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5 Types of To-Do Apps and How to Pick the Best One

By Melanie Pinola · November 11, 2016
choosing-a-todo-list-app primary img
Q: What important truth do very few people agree with you on? A: Humanity has enough to-do apps, for the moment.

Des Traynor, co-founder of Intercom

Friends, I think we've reached peak to-do list apps. Search for "to-do apps iTunes" and Google will tell you there are 24,300,000 results. One look at any of the app stores, and you'll be mesmerized by all the icons with check marks. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all these to-do list choices, but, don't worry, we have a guide to finding the best to-do app for you.

We sifted through dozens of the most popular options to highlight the 40 best to-do list apps for your consideration, depending on how you like to manage your tasks. Consider:

  • Do you like grouping your tasks in a certain way?

  • Do you tend to prefer minimalist apps or ones with a ton of features?

  • Do you need to add lots of details to your to-dos or keep task descriptions short and sweet?

  • Do you manage your to-dos mostly on the go on your mobile device or at your computer?

Once you know your task management preferences, you can start by looking at types of to-do list apps:

Grocery List apps follow the simplest task-tracking method: Just list the stuff you have to do. If you'd rather spend less time managing and your tasks and more time doing them, the Grocery List method may be for you. Apps in this category include Apple Reminders, Google Tasks, Any.do, and Wunderlist.

Getting Things Done® (GTD®) apps offer sub-lists, time management tools, tagging for context, and more in the vein of the GTD productivity method. There's a bit of a learning curve with this method and these apps, but if you want a complete system and approach to tracking your tasks and managing your time, GTD could be your thing. Apps in this category include OmniFocus, Todoist, Toodledo, and Nozbe.

Getting Things Done® and GTD® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.

Kanban Board apps organize your tasks into visual boards so you can see multiple lists on a single page. (Further reading: Kanban 101.) Highly recommended for people who want a flexible way to arrange their tasks and get both a detailed and bird's eye view of what needs to get done. Trello, LeanKit, and KanbanFlow are popular examples.

Plain Text and note-taking apps let you use your favorite text editor or writing app as your to-do app, so you can keep everything in one place. It's both a simple and flexible approach. You could use Todo.txt on your phone, or Evernote or OneNote across your devices.

Other options: If you've ever tried a to-do app and just couldn't stick with it, you're not alone. But don't give up just yet. Try a gamified task manager if you want to make task tracking more fun (I'm a big fan of Habitica), a project management app if you need something more robust and to manage projects with others, or even pen and paper combined with digital tools.

The most important thing about any to-do method you choose? That you actually use it.

Read our guide to 40 of the best to-do apps for personal task management, complete with a downloadable cheat sheet, to find an app you'll stick with. Related: How to choose the best apps for your business

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