When I get as busy as I’ve been lately, I become a slave to my to-do list software. I’ve used Todoist for a couple of years, but since getting my iPhone 5 recently (and using iOS 6) I had a reason to look at alternatives. In particular, I looked closely at the alternative offered by Apple. Here’s a comparison of Todoist and Apple’s fairly new Reminders app.
Their basic features are pretty similar. Both apps let you create tasks belong to organizational groups (called “projects” in Todoist and “lists” in Reminders). Both apps let you add notes to these tasks. Both apps work on the Mac and the iOS and sync between devices. I’m fond of Todoist’s clean, minimalist look. But Reminders is attractive, too, in a very different way. On the flip side, I am not crazy about the name “Reminders” (as a wedding photographer I think they should have named it “iDo”!), but, come to think of it, I’m not crazy about “Todoist”, either.
So where are they different and which is better for me?
Todoist is much better at filtering and searching. You can ask it for tasks with deadlines in the next 7 days, and it responds. Can’t do that in Reminders. Apparently Reminders can’t sync with Calendar, something Todoist can do. Is this important? See below.
Todoist also supports labels, which is a way you can get some sort of secondary organization within a project. No labels in Reminders.
Todoist also has excellent reports showing what you’ve accomplished, if that sort of thing matters to you. And finally, I should perhaps mention that Todoist seems to have some connection to the project management software Wedoist, which is made by the same folks at Doist (doist.io). This doesn’t matter to me, but it might to some folks. Apple’s got no project management software.
Advantage: Apple Reminders
Comparing Reminders to Todoist is a good way to see difference between browser-based apps and native apps. It’s much easier to do things like drag a task in a list in Reminders than it is in Todoist.
Todoist’s Mac OS X app doesn’t keep the projects list displayed after you select a project. In Reminders, you can keep the Lists pane visible all the time. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’d like to be able to see the projects list in Todoist at least some of the time. I’d like it to be an option. On the other hand, making the projects list go away focuses your attention on the active project, and I guess that’s not the worst thing in the world. Slight edge here to Apple’s app.
Let me say a little more about the fact that Reminders can’t sync with Calendar. I asked above, is this important? I think it may not be. If you sync tasks with Calendar, aren’t you just confusing the issue? This really is a problem with all to-do list apps. The point of lists is to list things, so you can tick ’em off as you finish ’em. The point of calendars is to remind you what’s supposed to happen on a certain date and at a certain time. It may be nice to see deadlines on your calendar but they really should be distinct from appointments or events on a fixed date.
Reminders is location sensitive. You can enter a location and, next time you’re there, your iPhone will remind you that a task is due. This is fairly slick. Not sure that I’ll actually use it a lot, but it’s rather cool.
The biggest advantage of Reminders (for me, anyway) is that you can share calendars, easily. I created a “Wedding” calendar and shared it with my wife, so we could both track the stuff that needs to be done before Mary’s wedding in nine days. As far as I can tell, this is just not possible with Todoist — and it’s a fairly big deal.
Of course, there’s also the fact that the Apple app is free. It’s a tough world out there for the third-party developer. Todoist has been around for a while and has had a great product. It has a free version, but the version I’ve got and that I’ve been comparing Reminders to is the Premium version, which costs $30 a year. It’s not that the $30 a year is an unreasonable price — it’s quite reasonable, actually — but, well, free is better than not free, other things being (roughly) equal.
Although there are a number of things I rather like about Todoist, I’ve decided to stop using it (at least for the time being) and go with Apple’s Reminders. It’s not the price tag. Actually I have already paid for Todoist and my subscription doesn’t end for ten months. But the advantages of Todoist aren’t that important for me: I don’t use labels, don’t very often do interesting searches, and I don’t care about reports. And on the positive side, I rather like that I can share lists from Reminders with my wife easily, through iCloud. Sharing means complete both-ways live editing. She adds a task, I see it on my iCloud devices within seconds, and vice versa. Seems such a small thing, but my wife loves it, and when you’ve said that, you’ve pretty much ended the discussion.
ADDENDUM: I overlooked something important when I wrote this message. See update here.