Finding the best checklist app isn’t easy. I’ve written about my pains with productivity before, and I’m not the only one who has trouble sorting themselves out — you probably don’t know which productivity solution is best for you either.
Part of the problem is that there are so many different apps for slightly different purposes, it’s hard to know which to choose.
For this post, I’ve gone in search for the best checklist app ever created, and found some pretty under-the-radar stuff as well as apps most people already know. Let’s take a look.
Bonus: Get a nuts-and-bolts comparison of Any.Do, Wunderlist and Todoist
Here I go over 13 apps so you can get a feel for what you want to try, but you should also check out the bonus material here: a full comparison of Any.Do, Wunderlist and Todoist. I go deep into the details of those apps, and compare which is the best to-do list overall.
Clear — Untangle your life
Clear is the simplest app on this list.
It’s got just 2 levels of navigation: lists and items. Lists contain items that change color depending on their position. The higher the item up the list, the darker it gets. With Clear, you prioritize your tasks by color and get a quick visual overview of what needs doing right now, and what isn’t so urgent.
Another interesting feature of Clear is that it brings mobile-like gestures to desktop. It’s the first desktop app I’ve used that feels like it was ported-over from iOS, and it makes for a surprisingly comfortable user experience. Here’s what Clear looks like and how it works, as explained through its informative empty state:
Google Keep — Capture what’s on your mind
Like Trello, Google Keep is your classic wall full of sticky notes. Naturally, being a Google product, a hell of a lot of thought has gone into the search feature.
Color-coding notes isn’t just for aesthetics, you can filter you notes by color, so if you wanted to keep one set of notes for your blog, another for your shopping list and red for urgent notes, that’d be the way to do it.
Not to mention my single favorite thing about Keep: it integrates with Inbox by Gmail! Inbox (which I herald as the best email app ever) has a feature called ‘Reminders’. When you pin an email so you can refer back to it with ease, you also get to add a little note to it. With Google Keep, you can add your notes directly into that section of your inbox.
It’s definitely not an email productivity best practice to keep your inbox as a to-do list, but I think it’s handy as a quick-fire reminder you’re bound to see when you check your emails.
Google Keep isn’t a runaway success, and — for a Google product — it’s well hidden. I feel that the strongest feature of Keep is that it can you can add tasks in so many different ways, including:
- Speech-to-text (record a voice note and have the words indexed and searchable)
- Image-to-text (upload an image, click ‘Grab image text’ from the three-dot menu)
And tasks appear in other Google products, too, including Inbox and Calendar (both on mobile and on desktop)
Process Street — The simplest way to manage recurring checklists
I love how you can set recurring tasks on Any.Do, Wunderlist and Todoist, but there isn’t a way to trigger entire checklists on demand or to a schedule. It’s just not what the apps were made to do.
Process Street, however, was created exactly with that in mind. If you need a wedding checklist or have a daily routine, you can create a template for it in Process Street. It could look something like this:
Then, you can set it to trigger every day at 7am and alert you. By working through the steps you can systemize and document your day, then get an overview of how you did in the week just by looking at the checklist cards on your dashboard.
(See the full guide on using Process Street for your daily routine here.)
That’s just one way to use Process Street. There are million of use-cases, both personal and professional, including client onboarding, employee onboarding, finding anyone’s email, and even creating a process.
Also, it’s free forever, so sign up for your account here.
TickTick — Your lightweight task manager
Like Todoist and Wunderlist, TickTick works with a main task Inbox and then generates several smart lists based on due date. For example, if you type ‘get dressed today’ as a new task in Inbox, TickTick will automatically sort it into the ‘Today’ list and set a due date for you.
No more flicking through a tiny, horrid calendar looking for the right date — TickTick understands natural date/time language.
While TickTick doesn’t have integrations with many apps, it can sync from your calendar. If you like hacky integrations, you could probably wrangle that somehow.
TickTick is available on Android, iOS, desktop, and everywhere else under the sun.
NotePlan — Lean, quick, efficient planning
The basis of NotePlan is markdown notes/checklists attached to a calendar. So, for every day you can add notes and to-do list items and they stay connected to the calendar date. That way, you can see what you did yesterday, what needs doing today and any future plans at a glance from the main view.
It’s best to explain through screenshots, so here’s the calendar view:
And here’s the notepad/to-do list view that shows when you double-click on a date:
I’ve only been using NotePlan for a few days, but keeping my notes and checklist items away from the rest of my noise helps me focus down, and I’ve had an extremely productive time using it.
Right now, NotePlan is in beta and only available for Mac.
Any.Do — Get things done like a pro
Any.Do wasn’t the right task management app for me, but it might be good for you. Essentially, it only does one thing differently, but it does that one thing extremely well. Its main selling point is a daily overview of your tasks where you can quickly assign due dates without scrolling around a calendar.
By going into Moments mode every morning before you start the day, you can see everything you haven’t done yet and decide if you want to set the due date for today, tomorrow, next week or someday in the future.
The major issue for me is that it doesn’t integrate with any other apps. For now, it’s totally closed off. That means that if you use anything else with your team to manage tasks, like Trello or Evernote, you’re going to have to copy over every action item instead of getting them put automatically in your list. The downsides of that senseless data-entry busywork definitely outweighed the Moments view (which I’ve since replaced with swiping right on the Todoist mobile app).
