favorite todo list programs?

I’ve been on a search lately for the perfect todo list program and was wanting to see what others thought.

Currently my favorites are TaskPaper, Wunderlist, Pomodoro, and The Hit List. I also found out about one called TaskWarrior yesterday. Ideally I’d like to find something that combines the best features of all these.

I want a simple interface, quick entry of tasks, easy way to add tags and projects, etc (TaskPaper)

I would also ideally like to have the ability to sync between multiple devices. Mac computer, iPod Touch, and iPad at least. Ideally I would be able to use my info on other platforms. Wunderlist and TaskPaper are good on these.

As you may guess, I have also been looking into the Pomodoro technique lately (25 minutes of work followed by 5 minutes of break time). Some Pomodoro apps have very, very basic task management built-in but nothing you can really do much with.

The Hit List is the only thing I’ve seen that combines most of these - syncing between Mac, iPhone, and iPad. It’s also one of the very few todo list apps that has a task timer built in. The downside - it’s expensive. $50 for the desktop app, $10 for the iPhone app (no iPad app), and then $20 a year for syncing! I just want to sync directly over Wifi or Dropbox. Or iCloud, when that comes out. A subscription sync service is not something I want to mess with. That would be a huge issue if the company goes out of business!

TaskWarrior is a command line program for managing you tasks. In their 2.0 version, they are adding a server that communicates in a standard way. TaskWarrior will of course be the first app to use the server. The second is the Android client they are working on.

If I could have something like TaskPaper that lets you search/manage all the tasks in all your files from one place and add in a Pomodoro style timer, that would be perfect. Right now it looks like if I want such a thing, I’d have to write it myself.

For what it’s worth — and I’m not sure that it’s worth a lot — I favour Omnifocus. Not only for what it is, but for what it may be in future. (I realise I’m therefore breaking Blount’s First Law of Software Purchase, but please bear with me. :wink: )

OF is a pretty versatile tool, so much so that you can more or less configure it how you want, but more than that it has a very active community of Applescripters who have linked it up to other applications, including task timers, in useful ways. And still more than that, it has a developer that keeps on visibly developing — slowly it’s true, but not going into hibernation every so often like one or two others.

But the reason I think my choice — or indeed any other choice — isn’t worth a lot, is because I think one has to plump, and then make the best of what one has. Otherwise, it’s easy to succumb to CRIMP. What is CRIMP?

Searching for the perfect anti-procrastination application can be a perfect form of procrastination. :slight_smile:

Since I started owning computers (around 1986), I have tried to use them for task management, used at least a dozen programs seriously (=for more than three months), but sooner or later, I always (and inevitably) arrived at the insight that the only task management that really works for me (=if I really want to get things done) is pen on paper.

This has nothing to do with the quality of the software. A lot of these applications (OmniFocus among them) are truly awesome. It’s a question of the medium. Task lists on screens are ephemerial, they bear no commitment, while words on paper do.

But maybe that’s a question of the generation I happen to belong to.

Just my 2 cents.

I like Circus Ponies NoteBook for its versatility, power, and easy readibility of the plain todo list you can get with the SuperFind page. I also use it for outlines, snippet collection and presentations.


I’ve tried Taskpaper, The Hit List, Things, OmniFocus and OmniOutliner. Each has it’s own commendable feature set, but I regard OmniFocus as the ultimate all-rounder. Laptop, desktop, iPad and iPhone are all synced automatically, and I’ve never once lost data. It will handle GTD disciplines faultlessly, but doesn’t impose them, letting you work the way YOU want to work. Like most good software there is a learning curve, but it’s really not steep, and what effort there is involved is repaid handsomely. In short, OmniFocus for me every time!

I use Things, not because it’s perfect, but it does allow me to keep a list arranged by priority as well as dates, projects and areas, which is close to the way I think and work. I like to input a task quickly, to arrange tasks by necessity or feasibility, to set up recurring tasks by calendar date, and best of all, I like creating aliases to folders or files where information is stored.

