Task Management Software (To Do Lists)


I'm an action-oriented fella.  I like my lists, particularly if they say "To Do", "Action Items", or some similar verb.  This way what needs to happen next is already partially thought out, you can see at a glance what actions to take, and stuff doesn't fall off the table (unless you want it to).

Let me state right here and now that, I really want to know What Do You Use? to keep track of your TO DO items?   I'll tell you what I've found below, but I'm still searching for ideas that work.

In this pursuit, for the last 5 yrs or more I've been looking for an effective way to keep track of my task lists.  Some of my favorites to date have been my own database app, a little notepad, a simple single-sheet of paper, and MS OneNote.  Reading Getting Things Done only encourages this behavior.  In my job as a Release Manager, I'm the "execution expert" responsible for tracking 101 things for my team.  To date, I haven't found a single satisfactory way of doing this.

So a brilliant idea hit!  Why not search online for the perfect piece of software (duh!!)!  This post is a journal of that investigation.

Selection Criteria

  • Must: Be Easy, Fast, and Simple to Use, This means easy on the eyes, nice UI design, hot-keys for everything, etc
  • Must: Support folders/hierarchies to easily categorize tasks
  • Must: Filter list to exclude completed items
  • Must: Be avalible offline, this excludes live server-based apps
  • Must: Be a Windows client w/ a full GUI (no web apps like Task Freak, Backpack, Google To Do, King Design Tasks, or Ta-da Lists)
  • Doesn't Need: Sync to a mobile device
  • Doesn't Need: Sync to other apps (like Outlook)
  • Doesn't Need: Support for teams, bug tracking, resouces, scheduling, helpdesks, etc
  • Like to Have: Print to folded paper aka "Sync to Paper"
  • Like to Have: Saves in an XML file format for easy custom parsing
  • Like to Have: Easy keyboard access w/ global hotkeys for rapid access
  • Like to Have: A notion of time, when something's due, reminders, timeline view, etc.

Product Reviews

Here are my quick reviews of the (23) apps I've tried.  The top 3 are my contenders that I'll have to try using for a while longer to pick one, and the rest are in descending order (best to worst to n/a).

  • * TaskPilot Pro  Definitely a full-featured task manager! By far the best feature set and nicest user interface.  Extensive task options.  Amazing GUI.  Supports folders AND task hierarchy (as well as categories).  Import/Export from Outlook.  It even has built-in customer feedback submission!  Just missing a few quick usability features like ESC to minimize, global hotkeys, and minimize to system tray.
  • * FusionDesk  Awesome GUI (it has an Ribbon type menu)!  Fast and easy to use with a good feature set.  Even has several export options including an RSS feed.
  • * Swift To-Do List  Real nice user interface.  Simple & easy.  Supports folders.  Minimizes to the system tray and has a global hot-key to add a new item.  Not as feature rich as TaskPilot Pro, but definitely the easiest, nicest, and quickest to use.
  • MyLife Organized  Real easy to use!  Tasks ARE the hierarchy (tasks can have subtasks).  Very easy to add tasks, edit, and check off.
  • MindJet MindManager  Good for brainstorming and general categorization of thought, but breaks down quickly as a total task management system.
  • Microsoft Team Foundation Server  Heavyweight for basic personal task tracking, doesn't support work item hierarchy, requires a server, and the GUI client is heavy.
  • Microsoft Project  Great for scheduling & resource management, but overkill as a "simple" task organizer.  Comes across too busy and doesn't directly address personal task organization as well as the top three apps in this list.
  • Microsoft Outlook  Definitely improved since 2003, but very flat list oriented.
  • Microsoft OneNote  Quick and easy for note taking, but the task management is very basic.
  • Microsoft Word  Practically a text editor when it comes to tasks, but with the right macros, can provide an entry level task system. 
  • Microsoft Excel  A classic favorite of many, but there could be so much more functionality from an app dedicate to tasks.  Really overkill for most task taking and no simple linking/attachment ability.
  • Product Studio  PS is a tool internal to Microsoft that we used to use to track bugs (before VSTS).  It allows custom forms and fields, but requires a live connection.
  • VIP Simple To Do List  Easy to use interface, nice grouping, but only supports categories and not actual folders or task hierarchy. 
  • EasyTask Manager  Very simple.  Missing a lot of "basic" functionality like right-click support.
  • Checklist  A real simple basic flat list w/ categories.  Only special features are support for a server and it is very quick to enter new tasks.
  • What To Do  A very simple flat list task tracker.  GUI hurts my eyes.
  • Quick To-Do Pro  A basic task tracker.  No folders or hierarchy.  Just a simple tracker.
  • InfoStore Pro  A simple list maker.  Supports folders.  Useful for any type of list, including tasks.  The user can define the fields.  Not optimized for tasks, but good for generic lists.
  • Easy To-Do  Another basic flat To Do list.  GUI needs improvements.
  • Orbisoft Task Manager  Not a nice GUI design and designed for team task management.
  • Taskline  Its a plugin for Outlook, I want a standalone app
  • LivePad  A competitor to Microsoft OneNote, this app is really focused more on taking notes than tracking tasks.
  • General Knowledge Base  Just overkill, not a task tracker. 
  • EssentialPIM  A compete product to Outlook, does tasks, but overkill for primarily task taking (and as is expected, the task taking is basic).
  • VIP Task Manager Professional  Required a server connection when I installed it.  Didn't try any further since this is already overkill.

