Online Task Management Systems Compared

Over the past month, I have been using and testing various online task management systems.  My goal was to use a system that:

  1. Was easy to use
  2. Had decent iPhone integration
  3. Gave me the most features for free

With those three objectives in mind, I set out about my task.  The contenders ended up being

    Lets look at these services in a little more detail.

      Remember the Milk

    When I decided to start using an online task management system, I immediately went to Remember the Milk and accessed by long standing (but mostly underused) account.  Recommended to me by Derek Alfonso when the service was first introduced years ago, I figured this would be the only stop I needed to make.

imageAs you can see, the interface is very simple, non-intrusive, and makes it easy to see what you need to get done.  The interface is no-frills, but very powerful.  When I moved onto the iPhone app, things only continued to be awesome from an interface perspective.  The Remember the Milk iPhone application is as simple to use as its web counterpart.

 

image

Best thing about the iPhone application is it that it’s a free download.  But that’s where things start to turn sour for Remember the Milk.

When it comes to iPhone integration, the application is free, but you can’t use it without a Pro Remember the Milk account.  The cost on a Pro account is $25 a year.  While not excessive by any means, you don’t get much more than mobile phone integration (at least at this point).

To me, this was the largest turn off for Remember the Milk.  I can justify a $25 a year membership fee if I get something for it.  I pay for Flickr’s Pro account service because it basically gives me a place to back up my photos online.  However, RTM (Remember the Milk’s popular internet shorthand) only really gives you mobile integration.  We’re almost a full decade into the 21st century and I have to pay for mobile integration and not much else?  Sorry but no dice.

reQall

After being soured by Remember the Milk’s need for a pro account to use their iPhone app, I continued my search and found reQall.  The first thing I immediately checked was if they had an iPhone application (which they do), the second thing I checked was if I had to pay anything to use it (I didn’t).  So right away I had fixed at least 1 issue I had with RTM.  I began to use the service post haste.  The interface for reQall is only slightly more complicated than Remember the Milk, but only because they try to do some automatic organization for you.

For example, if I type in a task like “Buy AA Batteries” it will add that as a task, but will add it to a “Shopping List” task list.

reqallWebUI

The web interface for reQall works great even if it might look slightly more complicated that Remember the Milk.  Also, reQall lets you sync with Google or Outlook calendars, call a number to enter tasks by phone, and gives you a lower end version of what they call a “memory jogger” for free.  The pay version ($25/year) gives you some additional features like an improved “memory jogger,” geo-based reminders, and adding items via email.  So right away, you get more for free from reQall than you do from Remember the Milk.

With some tasks entered in via the web interface, I downloaded the iPhone application.  Right away I noticed that i could add tasks via text and voice.  I also noticed that i was in trial mode for “pro” services, so I got the additional features for 30 days.  I added a few more tasks from the iPhone and liked the integration.

I thought I had a winner here with reQall.  They offered quality services, for free and allowed me to use my iPhone to interact with the service.  These guys hit all three of my requirements.

ToodleDo

While I figured I had a winner with reQall, I decided to google search for other online task managers.  Doing so, I came across ToodleDo.  Apparently I already had an account with ToodleDo that I had forgotten about (probably found them originally through LifeHacker or some other productivity website).  Once I logged in, I noticed the straight forwardness of the web site.

image 

Somewhat similar to Remember the Milk in simplistic interface design, I could easily see that ToodleDo could be used in a much more powerful way.  The sight focuses heavily on a “Getting Things Done” approach to task management.  Tasks work inside contexts (“Work”, “Home”, “Phone”, etc) and can be a part of a much larger goal.  This made sense to me because I didn’t just want a random list of tasks, I wanted to be able to sort them with larger tasks/goals.  I tried entering tasks and found the interface to be easy to use but slightly more complicated than I would have liked.  For example, when adding a task, if you do not have a goal set up, there is no way to add a new goal and set the task being entered to that newly created goal.  You have to finish creating the task, then go create the goal, and finally set the task to the goal.  So the interface could be connected a little better.

As far as overall features, ToodleDo has a ton of them.  They have some of the same stuff reQall has, it does lack the intelligent adding of items to their appropriate lists (adding items to a shopping list).  The interface also isn’t overly refined like reQall or even RTM.  But what it lacks in interface, it does make up for in available features and service plans.  If you’d like to see a comprehensive comparison list, they have taken the liberty of creating one for you.

The next question was iPhone application.  Yes, ToodleDo does have an iPhone app.  The downside however is that it costs $3.99.  So while the service offers up a ton of free features, to use a native iPhone app, you’re going to have to pony up some cash.  While I initially found
this to be a bummer, I discovered their iPhone ready website (what they call “slim”).

imageAs you can probably tell from the image (left), the iPhone web version looks pretty nice (even though the screen capture is in Firefox).  In Safari, on the iPhone it looks pretty slick and allows me to quickly view my tasks and add new ones.

While it is not a native iPhone application, it does allow me almost the same functionality as the native application.  A plus side to using Safari is the ability to utilize the landscape keyboard that is currently not available in most native applications allowing me to type in tasks and make edits much more quickly.

After using ToodleDo for a couple of weeks, I completely abandoned reQall (actually deleted my account) and went to using ToodleDo exclusively for my task management.  I haven’t completed all of my integration (ie Outlook & Calendars) but I’m working my way there.

Conclusion

After all is said and done, I’m using ToodleDo to handle my tasks.  While I would have loved to use Remember the Milk, I couldn’t justify the cost when considering what that $25 dollars a year would get me.  Especially when compared to what other services are offering with their free accounts.

Remember the Milk is getting by solely on name recognition and as an incumbent.  As proven in my research, there are other services offering more for free and even the other services pay accounts offer at least some justification for their price.  Remember the Milk has a nice service if all you need is task management and don’t wish to integrate with too much.  However to really use the service in an effective way, you pretty much have to pay for it.

While ToodleDo didn’t meet all of my expectations in a manner I would have liked, it did meet them.  I have a service that I can use fairly easily (even with it’s interface hiccups) and has decent iPhone integration.  Is it the native app I would have preferred? No, it is not but that option still exists if I want to spend $4.  Right now, I’m doing just fine with the “slim” version running in Safari.

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3 Responses to Online Task Management Systems Compared

  1. Dan says:

    For implementing GTD you can also use this web-based application:http://www.Gtdagenda.comYou can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.A mobile version is available too.

  2. Michael says:

    Nozbe also has an iPhone app just like RTM and the Nozbe iPhone app is free in the Appstore:http://www.Nozbe.com/iPhoneThe iPhone app sync with Nozbe.com online in seconds. The “slim” version of Nozbe can also be used as a Dashboard widget if you have a Mac.

  3. Michael says:

    Nozbe also has an iPhone app just like RTM and the Nozbe iPhone app is free in the Appstore:http://www.Nozbe.com/iPhoneThe iPhone app sync with Nozbe.com online in seconds. The “slim” version of Nozbe can also be used as a Dashboard widget if you have a Mac.

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