Nine iPhone task managers to get you organized

task managers for iPhone

Some people get by with simple plain text lists, but I really enjoy using a task manager. The iPhone doesn’t have one by default, but over the past few years, quite a few third party developers have stepped up to the plate with some excellent solutions. My personal favourites include Things, Today Todo Pro, and 2Do, but there are many (many) more out there.

The JAiB recently had a discussion about our favourite (nine) task management apps or solutions, and we’ve organized and shared them all with you after the jump. It’s a beast of a read, but we hope you find it useful!

Task Management Apps mentioned in this post:

  • 2Do (review) — $6.99 — syncs with ToodleDo, iCal, Outlook
  • ToDo — $4.99  – syncs with ToodleDo and iCal
  • Things — $9.99 — syncs with Things for Mac ($50)
  • ToodleDo — $2.99 — syncs with ToodleDo
  • Remember the Milk (RTM) — “Free”–  requires $25/year subscription to sync and use
  • ReQall (review) – Freemium — syncs with ReQall, integrates with Evernote Pro accounts
  • Taskpaper (review) – $4.99 — syncs with Taskpaper for Mac, or any Mac text editor
  • Egretlist (review) — $2.99 — syncs with Evernote
  • Today ToDo Pro (review) — $3.99 — no sync; uses “web server” mode instead

Frank

2Do
I used this app for a while on my iPhone. I really liked the some of the functionality and the sync worked pretty well with iCal.  It just became too much for me.  I was looking for something a little more simplified and to the point. Plus I needed a manager that worked in conjunction with my iPad.

ToDo
When ToDo for the iPad came out they completely sold me on the design. After playing around with for a few minutes I immediately purchased the iPhone version.  I am currently syncing over the air using ToodleDo and it works great keeping both my iPhone and iPad update.  ToDo keeps my life in order.  My only wish is for a full Mac client.

Things
I have never used Things except for the Mac trial version but I want it… The UI is smart and easy to use. The cost of buying the iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps total $80 and that’s just way too money for me to spend right now. I will consider buying Things once they add over the air syncing.

Diego

I’m currently using Things on Mac and iPhone and it’s already a pain
in the ass having to be in the same wifi to keep them sync, but as the
iPad is coming to my house I can’t sync both “mobile” versions
everytime I make a change in one of them, this means I will not use
Things for iPad until OTA sync is delivered.

I read somewhere of people using Simplenote + Notational Velocity for
this purpose, but I just don’t feel it right and don’t want to mess my
notes.

Russell
I’ve tried all listed.

I keep sticking with the same combo as Frank. I use ToDo on iphone and ipad syncing to and thru Toodledo. I use Jott and email to feed ToDo. I also use Notebook (also from Appigo) as a note/data keeper/db. It integrates well with iPhone ToDo and Toodledo.

Josh Gard

I’ve been using Remember The Milk (Pro account) since last fall, after switching from Toodledo. For me to consider a task manager app, it must have a web interface and must be able to sync over the air. In addition, be able to send me push alerts to my iPhone on a per-task basis (ie. some recurring tasks I don’t need alerts for but I still track them on my task list, other important one-off tasks I want push alerts for).

While Toodledo also met my requirements, the web interface felt complicated and stuffed with too many features that I simply had no use for. What I like about RTM the most is the clean, streamlined web interface. It reminds me of the Google UI, with plenty of white space, clean fonts, and easy to use UI elements. Creating tasks is as easy as typing into a single text box in plain english, such as “Need to pick up dry-cleaning on Friday at 6:30pm” and RTM will parse the text and pick out the date and time. Creating new tasks on the iPhone app is done the same way.

I’ve looked at just about every task manager app for the iPhone platform, and while there are many very nice ones, many of them require a companion app to run on my Mac, and only sync over wifi when both the iPhone app and Mac app are running at the same time. I want access to my tasks from all my computers, but then also from the web so I can get to them from any other computer as well (which I occasionally need to do).

For me, RTM offers the most useful and productive task management, providing me access to my tasks from any computer or mobile device I have access to, while keeping the feature-rich web interface clean and easy to use. One caveat, while RTM does provide free accounts, in order to use the iPhone app, you have to have a RTM Pro account which costs $25/year. While this may discourage some users, when you factor in the cost of other iPhone tasks managers including their desktop companion apps, RTM Pro is very comparable, and for about $2/month, has been invaluable for me over the last year of managing my tasks.

Patrick Jordan

I think one thing to note right away is that this is an area where iPhone users have some great choices.  I’ve used – and liked – several of the apps mentioned by others here.  I’ve tried out 2Do and ToDo – and think they are both very capable and strong apps.  Remember The Milk was a favorite for quite a while.