One app to keep an eye out for is iScrybe.  It is an online-offline AJAX powered very innovative personal information management system that may rock the world of PIMs.  I'm waiting to try out the Beta.

What Do You Use?

Okay, enough about my investigations, when it really gets down to it, I'm interested in what is working for you?  What is your task tracking load (10-20 active tasks, 20-70, 70-200, 200+)?  What method is dynamic, easy, flexible, and convenient enough to keep up with your active busy life?

I'd be so exciting if I can really solve this Life Hack.  Wow, the potential unleashed would be amazing!  Your help would be hugely appreciated.  Thanks 🙂

Addendum

It's been a year and in that time, I've learned a lot.  Thanks to the many great additions in the comments, I enjoyed tying some of them out.  My favorite was Swift To-Do List, but I've since moved to using Microsoft OneNote using a Stream of Consciousness pattern.  I've found that archiving old items takes work in most task apps, and over time almost 50% of my tasks need archiving.  Using OneNote, I just create new lists one after another in one long stream.  Right-clicking just about anywhere (tabs, text, etc) in OneNote 2007 lets you copy a URL to the clipboard, then just assign a hotkey to it using AutoHotKey, and you've got one-key access to your favorite lists.  (Jan 5th 2009)

Comments (88)

  1. saud says:

    ToDoList by Abstractspoon. Google it.

  2. Tom says:

    Great post. I’ve also struggled for a while with to-do lists, sometimes in Outlook, sometimes on paper, sometimes in OneNote, sometimes in Word, etc. through the years. I’m kind of a "lite" user, probably managing 10-20 work tasks at a time, plus about the same number of personal tasks.

    I keep thinking this would be an easy WinForms/C# application, but I haven’t taken the time to do anything about it. Maybe I’ll download and look at some of the apps you found. That will probably be a catalyst for my own personal decision – either start using a commercial app or write my own personal app.

  3. SN says:

    Nice list. I found this post quite helpful.

    I am surprised Microsoft Project didnt make your list. In addition to Excel like behavior, you get task linking, dependencies, hierarchies and graphical views etc.

  4. Mark Erikson says:

    I’m a little surprised you didn’t come across ToDoList (http://www.codeproject.com/tools/ToDoList2.asp).  It’s aimed a little more at programming tasks then general tasks, but works pretty well on a general basis also.  Fits several of your qualifications, too (Windows GUI, decent UI, hierarchies, XML format, and some timeline ability).

    Hope this helps!

  5. You know the new year has started and plans for personal organization and goal setting are in…

  6. RF says:

    yellow sticky pads…..available from any good stationers!

  7. Junior/RO says:

    Where is AbstractSpoon ToDoList?

  8. Alan Stevens says:

    I’ve used the Getting Things Done plugin for managing emails and tasks for the last year.

    http://gtdsupport.netcentrics.com/buy/indexd.php

    They also have a  good eBook for getting more out of the Outlook tasks.

    http://www.davidco.com/store/catalog/GTD-and-Outlook-p-16173.php

    I’ll check out your top three, though.

    ++Alan

  9. Mike Gale says:

    I’ve used a variety of approaches.

    When I have a lot of tasks to manage, some of them fiddly – some big, the best is still handwritten on paper.

    (I use a system with a task per box, a description, and a bunch of parameters like started and finished.  Each item gets signed off.  Periodically rewritten.)

    That beats all software I’ve tried including some I’ve written myself.

    It’s something about getting up close and personal with a pen and paper that makes the difference  …and taking quiet time every now and then to work through the list

  10. mjpalad says:

    I know you specifically mentioned no web apps, but thought I’d list Backpack anyway.  I would be lost if I didn’t have internet access to my list.  

    Also, CellTell has a tie in that allows you to leave a voice note from your phone on your Backpack page.  Very helpful for those "ah ha" moments when away from the computer.

  11. Martijnp says:

    How about ToDoList from Abstractspoon?

    See http://www.codeproject.com/tools/ToDoList2.asp

  12. noahc says:

    Wow, lots of great feedback, thanks!  I’ve downloaded the GTD Outlook plugin, ToDoList, and Work Life Ballance to try out.  I’ve added MS Project and our internal tool Product Studio to my review list.  Yeah, I still use paper for personal items.  Right now I’ve been using Swift To-Do List (#3 on the list) and it’s been working well.  Not as complex as TaskPilot Pro or MS Project, but very quick & easy to use (I love the global hot-key and minimize to system tray).

