The Ultimate Roundup of iPad Task Apps

It’s here, this is the big one. The definitive roundup of those most crucial of apps; task management apps. Most of us, me included, wouldn’t get anything done without them – they help us manage our daily lives, and provide the key to massively increased productivity.

Who doesn’t want to be more productive?

If you haven’t settled on “the one” yet, or have even the smallest sliver of doubt about your current system, then have no fear – this is what you’ve been waiting for! I’ll take a brief look at the different styles of task management available, and what types of people they suit. Each app will then get its moment in the limelight, and we’ll look at what separates each from the competition.

Screenshots and icons will abound, take a deep breath, here goes!

What Are You Looking For?

What I’ve come to realise is that there isn’t a single solution that is perfect for everyone. We are all different, and therein lies the beauty of the App Store; there is a perfect (or near perfect) task app for everyone, finding it is the difficult part…

The key thing that I would emphasise is that you shouldn’t use a task app that is massively more advanced than you actually need; and conversely, you shouldn’t make do with an app that lacks features that would be useful to you. Overcomplicated apps, when not used to their full potential, tend to baffle and distract rather than help you towards your goal. Overly minimal apps, on the other hand, can restrict and limit your productivity.

The trick here is finding balance.

It’s also worth noting that cost is inevitably important in your decision, as most apps have iPhone and desktop counterparts that you may or may not want – getting stuck into an expensive task management system when you don’t really need it can be frustrating!

Some Elements to Consider

The overall style of a task management app can roughly be broken down into two main categories;

GTD

Getting Things Done is a philosophy of productivity that many people have found wildly successful! It was pioneered by productivity consultant David Allen, and described in a book of the same name. The Getting Things Done method rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. Two of the key things that this system encourages, and which a good task app can greatly assist with, are getting perspective over all of your tasks and using contexts.

A good GTD app can provide you with easy ways to review your tasks and restructure their priorities, while simultaneously giving you access to a well defined system of contexts that allows you to be more productive in any given situation. Some apps even allow you to geo-fence places and link tasks to them!

Classic

This is the style of task management that evolved directly from pen and paper todo lists. The classic style focuses on allowing you to create tasks and set their parameters, you then work through them as they need to be done.

These two styles aren’t worlds apart, but they do tend to have distinct differences that allows you to separate out task apps into one of the two camps. It’s also worth noting that you can work very effectively using a GTD style app without getting stuck into the concepts, or having to read a book…

Beyond these two indicators, and the price, there are a few other things to consider when looking at each app.

Wi-Fi Sync

Synchronisation can be vitally important for a task management app, if you want to use it in all of its forms it’s no use having to manually enter tasks several times! Wi-Fi sync is the second-class citizen in this world, only allowing you to keep your tasks updated when in close proximity to your other devices. For some this will be fine, if your Mac is always at your desk and your phone is always on you then this system might work fine. But, if you use a relatively mobile setup, or both an iPad and an iPhone, then this will probably become more of a hassle than it’s worth.

Cloud Sync

This is the bees knees. Ideally you want to be able to have your tasks available, and updated, anywhere – preferably without an additional cost. With the introduction of iCloud, Apple is gradually making this easier for developers to do. Some people won’t need this, and so needn’t worry much about it – if you always use your iPad for tasks, even when at your computer and on the move, then you’ll be fine without.

Sharing

Some task apps give you the option to share lists. This can be incredibly useful for some people, but entirely unnecessary for others. Simply ask yourself whether there’s a situation in which two people collaborating on a list would be useful for you. Would you get more done?

Alerts

Alerts about tasks are pretty commonplace, but it’s worth checking that a specific app has them if you’re going to need them. Some people prefer their task apps to be more active, giving out regular alerts about things and buzzing away in your pocket…

Location Services

We are gradually seeing location services integrated more and more into our task management apps. With Apple now including location-based reminders in its simple Reminders app, the expectation is there for apps of all levels to include this kind of functionality. Note that Reminders wasn’t the first to do it, but it is bringing location-based tasks into the mainstream.

Forecasting

This is something that’s typically associated with GTD-style apps, but can be incredibly useful for almost anyone! Forecasting is when an app allows you to see a weekly or daily view of all due tasks, giving you a window into the future and allowing you to gain some perspective.

The Ultimate Roundup of Task Apps

To make this roundup as useful as possible, these apps will be arranged in a general order from the simplest to the most complex – just stop when you find the app that has all the features you can see yourself needing!

SpeedTask

SpeedTask is about as simple as task apps get! It’s smart To-Do app that comes with a beautiful interface and is embarrassingly easy to use – manage your daily tasks in seconds! SpeedTask also includes its own SpeedTask Cloud extension that lets you sync all of your tasks across multiple devices.