The app that has been my everyday go-to ever since it hit the App Store is Things though. It is definitely at the higher end of the price scale, on the iPhone and the Mac (and now the iPad as well) – but I find it worth every penny, as I use it heavily every day.  It offers a great feature set, but the simple, gorgeous, and effective  UI is what makes it such a killer app for me.  It just looks so good, and is so easy to work with, that I *want* to use it, and use it often.  I am sure by now, after nearly two years of use on the desktop, iPhone, and now the iPad, that this makes me more productive.    I would love to see OTA sync added to it soon – that is its biggest missing feature right now.

Jay Roth

Unfortunately my experience with this list leaves me little to contribute. I was never a RTM fan, and although I tried ToodleDo briefly, I wasn’t a fan of its setup.

I was teased into trying ReQall and have kept it due to its exceptional voice transcription feature and email (and trial Outlook integration). Unfortunately its App lacks seamless navigation and understanding of the difference between its “Memory Jogger,” “Things,” and “Time” leaves me baffled as to where to classify what I need to do.

Brandon S

Things.

Why? Because it works, doesn’t add unecessary complexity (unless you want it) and doesn’t include the kitchen sink.

It’s fast, simple and doesn’t require a lot of effort. Too many apps try to be everything to everybody and because of that they overload you with options you never wanted or needed.

Things has a simplistic quality that doesn’t scare you off the first time you try it. Many of the other apps I’ve tried just miss the make on simplistic elegance.

Thomas

I’ve tried ToDo, RTM, ToodleDo, 2Do, Today Todo Pro, Taskpaper, ReQall, and Egretlist…but I usually end up heading back to Things after a while.

Appigo’s ToDo always felt a bit too complicated, although I did appreciate the syncing with Remember the Milk (now cancelled) and Toodledo at the time. Unfortunately, I tired quickly of the interface. It features a clean design, but clean in a sterile, not shiny way, and I like my apps “pretty”.

I used the Remember the Milk app for nearly a year, but my experience was different from Josh’s. There were very few app updates in those 12 months, and I didn’t see any major changes in the web app either, so I really started to wonder where my money was going. $25/year isn’t a killer sum if the service is great, but I didn’t like the idea of being tethered to a subscription just to get the RTM app to work. I also found syncing far too slow to be convenient, even if it was syncing over-the-air with the cloud.

2Do and Today Todo Pro  are great apps, but I eventually lost interest because of the lack of a decent sync partner on the Mac. I used the local wi-fi sync feature to sync 2Do with iCal, but I find task management on default OSX apps lacking, to say the least.

I head back to Things because the desktop client is so damn good, and, as Brandon mentioned, the app really has a great approach to task management. I still think it needs an over-the-air sync (they’re working hard on it — but we have no ETA), but I know for a fact that I’m a lot more productive when I stick to tasks I pin down in Things. If you’d like to know more about the app, I wrote a pretty massive review of the iPhone and Mac clients over on JAMM.

Josh (again, Re: Remember the Milk)

I do remember back when RTM syncing was pretty slow, but they updated the app about a month or so ago which really improved the syncing. Now whenever I create or edit a task, it’s synced back to the cloud within about 3-5 seconds. And it syncs in the background which is nice, so you never even notice that it’s doing it. But your tasks are always synced up in almost real time. It was a big improvement to one of my major gripes with the service, and I do agree with you about having to pay $25/year just to be able to use the iPhone app = kinda lame. But I do have to say I love the cowbell sound for push alerts! ;)



  • Lucion

    Really appreciate the different views on all the task managers out there. Quite a lot of contenders for my task-minding dollar.

    Things looks great, but the lack of OTA sync is a killer for me. I need to keep my iPhone on 3G all the time because it locks up or gets very sluggish when switching to WiFi (didn't happen prior to 3.x and can't figure out how to fix it).

    ToDo is another promising option, but I'm not thrilled with using iCal to create tasks on the Mac. It does use TextExpander on the iPhone which is a nice addition.

    Unfortunately I gave up on Taskpaper/Writeroom. I liked their syncing methods but they don't seem to be in a hurry to support the iPad.

    I think this has at least identified two contenders. I will probably read more about ToDo, but I will probably wait for Things to gain OTA sync. In the meantime, text lists in Simplenote seem to do the job. Which raises another question: do I even need a dedicated task manager?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Ragart Thomas

      If Simplenote is enough for you, then maybe not. I, however, derive a very sick pleasure from ticking off check boxes and adding little tags and categories to tasks.

