The mighty to-do list is one of the oldest methods of organization, counting everyone from Leonardo da Vinci to John Lennon among its adherents. Simple and effective, they’ve successfully transitioned from notepads to computer screens, with countless apps competing to be your tool of choice. While there’s definitely a place for more feature-heavy project management apps like Trello or Asana, the best to-do list apps stick to the basics: they provide a place to keep track of daily tasks, usually in a checklist form.
With a new to-do list app seemingly launching every day, choosing the right tool has become a task all its own. With that in mind, we tested out a number of to-do list apps to find out which ones are actually worth the download.
Let’s take a look at the best to-do list apps in 2021 — their features, design, pricing, and biggest drawbacks.
Perhaps the most well-known app on our list, Todoist promises to let you “start each day feeling calm and in-control.” Once you sign-up (with a Google email address, Facebook account, or other email address), you’re able to access your Todoist list on your desktop or laptop and through the mobile app.
With Todoist, I had a general overview of everything going on in my professional and personal life — all in one place. If I needed to quickly check what was going on each day, I didn’t have to deal with switching between multiple windows and apps. When I had to double-check an appointment time en route, I could easily see it right when I opened the app. Available on more than ten apps and plugins, it’s easy to sync your to-do list across all of your devices.
You can quickly add tasks with the “Quick Add” feature, set recurring due dates, label certain tasks as “Favorites” to keep them easily accessible, and set priorities to highlight your day’s most pressing tasks. You’re also able to easily collaborate with others thanks to the sharing function. For example, when I was working on a blog post with a coworker, I was able to share my project to-do list so that we could ensure we were aligned on the timeline and scope.
If you’re a visual person like me, you’ll enjoy the “Todoist Karma” and “Productivity Visualizations” the app provides. With Todoist Karma, you get points for completing your tasks and maintaining productivity streaks. Turning your dreaded to-do list into a game? Genius. With Productivity visualizations, you’ll get a color-coded chart showing your daily and monthly task and project progress. For those weeks when you don’t feel as if you’ve accomplished anything, this visual representation is quite the motivation.
While I wouldn’t say Todoist has the most cutting-edge aesthetic (due to the number of different colors and graphics), there’s definitely nothing offensive about how it looks. The design never gets in the way of the performance. If you want to enhance the look of your experience you can choose a different color scheme, and add color labels to your projects.
The basic version of Todoist is free, but you can upgrade to Todoist Premium for $47.99 or $5.49 a month. The premium version includes unlimited reminders, the ability to add comments and files to your tasks, productivity trends, automatic backups, and more.
As the basic version of Todoist is all I need, it would be nice if the Todoist Premium features were hidden. It was irritating to click on a homepage item like ‘Labels’ only to see a popup explaining that this is a premium feature.
While it looks sparse at first glance, the WorkFlowy app can be quite powerful once set up.
Workflowy is easy to figure out and is cross-platform friendly, so you can use it on your laptop/desktop or your phone. The mobile app isn’t exactly the easiest to use however. It’s more like “what you see on the desktop browser shrunken down.”
As you start creating your to-do list, you’ll immediately notice the bullet format. The single dots represent single items, and larger grey dots represent outline levels and tasks that have hidden subtasks within them. All of the tasks you create can be marked as complete, have notes added to them, exported, duplicated, or deleted simply by clicking on the associated bullet point. If you need to delete or mark a number of tasks as complete, Workflowy has a handy bulk action function that can save you precious time. Not quite into the order of your list? Easily drag and drop to reorganize to your liking.
For example, I used WorkFlowy to help plan a trip so had “Organize Trip” as a larger task or project. Then within that task I had my smaller to-do list bullet items like book flights, research accomodation, and ask for restaurant recommendations. I was just writing tasks down as I thought of them, but as I got closer to my trip I was able to drag and drop tasks to reorder according to priority. Plus, with the handy hashtag feature, I was able to label any associated tasks as #travel so I could search for them later.
The WorkFlowy interface is extremely minimal, and requires very little in the form of onboarding. There was a small learning curve but, after spending a few minutes getting the hang of the different features, it was smooth sailing.
The basic version of WorkFlowy is free, but you can upgrade to get unlimited lists (where free users are limited to 500), daily Dropbox backups, and priority support for $5 a month with WorkFlowy Pro. You get a week of free WorkFlowy Pro when you first sign up, which is a great opportunity to see if you need the extra features.
I wish that WorkFlowy had some sort of time management capability. Their cascading to-do list format is great, but I’m someone who needs my tasks to have deadlines. While you can just manually write dates next to each project or task, the lack of time and date fields, as well as time tracking functionality, is a huge drawback.
When I first opened MinimaList, I didn’t see how something so simple would actually make my life easier. Boy, was I wrong. An unassuming interface quickly gives way to all that MinimaList can do. Plus, it looks really, really good doing it.
