If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried pretty much every single todo list app on the Android Market. Even the ten new ones that cropped up just last week! And yet nothing seems to work exactly the way you want, right? This was my story until very recently, when I found an answer the second time over.
For years, I scoured the web for a decent task management web app that worked the way I did, and I finally settled on Remember The Milk. As it turns out, it was the Android version that finally ended my search on the mobile.
Remember The Milk has been around for a very long time, so the funny name shouldn’t really raise too many giggles. In fact, the web interface does show the app’s age when it simply doesn’t compare with its much younger and sexier competitors like Wunderlist and Flow. The story was similar with the mobile app until a couple weeks ago, when it went through a major overhaul.
The Remember The Milk dashboard
Feature #1: Smart Add
The one thing that has kept me coming back to Remember The Milk on the web (in spite of its drawbacks) is the Smart Add feature. You know how you typically add a task, then click a calendar to select a due date, choose a category from a drop-down list, and so on? Turns out it’s just way too much work.
With Smart Add, you can do all of that – due date & time, category, tag, set repetition, assign a location and time estimate – right there in the task description. Now get used to this and try going back to the other methods, and I’ll bow to you every time you add a task! The way it works is you append the specific details to special characters that are associated with each piece of metadata – like # for categories and tags, and ! for priority.
The mobile version of Remember The Milk doesn’t just include the smart-add functionality, it actually makes it even more usable. When you start adding a task, there are six icons placed just below the input field. Once you are done typing in your description, tapping an icon adds the related character and you can continue typing to add the specific details. To take it even further, you get contextual autocomplete that gives you possible entries based on what you’re trying to add.
The icing on the cake is that you don’t need to follow any rules when adding due dates or repeat intervals: today, tomorrow, next Tuesday or even 10 days works for the due date, and every day, every month, weekday or even every month on the 10th works for repeat intervals.
Before you start thinking of the app as a one-trick pony based on my ramblings above, let me quickly move on to what else it can do. The app’s dashboard gives you quick access to all your tasks due today, tomorrow and this week, as well as your lists, tags and locations. The first three are pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll quickly jump to the remaining options. Lists are like projects in a typical GTD workflow. Tags are a second level of categorization and work like Gmail’s labels.
Locations refers to the app’s ability to associate tasks with certain locations. Tap the Locations icon on the dashboard, then hit “Nearby” and the app will show a list of all your tasks associated with your current location. You can set the distance threshold for these, as well as set a location alert than continuously checks to see if you are around where a task is due.
Once you are inside a list of tasks, you can either edit them individually by swiping across an item and then checking it off, postponing, editing or deleting it. The option to postpone is something I haven’t seen in too many other apps, which is surprising because it makes a lot of sense. The app keeps track of how many times you postpone a task and you can search for tasks that have are being postponed often to get a feel of the things you are most procrastinating with. You can also select multiple items and check them off or edit them all at the same time.
The task list and swipe-to-edit in action
At the top of the interface you have three icons to sync, search or add tasks. If you are a Pro user – a very reasonable $25 per year – you get push sync every time you make a change. For others, you can sync your tasks once every 24 hours. The search function is again pretty powerful and lets you narrow down to exactly what you want using a whole bunch of search modifiers. A search results list can be converted to a Smart List, which is like having a live category of items that always matches those search criteria.
The app also comes with some pretty nice integration with the Android OS. Apart from a usual task list widget for the homescreen, you get badges that are like icons on the homescreen for any of your lists but with a live count of all due tasks within that list. There is also a badge widget for Smart Add. Remember The Milk also integrates nicely with the OS by adding itself to the global sharing list. Came across a website you want to check out later, share it with Remember The Milk and it takes you to the Smart Add box with the URL already added in.
Not everything about the app is a winner, though. You cannot set alarms for individual tasks, for example. Sure, you can enable a global setting from the web app to go off at a certain time before each task with a due time, but that can’t be enabled or disabled for individual items.
Also, assigning tasks to a location is also not as seamless as one would like it to be. You need to add a location before you can assign it to a task, which feels very counterintuitive given how everything else can be done directly from the Smart Add text field.
The issues don’t even come close to negating the sheer power of the app, though. All in all, the latest version of Remember The Milk for Android is as solid a task management app as you can get in the Android Market. And with the legacy behind its web version and a very active development team, things are set to only get better.