Price: $4.99
Available for: iPad, iPhone, Web, and Mac.

Who’s it for?

Anyone with simple task app needs, but who’s determined to have their tasks sync seamlessly across all platforms. This falls into the classic camp and does allow you to set alerts, but all of the more advanced features are lacking. The design is decidedly skeuomorphic, but shouldn’t offend anyone too much – the pin board theme perfectly exemplifies the simple nature of the app.

Wunderlist

We reviewed Wunderlist here and found it to be a solid free offering that has some great features that many apps charge for.
With online sync, list sharing, and integration with Windows and Mac apps, Wunderlist HD is a great app that’s definitely worth a look!

Price: Free
Available for: iPad, iPhone, Web, and Mac.

At a cost of nothing, Wunderlist is worth a try!

Who’s it for?

One of the killer features of Wunderlist is the ability to easily share lists with others, if that’s something that’d be useful to you then there’s no reason you shouldn’t give it a go! Wunderlist syncs beautifully across all its forms and is persuasive in its simplicity. It won’t be enough for some, but it’s a delightful experience if it works for you.

Remember the Milk

Remember The Milk is another free task app that is a perfect example of the classic form of task management. Keeping it simple definitely has its advantages, some people swear by it! There are a wealth of task options that put it in a class above SpeedTask and Wunderlist, but the extra in-app purchase required for unlimited synchronisation looks unappealing in comparison.

Price: Free ($24.99 for yearly Pro subscription)
Available for: Almost everything you can think of, with the exception of the Mac.

Remember the Milk has an extremely clean and efficient interface!

Who’s it for?

Remember the Milk is an excellent classic task app that works beautifully with a whole host of different services! If integration with the likes of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Twitter would be bliss, then maybe it’s the one for you!

The only sticking point is the unpleasant feeling you get paying for seamless cloud sync on a yearly basis…

ToDo

For anyone who loves to customise their apps Todo is a dream, it has a library of different themes available for purchase to satisfy the restless. It takes the concept of the binder and applies it to the iPad, if you’re a fan of apps replicating a physical experience then Todo may be for you.

Price: $4.99
Available for: iPad, iPhone, Web, and Mac.

Who’s it for?

ToDo is a good choice for anyone that needs to connect their task app with a variety of different services – it works with Todo Online, Dropbox, iCal, Outlook, Toodledo.com, and iCloud. It’s a classic task app that has a variety of customisation options, most available for a small in-app fee.

ToodleDo

Toodledo is one of the most popular task apps for the iPad, possibly by virtue of its low cost approach. The interface allows for customisation to fit any desired workflow. It syncs with the Toodledo online service and offers a debatable ‘Pro’ subscription that doesn’t add a great deal of functionality.

Price: $2.99
Available for: iPad and iPhone.

Toodledo looks good, but I can't stand the icon...

Who’s it for?

Toodledo is a good example of a cheap but functional task app that allows you to work in whatever way suits you best. It has the ability to support a GTD workflow and would work for both people who need a lot of functionality, and those who like things simple.

Things

Things is one of the premier apps for those looking to keep their tasks in order. It has been praised highly for the simplicity of its interface and the way it allows you to focus. The downside here is that there’s no easy way to cloud sync your tasks, it’s something that has been in the works for a long time. Fortunately for loyal Things users, iCloud may provide the solution – but it’s not here yet!

Price: $19.99
Available for: iPad, iPhone, and Mac.

Things is a gorgeously designed app, that looks great on every platform.

Who’s it for?

Things is ideal for people who are extremely design conscious and love it when every pixel has been carefully placed! The current issue is with syncing, but if you only want to use the app on one platform then Things is a good choice – although the price may put you off a little.

2Do

A great mid-range To-Do application for anyone who has a craving for features. 2Do does almost anything you can think of, from location based tasks to alarm reminders and highly configurable recurrences. I love the classic styling of the interface and the simply vast array of customisation available. It also has a variety of options for synchronisation, although none of the methods I’ve tried have been hugely successful.

Price: $6.99
Available for: iPad and iPhone.

The sheer range of options can be a little daunting!

Who’s it for?

The incredible scope of 2Do makes it a great app for people who need a wealth of functionality in a classic style. However, if you don’t need the depth of scope then it’s not worth getting involved with – nothing slows you down like being overwhelmed with options!

Awesome Note HD

Awesome Note HD is an app that certainly hasn’t been threatened by the arrival of Apple’s Reminders. It changes focus from simply keeping track of tasks or projects towards keeping all your notes and tasks together. It sports a colourful and engaging interface and allows you to select between several custom themes for your notes. If you can’t see why your notes and tasks should be separate then give Awesome Note HD a look!

