Task management is one of the most saturated app categories on most mobile devices. But in this era of seamless sync and multi-device access, just being a good mobile app doesn’t cut it anymore. Fortunately, the choice in that category is not too slim either.
For more than a few years now, I’ve been a fan of Remember The Milk as my go-to app for managing tasks. After waiting patiently for some meaningful updates, a half-decent web interface and a Windows client, I decided to look for options and came across Todoist, a very old favorite. It was a fledgling app when I had looked at it a few years ago, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it all grown up into a solid contender for the best multi-platform todo app solution.
What followed was a couple months of consistent use on the web, desktop and mobile, a growing respect for how seamless the app works across platforms and a perfectly justified yearly subscription to their premium plan. With a super-snappy web interface that works seamlessly when online or offline, a fully functional Windows app and an actively in-development Android version, the app takes care of all my accessibility needs. But how does the Android app stack up against the seriously tough competition? Let’s find out.
The overall interface of Todoist is pretty standard Android fare. Unlike the desktop clients that more-or-less replicate the user interface of the web app, the Android version takes a slightly different approach and twists things around for a touch-friendly experience.
Once you have logged into the app, your task list is front and center, sorted by due dates and complete with color coded projects, tags and priority markers. Tap a todo item and a horizontal actions panel open up below it that lets you mark it as complete, postpone it, view or add notes or edit it.
To do list for the next 7 days and expanded action bar
To add a task, simply tap the + icon in the top-right corner, enter the task description, due date, project, labels and priority, and hit the check mark at the top-right. If you are using the free plan of the web app, you will need to manually sync your data every time you make any changes. You can also set a time along with the due date, but it doesn’t have any function unless you are subscribed to the premium plan of the web app which includes support for notifications on Android.
Another neat addition is the ability to use natural language when setting due dates – so along with the usual stuff like today and tomorrow, “every sun” will set it as a repeating task for every sunday, “every 2″ will set a monthly repeating task for the 2nd of every month and “every 2 mar” will set a yearly repeating task.
Adding a task with natural language due date input
Swiping the list to the right reveals the left panel that contains all your projects as well as the “Today” and “Next 7 Days” lists. Hit the Manage Projects link at the bottom to be able to edit or rearrange projects either as a flat list or as a nested list with sub-projects.
The left pane with the project editing interface
Like I mentioned at the beginning, I decided to go for the premium subscription with the Todoist web app which costs $29 per year and – among other things – makes the experience on Android a hundred times better. You get automatic sync, notifications for tasks with a due time, the ability to add notes and attachments to tasks, labels, customizable filters and plain text search.
I know, it might sound like a lot of this is available for free in dozens of other apps already, so why go for premium!? For me, the choice was less about the mobile experience and more about the desktop and web apps which I use way more. The unlocked features in the mobile version are just an added bonus, but ones that make the app so much more usable.
Not Without Shortcomings
As with most apps, Todoist for Android is not without its shortcomings – the biggest of them being the lack of a homescreen widget. For reasons unknown, this staple feature for Android apps has yet to make the cut to the app. The app itself is pretty snappy though, and loads up almost instantaneously making it a little less frustrating having to open it up every time I want to see my tasks for the day.
The other major omission is the way sub-tasks are handled in the app. You can’t see sub-tasks for a todo item directly in the Today or This week views. You need to go to the project to actually see the full hierarchy. When you are adding a new task, there is a setting to define the hierarchy level of the task, but there is no indication of which task this will be a subset of. By default, it just goes and sits under whatever is the last todo item in that list.
Nested tasks and sub-tasks
Lastly, a minor issue I have with the app is the fact that it takes two taps to check off a todo item. You tap an item to open its actions panel and then hit Complete to strike it off. I know a lot of apps do this now, but a gesture to quickly get rid of done tasks would be a great addition.
As you have probably already guessed, I now use Todoist as my primary task management platform across the desktop, web and mobile. This is not so much for the Android app experience, though. There are a few gaping holes in the app as it is, including some that don’t get filled even if you are a premium subscriber.
If you are not sold on the entire Todoist ecosystem, this is probably not the app for you. The lack of a homescreen widget may be a deal breaker for some and if you rely on nested lists as a way to organize things you are in for a lot of frustration. They don’t matter as much in my workflow though, and for that reason I’m satisfied with what I have, given that I use the app more on my desktop to manage day-to-day work than anything else. On the brighter side, the development on the app is pretty active and features are being added regularly, so if it doesn’t work for you at the moment, you might want to put it on your watchlist and come back to it later to see if things are falling in place.