What are some alternatives to OmniFocus

Todoist and Co .: 5 task planners for Mac and iPhone put to the test

The view in Apple's App Store is almost overwhelming: Hardly any other program section is as richly considered as that of the task planner. New versions are added almost every month, often linked to digital notebooks and appointment management. It is difficult to keep an overview - especially since many concepts are the same and it is not easy to estimate the range of functions before downloading or even taking out a paid subscription.

Especially for freelancers and small companies, choosing the right app is not something to be taken lightly: Once you have decided on a specific solution, you are all too quickly determined - because the individual planners are almost never so far from one another compatible so that the projects that have already been created could simply be migrated when changing programs. And adding tasks that have already been completed is more than tolerable by hand.

After the purchase in 2015, Microsoft announced the imminent end of the popular Wunderlist task planner and the integration of the functions into its own to-do app. To this day, however, the latter lags far behind the set goal of replacing the original, despite initially good approaches - and Wunderlist can still be found free of charge and fully operational in the App Store.

The means of choice

Apple provides the Mac, iPhone, iPad and even the Apple Watch with an on-board tool that may be sufficient for many users to organize themselves and for private use: “Reminders”, for example, manages shopping lists and vacation planning perfectly, and is suitable for organizing work-related tasks the small tool, however, only to a very limited extent. This is where more professional solutions come into play: They usually allow the creation of complex projects, including sub-tasks and dedicated scheduling - in the best case, they even allow tasks to be distributed to team members. The transition to highly professional project management software such as Asana and Trello, which are used in larger companies, agencies and editorial offices, is often fluid.

In our comparison we deliberately made a pre-selection for freelancers and small businesses and let the task planners compete against each other, who have proven themselves particularly in the daily work of individual authors and in the task management of the entire editorial team in recent years.

What about Asana and Trello?

The boundaries between reminder apps, task planners and project managers are fluid. Nevertheless, we have deliberately left out highly professional corporate solutions. If, for example, you value graphic project presentations with Gantt charts, there is no way around dedicated solutions such as Asana and Trello - pure to-do planners are quickly overwhelmed with their focus on lists.

In fact, there are still paper-based task planners. One of the most interesting “retro representatives” is the “7Mind Planner”: With it you define your goals according to the omnipresent principle of mindfulness.

You should consider this before buying

  • Hermit or team player? Are you looking for a simple to-do list to help you organize yourself better or for complex task planning in a team? In the second case, you should make sure that you can open projects you have created to colleagues and friends.
  • Apple only or big, wide world? Many of the to-do apps offered in the App Store exclusively serve the Apple ecosystem. What at first glance may seem sufficient for your own application quickly reaches its limits when a few colleagues in the company are on the move with Android devices. In order not to rule out this, make sure that the program variants are compatible in advance.
  • App-only or web? Do you use your task planner in the vast majority of cases with the iPhone and for more extensive administration on the iPad? Then a mobile solution may be sufficient for you. Nevertheless, an additional web interface should not be underestimated: You can call it up with any web browser - even from the Windows computer in the office. And many functions - such as reorganizing tasks - are simply done faster in the web interface.
  • Desktop or web? Do you still prefer desktop programs on Mac to web apps in the browser? Then you should make sure that your favorite task planner has a dedicated Mac app.
  • Buy or subscribe? The subscription model is now common in professional software. To-do app providers also like to bill their server services on a regular basis. If you do not want this, your selection will be reduced. In the App Store, however, there are also some good free alternatives that are primarily aimed at private users.

Concept: which app supports you best?

“Getting Things Done” seems to have been the godfather of almost all to-do lists as a self-organization method: The user enters his or her tasks in the app in order to focus on the current one and to erase the others from memory, at least for a short time .

Todoist and Things, in particular, with their clear structure for working according to the GTD principle are almost imposing: The ideas input is supplemented by a task overview for the current working day and the coming days. In Microsoft To-Do, the view of upcoming tasks is a bit more confusing: The weekly overview that Wunderlist is used to has not made it into the successor so far. The prioritization with stars allows you to concentrate on the essentials - a concept that is unsurpassed to this day.

Any.do takes a slightly different approach: You can display your own schedule views for each project - teams that have to deal with many deadlines benefit from this in particular

Operation: which app offers the best interface?

Minimalism is the connecting link in the design of almost all the surfaces presented - no wonder, after all, as little as possible should distract from concentrating on the tasks.

Any.do takes this approach to extremes: the GUI comes almost Spartan by default in plain black and white - for some this may be too much of a good thing. Todoist is also mercilessly simple and pleasantly clear - the systematically maintained app even supports its user automatically with intelligent appointment suggestions if a deadline threatens to be missed.

The completely redesigned Things is full of good ideas: The omnipresent plus button, for example, allows new tasks and project headings to be created quickly and precisely. Ironically, the Omnifocus, which is concentrated on Apple products, looks a bit old-fashioned in comparison - a detox would do the program good. So far, it has perhaps the steepest learning curve of all programs tested.

Price models: how far can you get without the Pro version?

In conservative economic markets like Germany, software subscriptions are often met with skepticism. Spending money on apps on a regular basis still seems absurd to many users. Nevertheless, in the case of task planners, there are also cloud and service offers that need to be maintained - and that requires regular income. So it is not surprising that with Any.do and Todoist, two providers presented here, can pay for their services on a subscription basis - the costs are per user, which can be particularly expensive for companies. Incidentally, private users and freelancers could already be satisfied with the range of functions of the free versions.

Things and Omnifocus offer their programs in the classic way for a one-off payment. It should be noted, however, that Mac, iPhone and iPad versions need to be paid for separately. Omnifocus in particular has a strong impact here. Only Microsoft has so far been distributing its to-do app free of charge without any restrictions.

Teamwork: Can you share your projects?

Anyone who wants to use the to-do app not only for private organization, but also as a task planner in a team or company, can hardly avoid the possibility of opening projects for colleagues. But the common shopping list for the family also makes sense and spreads the shopping over several shoulders.

At the forefront is once again Todoist, which allows the separate assignment of tasks and sub-tasks to separate employees. Sub-tasks within projects can now also master Microsoft's To-Do, as with Any.do, however, these cannot be freely assigned: So whoever is assigned to a task must also keep an eye on the sub-tasks or distribute them to colleagues as separate tasks - it quickly becomes confusing.
Things and Omnifocus synchronize tasks between Mac, iPad and iPhone, but do not allow sharing in a team. They are therefore primarily suitable for self-organization and for freelancers.

The best task planner: Todoist

It is perhaps the key to success: Todoist's team works all over the world and is therefore dependent on an effective task planner itself. With its extensive management and division of tasks and sub-tasks, the assignment of labels, its filter functions and intelligent appointment proposals, it is logically ahead in the professional field. The productivity karma is also nice: the more hardworking you are, the more points you will receive - that is motivating and fun! The only thing missing is a Gantt chart to open the door to project management.

Things from Stuttgart are also very popular: Elegant and minimalist at the same time, it is probably the most beautiful and clearest app for residents of the Apple universe. Unfortunately, this is where the crux of the matter lies: Without an Android or at least a web version and especially the possibility of inviting colleagues to collaborate on projects, it remains primarily a (very good) self-organization tool. But it could be more.