Price: $3.99
Available for: iPad and iPhone.

Awesome Note can feel a little overwhelming!

Who’s it for?

Awesome note is perfect for anyone who wants to keep their tasks and notes together – it’s an all-in-one system! It doesn’t cloud sync but can be linked to Google Docs or Evernote. It’s not as advanced as 2Do when it comes to organising tasks, but it has a whole wealth of note-taking functionality that none of the other apps here can match.

FireTask

I reviewed FireTask a while back and found it to be a powerful task management app that implements GTD concepts beautifully – all at a stunning price! What Firetask does is implement the concepts of David Allen expertly, while adding a few delights of their own making. I really like the inclusion of the simple Scratchboard screen and the Waiting For category, which allows you to keep track of other peoples tasks that you need completing before you can move on.

Price: $9.99
Available for: iPad, iPhone, and Mac.

The first time you open FireTask you're presented with a delightfully clear screen.

Who’s it for?

FireTask is perfect for anyone who loves the concepts behind GTD and wants an app that implements them with aplomb. It lacks location services, and its cloud sync is still in public BETA, but the relatively low price makes it a great task app for serious contenders.

Daylite Touch

Daylite Touch is a business productivity manager for the iPhone and iPad, designed to be used with Daylite on the Mac. Daylite Touch helps you manage your business and your team, keeping everyone on the same page and helping you stay on track and deliver on time.

Daylite is an interesting case, as it’s the only app in our list that requires you use the desktop service. It’s an incredibly powerful management app that allows you to keep track of absolutely everything in one place!

Price: See Daylite pricing structure
Available for: iPad, iPhone, and Mac.

Daylite is in a class of its own!

Who’s it for?

For Daylite to be considered you have to be serious about productivity. If you like what you see, and can justify the software as a business expense, then it could be invaluable. It’s a first class solution for managing your business!

Omnifocus

Much more than a task manager, Omnifocus is a powerful GTD app that provides and all-in-one solution for keeping track of your life. The price makes it only suitable for those who require the power behind its gorgeous interface.
It cloud syncs with Omnifocus for iPhone and Mac and has a development team behind it that’s always working hard to keep it ahead of the game.

Price: $39.99
Available for: iPad, iPhone, and Mac.

Omnifocus is an extremely powerful app.

Who’s it for?

Omnifocus is for anyone who needs a complete and supremely powerful task management solution. It’s got everything I mentioned at the top and the development team are constantly looking for ways to make it better. The only considerations are whether you need the functionality, and whether you can afford it!

Your Thoughts

I hope that this roundup has given you all that you need to choose a task management app! As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts – simply post a comment below! Is there a great task management app that I’ve missed? What do you use? Is there any space left for someone else to come along and create a new task management app?


  • http://Wmafendi.com Wmafendi

    What about Pocket Informant HD? I have been use it and believe it’s very good GTD thing

  • SirBigBlunt

    I sure do wish the Hit List was on this list. sigh…

    • Joel Bankhead

      It’ll go on as soon as they get an iPad app going…

      • SirBigBlunt

        Thanks Joel. Here’s hope to Potion Factory will get around to releasing it someday.

        Thanks for the great read. There are many articles of this type around but I enjoyed the structure of elevating complexity. Perhaps a similar article on calendars would be a great compliment?

  • Wvit

    Very good coverage.

    I like it when you say “It’s also worth noting that you can work very effectively using a GTD style app without getting stuck into the concepts, or having to read a book…”. Very true.

    BUT it is not only the result of the app but because of the openness of GTD concept. Anyway, for me, it is quite important to make it really clear that while many of the app listed above can be use to implement some GTD concept (since GTD is so adaptable), it should be called a GTD app.

    Please also note that I am not a real GTD person. I use a combination of GTD as well as other method to suite my need. Anyway, to really implement a full GTD system, you need an app that is builded based on the GTD concept.

    For example, 2Do can be used to adapt GTD BUT since it’s an general task management program, it has a lot of overhead. I try to use 2Do for GTD since it is much cheaper (Universal App) but end up abandon it for a real GTD based app, Things. It’s easier to enter task and if you use a FULL GTD system, it will hit the nail in the head!

    Please note that I HATE Cultured Code because of it damn slow response to user request (as well as the change in world technology). However, I have to accept that the app is solid enough that even with the lack of update, it still answer my GTD need.

    I have try some of the above software, but mention only 2 apps because it is the only 2 I fully implement GTD on and use it for a few weeks. 2Do is more general and can adapt to different need. Things is more limit, but if you use the GTD as it is really written in the book, it ‘s really easy to use, to the point and effective.

  • Schmolle

    There are two considerations you do not take into account explicitly, but can easily be make-or-break issues, imho.

