In recent years, several web-based applications have helped people increase the organization and productivity of a standard paper task list. Increasingly, these simple task list apps have given way to comprehensive task management platforms, which offer enhanced collaboration and automation features, as well as features like real-time sync and integrations.
In this article, we’ll highlight the key features of both successful task list and task management apps, compare the leading options, and show you how to maximize efficiency with one cloud-based app, Smartsheet.
What Is Task List vs. Task Management Software?
There are two main categories of web-based task applications: task lists and task management software. While the two have distinctly different capabilities, both serve a similar end-goal: to help you organize and complete your tasks. These web-based tools also increase access and visibility into the work to be done, which makes it easier to stay on top of your tasks. In essence, both task list and task management apps are more powerful, less cumbersome versions of a paper task list and are designed to help you maximize efficiency.
Task list apps are primarily used to record and organize tasks. Most task list apps allow you to create lists under different categories, like work or personal. Task list apps are designed to improve productivity by helping you stay organized, but do not have the functionality to manage long-term projects (such as prioritization or mapping features). Therefore, task list apps work best as personal checklists or for managing short-term, discrete projects with few moving parts.
A task management app is a more powerful, comprehensive version of a simple task list app. Most tools offer increased functionality in the following areas:
- Collaboration: Sharing and editing capabilities are handy for projects with multiple participants. Additionally, some tools let you assign items to team members so task ownership is clearly defined.
- Visualization: Rather than a standard formatted list, many tools have different displays (timeline, project mapping, etc.) so you can visualize work in the way that works best for you.
- Automation: Instead of relying on manual updates, automation features like alerts, reminders, or conditional formatting help ensure that all tasks are completed on time.
- Prioritization: Some tools allow you to create subtasks or hierarchy among tasks, which can help you prioritize or identify at-risk tasks.
These additional capabilities make task management tools ideal for complex, long-term projects. While a simple task list can help you organize tasks, a task management tool is a more robust option that will keep you on track over time - this is especially effective for projects with multiple stakeholders, or if you need a visual way to organize project information.
Key Features of A Successful Task App
There are several factors to consider when selecting a task app for your project. However, regardless of the type of tool you choose, you should focus on usability. Employees won’t utilize the tool if it’s difficult to use, so keep your team’s specific skills and needs in mind when selecting an app.
Of course, many task apps offer more sophisticated features that will help make your project successful. Here’s a list of some common features to consider when selecting a tool:
- Set alerts/reminders: Automatic alerts and reminders ensure that no task gets overlooked.
- Cloud-based tool: Not only do cloud-based tools give you anytime, anywhere access, but you can sync data between multiple devices to stay updated on your list(s) from any device.
- Sharing and collaboration: For projects with multiple stakeholders, choose an app with sharing capabilities. Additionally, look for tools with multiple sharing permission levels so you can control who is editing or viewing your lists.
- Integrations: Several task tools integrate with other widely-used apps such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Syncing information between apps reduces setup time and allows you to access and surface underlying data stored in other programs.
- Mobile app: If you intend to access your lists from mobile, look for a tool with a strong mobile app. Web-only tools can feel cumbersome and reduce visibility when working on smaller devices.
- Subtasks: Create hierarchy to identify relationships among tasks. This can be helpful for assigning priority to tasks, which will make your processes more efficient.
- Game features: Some tools game-ify your task list to reward you each time you check something off. This adds a fun incentive to accomplishing your work on time.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the sheer number of features. Drill down into the specific requirements and challenges of your project and select the tool that meets these needs. To aid your selection process, we’ve highlighted a handful of the most popular tools in the following sectio
Common Task List and Management Tools
Below is a list of some of the most common task list and task management apps. Read about the specific features of each, and use the side-by-side features comparison chart to choose the tool that’s right for you.