  13. Todd Fiske says:

    I’m another happy user of Abstract Spoon ToDoList. I’m using it for a few programming projects, as well as tracking bills and managing other non-computer jobs.

    I also used Priorganizer for a project, it has a nice idea of making separate lists for tasks, knowledge base items and log entries. Very nice interface with a dynamic help option.

    http://www.riaform.com/page.aspx?page=product.htm&product=priorganizer

    I looked at Omea Pro a little bit – this is more for grouping a variety of resources (email, newsgroups, websites, feeds, documents) with categories (used more like tags) and workspaces, but you can add notes along with these. Not a task manager really.

    http://www.jetbrains.com/omea/

    None of these programs really do what I want though. I want more of a tag-based organization scheme rather than hierarchical folders. I also want something that keeps track of revisions to each item. This can be accomplished by keeping the database/XML file in version control, but I want this built into the program. I’ll probably try to write one at some point, but have a feeling what I want is already out there somewhere.

    I found out about most of the above from Mike Gunderloy’s  Daily Grind, http://www.larkware.com, and found your article there too. Thanks for making this roundup.

  14. Anthony Borton says:

    Great post Noah! It reminded me that I could really use this type of program to help stop things falling through the cracks.

    I decided to try out your top three to see what I think. I installed TaskPilot Pro at work (XPSP2) and liked what I saw. I then tried to install it in my home office on a test machine (Vista) and found that it doesn’t appear to work at all with Vista. I tried setting the compatibility mode to XPSP2 and that didn’t help. I tried running the app with administrator privildges and that didn’t help either.

    Has anyone tried TaskPilot on Vista and maybe found a workaround?

    Thanks

    Anthony

  15. Noah,

    Thank you for mentioning Swift To-Do List.

  16. Bob Walsh says:

    You might want to give my product, MasterList Professional a spin:

    -At a glance project management

    -Integrates with Outlook

    -Exports to Excel

    -Unlimited views.

    If you like it, email me and I will comp you a license.

  17. Victor Boba says:

    In re. to the comment from Anthony Borton, TaskPilot is currently in a complete rewrite to work on Windows Vista and 64-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista.

    The current version has not been tested on Windows Vista and the inability to function properly is unclear at this time.

    The current version of TaskPilot is freely licensed currently using the below listed key until the next update is released in March 2007. Sales have been halted due to a minor bug in a third-party component of which we have no control.

    Full-version Key:

    0090-BEE1-45C1-8257-0359-CA61-3ED1-8F06-0280-AA58-2629-4DF6

    Best regards,

    Victor Boba

    CEO/President

    BOCA Software Technologies, Inc.

  18. Yes, VIP Simple To Do List only supports categories without hierarchy. Try our another product VIP Organizer, it has subfolders hierarchy, export to other formats and works with to do databases as with files.

    http://www.todolistsoft.com/organizer/

  19. As for VIP Task Manager… Well, it is actually a client/servers software. It allows sharing to do lists across the LAN by simultaneous multiple user access, that is why it is asking for server connection. However, it is not obligatory. If you want to use it for personal needs you can store the tasks database on your PC, not on the dedicated server ;-). Also, if you want to share the database but you don’t have a dedicated server, you can use any PC in your LAN as a server and store the database there. Of course, that may sound overkill for personal use, but the product is meant for group collaboration first of all.

  20. Gavin says:

    I know you mention no web apps but I thought I might mention one which I have been using http://www.icommit.eu …it is a GTD implementation on the web which works very well.  Also has the ability to log in from a pda such as my crackberry if I need to access my task list on the move.

  21. Carolin Coad says:

    Noah, since you "really want to know ‘What Do You Use?’", I am happy to report that my system meets your Selection Criteria "Must" number one:  "Be Easy, Fast, and Simple to Use".  It follows along the lines of two of your top personal favorites, "a little notepad and a simple single sheet of paper".  It is…a spiral notebook!  It has plenty of lined pages with endless possibilities.  It is portable, inexpensive, and versatile.  It can be personalized to perfection.  I have been using this "system" for over ten years.  For example, a page divided into thirds vertically can cover the daily time schedule, goals, and "to do", "to call", and "to go" (errands).  Another page, for example, can outline itemized points for a meeting and notes from that meeting.  And the notebook can hold journal entries as well.  It becomes exactly what you need for it to be without being anything that gets in the way that you do not need.  Tear out and toss what’s old, and start with a fresh page each day.  Over time this has evolved to be what works for me.  Now I’m always open to new ideas and ways to improve, so I’m checking out a couple of the software resources you’ve mentioned in this post.  Thanks!

  22. Great post Noah.  I use a pen a paper.  I try to use a writing pad or a folder to keep everything together.  I like to scribble spider diagrams to collect my thought and nothing beats a pen and paper for that.