    1) recurrence features: when crossing off a task, many tasks inherently need to be repeated at some time in the future. Might be in two hours, might be next Monday, might be 3 days from now.

    2) Dynamicity: If I want a list that I can cross stuff off and then manually rearrange, I really feel I’m doing work that I have computers for. So the crossing off of a task should have some implications, such as the (remaining) list rearranging.

    • Joel Bankhead

      You make a good point. In terms of features I had to draw the line somewhere, the general rule being that the more advanced apps have good recurrence features and the more simple ones don’t.

  • WildRosie1

    Good article. I like your method of breaking down the criteria I should look for in choosing my app. You mention two categories to consider GTD and Classic which makes me think I’m more of a classic girl, whilst you highlight GTD suitable apps you haven’t highlighted the classic ones so I’m still a little confused as to which one suits my needs.

    • Joel Bankhead

      Hi Karen, I tried to generally highlight which apps are more suitable for which style in the Who’s It For? section of each app – although there’s a lot of crossover! Perhaps try 2Do if you’re more of a classic task manager, it’s customisable to almost any style you can think of but suits classic task management the best.

  • http://www.airwalk-design.com/diy/ Daniel Schwarz

    If these apps are so simple, why are they so expensive for what they are? What do they do that Reminders or Notes doesn’t do? You should change this article to most useless apps ever.

    • Joel Bankhead

      Some of them are pretty detailed and complex, and certainly warrant the higher price tags – especially if they are making you more productive in the long run (and can be written off as a business expense!) Some of the simpler ones need a price tag because they provide cloud sync, which requires that the developer maintain and infrastructure for this throughout the life of the app.

      For many, Reminders will suffice – but these are for people who are looking for a bit more.

  • WildRosie1

    Thank you Joel for helping me make a bewildering decision with so many task management systems to choose from. You have made me think hard about what it is I need to be more productive, I’m going with your suggestion of 2Do, I think your article is well thought out and I like the Who’s it For aspect, much appreciated.

  • Philippe

    Nice review. What might be interesting in this kind of review is to have a comparative table at the end with a recap of the main features, for a quick overview.

    • Joel Bankhead

      I’ll look into it…

  • CJ Dayrit

    Where is Priorities app!??!?!

  • Bobbd

    Yes, where is Priorities? Full featured but simple to use, looks good, universal app, reasonable price, and very responsive developers. And a free version to try. I switched from Todo.

  • http://benjebara.com ben

    You forgot one of the best:
    Doit.im, availble for ipad, iphone, Mac and even as webapp.

    Intuitive, have all the feature mentionned and more like ordring by project, context, contact etc..

    And best of All it’s free

  • Brian Dawson

    Ambitious list Joel, given all the task apps out there.

    My requirements are probably on the extreme, but I needed not only GTD support, but also the ability to do more than just tasks. I just got tired of entering the same information over and over again in multiple apps.

    The one that does the best for me is Lifetopix. Now when I have tasks that are part of a project I’m working on, a trip I’m planning to take, an event I am planning to attend, whatever, all that information is contained in one place. And it’s a universal app so I get free access on my iPhone too. It even has a free desktop client that I use to access the app from my desktop. It’s become indispensable to me.

    • Joel Bankhead

      It was a pretty audacious challenge! I’ll definitely take a look at Lifetopix…

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  • charmian

    Thank you for a great article – it felt as if it was written for me, as I’m looking for a task manager at the moment and reading lots of reviews. Fire Task sounds great to me, unfortunately there is no Windows version, which means, I could only use it on the IPad and the IPhone. I’m just not sure whether that makes sense or not. Any experiences out there with an exclusivly mobile task manager?

    • Joel Bankhead

      I actually tend to only use FireTask on my iPad, and quite enjoy the separation. I just have it next to me when I’m working and use it to organise where I’m going that day.

      • charmian

        Thank you Joel, I’m gonna try it, it was kind of love at first sight, when I saw the interface, so I just hope, it’s gonna keep :-)

  • Daniel Salazar

    I have tested most of these apps.

    2DO is by far a great app, the only limitation is the cross-platform option (mac and web management or sync missing).

    ToDo is my weapon of choice, it does what it does great. The only thing missing in the iOS versions is a calendar view of tasks.

    SpringPad is my favorite note taking app, it does everything and is a cross-platform app.

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  • Tia

    Good selection apps! Personally, I have my iPad all the
    time to manage my iPad task at work. I use Evernote but recently, on the
    Evernote Trunk I discovered Beesy,
    which reinforces my productivity at work
    thanks to the quick note taking but also the import/export of Microsoft docs on
    my iPad and I can follow-up all projects and know where I am.

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