To see a full overview of Any.do vs Wunderlist vs Todoist, check this out.
Evernote — Remember everything
Evernote is a task-management behemoth. However, as I’ve already looked at in my comparison of Evernote and OneNote, it has a tendency to get full of garbage extremely quickly if you’re not careful.
On the other hand, if you consistently organize and tag your notes it can make for an incredibly versatile checklist app that lets you create checklists with files, images, snippet, links, and anything you might need to reference as you work through your list.
Evernote isn’t strictly a checklist app, but the reason why you might want to use it as one is so you can keep everything in one place. It’s a pet peeve of mine when information isn’t centralized, so as soon as I have to start flicking between apps to make sense of my tasks, that app goes out the window.
With Evernote, you can make checklists inside your project notebooks. So, if you’re writing a blog post, you’d collect all your research material, outlines and drafts in a notebook then have one more note as a dedicated checklist to refer back to.
WorkFlowy — Organize your brain
WorkFlowy is one of the most flexible list making apps you’ll ever use. It operates like a single sheet, which lets you zoom in on list items and make sub-lists. If that sounds confusing, it’s because it’s MUCH easier to visualize than to read:
Wunderlist — Keep your life in sync
Wunderlist is one of the most popular to-do list apps in the world. It’s available on mobile and desktop, and lets you create and filter items into separate projects.
Here’s what your setup might look like:
While the mobile app is a little awkward because it doesn’t make any use of gestures like Todoist, it’s a passable experience bearing in mind it is simultaneously a) useful and b) a Microsoft product.
On top of that, one of the main attractions is that you can connect it to over 500 apps using Zapier. You can do super-productive things with that, like send to-do items from all over the web, notify others automatically when you check tasks off, etc.
For an in-depth comparison of Wunderlist vs Todoist vs Any.Do, click here.
Checklist+ — Creating lists shouldn’t be complicated
If you can’t be bothered with yet another bloated checklist app and want something that works intuitively and simply, Checklist+ is the app for you.
It doesn’t have tags, filters, searches, labels, or 10,000 bells and whistles that serve mainly as UI clutter. It’s optimized for pure ease-of-use and its features boil down to ‘lists within lists’ and being able to create/check off anything in the minimum amount of taps.
Bear in mind that it’s only for iOS, so if you’re looking for a desktop or Android app this simple, you might try Clear for desktop Mac or TickTick for every platform.
Todoist — Achieve more, every day
Unlike some apps on this list, Todoist prides itself on being available on every platform. It has everything you’d demand from a checklist app, with the added bonus of being able to set up custom filters and saved searches.
(As you can see, I’m terrible at getting stuff done.)
Since this is one of the bigger names on the list, it also integrates with Zapier meaning you can push in tasks from essentially anywhere on the internet. An example of this which I personally use is:
Todoist is also a collaborative app, so you can invite your family or coworkers to come in and work on tasks with you. This is awesome for a shopping list you share with your wife or a to-do list for a work project in your team.
For a full rundown of Todoist and how it stacks up against Wunderlist and Any.Do, go here.
Things — A major upgrade to your productivity
Things is a Mac-only app including projects and tags. It’s super simple, and optimized for quickly adding, tagging and organizing tasks with keyboard shortcuts. It’s the perfect to-do list app for power users. Using Cmd+N, Tab and Enter in sequence, I made this task below without clicking.
Once I’ve made a task, I can drag it into a project, or time-based list. If I make the task in Inbox, the date will send it to a time-based list automatically.
Overall, Things is an ideal GTD app with some bonus features like your Logbook. The Logbook tracks every completed task, so instead of hiding them like Wunderlist, you can get a quick look at your done list.
Lanes — Accomplish your goals beautifully
Lanes is a free, minimalist web app which helps you manage your tasks with a pomodoro timer. Add tasks to multiple lists and dates, all on one dashboard. Once you’ve added a task, you can go to the Sessions menu and start a 25 minute sprint on that task, like this:
A seemingly inconsequential (but important for me) feature of Lanes is the fact that you can change your background to any color or image you like. If I don’t like how my checklist app looks, I’m going to get annoyed with it pretty quickly.
Lanes is a young app, but it’s being developed rapidly and was created purely by user suggestions. If you find that most to-do lists aren’t right for you, you might find Lanes to be your best bet.
Which checklist app should you choose?
After looking over the options, it’s clear that checklist apps fall into a few different categories based on their features and complexity. With that in mind, I’ll run through the best checklist apps depending on your needs:
Recurring checklists: Process Street
I definitely missed some here, but here these are the apps I have experience with so I thought it’d be better to cover what I know.
Got any other suggestions? What’s worked for you? Let me know in the comments.
Time to get some work done, exactly like this cat.
Bonus: Get a full comparison of Any.Do, Wunderlist and Todoist
I just skimmed through 13 apps pretty quickly, but you should also check out the bonus material here: a full comparison of Any.Do, Wunderlist and Todoist. I go deep into the details of those apps, and compare which is the best to-do list overall.