Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Your favorite to-do list or task manager?
28 points by owkaye on Mar 3, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 69 comments
I have one large (and several small) personal projects to accomplish during the next year or two of my life (including building a new house) and one professional programming project to start planning. I think an online to-do list or task manager would be a help in terms of planning, scheduling and reminding me. I do not need a mobile app, instead I'm interested in a solution with great desktop interface. What do you use? Do you recommend it? If so, why?

I've been using emacs org-mode (http://orgmode.org) for a little over a year. It makes it easy to capture notes, todo-items, and agenda/calendar items. I wanted to learn how to use emacs and it gave me a reason to run emacs every day. Now org-mode has become part of my routine for keeping track of what I have to do and what I've done.

I currently don't use anything for personal task tracking, since I am a part of a large team and we have project management. However, in college I explored this quite a bit. Here is what I would recommend:

* Text-based *

If this appeals to you, Taskpaper is a really good format with a lower barrier of entry than org-mode. There is a Taskpaper major mode for Emacs, a plugin for Vim, and even one for Sublime Text 2 (though the author didn't credit Taskpaper or Hog Bay except as "inspiration" at the bottom of the README): https://github.com/aziz/PlainTasks

* Simple but GUI *

Literally anything that allows you to create individual items, tag them (or add them to multiple named lists - same thing), and then filter by tag or list. Tags are all you need to implement anything from pure ad-hoc task management all the way up to strict GTD. Priorities are not essential and can actually get in the way; I've always found it much simpler and less of a mind burden to categorize tasks by project ("project" here meaning anything that takes more than one discrete task) and then simply tag the "Next Action" for any given project. You can then filter by "Next Action" and decide for yourself at any given moment what task will be best to do with the resources available to you (time, tools, location, energy).

Some examples of solutions that will do this:

- A directory of text files with #hashtags in their contents and grep

- Notational Velocity / Simplenote

- Any todo list app with real tags (not Wunderlist, for instance)

- Outlook

- Taskpaper or org-mode

I actually used Gmail for this for a while. I could expound on that if you're interested.

* The Full Monty *

OmniFocus, plus the book "Getting Things Done" by David Allen. It's cliche for a reason. It's not a silver bullet (obviously, I hope), but it is an effective system, it works for a lot of people, and you will probably get at least a few takeaways out of reading about it.

I just use a piece of paper.

For coding I use comments and a git alias (git todo) that returns the comments.

    todo     = !git grep --color=always --no-index --exclude-standard --heading --break --ignore-case -e ' FIX: *' -e ' TODO: *' | sed -e 's/^[[:space:]]*//'
Long term stuff I keep in Notational Velocity, among a load of other things.

Org-mode for emacs is excellent. I've been using it for years.


Trello. Powerful for managing team tasks and simple for managing personal to-do(s).

I launched StartHQ, a web app directory, this week. You can see a list of todo apps here: https://starthq.com/apps/?category=productivity

I will also add all the ones mentioned here. My personal favorite is https://starthq.com/apps/wunderlist.

By the way, you can vote for your favorite apps on StartHQ by liking or tweeting the app profile page and that will count towards its popularity score and ranking.


I was using Things before, but the rip-off pricing and lack of web and non iOS clients made me switch.

I like Wunderlist for its simplicity and the "GTDishness".

Supports multiple projects (or lists), sub-tasks, reminders, repeated tasks.

No support for tags, and the recent Wunderlist2 release dropped support for the great "smart dates" functionality, which was an absolute killer feature on their old version.

Do you use a Mac? If so, I recommend Things for Mac


http://culturedcode.com/things/mac/appstore ($49.99)

Edit to answer to ralfy's reply below:

I recommend it to Get Things Done [1], for its versatility (projects, scopes, labels, scheduling and repeated tasks), its excellent user interface and aesthetics, and the seamless synchronization across multiple devices (Mac, iPhone and iPad).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done

I also recommend Things, because it's an app that makes you feel good if you're into OS X and iOS style user interfaces. I bought it years ago, but truly started using it when they got the Things Cloud sync working.

So now I always keep it open on all my Macs (I switch between 3). It's always up-to-date, shows the number of tasks pending for today in the Dock icon, and it's comfortable to very quickly switch to the app, and create new tasks or mark old ones done. And when you're procrastinating, you can organize the tasks into projects and drag'n'drop them around, enter tags and descriptions, etc.

