I need a sequential, easily-changeable, dateless online to-do list.
July 15, 2013 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a digital to-do list that doesn't force me to set dates and can be rearranged easily. It can be either a website or a program that syncs to the cloud. I envision a simple list of tasks where I can quickly move the tasks up and down depending on how their relative priority changes. I would like to be able to assign an approximate completion time instead of setting a finish date since I never meet dates due to an ever evolving list. I plan to use this for keeping myself on task at work. The solutions can be free or paid. More preferred attributes inside.

Conceptually, I have in my mind a bunch of sticky notes of varying size all lined up in a single, neverending column. The size of the notes is proportional to the length of the task. I can easily rearrange those sticky notes in the column or even lengthen the sticky notes if the task gets longer. The notes get checked off as they're finished. A digital version of this would be great, though I understand there may not be anything exactly like this out there. More than anything, though, the tasks must be easily rearranged.

Preferably, I would like to be able to add plenty of additional detail to my tasks since my tasks are all projects that can't be fully described in a few words. The detail might be only visible by clicking on the task to keep the list itself from getting cluttered. I often like to keep a running log of accomplishments, problems, and notes for things I work on and that would go in this additional detail section.

I would like to actually be able to check off that a task is done, if for nothing else than the emotional gratification. It would probably be good if completed tasks were easily distinguished as completed, but it's not necessary that they be moved out of the overall list.

It would be nice if there was some way of keeping track of progress on a task. Often I do not finish something before another task takes priority. It would be nice to know that I got 30, 50%, 70%, etc done before I had to switch. That way, I could prioritize tasks that are almost done higher than others when I get back to them. If this isn't available, as a fallback, I could update my percentage progress in the additional information I want to enter on each task.

Lastly on the strongly preferred side, it would be nice if this to-do list was easily usable on Android or iOS (iPad). My phone is Android, so that would be more constantly accessible to me than my iPad. It can be via an app or a website that works well on a phone.

A more advanced wish would be tasks that can be broken into subtasks, preferably with the same attributes as the main tasks. Most of the things I do have multiple steps to them. I rarely ever see to-do lists with this capability, so I'd be curious to know about any of them that have it.

I have some experience with Gantt programs like MS Project and OpenProj but only the basics. They have some of the traits I like (subtasks and completion times and percentages), but I don't like dealing with the calendar, chart layout, or the rearranging of tasks when it comes to to-do lists. If you're more familiar with these type of programs than me, though, feel free to make a case for them for my scenario if you feel it's warranted.

I understand that there's probably no solution out there that meets all my wishes here. I will be glad to hear about anything that meets at least some of them. If you have better to-do list ideas instead, feel free to let me know. I'm a disorganized person with too much to do, and I'll take any help I can get. Thanks.
posted by KinoAndHermes to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Trello (which is free) can be used for project management or just as a simple list (for example, you could set it up with a single column just like you described). It's easy to move "cards" around. You can add all kinds of details that you only see if you click on the card. The web and iPhone apps are synced and both great and I presume Android is equally good. I don't think you can make some cards bigger than others (they do that automatically) but you can use labels (which are color codes).
posted by Dansaman at 2:33 PM on July 15, 2013

With Trello you can also add a checklist, and add due dates only if you want to use them.
posted by Dansaman at 2:39 PM on July 15, 2013

I was also going to recommend Trello! It can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it.
posted by radioamy at 2:40 PM on July 15, 2013

You might also check out Workflowy. It does most of the things you want, but I don't know how to do the % completed thing. Browser and iOS app integration are both good, but I haven't tried Android.
posted by partylarry at 3:44 PM on July 15, 2013

A bulleted list in a Google doc with indented sub-lists for sub-tasks and then using cut-and-paste to move stuff around seems like it would provide all the functionality you want without requiring fancy task management software.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:43 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use Google Tasks for this. Ordinarily, it appears in Gmail to the right as a to-do list. In the browser, the URL is https://mail.google.com/tasks/ig (though you may need to, inexplicably, save that URL as a bookmark in your browser, then choose it from your bookmarks when you're on any other page -- not in a blank tab!) On Android, I use GTasks to sync. I have thousands and thousands of items saved in a variety of categories -- and it can do dates if you want them, but it defaults to no dates.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:04 PM on July 15, 2013

It doesn't have everything your criteria requires, but I've found asana.com extremely useful. It's highly "customizable" and the interface is very intuitive. You can build various processes and systems into asana, for instance I'm using a todo system loosely based on GTD.

Been using it for over a year, it's great. I dunno about their Android app though.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 9:38 PM on July 15, 2013

You might also check out Workflowy. It does most of the things you want, but I don't know how to do the % completed thing.

You could do the completion percentages and search by 'doneness' in Workflowy using the hashtag feature.
posted by the latin mouse at 11:55 PM on July 15, 2013

We made a chart comparing various task managers which may be helpful.
posted by youknowwhatpart at 5:30 AM on July 16, 2013

It doesn't have everything your criteria requires, but I've found asana.com extremely useful.

I'm here to second Asana, I am a reluctant "to-do" person, but Asana is the first system I've grown to love and more importantly, use.

One important feature that you mentioned is the ability to add detail to tasks as well as to create subtasks. Asana has both those things and it is very "web-friendly", meaning you can paste URLS to documents in services such as Dropbox or Google Drive and it translates very well. Actually, for my needs, having sub-tasks is not a "nice-to-have" but a "must-have" feature. Probably why I like it so much!

In terms of other features, I get the sense that I'm probably only using a small fraction of what it can do. I know we have "power users" in my organization who use it as a full-fledged project management tool. I can use the basic features though, and I'm happy. The advanced stuff doesn't get in my way.
posted by jeremias at 6:15 AM on July 16, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all very much. I'm eager to start trying these out, and I'll select a best answer a little later once I've done that. Of course, this morning I've got too many changing and unforeseen tasks to work on setting up my to-do list to deal with all my changing and unforeseen tasks. :D I already feel a lot better just knowing I've got some potential solutions to try out, though.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 9:52 AM on July 16, 2013

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