  • rafael

    where`s ominifocus??

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Ragart Thomas

      I can understand why you see it as missing. This post was about mentioning and providing feedback on task managers that the team here likes using, or had comments on. Pocket Informant and OmniFocus just aren't our cups of tea for now, I guess.

  • James

    I would highly recommend Pocket Informant from WebIS as both a calendar and a task manager. It is a fully integrated solution and receives constant updates and new features, Not only do you have the original Google Calendar and Toodledo integration for syncing OTA, but the developers have added Outlook sync and will implement local notifications and local calendar sync for a OTA method of getting to an Exchange server when available in OS 4. I have used it since release and it has come a long way, and knowing WebIS, they won't rest on their laurels.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Ragart Thomas

      I used PI on Windows Mobile and loved it, but my needs on the iPhone are different, and I find PI rather jam packed. It also just provides too many features for my needs, and I'd rather not use it *just* for tasks when I wouldn't even touch the rest of it. Just my two cents.

      • James

        I can see your point there. PI is more for those who want integration between Calendar and Tasks and a much improved Calendar experience. With the opening of the Calendar in OS 4, I see PI getting a lot more flexible and powerful.

        Focusing on tasks again, another advantage of PI is choice of task management style. Most of the major iPhone task managers are centered around the GTD method. PI has strict GTD, the Toodledo implementation of GTD (which expands on it a bit), and the Franklin Covey method (A-Z, 1-10). I personally find Toodledo superior, but it is nice to have the choice.

  • JeffH

    Why didn't you include SimpleNote? It syncs between all idevices via their web client. I use it on my iPhone and iPad and everything is always in sync. I can also access my To Do lists on any computer with a web browser.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Ragart Thomas

      One of our writers did mention Simplenote, and I'm a big user of the app myself (just search JAiB for Simplenote and you'll see quite a few things pop up). However, Simplenote isn't a dedicated task manager. It's primarily a notebook. That's why it's not mentioned.

    • Josh Gard

      Hey JeffH, I actually do use SimpleNote pretty heavily, even paid for the Pro version. But for me, it's more of a notebook, lists, "throw it in a note to come back to later" sort of app, and not my task manager. SimpleNote doesn't have any type of push alerts or alarms/reminders/due dates. If it did, it would be much more capable as a task manager. BUT… it would start to take away from its simplicity that I love so much. I guess it depends on how you use your to-do lists. For me, I need the reminders and alerts, just like I use on my computers (Outlook, Entourage, iCal), to tell me when it's time to do something. :)

  • Marisa

    I've tried all the above plus Omnifocus and have moved entirely over to Nozbe. I tried the free version and at first wasn't keen, but went back to try again when they got Evernote integration. Even without Evernote you can attach files, make notes etc.

    Now I love it and think it suits me better than all the others. It is web based, so can be accessed from mac/pc/anywhere, the new iPhone client is fast, efficient and very clear. It will sync to iCal, and you can send in tasks by email or Twitter if you like. Best of all it's very true to GTD without being slavish.

    It takes a while to get into but is very powerful as you can add context(s) to tasks, projects, files, notes etc. There are a few things which could be added, but it's developing quite fast, and the iPad version is being worked on right now. Just thought I'd mention it as nobody else has. Great article!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Ragart Thomas

      Thanks for the feedback, Marisa, as well as the Nozbe recommendation. I've been hesitant to try it out in the past because my experience with RTM and Toodledo made me a bit wary of cloud task managers. It's strange: I'm just fine with using Gmail as my primary e-mail client, but I still like having a desktop app for certain things, and task management is one of them.

  • Fiuza78

    You missed Doit.im
    Free, cloud syncing, simple GTD solution.

  • webkittesting

    Full Disclousure: I'm the developer of Task Aware.

    Check it out http://www.task-aware.com

    Adds a little something to the mix, it's location-aware, so you get notifications when you are nearby tasks!

    ND

  • Donnie

    Brilliant list. I actually use Dooster to keep me organized. Great little app worth a look. http://www.dooster.net

  • Johnny

    I’m using gTasks (www.katans.com) and it’s great!
    It is very simple and yet powerful with alerts and synchronization to Google tasks!
    I strongly recommend!!

  • Lucy

    We got Dooster some months ago and it’s really tidied us all up. My boss really didn’t like programmes but was so worried about the missed meetings and crossed wires that he chose this one and it’s brilliant. We’re getting Friday afternoons off now because we don’t need to review the week anymore and can do it at home anyway now. Also even though I’m uninterested myself in the iphone app, others in the office are keen on it.