  23. Bob O'Malley says:

    I’m currently trying a combination of Outlook 2007 & OneNote 2007.  OneNote gets around the flatness of Outlook, while Outlook provides you with many ways to slice & dice your Tasks.  Added benefit if you’re still using GTD: do your project planning in OneNote, and only link the active Next Actions to Outlook (which is handy for those of us who sync to mobile devices).  

    I know this violates the "one app" rule, but they’re both a part of Office, so that counts, right?  🙂

  24. jnsoneji says:

    Hey thisis a good post, i have opened many links from the post and the comments to. lets see.

    But for now i am using, google desktop with all of its functionality shutdown and just the gadget google todo, working its fine although.

    thanks,

    Jwalant Natvarlal Soneji

  25. Sanjeev Garg says:

    This is a nice discussion. I’d like to share my experience with using Outlook tasks (Outlook 2007).

    I use the Outlook To do list as it also lets me very easily flag an email and a One Note item as a task. I have created a category for each of my projects. I plan each project and assign the tasks to its category. The disadvantage is that only one level of hierarchy is possible, but then I use MS Project or excel to do my detailed planning anyway. I have also created a category called _Important (underscore to keep this category at the top). Every day I review the tasks and assign the highest priority ones to this category, so now the task is assigned to two categories. The tasks under _Important category becomes my todo list for the day. And I have all the advantages of keeping the tasks in outlook, like web / mobile access, multiple views, reminders etc.

  26. Budman says:

    Nice read. I have also been struggling with this for about a year now in finding something to keep me organized the way *I* think. I suppose I am just unordinary but I always feel "restrained" (Lack of better word) when I attempt to make commitment to get organized using my PC. They seem more time consuming to implement than any benefit in use. I always have been a ‘fly-by-night’ type of individual when it comes to tasks and priorities but in getting older I have started to feel that I need to try and get more organized writing things down as I tend to forget.

    I have tried many apps, from paper planners to Outlook (ick). Most of what you listed I have tried or at least found already (Your top one looks very interesting and one I never seen before). I also have tried some others that you haven’t listed.

    I have recently even started to get interest in "WikiPIM". Tiddlywiki or Wikipad can be made into a GTD PIM BUT I am not much of a fan of GTD not to mention Wiki’s seem too much work to learn (got to code links, seems to get slower over time, etc) and I too want something more GUI/Client based.

    The ONE PIM I have liked in concept very much though is http://www.themasterlist.com/  (no relation to other masterlist presented but similar in funfction). It is perfect for me BUT the interface is arcane and it takes some effort to learn how to use it. Reading their blog helps though but they are in desperate need of a gui overhaul. I also liked Chandler but I don’t like the bloat of email in my PIM.

    In the end I have slowly been coming to conclusion that a perfect PIM is relative to the users way of thinking and to individual a taste. And I am very neurotic in attempting to get organized but not actually havign found anything to my liking to do it…

    Just my .02

  27. Frankk says:

    You might want to look at Task Coach http://taskcoach.sourceforge.net/index.html

    It’s open-source and appears to be actively developed.

  28. To Do List management on the PC has been a long time struggle for me to find the right app. A few weeks

  29. Richard Carson says:

    Have you considered a To-Do type of task management system that works for both the PDA as well as desktop?  There is a program called Bonsai made by Natura Company.  How about that one?

  30. Dutch says:

    GTD people would like to see Kinkless…made for the Mac only but there is a Windows imitator also.

    Also Achieve by Effexis Software.

  31. Calvin says:

    I’ve used Llamagraphic’s "Life Balance" and then "MyLife Organized" in the past.  However, due to my preference for FranklinCovey ABC123 prioritization and the robust features provided, I have switched over to "Achieve Planner" (www.effexis.com).

    I am currently looking for a group project/task management tool and am researching "VIP Task Manager Professional", as it has Task hierarchies.

    Cheers!

    Calvin

  32. Cindy says:

    This is a great post, even x many months later.  I have been using VIP To-Do List for a few days.  I like it, but I don’t have access to it when I’m home.  I’m using it at work but including personal tasks, since I spend a lot of time at work.

    I have the same requirements as you although I’d like to add that I’m looking for publishing to the web so that I can access it from home.  

    Ideally, I would love a hybrid of desktop and web.  Let me access it via desktop on my machine (PC – at work and Mac – at home) and then allow me to publish to a a web server so that I can acces and synch from either machine.

    The web-based does not work for me.  I need to get into work and see my to-do list first thing at start-up.  At home, I only need to access it when I want.

    Anyway, I’m going to give some of your mentions a try.  I’d really like to see a post on how any of these are faring for you now.

  33. Ilia Dub says:

    Great post! I have the same problem and have tried lots and lots of different software products for task mgmt. Your post gave me a few ideas to try out.