I think you can achieve the same with any todo list app or even text files, but Things makes it look and feel nice.

Have you tried OmniFocus? The Mac client is just fantastic (if you take the time to learn and customize it). And v2.0 (due in seversl months) is even better.

Of course, you have to learn GTD system to get the most out of OmniFocus. It's something that'll greatly improve your efficiency in the long run, so I think it's worth the time you invest.

Why do you recommend it?

It's so far from finished, but I'd be interested to see people think about where it's going:


You should be able to get something working by installing the dependencies, pulling in some github issues with ./slurp_github and then running airshipd

EDIT: Which is the logical successor to https://github.com/richo/TODO

I've tried most of the other platforms and none really delivered for me. At the very least I could find my old TODO anywhere since it was all online.

I use wunderlist on my iOS devices and my windows PC at work.

I like it because it offers automatic synching over multiple devices as well as making it easy to separate out each of the projects I'm working on.

Since you said a great desktop interface.. check out MS OneNote, integrates with Outlook for schedule/reminders, very good drag/drop support of anything.

If you can pay $, Atlassian JIRA is the best for programming, you can schedule/plan tasks, get reminders, much better sorting of issues/categories, phases, have them automatically close with commits (JIRA is just like github only way more advanced in what you can do)

Now if you are doing an open source project for the community then hands down stay on github

We launched http://taskmessenger.com in January. It's a shared to-do list for personal and team use. Sign up is free and if you need any features or help getting started drop me a mail at alan@taskmessenger.com (I'm a co-founder)

We have a search function for keeping track of tasks, an activity feed showing tasks completed while we also track stats such as tasks shared, picked up and completed.

Google Docs, but any other text editor would work about as well. I have three bulletted lists, one (very short) one for things that are currently in-progress and really ought to be finished before I start something else, one for things that are blocking on something, and one for things I either haven't gotten around to yet or had to defer for some reason. For small/quick things that come from emails, I just flag them in Outlook.

I have recently made a small todo webapp because I needed one myself, it's still deep in beta, but besides few UI flaws on WebKit works pretty well: http://www.rodosapp.com/

You can add a new group just for yourself or add some people to it, you do it by typing their email address to "add user" field. Of course that user has to be already registered in the app.

You should also add some screenshots on the website, just so people get a feel for what it's like before signing up.

I'm planning to do so, but I need to stabilize push notifications a bit before I start to make Rodos look better. Thanks for the advice, anyway! :)

I build TodoPaper and combine it with TaskPaper and DropBox to sync across my PCs and Macs and iPhone. It's a plaintext file format that also has a number of open source projects that highlight the files when you work in Vim, Notepad++, etc. Example of the format:

  - task
  - task @done
    - sub task 
      Notes for this task.
    - sub task @due(2013-03-03)


* this is something I would like to achieve

              -this is a sub step on the way to achieving it

              -and another substep


I tried everything on this post, some for several months. Only one survived: Workflowy!

Its nested, collapse/expand structure seems to match best with my view of the world.

I've never had any piece of software become so indispensable so quickly as workflowy did. It's hugely flexible, dead-simple to use, and easy to use on all my devices.

Interesting, have you tried Checkvist (I'm the dev)?

They recently launched their native iOS app, which has offline support, which makes it even more awesome.


Asana is my favorite. It can be used for basic to-do lists or more complex project plans. The interface feels fast and nicely designed, with key bindings for everything so you can move through it very quickly. Free for up to 30 people in a team, so you can assign tasks to others if you want to.


I use UbikFocus (http://Appstore.com/ubikfocus) its a iPhone/iPad App. I use in my daily activity to organize the tasks of my projects.

I try others apps, some one of the people suggest but for me are so simple or so complex. Ubikfocus it's a good mix between simplicity and powerful features

If you don't mind spending some $ on it, I totally recommend Omnifocus. I've been using several tools over the past years and stopped looking around when I found this one. It supports several projects nicely, helps with the reminders and the contexts and syncs over several devices. Fast to learn, fast to use.

- For simple personal things, a Chrome extension I made that gives you a simple localStorage backed textarea. I can share if anyone's interested.

