

pTasksmain2

Above is the pTasks main screen.

pTasks is at: www.ptasks.com

* Same web address as above for the iPhone.

Ta-da List

In a Nutshell: Strong on ease of use.

Ta-da List is made by 37signals, the well-known company behind popular online applications like Basecamp (for project management) and Highrise (simple CRM). It’s described by the company as ‘just ultra-simple, easily sharable to-do lists.’

That description is accurate. Ta-da List is very easy to work with.  All its screens fit well on the iPhone and feature a simple, minimal design feel. It uses large buttons to help you quickly add a new task, edit an existing one, and switch back to list views.

Currently you are not able to add a priority, due date, or notes to a task. Also, if you want to re-order your lists you need to be on a desktop browser, where you can just drag and drop to re-arrange all items on a list.

From the desktop, you can also mail yourself a copy of a list, and subscribe to be notified of changes to a list via RSS.

If you want more power for your todo list management than Ta-da List offers, the suggestion from 37signals is to move up to the full version of Ta-da Lists included within Basecamp or even to use Highrise. I have tried out Highrise a little bit, but its screens are not at all optimized for the iPhone. I’ve not tried Basecamp as I don’t need project management features.

Tadalistscreen

Above = an individual list’s main screen.

tadaEdit

Individual task selected – with buttons for editing, completing, or deleting it visible.

Ta-da List is at: www.tadalist.com

On the iPhone, go to: http://tadalist.com/iphone

Toodledo

In a Nutshell: The silliest name, but the most powerful features.

Toodedo was the first major online todo list that provided optimized support for the iPhone, and that head start seems to have been put to very good use.

It is absolutely packed with features, on both the iPhone and desktop browser interfaces. Here’s just some of what Toodledo lets you do:

  • Use folders, due dates, priorities, tags, contexts, and goals to organize and search through your tasks
  • Export your lists in iCal, Palm PDA, XML, CSV and TXT formats. You can also import in all those same formats, or use email to create new tasks.
  • Use the Booklet Printer feature to print a foldable booklet that fits in your pocket.
  • Attach contexts and goals to your tasks
  • Use its Google Gadget to display your tasks on your personalized Google home page, or install its Firefox extension to add several handy capabilities when you’re in the Firefox browser

The Firefox extension for Toodledo is something I only recently discovered and absolutely love. I am a huge Firefox fan, and this extension makes Toodledo super-fast to use with FF. It adds a sidebar showing your Hotlist items, which I’m not using much as I don;t like losing the screen space for this. But … it also adds two very slick right-click items that I am using freqently. Right-click on any link in Firefox and choose ‘Toodledo This Link’ from the menu, and it will bring up a neat, little New Task window, where it has auto-populated the full link URL into the Task field:

toodledorightclicklink

Even better, you can also just right-click anywhere within a Firefox screen and choose ‘Toodledo Something’ from the menu, and go straight to the small Add New Task window shown above.

The very best thing about Toodledo is that so much of its power is still available to you within the iPhone interface. It manages to offer tons of features without sacrificing anything in terms of ease of use. In fact, I have found it the easiest and most comfortable to work with.  Here’s some of the screens showing off Toodledo’s power:

toodledoAddTask

The Add Task screen.

ToodledoPriority

Choosing a task’s priority.

Toodledosortscreen

The Sort By / Options screen.

toodledomail

The daily Hotlist email.

Toodledo is at: www.toodledo.com

Their iPhone site is: http://www.toodledo.com/slim/

Vitalist

In a Nutshell: Based on the hugely popular Getting Things Done (GTD) system of time and task management.

For an intro to GTD, see this ‘What Is GTD’ page: http://www.davidco.com/what_is_gtd.php

Vitalist is a very nice option if you are a GTD follower. Like Toodledo, it has a very powerful set of features and has been well-designed for use on the iPhone.

