Choosing a to-do list app requires familiarity with product features and criteria that make it “the one.” This is especially true when choosing an app that will be used by not only you, but your family as well.
Here, we look at the world of to-do list apps, to zero in on what’s most important when choosing the one that’s perfect for you and your family.
The look and feel of an app is about more than just aesthetics. It’s about how you interact with the app and how you feel when you’re using it. Whether it looks structured and rigid, giving it a stricter feel, or if it takes a more fluid approach, using soft lines and showing some personality; this is all part of the design, look, and feel. Certain designs appeal to older adults, while others may appeal to children, or the young at heart.
One app in this category that is beautifully designed is Clear, which prides itself on simplicity. The app offers a clean, sharp, yet colorful interface that makes checklists look almost pretty enough to frame. Your checklists on Clear are made to help you take care of the most urgent matter first, making rainbow-hued lists, with the most urgent needs a darker color, and the less urgent, lighter. It’s clean, simple, and to the point.
Another app that takes design to a whole new level, is Doo. Its crisp design uses relaxing shades, such as deep purple and grey, and is modern while being inviting at the same time. Doo makes all of your reminders and to-do’s into cards that show up in a neat stack, rather than a list, making them easy to view. The biggest benefit of this stack design feature, is that is makes tasks appear a lot less overwhelming, as opposed to long lists that appear in other apps.
Saving the best for last, Things’ design is so great that is won the 2017 Apple Design Award. There is no explanation needed, other than Thing “gets it.” The design is crisp, sharp, clear and to the point, while offering aesthetically pleasing buttons and controls.
Ease of Use
One of the reasons that simple app design is so important is that it leads to simple usage— or in other words, how easy it is to work with and manage. The best apps are dead simple to use, and that don’t have a learning curve or require fiddling. Because to-do list apps should be simple, they generally shouldn’t require a video tutorial. Simplicity and ease-of-use is even more crucial when the app is going to be used by your family — whether it’s your non-tech-savvy partner, or your kids. How easy it is to add new tasks? Is marking finished tasks as completed, complicated? Can you reassign tasks for a later date? These are all good ease-of-use related questions you should answer before settling on an app.
Two of our favorite easy-to-use apps are Google Keep and Habatica. As one of the simplest apps out there, Google Keep sure does a lot, by allowing you to capture and store you thoughts in pretty much any format — notes, lists, photos, and even audio. It’s the app that gives you the ability to record an audio-message reminder to buy milk; it lets your son take a picture of the baseball shoes he wants; or allows your daughter to write a list of items she needs for her school project. It’s simple through and through.
If you’re looking for an app that’s easy to use while offering something different to get your family to complete tasks, you’ll definitely enjoy Habatica. With the tag line, “gamified task manager,” this app cleverly turns your life and daily tasks into a game. After inputting your habits, daily goals and tasks, you create an avatar, which then grows and can access new features depending on the amount of tasks you check off of your list. Perfect for the family with a competitive streak.
As always, price is a big one when it comes to the best planner apps. Many apps either cost up front, or require in-app purchases, which can get to be a lot of money when the whole family is using it. Common pricing models used are a one-time download fee, and then a monthly subscription fee; or, a free download but with extremely limited features that require you to pay for in-app purchases for add-ons.
*Updated July 2020
Wunderlist, for example, offers a free first time download, while knowing that its users will most likely want more features, which it offers through in-app purchases. On the other hand, you have Things, that has a fairly high price tag upfront at $9.99, but it offers all of the features you could possibly want, for one single non-recurring payment. There are several options when it comes to prices and features, and the choice is most commonly made by choosing the key features you need and seeing which apps, if any, offer it for the best price.
Tasks and Notifications
You’ll want to assign tasks or chores to others, whether they be coworkers, friends, or family members. While you want them to know about the task and complete it, you don’t want to be overly aggressive or “in their face.” As a segment, organizer apps make it very easy to assign tasks.
One app that makes the job of assigning tasks particularly stress-free, is Todoist. You can create tasks and prioritize them, then set due dates so that you never forget to follow though. It also makes it really simple to share lists and tasks with family members or anyone else you need to assign a task to. Another app that excels when it comes to task assignment, is the fittingly named, Remember the Milk. Easily create tasks, and tag other people in them so that they get the task too. You can also assign a task to someone and send a reminder via text message, email, Twitter, and instant message.
The last of our top criteria for to-do list apps, and one of the most important ones, is the ability to sync lists and reminders across devices. Syncing ability gives you the option to access your information on iOS, Mac, Apple Watch, Outlook and other devices; because nothing is worse than having a list on your work computer, and not being able to access it from home.
Wunderlist makes syncing incredibly easy and seamless. It helps you stay productive from anywhere and everywhere, with its lists that sync to your phone, smartwatch, computer, or tablet.
Toodledo lets you view your tasks on a map, so that if you make a list on your computer but are at the grocery store, you’ll still get a notification to buy chicken for Wednesday’s dinner party. It also lets you securely sync between devices to backup your data and ensure everything is current. Though it syncs with all devices, certain features are only available on specific operating systems.
Last but not least, is Any.do, a syncing champion that works with Google calendar, Outlook, Siri, and Alexa, and syncs quickly and in real-time between your desktop, mobile, and tablet. It lets you sync with your phone’s calendar and your Facebook, so you don’t miss or double-schedule anything.
We hope you find this list of the most important things when it comes to to-do list apps useful. By using the right one for you, you’ll be able to pick up your child from school, while your babysitter is reminded to pick up take-home for dinner!