    Current state:

    Today I am managing 5 – 10 projects, 5 – 20 tasks in each, with 2 simple Notepads.

    TODO.txt lists all the projects and tasks in a list form.

    Plan_your_day.txt – my daily tasks, basically an excerp of TODO.txt that I create every morning.

    Best,

    Ilia

  34. carl says:

    For organization of tech notes, scripts, etc., I’ve used essentialPIM for awhile now. Have used many others but found essentialPIM had most of what I need. Still waiting for Wiki features to be added, so related content can easily be linked together. Wish that notes could easily be linked in a mind map, but that’s being picky.

  35. JWL says:

    Just saw this. Might be worth a test to see if it makes your list. I tried all your suggestions. Then I found this one and it is better I think.

    http://money.cnn.com/2006/10/18/technology/personaltech/accomplice/

  36. Geert says:

    I’ve been testing about 15 applications last month. My shortlist in order of preference:

    1. TaskPilot and VIP Organizer on a shared first place. We’ll see how both products evolve.

    2. Task Merlin. Drawbacks are that it doesn’t show tasks recursively and can’t apply filters on task folders. It’s worth following up further development.

    3. Swift To-Do List. Nice and easy but limited functionality.

    4. Task Coach and Alive Task Manager. Major drawbacks in Task Coach is that the task and tree view share the same sort order, and that both views are unrelated (you can’t select a folder to view it’s tasks in the task list). If developement continues it can become a very nice product.

  37. Albert says:

    I have tried almost every software package referenced above and have now settled on using OneNote 2007 and Outlook 2007.  OneNote allows for an extremely fast and responsive heirarchial outliner project / to-do list with the ability to prioritize and link Next Actions to Outlook Tasks.  It’s great!

    Also higher recommend the following three books:

    Getting Things Done, by David Allen

    Take Back Your Life!, by Salley McGhee

    Total Workday Control, by Michael Linenberger

  38. It appears like you’re a fan of TaskPilot Pro.  I think I need not do my own investigation.  You’ve provided more than enough.

  39. Jason L. says:

    Exceptional topic. I am a project manager with 100 things to each day. I know that I will only get to 20- on a good day. It is a struggle to pick the right 20. But, I still have to address the remainder + everything that crops up during the day. The importance of this topic cannot be stressed enough.

    Task Pilot and Fusion Desktop are my two contenders. And, first let me say that the user interface of both products are amazingly well designed- Wow! But, both lack significant  features.

    TP:

    -The import/export w/Outlook is not coordinated very well. I understand that OL is 3rd party; but if you are going to incorporate a feature, make sure it works properly.

    -The Help Files? What Help files?

    -What is going on with the print feature- Crystal Reports? Why would a user spend time defining custom categories, and then the print feature leave them blank. The end user needs more control of what is being printed and how.

    FD:

    -The Help Files? What Help files? How can some one design such an amazing interface and then leave the end user hanging?

    With that said, I may just have to shut the hell up and stop using software as a crutch and just work my lists. We put men on the moon w/o Excel, Outlook, etc..

    Noah and all, thanks for the post- Very helpful.

    Victor, thanks for the key. You have an exceptional product.

    Jason L.

  40. Alawiteous says:

    Alive Task Manager  – http://www.vitolab.com

    Swift To-Do List – http://www.dextronet.com

    Task Actions – http://www.taskactions.com – Group collaboration

    VIP Task Manager – http://www.vip-qualitysoft.com – Group collaboration

    Leader Task – http://www.leadertask.com

    Do-Organizer – www.http://www.gemx.com

    Easy Task Manager – http://www.orionbelt.com

    TaskPilot – http://www.taskpilot.com

    Foresight – http://www.fixyourtodolist.com – Outlook add-in with basic projects functionality.  Also, http://www.enhanceyouroutlook.com

    List of GTD Software Apps – http://www.priacta.com/Articles/Comparison_of_GTD_Software.php

  41. Bonnie says:

    What a great list! It’s over a year later and I’m curious if you’ve settled on anything.

    I really would like something I can possibly access remotely (since I use multiple computers) or at minimum sync with my phone.

  42. Oleksandr says:

    DoStorm allows to generate todo lists in brainstorming way.

    It is online web application with possibility to collaborate and share brainstorm rounds.

    http://dostorm.com

  43. Thibaud says:

    I’m a solo developer and I’m just releasing some task management software.

    I thought you might want to have a look at it.

    The stuff I sell derives from having had, fundamentally, problems similar to what you mention.

    But I got bored of checking up software when I need something, I tend to write it myself.

    If you find a moment to review my stuff and send me some comments that’d be really nice. It’s new and doesn’t have ‘all the features’, but it’s been made for a genuine purpose and as a result, it sits on my desktop every day.

  44. Chris says:

    Why don’t you create your own in Access?  I got about half way through the process before I bogged down, but I have never used a real database before.  

