One of the most common “classic” applications on the Android Market is the to-do list manager. Easy to code and almost universally useful, the to-do list manager is tempting for developer and consumer alike. Unfortunately, there are so many more of these applications than there are good ones, and once you install one, you might find yourself looking for another in short order.
These are the applications currently in the market with more than the bare minimum functionality and good reviews: Astrid, RTM Tasks, TooDo, and 3banana. (Absent from this list is an application called ActionComplete, which sells for $4.99. The description says that it has meticulous attention to detail, but five dollars is too much for any to-do list, meticulous or not.)
I’ll cut to the chase since you’ve got things to do. Astrid is the best to-do list manager available in the market. It’s attractive, intuitive, and it does everything you need it to do without getting in your way. You’ll be happy to hit that little squid icon a dozen times a day.
One of the best features — that I’ve never seen before — is how it checks off a task. When you hit the checkbox, it changes the task font to strikethrough and leaves it there until you exit the application. This is handy because you often hit the wrong task and you don’t want to have to re-enter it. This was a frustration with the built-in to-do lists on Windows Mobile and Palm. Four or five pixels up or down and you’ve got to remember what that task was and type it in again. It’s either gone, or it resides in your gigantic pool of completed tasks.
Astrid also does what you should be able to do with every to-do list manager: open it, type, close it, and it will add a new task. This is what a person does with the vast majority of his or her time with a to-do list and it is appropriately streamlined here.
There are also the requisite features like priority, alarms, recurring tasks, and tags, all of which Astrid does well. I also like the tabbed organization. If a task doesn’t have a due date or an alert, you can ignore those tabs and exit. Saving is always automatic.
Despite its utter dominance of the list-oriented market, I was disappointed by two aspects of the more modern versions of Astrid. Since they came out with the tabs, the application has been a bit slow. Personally, I think speed should be a higher priority than almost any fancy feature for these types of applications. Astrid also claims to synchronize with Remember The Milk, but I couldn’t get it to work, and, judging by the wiki, I wasn’t the only one.
RTM Tasks is a newer entry in the market and has very basic functionality. It is notable because it does, like the name implies, synchronize successfully with Remember The Milk. If you’re a big RTM fan, this might be the one to start with, at least until some others get their acts together. You can always switch later by synchronizing with the new one.
TooDo is notable as the Titanic of to-do list managers for Android. It has a plethora of features and very little intuitiveness. Features like the dashboard, contexts (aren’t categories enough?), smart folders, distance intervals (a Geo-notification setting), and owner (there’s also author) are poorly defined and the interface gives us few hints. There is a setting called “Insistent” with this cryptic explanation: “Should a to-do notification with importance higher than Normal loop for ever?” Difficult to tell what you’re going to be subjected to with that one.
To impress upon you, the sheer number of features it’s offering, TooDo will add a persistent entry in your window shade with the following buttons: “Change,” “On,” “Main Screen,” “Smart Folders,” “Categories,” “Contexts,” “Notes,” “Demo mode,” “Go Lite,” “Sync,” and “Purge,” and, in the bottom left-hand corner, the lowly “Add to-do.”
The dashboard, as it’s called, also includes the message, “Go to the “Settings” for disabling,” which is probably what most users will immediately do.
Where Astrid is clean and clever looking, TooDo has “Animations.” This means that the items in each tab will disappear one by one when you switch to that tab. This little cascade is annoying and does not in any way further the to-do list users primary goal of getting things done. All-in-all, it seems as if the developer believed that this was a race to the record books for number of features, useful or not.
I was also not able to get Remember the Milk synchronization to work.
3banana is not actually a to-do list manager. It is a note taking and sharing application, but I thought it showed a lot of potential. The interface is clean and simple. You can begin typing right away into a dedicated text box at the top, add tags twitter style with the pound sign, and hit save to keep it in your list. You can also use the camera button next to the text box to attach a picture to the entry. The entry and the picture can then be saved and shared on Facebook or Twitter. I wasn’t able to get the synchronization with 3banana.com to work, where all of this social magic is supposed to happen, but if you create an entry on the site, it works fine from there. Once the synchronization starts working, this could become a fun socially-aware way to make lists, in addition to being a usable and fast to-do list manager on its own.