Todoist is a leading cloud-based task management platform. The free version has extensions for 10+ platforms including web, iOS, and Android systems, and allows you to share your task lists with an infinite number of collaborators. Additionally, the streamlined, intuitive design simplifies your organizational efforts and includes a game aspect for snoozed or completed tasks. Plus, enjoy over a dozen additional features like subtasks and sub-projects, due and recurring dates, natural language interpretation, and real-time sync between all your devices. Todoist’s Premium version also grants you access to comments, reminders, and labels and filters.
Wunderlist is another free, robust task management program. Like Todoist, it offers unlimited collaboration and anytime, anywhere access via 10 different platforms. In Wunderlist, you can add due dates and reminders, assign to-dos to stakeholders, and add notes or hashtags to contextualize your tasks. Additionally, forward emails or send a webpage directly to Wunderlist and incorporate them into your lists. The layout of this app is best for storing many discrete to-do lists (rather than planning for a complex project) - but you can create folders to organize your lists by category.
Any.do, also free, is a comprehensive task management app that can be used for projects of any size, from personal checklists to large-scale company projects. Share your lists with collaborators across 5 different platforms for web and mobile, assign due dates, and attach documents directly to your task lists. Any.do also offers enhanced collaboration features such as in-app conversations to aid online teamwork. Additionally, daily Moments give you a snapshot view of your incomplete tasks so you can prioritize your outstanding work on the go. However, Any.do does not offer any integrations, so all information stored in Any.do will live exclusively in the app.
Google Keep is a note-taking service where you can create task lists, capture thoughts, and save audio or video clips. This is a useful, intuitive way to store and organize your tasks on the go. Set time or location-based reminders to pull up tasks related to a specific time or place, and share your notes with collaborators. As you check items off, your lists will update across devices in real-time so that all stakeholders and platform versions are up to date. Additionally, Google Keep’s powerful search function makes it easy to pull up a stored task so you don’t lose time digging through your lists.
Smartsheet is a work management platform, but you can also use this cloud-based app to create task lists for a project of any size or scope. The web and mobile-ready apps come with several pre-built task list templates, or you can build your own from a blank sheet. Create due dates, assign tasks to an infinite number of collaborators, set automatic alerts and reminders, and attach relevant documentation to rows in your sheet. Additionally, request updates by sending individual rows to team members, and enable conditional formatting to identify at-risk tasks. Smartsheet also offers four intuitive, flexible view types (Grid, Gantt, Calendar, and Card), and you can easily pivot among the views to visualize your tasks in the way the works for you. Finally, Smartsheet integrates with several other web apps such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box, so you can sync data across platforms.
Use this features matrix to identify the task app that’s best for you:
Create a Robust Task Management System with Smartsheet
Smartsheet is a work management and automation platform with powerful collaboration features. You can use Smartsheet as a task management platform to manage every aspect of your task lifecycle, from scheduling and assigning ownership to high-level visual tracking.
Choose from one of several pre-built templates to get started - Smartsheet offers everything from simple project task lists to more sophisticated options with priority, progress, and budget tracking features. Assign tasks to team members, set due dates, and create automatic reminders to track all aspects of your tasks. See relationships among tasks by creating hierarchy, and identify dependencies by enabling critical path in the built-in Gantt View. Additionally, attach any relevant documentation directly to the rows in your sheet to store all project information in one place. Then, share your sheet with other stakeholders for easy collaboration and to keep everyone up to date on task status.
Event Task List with Gantt & Budget
Smartsheet’s multiple flexible and easy-to-use interfaces - Gantt, Calendar, Card, and traditional Grid Views- enable you to visualize your tasks in the way that works for you. Card View can be particularly useful for task management: create a card for each new task and use custom fields to further categorize each item. Smartsheet’s unique pivot function in Card View also allows you to view the information on your task board multiple ways. Additionally, you can easily switch between view types without altering any data in the sheet. This flexibility makes it easy for team members to view work in the way that makes sense for them, while simultaneously acting as an information hub.
Gain visibility and insight into your tasks with Smartsheet.