When you open the app, you’ll see extremely simple instructions on how to get started. What sets MinimaList apart from the other to-do list apps I tested, is the use of the phone’s swiping and movement to control features. You pull down to add an item to your to-do list, swipe right to mark as done, swipe left to delete, and pull upward for more. You can also use a pinching movement to see all of your separate lists in one spot, and drag tasks with your finger or stylus to rearrange them.
One of the key features of MinimaList is the ‘tap to enter focus mode’ feature. When you tap on any of your to-do list tasks, a Pomodoro timer appears. You can set desired time limits for “focus time,” turn on the app’s white noise and ambient sounds, and customize your experience through a few different options.
MinimaList appealed to me initially thanks to its modern design. I love the black and white look, the Sans Serif font, and the extremely simple overall look. I was also surprised by how much I liked the swiping and tapping functions instead of the usual buttons. With this simple change, I found myself much more inclined to use the app, as that tiny time-saving that comes with swiping and tapping made my life just a little bit easier.
The regular version is free, but you can upgrade to Premium for access to extra features for $0.99 cents a month or $5.99USD a year.
As someone who works on a laptop all day and then uses my phone the rest of the time, I found the biggest drawback to be the current lack of a desktop version. I would think of items to add to my to-do list while at my desk, and have to switch gears and get onto my phone to do them. Besides being a bit annoying, constantly picking up your phone is not a great look while you’re at work.
I heard about MyLifeOrganized (known as MLO to its fans) from a coworker, so I was excited to try it out for myself. As soon as I opened the app, it showed me a brief slideshow walking me through the key features. These include: Outline, which lets you organize your projects and break down larger tasks, and To-Do, which is a list of actionable tasks the app automatically generates based on your Outline.
You can also set different notification types based on your preferences, create custom views with only the details you need, and create folders to help you stay organized.
As someone who was looking for a simple to-do list app, I appreciated that I could customize the main side menu bar to include, or hide, exactly what I needed.
Because I was using MLO as both a professional and personal to-do list, I found the ‘Contexts’ feature handy and intuitive. Contexts are MLO’s version of hashtags, and work as a filing system. If, like me, you like to see an overview of all of your tasks in one spot, you can add Contexts like @Work or @Home to differentiate between your task types. You can then show only the @Work or @Home labeled to-do list items depending on what you need to see.
MLO offers tons of other label options, such as @Errands, @WaitingFor, or @OfficeCalls, plus the ability to add your own Context categories. For a basic to-do list (my personal preference), I found the @Work and @Home labels to be enough.
I wouldn’t say that MLO is especially chic when it comes to its design. If you’re someone who needs the incentive of an aesthetically-pleasing interface, it might not be for you. Visual design aside, I would say that MLO has the most dynamic platform capabilities and support community. There are countless YouTube tutorials and online groups of MLO devotees if you’re looking to get the most out of the app.
The basic iOS and Android versions are free — and all I needed for a simple to-do list app. If you’re looking for something with more features and capabilities, however, the Professional version is $29.99 for mobile and $59.95 for Windows. There is also a Standard Windows version that is $49.95. MLO’s pricing page provides a further breakdown of features and costs.
Honestly, the biggest drawback with MyLifeOrganized is the price. It’s not so much that you have to pay for the Premium version, it’s that if you want to access your to-do list on your desktop, you have to pay the $49.95 to do so. Since I just needed a basic to-do list, this seemed like a lot of money to just be able to access it on a desktop. Plus, they don’t yet offer a version for Mac computers.
The first thing you need to know about Any.do is that it appears in Apple’s App Store as “Calendar & Planner by Any.do.” Because of this, I had a bit of trouble finding the much-recommended app.
Once I got over this first hurdle, I was impressed with Any.do’s features. Upon opening the app, you’re given the option to view in a calendar or list view. I chose list view to start with, but was able to easily toggle between the two when I wanted. When I switched to calendar view, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my phone’s calendar events had automatically been imported into the Any.do calendar. The app will integrate with your Google and Outlook calendars as well, so this is handy for those of us who are constantly working across various devices and platforms.
With Any.do, you can organize multiple to-do lists, reorganize these lists with drag and drop capabilities, set priorities and categories, and add subtasks, notes, and attachments to your items. You can set due dates and reminders to keep track of your progress, and quickly see any current or upcoming tasks. If you need to collaborate on anything, Any.do makes it super easy to share your lists and tasks with contacts via email.
One of the most impressive features of Any.do is actually the “grocery list of the future.” This function lets me input items I need, while automatically organizing them into categories such as ‘Beauty and Personal Care’, ‘Eggs and Dairy,’ and ‘Frozen’. While I had previously just been using my regular old Notes app on my iPhone, I’ll definitely be switching to Any.do for my grocery lists from now on. No more wandering from one end of the grocery store to the other. I can now see everything I need from each department and make my shopping trips much more efficient. Even better? I can easily share the list with anyone else so they can have access as well. And maybe even pick up milk on their way home.
Any.do has a very well-thought out design and user experience. The simple interface and aesthetic plus the drag and drop capabilities and easy onboarding process creates a pleasant experience for the user.