It has Google and Netvibes gadgets for displaying your tasks on your home pages for each of those. It offers a Dashboard main screen from which you can jump out to see what’s up via individual screens for projects, Inbox, actions list, contacts, shares, and more.

Navigation in Vitalist on the iPhone is good – with a quick + button at the top of all screens to add a new task, easy one-tap access to edit existing tasks, and Group By and Filtering options via buttons at the top of the Actions screen.

webot, todo apps, widgetop, installer 021

Above = the Vitalist main screen.

vitalistaddaction

The Add Action screen.

vitalistfilterscreen

And the Filters screen.

Check out Vitalist at: www.vitalist.com

For the iPhone, go to: http://iphone.vitalist.com

Some General Points

All of these online applications have shown pretty good page load times when I’ve used them, even on Edge. And all of them offer a ‘Remember Me’ option so that you don’t need to re-enter your login credentials each time you visit their sites.

In terms of security, I believe Vitalist is the only one that offers an https site option. I haven’t looked at that subject much, as nothing I’m doing with these apps is top-secret and I don’t store any confidential information associated with tasks or anything of that nature.

The ‘Local’ Option

If you have done the ‘jailbreak’ on your iPhone and use the Installer app, there is a tasks program that can be installed to the iPhone – MobileToDoList from Include7.

MobileToDoList is at a very early stage of its development (Version 0.21) and is being updated frequently. It is currently pretty bare on features, but it works nicely and the developer’s site shows that hot wish list items they will look to add soon include syncing with Safari (which would be very nice), showing priority in the todo table, and preferences for sorting by priority etc.

mobiletodo1

Above = the main screen.

mobiletodo2

More info on MobileToDoList at: Include7

Or just check it out via Installer.

Final Thoughts

As with a lot of things, the choice of which todo list application works best for you is a very personal one. I think all of us who use this sort of program heavily sort of develop our own little ways of working and methods that work best for us over the course of time.

So your own preferred ways of working will go a long way towards determining which app is the best bet for you. With that in mind, some quick conclusions:

  • If you’re a heavy GTD follower, Vitalist is for you.
  • If look and feel and slick design are paramount, Listingly is likely to be your best choice.
  • For those who want no frills and a very basic feel, I’d go with Ta-da List.
  • If you don’t want an online solution, then MobileToDoList is the only game in town right now, and works well

My overall favorite though is Toodledo, by a good margin. It has it all as far as I’m concerned. Tons of features and options, superb ease of use on both the desktop and the iPhone, great customized layout for iPhone, and a really slick Firefox extension.

I’m sure there are probably a lot of other good programs out there in this category. Please let me know your thoughts on any of these that you have tried, and on any good ones that I’ve missed!



  • Ragart

    thanks for the article! Will def check out the local option, since I am really missing tasks from WM so far.

  • dannielo

    For implementing GTD you might try out this web-based application:

    Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

    As with the last update, now Gtdagenda has full Someday/Maybe functionality, you can easily move your tasks and projects between “Active”, “Someday/Maybe” and “Archive”. This will clear your mind, and will boost your productivity.

    Hope you like it.

  • johnm

    Another app to check out is skwink.com, which is a simple todo list and note manager. (http://www.skwink.com).

    I have been using it and am pretty happy with it, the UI needs some work, but the developer said that a new UI is coming.

    -John

  • NikkiS

    Thanks for the blog.

  • Pingback: todo… or not todo « I’ve got a macbook and an iphone and I’m not so happy… (or am I?)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Lau/538345369 James Lau

    Have you looked at a todo list app for the iPhone called Skratch List. Ya, it's a funny name, but it was actually the closest to what I needed. I also like its little fun factor because you can shake and flick the unit to delete and add items.

    Check it out at http://www.skratchboard.com/skratchlist/

  • patrickj

    James – had not seen that one before – just took a quick look. Looks interesting, but I need an app that sync with something on desktop / online. Is it your app by chance?