Case in point: I need to call a vendor about a repair. The contact information is in an e-mail. Create an item in the Call/Meet area with name of the vendor, and drag the e-mail file to the Notes area of the item. That writes a blue link; click it and the relevant e-mail pops up. That feature alone saves me much time.

That said, I agree with Andreas that a hand-written note on a Post-It is often the best way to go. But when the lists get messy and jumbled, I’m better off with Things. It works on iPhone and iPad as well, but alas is a bit pricey. The developers do work hard to keep it up to date.

Sounds like my best options are pen & paper, OmniFocus, or Things. I’ve heard great things about both those apps and OmniFocus seems to pop up again and again as the most powerful, full-featured task manager. Also the most expensive, I think.

I had tried OmniFocus before, but it felt like there was too much there. I guess I could just not use the features I don’t want. Time to give the trial a try again.

Two related things:

I did a brief Google on this, but couldn’t seem to find it. I assume this is the rule of buying software for what it does now, not what it is promised it will do.

Being a developer myself, I have a rather unique version of this affliction. My version of the last symptom is secretly hoping I never find the perfect PIM because I want to build the perfect PIM.

I have not tried the synchronization features, but some additional applications you may want to consider:
Task Coach (Free and quickly evolving)

ThinkingRock (The best GTD application I’ve used, and I have a license for OmniFocus)
Note: Instead off synchronization I used to carry my data in a small USB drive, and used it at home and work with a Mac and a PC.

JIRA (Steep learning curve, but ridiculously cheap and powerful)

For pen and paper I often used some of the GTD templates found here:

Sorry, but I said nothing about Post-Its. Post-Its are great for a lot of things, but as soon as task management is concerned, they are not your friend. In my days as IT- consultant I’ve learned that if I see a computer monitor littered with Post-Its, I’ll have to deal with a disorganized person.

To gather all tasks in 1 place is crucial, whether it’s a digital or a physical place.
I recommend a decent notebook, small enough to be easily carried, and expensive enough to be cared about.

It may be a bit “low end” for what you’re after, but I use Reqall. It syncs with the iphone, you can enter voice memos (and it transcribes them for you - we have enormous fun at work dictating items such as “Buy Wankel Rotary Engine on way home Thursday” to it and see what it comes up with. It’s generally pretty good though :wink: ), emails reminders, does push notification on the phone (with subscription - $20US per year, I think). It does notes, to dos, shopping lists, has categories and tags and probably other stuff that I don’t use.
It even does tasks by location (which I’ll admit freaks me out a bit).

For me, Reqall has replaced my beloved Filofax.

I’m a Things user. I’ve checked out OmniFocus (several times) but the way it synced with iCal was a deal breaker for me.

My all time favourite task manager is LifeBalance. I still think it is the most powerful and flexible of them all. Sadly it’s iCal sync is not very efficient (it will sync everything going back years if you’ve used iCal long enough, and it will delete old events when they are purged from LifeBalance) and it will only sync via wifi. Still, if you don’t need to keep historical information and don’t need cloud sync, it is worth investigating.

The benefit of Things (for me) was that it doesn’t require a specific way of working and seems more flexible than OF. But both are good.

Having said all that, if I didn’t own Things, I’d probably make do with TaskPaper. Useful little app…

CRIMP-sufferer’s paradise.

I suffered badly from CRIMP until I discovered two simple programs: Autofocus and Pomodoro.

Autofocus needs only a pen and notebook containing one long list of all the things you have to do, worked according to a simple set of rules. Pomodoro needs a clockwork timer. In the eighteen months or so that I’ve used these two programs I’ve not only got through far more work but I also feel more in control of my life and less stressed. I don’t have to bother about the niggling things I might have forgotten: they’re there, in my notebook.

I’m now so deeply ingrained in the Pomodoro habit of working in 25-minute periods, then getting up from my chair and walking around for 2 or 3 minutes before sitting down again, that when I broke my timer last month I found myself ridiculously put out until the replacement arrived through the post.

I believe I discovered both these programs in one of our previous discussions on the topic, perhaps in 2009. And I own Omnifocus, Things, TaskPaper, ThinkingRock, the GTD book, etc., etc. But it’s the A5 Moleskine and a fountain pen for me now. And the lugubrious black cat timer.