The desktop version looks even more minimal than the mobile version, which could be a bonus or drawback, depending on your preferences. Since I tend to have a ton of tabs open and an occasionally cluttered desktop, I like having my to-do list look as clean as possible.
The basic version is free for both mobile and desktop, while the Premium version is $5.99 for one month, $4.49/month for six months, and $2.99/month for 12 months. Premium features include recurring tasks, customized themes, a WhatsApp integration, mobile location reminders, and an unlimited daily planner.
Like other apps, the free version does have its limitations. If you rely on location-based reminders for certain things (such as work projects or personal errands), you’ll have to upgrade to the Premium version. Even if you simply want color labels added to your tasks or subtasks, you’ll have to pay.
Notion is a work management tool users can use to track progress on projects, build meeting calendars, create knowledge bases, and — of course — build to-do lists. This is done by using Notion’s “blocks” to build out pages for specific purposes. Think of it like using a website builder; you pick the pieces you want and move them around to get what you want.
Though it’s a work management tool first, Notion’s flexibility means you can use it to track tasks in a ton of ways. Fan of Kanban boards? Want a simple checklist? Need to integrate your to-do list with a project management methodology? You can do it all with Notion.
One of the best parts of using Notion is its templates. Notion’s strong community means there are a ton of people looking to use the tool for the same use case. That makes your initial setup a snap, and you can find new ways to track your to-dos you might not have thought of before.
Templates aren’t the only way you can use Notion to create a to-do list. With Notion’s to-do list block, you can easily add a list of tasks to any other page in just a few clicks.
Notion’s design is simple and efficient, with tons of white space. But the real strength of its design is just how much it enables. What’s beneath the hood is so much more important than what you see on any given page.
Notion is completely free for personal users, with limitations on how many people you can share your pages with and file size for attachments. Get a Personal Pro plan at $4 a month to get rid of these limitations. Team plans are $8 per member, per month, and custom Enterprise plans are also available.
Notion’s flexibility is a bit of a double-edged sword when compared to dedicated to-do list apps. While you technically can build things like time tracking and task tagging into Notion, it’s not something you get out of the box. If you want a to-do list that can become a springboard for a whole project or be integrated into your work management tool, Notion is a great choice. But if you want a dedicated to-do list app with more robust features, you might want to look somewhere else.
TeuxDeux is an app that aims to be a beautiful way to keep track of what you need to do. It works a bit like a cross between a calendar and a to-do list. Tasks can be assigned to specific days, allowing you to track your work across the week. Incomplete tasks automatically roll over from one day to the next, so you don’t have to stay on top of due dates; you just need to do the work.
This weekly view isn’t the only way you can track your to-dos. When you scroll down in the app, you’ll find a spot where you can add additional lists. This lets you organize your tasks by project, theme, and so on. Heard about a new book at work? Throw it into a “To-read” list, and you’ll have it at your fingertips whenever you finish your current read.
TeuxDeux can sync across all your devices, be that through an Android or iOS app or the web app. That means you can add a to-do from anywhere you work and always have it with you.
TeuxDeux’s homepage claims they want to keep things as simple as paper, and there’s truth to that. It’s easy to look at the app and imagine the lined notebook pages these to-do lists sprang from. Being able to change the app’s main colour is a nice touch.
TeuxDeux offers a 30-day trial. You can still use the app for free after that, but you won’t be able to do it from all your devices. To sync your to-dos across platforms, you’ll need to subscribe to TeuxDeux’s monthly plan ($3/month) or yearly plan ($2/month).
If you want to keep things simple — and cheap — TeuxDeux might be the to-do list app for you. That said, it lacks Notion’s flexibility and the advanced features of other apps on this list. Depending on your needs, simplicity can be the app’s ultimate strength or an unfortunate weakness.
This is Google’s entry in the to-do list app ring. Track to-dos, add subtasks and get more done on any device, from mobile to desktop. Want an app that integrates seamlessly with other Google products? This might be the tool for you.
Google Task’s main feature is its integration with Google Calendar and Gmail. Going through your inbox and find something that needs to get done? You can do that right from the email by clicking on “Add to Tasks.” Check your to-do list and you’ll find the task there, ready to be worked on.
The Calendar integration means you can see your to-dos laid out by due date among your meetings. This makes planning out your day much simpler, and you always have your most important work top of mind. When you open the Tasks app, you can reorganize your work, adding details and subtasks.
Ever used a Google product? Then you know what to expect here.
Google Tasks is completely free, and it’s included with every Google Workspace plan.
You need to be using the Google Workspace suite to get the most out of this app. Without integrations with Gmail and Calendar, this app can feel pretty barebones. You don’t get time-tracking, tagging, timers, or anything but simple task-tracking.
Which is the best to-do list app for your needs?
With the number of available options growing every day, it can be hard to choose the best to-do list app for your needs. Hopefully this breakdown helps you pick a tool to get started with. And when you do choose? Well, that’s one task to check off of your list.
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