    I just want to track Projects, Tasks, Phases, Categories, Owner, Status, Start and Due Dates, and notes, but in a simple, elegant way that allows me to print presentable task lists for use with clients.

    I manage construction and real estate projects.

  45. Michael says:

    Wow! Thank you so much for putting this review online! I have been trying to find reviews of task management software and so far, this is by FAR the best!

  46. Jim Lewis says:

    I use Ecco Pro.  With Nokia Intellisync Handheld edition to sync Appointments and Tasks thru a Palm to Outlook, which my organization uses.  Since Nokia just discontinued Intellisync, I am considering switching totally to an Outlook-based solution.  The MS Business Contact Manager (BCM) add-on for Outlook 2007 (you can get it for free out of the 2nd download for the Office 2007 Professional Trial if OutLook 2007 is already installed) is a very powerful relational contact/task manager.  But it’s highly oriented towards sales.  And BCM Project Tasks do not connect to Outlook Tasks at all (Outlook Tasks only connect to Opportunities, Accounts, and Contacts).  Now if Microsoft would just generalize BCM and make OL tasks relate to BCM tasks, they might have a winner.  (Or put the hierarchical organizational/notetaking features of Ecco into Outlook?).  BCM also can slow to a crawl at times, particularly when synching a shared database between computers, e.g. tablet PC and desktop.

    A task management scheme that translates to a handheld is important to me since I don’t sit at my desktop or lug a laptop/tablet around with me all the time.  Palm for its limit of 16 categories is not so great-when I want both personal and professional items on the same handheld.

    Pocket Informant (WebIs) might be the Windows handheld organizer for me in my switch to OL but you need the Franklin Covey planner to make all the features of PI work on a desktop.  The Business Contact Manager add-on for Outlook has a pathetic handheld spinoff (same is true for the OneNote handheld version).

    IMHO, nothing beats Ecco.  Maybe someday we’ll have a handheld that can run desktop legacy Windows apps.  The ability of Ecco to sync its database changes between one computer and another is amazing.  Outlook works pretty well through Exchange Server but when is Microsoft ever going to fix Tasks synching over the air thru Exchange Server/Active Sync?

    So the best Task Manager would go beyond the flat lists of Outlook, allow related appointments, tasks and e-mails all to be seen at the same time (like BCM), allow ~unlimited categories, sync to a handheld device, and sync over the air to cellular and WiFi-enabled devices.

  47. Jim Lewis says:

    Update to my 6/29/08 post on BCM.  Outlook 2007 Business Contact Manager Project Tasks apparently get flagged and automatically appear in the Outlook 2007 ToDo Bar along with regular Tasks, flagged e-mails, etc.  Could be useful.  

    Interesting book on Task Management and Outlook is Total Workday Control, 2nd Edition, by Michael Linenberger with his Managing Your Now (MYN) theory on GTD.

  48. Jim Lewis says:

    Further comment on Outlook Business Contact Manager (BCM).  The underlying field name of a Project Priority is actually "Activity Priority" (?!?) – if you use this field name found in the User-Defined Forms, you can actually configure a Table View of Project Tasks to display a view identical to the powerful Outlook Task view recommended by Linenberger in his book – but now you have access to all the hierarchical relational features of BCM to see Tasks under Projects, related to Contacts, etc.  Must be a bug in configuring BCM table views because defining a view has to be done all in one go – cannot re-edit a view once createdD!?

    So, bottom line from my 3 posts in succession here, BCM is a very powerful, free add-on to Outlook 2007 that adds the ability (in a separate database) to manage tasks and contacts related to projects and accounts with most of the power of SQL.  E-mail and Appointments in Outlook can be related to BCM Project and Accounts.  BCM uses Outlook’s Categories.  The use and definition of Outlook Tasks versus BCM Project Tasks is pretty schizophrenic in BCM and needs to be fixed to make it truly stellar product – right now it’s just outstanding, IMHO.

  49. dwain browne says:

    Great Post, I’m sorry I’m only now finding it…. I have pretty much the same requirements, except I’d like the idea of syncing those task to my blackberry/google calendar. I ‘ll definitely check out a few of the recommended tools… however I haven’t seen anyone recommended http://chandlerproject.org/ – I just started testing it and so far i like it, just missing a few features..

  50. You may like to try TaskMerlin. It meets your "Must" criteria, and is well suited for organizing and filtering large numbers of tasks. See http://www.taskmerlin.com.

    All the best with solving this Life Hack!

  51. You are so right about TaskPilot and FusionDesk!  Unfortunately there were serious problems in opening the FusionDesk Forum or even being able to send them an email.  I finally gave up and turned my focus to TaskPilot and have to agree that it is sensational.  I sent an email to the developer to make sure it was still being supported and got an immediate answer from him.  So other viewers can be confident that the developer is responsive and it’s a great program and in my estimation worth the price.