Why do you hate me?

That sir, is evil. Posting a link like that in a discussion like this. It’s like announcing an open bar at an AA meeting! Anyway - on to respond to other people’s thoughts…

Jot - I believe Reqall is out of the question for me since I currently use a 2nd gen ipod touch. No built-in mic and it sounds like it would be useless if I wasn’t on Wifi.

Eddie, I tried out Thinking Rock before. This was years ago. It seemed a bit rough around the edges. It looks like they have a paid version now where before it was open source if I remember right? I’m not sure if I’ll be trying it. When I tried their site last night, it looked like their account was suspended for not paying their bill!

crimewriter - I haven’t actually ran into anyone who uses a real timer for Pomodoro before! Everyone I know who has tried the technique is a computer geek who uses some kind of software. With the exception of a guy who is into the whole Arduino thing who has the timer hooked up to Arduino so it tweets when his Pomodoro is complete or some such madness. I’ve also looked at Autofocus and tried it a day or two but I couldn’t see to really get into it. If you’re a Mac user, you should check out http://pomodoro.ugolandini.com/ On iPad there is one simply called “Pomodoro for iPad”. The only decent one I have found for Windows was called Tomato Timer, I think. If you don’t mind my asking - do you keep everything in your notebook or just your todo list? Where does Scrivener fit into how you work - just use it for organizing your writing?

Other thoughts - Post It notes - I volunteered for a charity event called GiveCamp where you pretty much had 3 days to build or improve a website for a charity. Our team had a member who had just learned about Kanban. You had a team whiteboard divided into 3 sections - todo, in progress, and done. You could have as many post it notes as you wanted for the first section, only one per person on the 2nd and in the third section we’d have our charity reviewing the work to see if they were completed to their liking. If they weren’t, they’d explain what wasn’t to their liking & move the post it back to the “todo” section and it would move across the board again. Anything complete would be put in our done pile. It worked amazingly well & given we only had 3 days to do EVERYTHING spending hours setting up project management software wasn’t an option. I’ve actually been using a sort of Kanban board at work to manage my own projects but have not got the whole team switched over since we aren’t all in the same office. Hmm. I think I just proved something with this story, but I really don’t feel like listening to my own advice :stuck_out_tongue: Anyway, I do the major tasks as post its, minor tasks in my notebook, and then have OneNote avaiable to cram emails & other digital items I need to keep into.

On a similar note - one of my coworkers has been using FreeMind since he found it I think 3 years again. Every single thing he has been tracking since is in on major “Projects” FreeMind file. He nearly had a heart attack when he thought he had accidentally deleted it. Turned out he had automatic backups set up and had accidentally deleted one of the back ups.

Greetings, brother in mind! Yes, Autofocus is what I use, too. Cured me from CRIMP, too. And from GTD.

I’ve heard about Pomodoro, but I couldn’t get myself to actually do it, yet. What you write encourages me to maybe give it another try.

BTW, I’ve read Dan Brown follows a similar routine, only that he works for 55 minutes and then exercises for 5 minutes. Might not be the main reason for his success, but something to consider nevertheless.

I’m afraid you can never be “cured” from your CRIMP, you can only work to manage it. :wink:

Admitted. It’s similar to alkoholism. Constant effort to stay clean and sober. And organized, too.

I think I’m proof of that. For a while, I decided I spend too much time messing with all this productivity software and was going to go all paper. I spent the next 6 months trying to find the perfect planner including spending WAAAY too much time on http://www.diyplanner.com

For now I’ve settled on Moleskine, Rhodia, or whatever notebook appeals to me at the time for a journal and then Levenger Circa for my planner. This allows me to tinker with my planner set up without buying too much more stuff as I pretty much have everything I need for a great Circa planner/notebook. At this point my tinkering is limited to which sections are in a notebook and in what order.

Greetings, AndreasE, but from a sister-in-mind, actually!

It’s easy to forget that the point of all that time-planning is not to find the perfect system but rather to get the novel written while leaving time to chat to friends, go to choir practice and go out for a walk when the sun is shining.