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Mobile App Review: To-Do Lists (Grocery List Style)
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Mobile App Review: To-Do Lists (Grocery List Style) - Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: To-Do Lists (Grocery List Style)

Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: To-Do Lists (Grocery List Style)

Before there were smartphones, there were personal digital assistants, whose primary function, in addition to super-low-res photos of lunch, was keeping us organized and productive wherever we happened to be. Built-in to-do list functionality got more and more elaborate, and when the smartphone came along, it was a natural draw for get-it-done types who were already used to carrying these cigarette-box-shaped electronic gadgets around.

This is why app searches for “to do lists” return more apps than can possibly be explored in one lifetime. It’s mostly a good thing, since each of us has a different style which works best for us in getting things done and keeping organized. No matter our preferences or styles, something out there is going to work best for us.

Still, systems need tweaking (or complete reconstruction) once in a while, so it’s not a bad idea to revisit some of the tools at our disposal. When it comes to to-do list apps, there are several formats of varying levels of sophistication, from simple grocery-list styles to elaborate calendars with priority labelling, tagging, and multi-device synching. For starters, we’ll take a look at grocery-list style apps.

Sometimes, no matter what our existing organizational system, we need a separate list that functions outside our normal routine of planning and getting things done. We might remember that there’s a special activity at work Thursday, but need a little sublist of things to remember on Thursday morning before we go in. Some of us simply keep a running list of things to do, without separate levels for blocks of time and project priorities. The grocery list app works well for this, and for many of us, the simpler the functionality the better.

For simple list management, we’ve been fond of an app called Clear since about five years ago. Clear presents your to-dos in an attractive yellow-to-red scheme, with red at the top of the list and yellow at the bottom, and shades of reddish yellow in between. Your list items can be moved up and down on the spectrum based on how important they are (if you want!), or you can just leave everything in whatever order you type them. A swipe left to indicate “done” quickly deletes the item from your list. Pinching on the list moves you up one level so that (if you want!) you can have a list of lists. For simple, unprioritized, unscheduled task management, such as packing for a trip, or shopping for groceries, its simplicity and user friendliness are difficult to beat.

Similarly, MinimaList simply presents your to-dos, with simple swiping gestures to indicate completion or to delete items from the list. Its one little extra trick is something called “focus mode,” which lets you set a timer (for 5, 25, or 50 minutes) for focusing on a particular task. In focus mode, you can turn on canned ambient sounds from a small menu of choices: a cracking fire, a ticking clock, a babbling brook, or birdcalls in a forest. Upon the timer’s completion, the app makes an alert sound, asking you if you want to continue in focus mode or if you’ve completed the task. Affirming that the task is done takes you back to your list with the focused task crossed off.

If you’re fond of those doughnut-shaped progress circles common in fitness tracking apps, and if you like to work on multiple lists at once (say, a fitness to-do list, a work to-do list, and a home to-do list), you might like List Ninja, which stores your lists in one area, but lets you add in-progress lists to the front page (the “list bucket”), where the completion doughnuts give you status reports on the percentage of completion of each list and a number of tasks completed and remaining. The learning curve is surprisingly steep with List Ninja, but the functionality is impressive without being overwhelming, once you get the hang of the basics. You’ll want to spring for the $1.99 in-app purchase to turn off the ads, which are especially invasive, if you plan to use this more than one day.

Jamie’s List is another multi-list manager, this one looking kind of like a notebook, with customizable tabs for work, home, reminders, and other (for example). Each list item can be elaborated with details, and each list can be ordered with simple drag-and-drop gestures. It’s visually a very cute app and very easy to use. The tabbed organizational structure works great and feels a lot less abstract than Clear’s nested lists.

We’ve been fans of Remember the Milk since we got our first iPhone 1, and the app continues to add functionality and user friendliness. Its biggest appeal is its web interface, which allows for planning in front of a computer and execution on the go. RTM has so much functionality that it can be overwhelming for the new user, but at its basic (free) level, it’s simply a multi-list manager with little features for each list item, including due dates, daily repeating, alerts, tagging, and locations. If you’re willing to pay $40 per year, you unlock nested lists, unlimited list sharing, file attachments, Outlook synching, customizable tag colors, more than a hundred themes, and lost of other interesting functions. It’s much more like a personal scheduler than a simple list manager, but it works really well as a list manager, even in free mode, if you like your lists with a bit more customization.

As you can see, there’s enormous variety even in this little subgroup of to-do list management. Choosing a new one can be a pain, but the work pays off, hopefully, in a daily companion that does what you need it to do. We recommend downloading a few at a time and trying them out for a week or two each before deciding how each works and doesn’t work for you, then keep looking until you find exactly what you’re looking for! We’re confident that the apps listed here are all good places to start, ‘though Remember the Milk may be best saved for after you’ve played around with the others. Good luck, and jappy listing!


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Mobile App Review: To-Do Lists (Grocery List Style) - Executive Leadership Articles

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