  • April Sampson

    A new To Do app has just appeared on the store, its called What Do I Need To-Do. Looks interesting…

    Check it out at http://www.keaneandable.com/iphone/

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/patrickj patrickj

      Thanks for sharing that one.

  • http://researchanddesign.se JohanW

    Oh, I would love to hear my little app compared to these ones. Its much much simpler, but … different. http://researchanddesign.se/blog/todo-important-u

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/patrickj patrickj

      Thanks for sharing – that certainly looks a very different approach.

  • Roby D.

    Check out ReQall on the iPhone apps. I got it and it is very nice and easy to use. The free version has voice tasks that translate to written tasks, syncs with outlook tasks and calendar, recognizes words like meet or buy and puts them in the to-do or to-buy list respectively, notifications (if you want) via email, IM, or SMS, automatically records voice when it senses you move the phone to your head, and a host of other things. Looks sweet too.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/patrickj patrickj

      I gave Reqall a look sometime ago – could never quite get to like its interface enough to use it much. Also, I couldn't quite get to grips with the voice call method for this sort of thing. Others may find it perfect for their needs.

  • http://Www.blogable.eu André

    Which One offers a Number visible like calls or mails? I would like to see directly how many tasks I stil have open.
    nice review and overview for a new iPhone user like me

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/patrickj patrickj

      I wrote this post almost two years ago, so all of these were web apps at the time. By now, most good tasks apps should be able to display the badge with number of overdue or not yet completed tasks.

      • http://Www.blogable.eu André

        Thanks mate for your reply. Realized too Late how old this post was. Just installed to do list. Free app and does the trick.

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/patrickj patrickj

          Cool – glad to hear you found something that works for you.

  • Mike J

    Thanks for the post! I using the Toodledo too… But I found that I really don't need too much function for simple task remind. So I tested a to-do type app named TaskCard, it is really cool and I love the design. It is different to normal ToDo list, I can say it is a simple/quick ToDo list.

  • Tim

    Patrick, has your opinion changed in the last 2 years? Still think that Toodledo is the best overall app for time management/ to do lists?

    Tim

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/patrickj patrickj

      Hi Tim. My opinion has changed – now that we have lots of lovely native apps via the App Store. My current, and long-time, favorite – which I am way overdue on reviewing and will review soon – is Things by Cultured Code.

  • http://www.staroversky.com Ivan

    Things is great. However, there is no way to sync things desktop with iphone version over the interent. Connecting the iphone every single time you need to sync a task is annoying. If they can create a way to sync over the air, than things would be #1 choice.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/patrickj patrickj

      OTA sync is coming soon according to the developers of Things. Also, you do not need to connect your iPhone to a PC to sync. Wireless sync works very quickly and flawlessly when iPhone and Mac are on the same WiFi network.

  • Xavier

    Hi ,anyone knows which of those to does applications syncronize with Outlook?
    Thank you very much for your help

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    Really, Its good choice. I will try to find out

  • James

    The most fun To Do List app for iPhone and iPod Touch is now free. I have been using Skratch List, but now they have made Free List availabe, which is the same thing, except it's free.

    Check it out: http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa

  • http://somaticcontact.com/todew Pete

    You may have tried and found many todo apps on the App Store either too simple to be useful or too long-winded where it takes years to add tasks and appointments. You don't want your to-do app to actually take away your time that could have been spent actually getting things done.

    Try Todew – a task management app that won't waste your time!

    You can see the screencast here: http://somaticcontact.com/todew
    iTunes App Store link: http://bit.ly/dn2DBo

  • http://www.runloop.com Daniel Wood

    The most fun Todo list surely has to be Dunnit! It comes with OpenFeint integrated so you score points as you use the app (a little like XP in WoW). There are also a load of achievements to collect. Certainly adds a new level to Todo lists. It’s not all gimmicky though, the interface is really polished and there are some really handy features for importing multiple items.

    Check it out: http://www.dunnitapp.com