What should a to-do list app do?
One of the best things about technology today is how it allows us to take certain, sort of inefficient processes, and improve them. Snail mail was too slow, and so now we have email. People have used to-do lists for years, and just like calendars have moved onto the mobile platform, so have they. To-do list apps are meant to have all of the features of a real-life to-do list, allowing you to consolidate multiple list items in a single place, while also introducing other new and useful features. With that in mind, which of these apps are best at what they do? In this article, I’ll talk about the five best to-do list applications that are currently available on the iOS platform.
1. Remember the Milk
Remember the Milk isn’t exactly the most well-known to-do list app that I’ll talk about in this article, but I thought that I would take this time to promote it anyway. Remember the Milk is a sleek, easy-to-use to-do list app that offers a wide range of features for its free users. Basically, it offers a really great baseline experience for anyone who may be new to these sorts of applications. Users are able to place items into a list, and set reminders through email, text, Twitter, and so on. They’re also able to sort the items in their list through a few different filters, including priority, due date, and through custom tags. There isn’t any real gimmick to this application, but I think that the fact that it has all of these basic features (and they’re all implemented to perfection) makes it deserving of a nod.
The only real drawback to Remember the Milk is the fact that a lot of other features are locked behind a paywall. With a premium subscription, which costs $39.99 per year, unlocks features like subtasks, colored tags, advanced sorting, and unlimited sorting. Although it’s nice that the app has these features at all, it’s definitely a downer that you have to pay to access them. This is even more disappointing when you consider that there are many apps that offer these features for free. Regardless of that particular shortcoming, Remember the Milk is still an excellent application for someone looking to dip their toe into to-do list apps by offering all of the basic industries in a user friendly and effective way.
Unlike Remember the Milk, Wunderlist is actually one of the most well-known to-do list apps available on the mobile platform. That popularity comes with good reason, too. One of the biggest issues that you may encounter with to-do list apps is that they’re too complicated. This is mostly a consequence of their design — when you create something that can be used by businesses, it makes it a little less approachable by families. Wunderlist puts that unfortunate trope on its head by being one of the most simple and self-explanatory to-do list apps out there. Whether you’re writing up a shopping list or a bucket list, this app makes the process as easy and as self-explanatory as possible.
Another really neat aspect of this app is how tightly its collaborative features are integrated into the overall user experience. Remember when I talked about how to-do list apps are looking to improve upon the classic to-do list? Wunderlist does exactly that. Instead of sticking your shopping list to the refrigerator, you can just share your list with other people that you live with through the application. This makes the app especially well-suited for families, students, or colleagues. Like Remember the Milk, Wunderlist also has a premium subscription package, with costs $49.99 per year. However, the features that are included in this package seem redundant to me, personally. I think that Wunderlist is meant to be a very simple list-making app, and so I don’t really feel that a premium subscription is necessary to enjoy it.
I thought I would take a break from some of these other to-do list apps by talking about something that’s a little different. After a while, some of these to-do list apps can all sort of look the same. Habitica absolutely does not look like any other application in this article. In essence, this is an app that tries to take the standard time management/to-do list and puts an RPG-esque spin on. Yes, you read right. In this app, users create a personal avatar and set their daily tasks. They’re also urged to set different habits (good and bad), and they indicate whether or not they do all of these things. The game evaluates your day accordingly, and issues rewards in the form of experience points, in-game currency, and equipment. Users are able to spend their in-game currency on equipment or on custom rewards. (If you’re trying to lose weight, maybe you set a custom reward as a “cheat day” so that you feel a little less guilty about those extra calories.)
I think that the idea of implementing gamification in to-do lists is really interesting. It’s a smart way of pulling in a user base that may not typically feel motivated to follow a schedule. However, it’s worth noting that the to-do list features are secondary to the habit-oriented features in this app. As you may have surmised from the name, the original purpose of this whole game was to help people kick bad habits and encourage good ones. The to-do list features may seem lacking if you’re someone who is used to a more comprehensive overall experience, but I think they should be good enough for a lot of people. I don’t think that Habitica is for everyone, but I still firmly believe that it is a choice that you should seriously look into, especially if you struggle with “sticking to” these lifestyle management apps normally.
Visually, Clear is probably the most stunning app listed in this article. The many themes that are integrated into the application utilize changing colors to create something that genuinely looks really, really nice. The app’s interface is simple, intuitive, and striking. Clear’s design is set up around user gestures. You don’t have to really worry about navigating through a million different menus (as tends to be the case with to-do list apps) which allows you to put all of your focus on the app itself. It’s all very simple. You are able to create multiple lists, set reminders, and that’s about it. Although it’s great to have features like subtasks, item tags, sorting options, and so on, there’s something to be said about delivering such an effective bare bones experience.
I think that a lot of these different bells and whistles tend to deter people from ever getting into to-do list apps, honestly. It can be very intimidating, especially considering that these apps are meant to emulate a literal piece of paper with words on it. Clear is really easy to use, and although its features can seem rudimentary at times, for the most part it executes everything quite beautifully. Its simplicity also makes it well-suited for smartwatches, where a smaller display means that you have to be really economical with how everything runs. Luckily, Clear is one of the most economical apps of this type out there. Although I think that it may come up short for people with more demanding needs, Clear is the ideal app for someone who is just looking for a quick and easy task management solution.
As I’ve touched on multiple times in this article, sticking with these lifestyle management apps can be a grueling task. They can be unforgiving, and sometimes it’s difficult to actually gauge whether or not they’re working effectively. Habitica is a great app for some people, but if you’re turned off by the whole video gaming aesthetic, does that mean that you’re out of luck? Todoist is an application that, along with incorporating all of the standard to-do list app features, rewards its users for using it through Todoist Karma. This feature allows you to set custom goals on a weekly or monthly basis, and it awards points to the user when those goals are met. It also allows you to easily track your productivity by taking all of your data and putting it onto color-coded graphs, allowing you to see which tasks are receiving your full attention and which tasks aren’t.
Todoist sits on the opposite end of the spectrum of apps like Clear and Remember the Milk, in that it is absolutely packed with features. There are a ton of different menus, integrations, features, and tools. Although this can make for an overwhelming and off-putting experience for some, I know that a lot of people really enjoy when lifestyle management apps offer this level of customization and flexibility. Sure, there’s a learning curve, but once you figure it out, this app will cater to your needs exactly as you want it to. I can’t recommend this application to someone who doesn’t think of themselves as especially organized or tech-savvy, but if you’re really looking for a single, hyper-comprehensive task management solution, I think that Todoist is the perfect app for you.
And that’s that. In my opinion, those are five of the best to-do list apps that are currently available in the App Store. It’s worth noting that the App Store is still filled with other, equally great to-do list apps. Did I happen to snub one of your favorites? Feel free to talk about it in the comments section below.