Todoist vs Trello vs Wunderlist for managing small tasks

Since moving from Outlook (Exchange) to eM Client (Google) a few weeks ago I have needed to find a suitable task management application to replace Outlook’s excellent task tool. I’ve found a really nice application in Todoist.

I used Outlook tasks a lot on both my desktop PC and my mobile phone (Windows Mobile then Android), so my requirements were:

  • Must be cloud based.
  • Must sync quickly between mobile and desktop.
  • Must have a native app for both Android and Windows 8.
  • Must be able to handle multiple contexts/projects.
  • Must be affordable.
  • Should have a usable Android widget to both add new tasks and view a particular context/project.

Wunderlist

Wunderlist interface has a brown, wood-effect background with two columns: contexts on the left, tasks on the right.
Wunderlist (Windows 8 modern UI app) is really pretty.

The first application that I consider was Wunderlist which I had trialled a few years ago before moving to Exchange. I thought it was time to give it another go.

I migrated my tasks into Wunderlist and used it for a few days.

I really love the aesthetics of Wunderlist. It looks uncluttered and simple, and I selected a rich wood-effect background to complement the dark grey wood wallpaper both my PC and smartphone.

Following the GTD methodology, I was able to create multiple contexts (e.g. computer, desk, finance, garden, home, shopping, etc.). Moving tasks from one context to another is as simple as dragging and dropping tasks. Further details can be added to individual tasks (due date, reminders, subtasks and notes).

I really liked the ability to star important or favourite items, and to view all tasks, grouped by context in the order shown on the left-hand sidebar.

Wunderlist was looking promising, and I probably would have continued to use it had it not been for two issues.

The first issue I had was more of a niggle: the Android widget it really fiddly to use. I love that you can scroll left and right between contexts but I found with my not-too-enormous fingers that I had to jab at the screen four or five times to hit the sweet spot before it moved.

The second is a known problem: there are sync issues between Wunderlist 2 and 3. The web interface and Android both use the newer version 3, the Windows 7 application uses version 2. When I used both in conjunction I discovered discrepancies in my data.

I didn’t want to use the Windows 8 modern UI app or have to access my lists through Chrome, and the niggle with the Android widget was enough to get me looking elsewhere.

Trello

Trello uses the model of cards pinned to lists.
Trello uses the model of cards pinned to lists.

I’ve long been a fan of Trello from Fog Creek Software. We use it extensively at work, and I use it to manage all my personal projects. So I quickly migrated my tasks from Wunderlist to Trello and used it for a few days.

As much as I love Trello for managing larger projects I didn’t really warm to it as a simply list/task application.

Contrary to my experience with Wunderlist, I was quite happy to use the web interface but then that’s how I have used it for the last few years. The Android app is great and improves with each release.

The Android widget didn’t give me the information that I needed, though: it isn’t granular enough for my requirements. All it offers is a list of cards assigned to me, optionally grouped by due date. The problem here is that it lists EVERY single card assigned to me, starting with those cards that are dated in the past. Right now that is 461 cards. All I wanted to see was all the cards within a particular board, or even better within a particular list on one particular board.

Todoist

Todoist interface has two columns: list of contexts or projects on the left, checkbox list of tasks within that project on the right.
Todoist has a very clean interface.

That was when I discovered Todoist which appears to be available for just about everything: web, Android, iOS, Windows, Mac OS, web, Outlook, Thunderbird, Gmail and Postbox. I’d love to see a plugin for eM Client—that would make my productivity life complete!

Todoist has a very minimalist and uncluttered look. On the left are your contexts, which Todoist calls Projects. It also offers labels and filters, but I don’t use either.

For the third time in a week I migrated all my tasks to yet another application. But this time they’ve stayed there… the ones that I’ve not checked off.

Todoist has met all my requirements. It is cloud-based, the Windows and Android apps work beautifully, I can add multiple contexts/projects, can easily drag and drop items from one list to another.

The Android widget does exactly what I need as doesn’t suffer from the same navigation issues that I experienced with Wunderlist. I’ve found that I use that a lot now, and the big plus (+) in the top-right corner of the widget allows me to add tasks quickly to any of my existing lists, and assign a due date too if I need.

The only thing that I miss from Wunderlist is the ability to view all tasks in one long list, [see correction below] but something that I found myself using much more than I ever did with Wunderlist is scheduling tasks. This is probably because Todoist offers two new views: ‘Today‘ and ‘Next 7 days’. (A perfect example of how user interfaces can affect user behaviour.)

CORRECTION: I’ve discovered a “View all” option listed under Filters. This lists all tasks by project. I wish there was a shortcut for this at the top of the application.

What is quite fun too is that Todoist shows your productivity trend and gives you points (which it calls ‘Todoist Karma‘), which I guess is there to help motivate you.

Graph and bar chart showing my productivity trend for the last seven days.
My productivity trend for the last seven days.

When you tick off items your points go up, when you don’t your points down.

I’ll definitely be sticking with Todoist for the foreseeable future, and I may even buy the upgrade to Todoist Premium which is a snip at GBP £18.00 per year, which gives you more project and label colours, task notes and file uploads, reminders, iCalendar feeds, etc.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 46 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Currently on sabbatical. I am a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir.

29 thoughts on “Todoist vs Trello vs Wunderlist for managing small tasks”

  1. Thanks for this article Gareth. I just got a smartphone and I was looking for a good task management tool. I haven’t tried Wunderlist, but I definitely agree with you on two points: Todoist is great for scheduling tasks quickly in a clean interface, and Trello is better suited for managing larger projects.

    One thing I would add is that Sunrise calendar recently integrated both of these apps into its system. That way, I can see what tasks I have scheduled for today (from both Todoist and Trello, labeled) against a list of events in my agenda from Google Calendar. For those of you who find yourself using Google Calendar, Trello, and Todoist on a regular basis like I do, I highly recommend Sunrise calendar (www.sunrise.am). Aside from a web app, it’s downloadable for Android and iOS.

    Hope this helps!

    1. Gareth J M Saunders, thanks for this great information.

      Aldric, thanks for you comment “I definitely agree with you on two points: Todoist is great for scheduling tasks quickly in a clean interface, and Trello is better suited for managing larger projects.”

      Regards

    1. Hi Domenico, I’m glad that I got the images fixed on that article just in time for you to read it; if you’ve not already seen I am reorganising my blog images after years of neglect and upgrades all the way back to WordPress 0.7!

      Three months after writing that article I am using Todoist even more and finding it incredibly helpful. My only niggle is that I wish that “View all” was one of the quick links at the top alongside Inbox, Today and Next 7 days. Or indeed, if you could customise that list. The mobile widget remains as useful and simple to use as it ever was.

      Thanks for your feedback, I’m glad my write up was useful.

  2. hi,
    check out todoport.com to quickly export your todo’s between various apps like todoist and wunderlist and trello. I came across it recently and is a real time saver.

    Michael

  3. Terrific article – esp for those of us who haven’t the disposition and/or discipline needed for the feet-on-the-ground comparison you have done. Many thanks, Gareth!

  4. I downloaded trials of both Wunderlist and ToDoisst to my pc and tried them. I feel wunderlist offers more features than todoist as free version, most importantly the reminder.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Chris. I really like Wunderlist and have tried it off and on for the last few years. No doubt when my subscription for Todoist comes up for renewal I’ll give it another go, but for now and for my requirements I’m sticking with Todoist. It would be a dull world if we were all the same. 🙂

    2. True, Wunderlist does have features such as notes and reminders and certain types of files whereas [EDIT] Todoist doesn’t have reminders, notes, and certain file type attachments in the FREE VERSION. It of course has these in the premium version [END EDIT]. But overall I think that Todoist is the better choice. Even as a free version, thought I have recently upgraded to the inexpensive premium version and it is absolutely wonderful. Here’s why I think that:

      Todoist has more features than Wunderlist even despite the recent update with added folders. Todoist has a few different reminders: before the event, at a certain date and time, and most notably, location reminders.

      In addition, Wunderlist has a strange tagging system based on hashtags which makes it difficult to remember which ones you have used. Todoist has tags (dubbed “labels”) in a nice cohesive list.

      Furthermore, you can have multiple levels of organization in Todoist: Projects with four sub-levels, tasks with four sub-levels of tasks, notes, labels AND filters. With Wunderlist you only get a few: folders, sub-lists, tasks, sub-tasks (only one level), hashtags, no filters.

      In addition, Todoist is just plain easier to navigate in my opinion. Recent updates with Wunderlist has made me realize that they are meshing up the usually beautiful design with too much clutter and poor implementation of Material Design on Android (the floating action button for example is awkwardly in the middle, when it should be on the bottom right).

      Calendar integration is another thing to consider. Wunderlist recently created the possibility to hook it up to Google calendar but it is a manual process of getting the two hooked up. Todoist integrates into Sunrise which makes the process much more fluid.

      One of my favorite features of Todoist is how well it integrates with Gmail. The Chrome extension for Todoist creates a little button right there within gmail so if you have an email that you would like to respond to but want to be reminded to do it on some other day, just click on the Todoist button and set it. Once you do this, you can archive and achieve inbox zero easier without having emails hanging around waiting for you to act on them, instead they are where they should be: in a quality task manager. The task created links to that particular gmail, so when you click on it, it’ll take you to the web browser to view it. Wonderful! I used send emails to Trello or Evernote but then I’d have to go back and search in my gmail for it again if it was something that I wanted to respond to. No longer, this method with Todoist is much more streamlined and just the thing I’ve been looking for. I think that the Chrome extension for Wunderlist only lets you see your tasks alongside Gmail and Gcal.

      It’s okay if you end up choosing Wunderlist over Todoist just because of the differences in the free versions…but at some point it’s worth investing in products that will make your life easier. You wouldn’t use a rock to write with when you could buy an affordable pen would you? (; (maybe that was a poor analogy…oh well.)

      This is coming from someone (me) who’s tried going back and forth between all of these services and have, like Gareth, finally succumbed to Todoist. It is just beautiful and really gets out of your way, it works the way you want it to instead of forcing you into their vision. I just love it, it’s truly great.

      Anyways, that’s my two cents 🙂

      1. Thanks for your considered thoughts and reflections on your experiences of using both Wunderlist and Todoist, Kim. Much appreciated.

        I edited your comment a little to reflect the corrections you left in a subsequent comment. I felt that would represent your original thoughts better than expecting other readers to have to go back and revise what you’d said. I hope you don’t mind and that I’ve made that clear enough.

  5. Thx a lot for the article. I was looking for a quick update on the three tools before maybe deciding whether I should move back to wunderlist (currently using todoist).
    I saw you mentioned to excellent gmail integration. Just as a small tip, I found a mail client for mobile (android and ios) called CloudMagic, which also allows you to create ‘cards’ (a description for an integration with other cloud services), so I can easily transfer a mail to a todoist task, or an evernote document, or,…. Very useful on the go.

  6. I can’t explain why I like Todoist better than Wunderlist. I was a Wunderlist guy for a long time. I like the ability to pull up my list from anywhere, but both do that. So maybe it is just (Todist)Karma. Good article….Dave

  7. I’m a big fan of To-doist. My favourite thing about it is being able to share in colleagues or employees on each project and easily assign tasks to them.

    You can add the due date with reminders along with any notes about the task, including links out to a client site or any references out there on the web.

    Still keen to try out Trello though 🙂

  8. I am a Wunderlist User and use it together with my staff. The only thing I miss in Wunderlist is a flexible snooze feature. So if I have a task reminder I would be able to snooze for 1 hour, 3 hours, 1 day …..

    I tried the paid version of Todoist but cancelled my subscription due to a few reasons but only one which was a major one for me.
    Font size on my iPhone. There is no way to increase it. And that is a no go for me. My eyesight isn’t the best and their font size is ridiculous small for me. Wunderlist font sizes are easily readable for me.

    I had that issue unfortunately with most task managers I tried.

  9. Used all the three tools you have mentioned in your article but to me proofhub’s UI seems to be much intuitive. I think you must check out this tool for your projects as well.

  10. I agree with people that state that free version of wunderlist offer more features that todoist.

    Appart of that, #todoist has added some “features” that are annoying me now and forcing me to change back to wunderlist.

    BTW I have noticed that wunderlist is more appealing to other people new to GTD apps, so if you work in a team you have to stick to the decision of the group 🙁

    It is a pitty because I liked the Karma score and I am a premium #todoist user.

  11. Hi.
    As a GTD user, for me labels/tags are “a must”.
    The use of #hashtags in Wunderlist are far to simple. Giving no easy way to overview & edit them.
    In Todoist that is done great.
    And the filters in Todoist is very powerful.
    I haven’t seen that in any task management system.

    And as written above, the implementation of the Todoist button directly inside gmail makes wonder. Finding an email you need to respond to later, is easily made to a task for Todoist with the button within gmail.

    As as mentioned above, Sunrise calendar gives you an easy view over your gmail calendar, your Todoist scheduled tasks (with a reminder set), & even your Evernote reminders (+ many more systems if you prefer like Wunderlist ).
    Now Microsoft has bought Sunrise & is said to close it down, but I think it will take some time. They will implement the same features in the Outlook app.
    So meanwhile I’m using the Sunrise calendar.

    These 4 systems makes wonders for my GTD work. Gmail, Evernote, Todoist & Sunrise.

  12. I have tried the paid version of ToDoist twice now. The first time was 2 years ago. I always go back to the free version of Wunderlist. The price is not an issue for me. I would gladly pay the $30 a year for ToDoist if I found it to be better. For an app that I’m spending some time in every day, I find the Wunderlist interface much more pleasant visually and the tagging system in Wunderlist is something I’ve mastered. I have a list of hastags that I keep for reference. Foe every task I know i have to assign three tags, where, when, and priority. I can also easily put a link to a note in my Evernote into any task if needed, which I like because I use Evernote a lot.

  13. Hi Gareth,
    Thanks for this. I’ve really contemplating wunderlist vs my long love for trello.

    I’ve found an awesome concept that I believe you’ll love as well. I to and a GTDist but there was a gap for me in the doing part. Execution is difficult for a pro-procrastinator. I added Pomodoro technique to the GTD mix and my life changed.

    In short, Trello is for bigger projects combined with pomodoro technique to get performance. There are many app, but I love Pomotodo (Windows, Web, android and iOS) *disclaimer: there are some sync errors. Which I put up with.*

    Great work.

  14. Hello,
    I was using Wunderlist and partially google Tasks. Im not in a position to migrate all my tasks into one tool. I was doing some googling and research and found Trello, TickTick, Todoist & Wunderlist. Im trying to decide between all of them but as i understood Trello is for a bigger projects. So my candidates are Wunderlist, Todoist and TickTick. Have you guys tried TickTick?

    Thank you

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