    Pardes

  52. Tracy Barker says:

    FusionDesk showed great promise (at least for those that like the Ribbon interface); although it was missing some key elements, such as recurring tasks and ability to view all tasks.  However, comments on the site’s forum indicate the developer has moved on to other things.  The last update of the site’s blog was April 2007.

  53. Chris C. says:

    This is a great list. I am going to try Task Pilot.

    I am also interested in a "dashboard" type of plug-in for Outlook 2003 that allows a better overview of Outlook Tasks and items in a GTD-type "Action" folder. I would be interested in what is out there (if anything).

    Thanks.

  54. xyz says:

    best todolist tool get marry and you will never forget anything again… 🙂

  55. noahc says:

    -lol- xyz, I find I now need to keep two to do lists.  Glad you found someone orginized.

  56. Dave says:

    I have email coming in – request for trial, purchase, request for key, comments, questions, others.

    I use rules but really would like an email/task blend.  I’ve tried folders – and while it seems silly – I don’t like dragging emails to folders (sometimes I miss).

    Also I don’t get visual feedback on what’s in the folders.  I dragged emails onto a spreadsheet — but only the header shows.  

    I guess I’d like a DB of emails — where I can view as spreadhseet and edit things like dates, sort by topics, group by person or key word — and at a glance see an overall.

    Asking too much?

  57. Bruce says:

    Thanks for the great list.

    Take a look at "Power To Do List"

    http://www.powertodolist.com/

    I’m evaluating the pros & cons, would like to hear what others think of the software.

    It appears to do a good job with task & project mgmt with a focus on "GTD" format.

  58. Mike says:

    I use "Agenda at Once"

    http://www.agendaatonce.com

    It does most everything that people here are looking for.

  59. Amos says:

    Try InTask Personal

    http://www.intaskpro.com

    It’s "Notepad-fast" application with ultra-modern UI.

  60. MR SAMUEL says:

    http://www.rightzing.com/

    CALLED " ACHIEVER "

    This one everone can use.

    treeview

     checkbox   timestamp/note/due /LINKS file&url

        hierarchy

    navigation keys<>^ for placement of entries

    I too have been hunting and gathering  

    TO DO   software since 1996

    i also like

    http://www.gljakal.com/todo/index.php

    as a fast    Hierarchy Checkbox    software  its free too   i use if for   quick and dirty,  but it does a little more

    Perfect  a right now

    Hierarchy Checkbox TO DO   LISTS  

    EXPORTS as html , xml , text and saves as .todo

    damm  i like this one  

    i type about 20 entiries in a minute then rearange them in another minute

    two minutes on this this program  and BAMM

    MY DAY IS PLANNED

    what i look for theses days

    < > ^  the navigation keys  that help you  move entries into the just the the right place in the hierarchy     and the checkbox  is essential to the way i Think, Forget, and Recall

    I have a BB

    BUT NOT MUCH TO MENTION THERE

    but i get  most of my todo’s done    away from the computer   so i ll keep searching for

    mobile to do list.   i have  to manage voice notes/alarmware   and  " MyChecklist " to be efficient

  61. Roy says:

    Hi,

    One great software that is missing is InTask!

    I work at HP and we are using it to manage tasks and projects in the group/team level.

    Highly Recommended!

  62. Phillip says:

    One that I haven’t seen mentioned is ToDoList from abstractspoon. It is open-source "free" and one of the most useful and flexible task/todo mangers I have found, and I have looked at numerous.

    My first choice would have been TaskPilot but the promise of a Vista compatible app. keeps getting pushed month by month for well over a year and a half of waiting patiently. This would be such a great app. if the developer would commit to it’s completion.

    Anyways in the absence of TaskPilot – ToDoList has been the only other one that has even come close, you really need to check it out.  PS. There is continual developement of the application which is a big plus.

  63. Sterym says:

    I recommend to try <a href="http://www.5pmweb.com">project management tool</a> from 5pmweb.com

    Its very simple and powerful service to manage projects of all difficulty from simple web-construction till desktop application. There are Export data from Basecamp, Google Docs, Gannt, e-mail integration and etc.

  64. Veedid Desktop To-Do List is a handy todo lists management tool, Organize your personal tasks, share business tasks in workgroup. Simple. Easy to use intuitional operation interface, a novice can master it immediately.

  65. EJ Young says:

    A product that is under utilized, mainly due to advertising, is TaskMerlin.  It can do everything and more, with easy updates.  No intricate configuration process and 100% customizable.

    It beats all others listed here hands down.  Can’t recommend this enough for a single user environment or multiple.

    http://www.TaskMerlin.com

  66. Chris says:

    I don’t often leave comments, but I wanted to show my appreciation and share my thoughts for your useful list and the useful comments that other users have left.

    My partner and I both run businesses from home and are starting to adopt the GTD system to get our lives in order.