- For code, Github issues/pull requests

- For team tasks that need to be delegated, Teambox (http://teambox.com)

- For scheduled things, Google Calendar

I'd like to see that Chrome extension.

I use Basecamp for project to-do's, and Gmail with "Show unread at the top" option on, for "life" to-do's.

We recently released our visual task management app DropTask (https://www.droptask.com). It allows you to split your tasks across projects, categorize them using nested sub grouping and schedule them easily using the week view.

When I first saw DropTask I thought it would allow you to take multiple perspectives and have a grouping per perspective, like urgency, compononent, assignee, customer value, etc., etc.

I've been looking for that for ages and was so disappointed when I saw it wasn't...

If you're still open for it you might want to consider adding what are essentially additional views to help organize your tasks from different perspectives. You can even add something like a 'scale' view to help sort these things on e.g. a linear scale.

Anyhow, just my €0.02 :)

Thanks for the feedback. DropTask is still at a relatively early-stage so we are constantly working on adding new features. The ability to see tasks from different grouping perspectives sounds really interesting.

Looks nice. Does it have an API like basecamp or Trello?

Not yet, its likely we will have a public API in the future.

Try Breeze (http://letsbreeze.com), it's agile tool that shows your tasks on a board, also includes todos and calendars.

For more professional use it also has time tracking, reports, email notifications, dropbox and google drive integration.

Todoist. Why? Because it supports sub tasks and sub projects (this is pretty rare), freeform tagging so I control how I structure things, a wonderful UI and works offline by way of HTML5 storage.

I don't like that I can't hide tasks until they're nearing their due date however.

Todoist. I've used Remember the Milk, Toodledo, Wunderlist and probably a few others that I've forgotten and have come back to Todoist. It's a simple, clean, flexible interface that does what I need. I had high hopes for Wunderlist but gave up in frustration.

I've used a lot of web and desktop based todo lists....

Turns out it's pretty hard to beat pen and paper.

What would you add or change on previous apps you've used?

As a student, I use Schooltraq (http://schooltraq.com).

It has both a web interface, Android app and an API so it's fairly ubiquitous for me. I find it simple and efficient.

Disclosure - I am a developer at Schooltraq.

GitHub for software issues / bugs features.

Trello for sales pipeline, general project planning and management tasks.

Remember the Milk for tasks with a specific due date and recurring tasks, though I'd like to use Trello for that in the long run, too.

Two plaintext files in dropbox (todo.txt and priority.txt), kept always open in all my computers.

Search, editing and subtasks-by-indentation are convenient enough, as my text editor anyway is my main work tool.

I (ab)use Teambox. You can plug it with incoming email so its great for ticketing and also for defining custom processes within your team (hashtags? love them!).

Apples Reminders.app is actually better than most people say or think. You can even keep it in sync with your own server using CalDAV.

I am the developer behind http://weekplan.net, please have a look if you have 2 min.

Task Warrior! All in terminal but very practical.

I am happy with MS OneNote. It seems to be the most versatile tool. Integrated to outlook calendars, easy to find open tasks, ...

Astrid for daily tasks (paperwork and links or technologies to check later) and Trello for projects-related tasks.

I really like The Hit List. It has a OS X and an iPhone app, but you have to pay for syncing.

todo.txt (todotxt.com) - open source with a simple text file format. Items have (priorities), +tags, and @locations. There is a CLI interface for desktops and apps for iOS & android. Syncing over dropbox is supported.

I chose todo.txt after trying all the others because I can get command line efficiency and Smartphone portability. Everything is open-source (both the smartphone apps as well) and easily extendable. I prefer Taskwarrior for a pure CLI tool, but no visibility on any other platform.

If you have the discipline to use pen and paper I'd recommend that. Else Asana!

i use "todo.txt". it is text based todo list, you can edit it easily every where, it has smart phone app and it's very simple to use http://todotxt.com/

todo lists are not it's main purpose, but I use thinkery which can do it too by giving things a #todo tag. http://thinkery.me/

Any stats done on these comments to figure out what people use?

I guess we are the very last to still use Google Tasks.

Excel + Dropbox + synced Google Calendar.

Text files on Dropbox.




Omnifocus for daily personal task, and Trello for development project.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact