Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Simple, easy and light todo list apps

Managing to-do lists is an essential piece of your personal organization. You can either (or both) create and use lists on your computer (online services or standalone applications) or with the most simple and portable setup ever: pen and pencil.

There are many to-do list applications available, providing different feature lists.You may find the to-do list function included in more complex programs, such as full-featured organizers, but sometimes it's preferable to use a fast-loading, focused tool to quickly access your task lists.
These are a few applications of this kind I have tried and found to be useful. There are also online services to create and manage your to-do lists (see the sidebar and the bottom of this post.)

is a rare form of task management tool, one that allows you to repeatedly sub-divide your tasks into more manageable pieces whilst still presenting a clean and intuitive user experience.
Main Features of ToDoList:
  • Simple interface
  • Freeware
  • Support for hierarchical data. The number of items/subitems is limited only by memory (although performance may be the deciding factor before you exhaust memory).
  • Marking a parent item as 'done' will also gray-out child items, but they are not disabled or automatically marked as 'done'.
  • Top-level items and sub-items are created using different toolbar buttons. An ellipsis (...) indicates that an item has sub-items. All items can be expanded or collapsed (by double-clicking).
  • There are task-specific context-menus.
  • The tasklist is automatically saved when closing the software or minimizing it to the system tray. The previously open tasklists are re-opened on startup.

Smart To-Do List
Recently it has come to my attention a very fast and unobstrusive program called Smart To-Do List. You can run it in portable mode from a usb flash drive (also meaning that you don't need to install it and clutter your windows registry) and it's very lightweight yet still well focused on managing to-do lists. You get a project list (you can use templates for similar projects) and within each project you add tasks as you need.
Tasks can be associated to different tags (which you can use as contexts) and a degree of priority can be assigned to each. Then, you can customize the display by context or by priority... The data can be exported as html or xml. Although this application is intentionally limited, it does its job quite well. And as you can resize its window to a rather small size and yet access all its functions, it comes very handy to quickly add tasks to whatever projects you are involved with.

As it happens with many productivity tools and services, Smart to-do list is available both in a free and paid version, the second one without the limitations of the first, obviously.

To-Do Desklist and Swift To-Do List
To-Do Desklist
is another simple, nice looking and easy-to-use tool with good interface and good features:
  • You can place To-Do notes directly on your desktop, assigning priority levels to to-dos.
  • All to-dos can have a reminder to a specific date and time.
  • Hotkeys for adding a new to-do and displaying all to-do notes in front of other windows
  • Sorting To-Do Notes by priority or by date
  • You can add an alarm to an item
  • Desklist also allows you to assign priority and add extended notes to tasks.
It's freeware for Windows only.They have a more feature-rich program called Swift To-do.
Swift to-do, again, has a free and a paid version.
An online version of the program exists and you can even try it out on your browser as a demo.

Online services
For a comprehensive list of online todo list services, check out the following articles:Distraction Free GTD: 32 Todo List Web Applications Online todo lists compared
do also check the sidebar of GTDrawings, where we list several online to-do lists.


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I conceived this blog basically to share my visual side notes of the Getting things done process. My most recent posts about GTD software and related topics have “masked” the original posts.

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Here's a miniature with most of my sketches: this is what you will find, commented and in larger sizes, in those previous posts.

See also the article about GTD drawings.

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