    For me, one of the most important features of task software is the interface. It has to look simple, neat and tidy and be intuitive enough for it to be a joy to use. It also has to have tasks viewable by simple terms – I don’t always want to set dates, I prefer ‘today’ ‘tomorrow’, ‘this week’, ‘next month’ etc.

    Simple networking between users is also an important for me. I want my partner and I to be able to update the same file from our laptops rather than having separate lists.

    I downloaded trial of Fusion Desk yesterday and I love the interface and the ‘context’ and ‘tag’ features. However, I am concerned by the lack of documentation resources with regards to all of the features and the fact that in the forums it was mentioned that the developer was absent for some time. I’m wary of tying myself into a system that may not receive proper tech support – especially when the product costs $89.

    In the past I tried DoOrganizer which seemed extremely comprehensive with it’s features, but the interface had so much going on it hurt my eyes so I stopped using it as it was a chore.

    I’ve just downloaded Task Merlin and InTask based on the comments here to see what they’re both like.

    Thanks again for a great list and everyones’ useful comments.

  67. Tracy Barker says:

    I’ve trial run several of the task managers listed here and a few others.  I agree that TaskPilot belongs at top of the list. This is due to its great options for documenting and organizing tasks (i.e. hierarchal folders and tasks, customizable categories, rich text notes and description forms, support for links and attachments). However, it’s print and filter capabilities are at the other end of the spectrum (i.e. one fixed format report, two filter criteria with no save capability).  If these are important to you, then TaskPilot is not for you.  Although major upgrades are promised, there has not been an update of any kind in three years.  

  68. You should check out <a href="http://www.trackray.com/">TrackRay – task and time management software</a>.

    We have switched to it some time back and it is a real time saver for our company. It is web-based, simple to use and free.

  69. Barry Lawrence says:

    This is a great new app that I have been using. It is very very simple but incredibly powerful http://dooster.net

  70. Phillip says:

    After months and months of searching for a replacement for TaskPilot, I have finally ended my search and found a very good PIM "EfficientPIM". I does pretty much everything that TaskPilot did and they update the software often, something that the TaskPilot developer has forgotten about. I was probably the biggest fan ever of TaskPilot until it would not work with Vista, but the developer promised to realease a solution in a matter of a few months. After patiently waiting over two years now and still no release expected anytime in the near future. What a pity to let such a good product die. Anyways, I finally abandoned any hope of TaskPilot ever being resurected but after a long long search I found "EfficientPIM" to be just was I was looking for in a PIM. I won’t go into all the features, you can see them yourself on their Website, but for the money this is one good piece of software, check it out.  

  71. Proworkflow says:

    I am also interested in a "dashboard" type of plug-in for Outlook 2003 that allows a better overview of Outlook Tasks and items in a GTD-type "Action" folder. I would be interested in what is out there (if anything). It does most everything that people here are looking for.

  72. m says:

    hi,

    i am looking for one that has an API/SDK to enable integration with 3rd party software.

    thanks

  73. Andreas says:

    Hello,

    I have tried VIP task manager and it does not need a server connection.

    It has a rather "difficult"interface but it is definitely professional and fully featured.

    I found it better than Swift to-do.

    Thank you,

    Best Regards.

  74. Kathie says:

    You may want to check out Thinking Rock. It is as flexible a GTD program as I've come across.

  75. Jack says:

    We have been using http://www.dooster.net for our <a href="dooster.net/compare.htm">online project software </a>.  It's easy to install, nice to use and we have had more clarity since we started using it.   Very glad we chose it.

  76. Sam says:

    Came across this article while researching task management programs.  I hope the author has tried some of the newer, better programs, like <a href="dooster.net/…/a>.  It's a great new task manager that allows sharing of projects and perfection in task management!

  77. Jim says:

    Our company also uses <a href="dooster.net/">Dooster task manager </a> – we've found it a great help!

  78. Ustin says:

    I've been using C-Organizer (http://www.csoftlab.com) for many years and I don't want to stop doing it.

  79. Siddharth says:

    hello friends we have came up with pure Task Management Software where u can assign task to your self as well as your team if you have,in our software everything is done automatically its just you have to give the right time & task you get the SMS on your cell phone & even you can assign task from your cell phone no need of internet its just you have to SMS & it gets updated on your PC as well as you can access it from any where in this world its totally WEB Based Software for free trial of 15 Days you can log on to  www.teaminsync.in registere your self for free & use our services as a demo for next 15dayz………

  80. Sido says:

    QL Task by QuantumLeap – http://www.quantumleap.eu/ql-task is a nice tool for task management.

  81. Mitchel says:

    You may want to check out Work Time Studio (http://www.worktimestudio.com).  It includes many additional features in addition to task management, such as time tracking, reminders, scheduling, and note and document management.  It also has a calendar view in addition to the tree hierarchy view.  It doesn't limit you to standard pre-defined types, such as projects and tasks.  You can define your own 'types' of entities, like Meetings, Consultation, Defects, Lunch, or basically any type of activity you perform.

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