Microsoft To Do vs Google Tasks: The best list manager app for you | ZDNet

Two of the biggest names in operating systems and software have both released their views on the ideal to-do list app. While Google chose a barebones, laser-focused application focused on giving individual users maximum control, Microsoft tried to take the genre further and add some collaboration to the mix.

The performance of these parallel goals differs rapidly after the actual use of both companies’ apps, and shows different priorities, obvious goal demographics and levels of cohesive design.

We have already reviewed both Google Tasks and Microsoft To Do and highlight the pros and cons of each application. If you want to take a deeper dive into the details of each one, take a look at our coverage linked below.

Of course, it is unlikely that any single implementation of a to-do list manager will be perfect for everyone. So, with that in mind, let’s decide whether Microsoft To Do or Google Tasks is the best option for most users by pitting them against each other in a direct comparison of availability, cost, external service integrations, widgets, functionality, and usability.

The main screens for each app (Microsoft To Do – left | Google Tasks – right).

Michael Gariffo

Platform availability and cost

Both apps are available as free downloads: from Google Play for Android and from the Apple App Store for iOS. Each version also includes a web-based variant that connects to the company’s primary email service: Gmail for Google Tasks and Outlook for Microsoft To Do. Unlike many competing solutions, there is no improved level of either app available via monthly or annual subscription fees.

More: Google: Gmail gets this new look to make it easier to switch between apps | Microsoft is moving towards the launch of “One Outlook”.

It’s also worth noting that although both apps support smartwatch notifications, neither is available through an official app for either the Apple Watch series or Google’s Wear OS based devices.

Which app wins this category of the competition largely depends on whether your everyday life is more dependent on Google’s or Microsoft’s ecosystem. Heavy Gmail users may want to choose Google Tasks just for its ability to instantly create tasks from within Gmail, while Outlook aficionados may want to use To Do for the same reason. However, I would not call the relatively minimal email functionality offered by these apps (described in more detail below) important enough to be the only deciding factor for which you ultimately choose.

Winner: Slips

External platform integration

As I said, Google chose to integrate its Gmail service into Google Tasks, while Microsoft integrated its email solution Outlook. This is the only direct external interactivity that Tasks offers that is really worth mentioning. However, Microsoft’s To Do is once again trying to go a little further by going into the company’s Planner solution to introduce collaboration tools.

More: Best collaboration apps: Top tools for teams

As I mentioned in my review, all usability planners were limited to To Do for me by the fact that I could not find a single soul I knew using Planner. This is a perfect example of Microsoft going a little too far for a standard to do app, and not far enough to make To Do something like a version of Microsoft Teams for your personal life.

When it comes to each app’s competing email functionality, they are basically identical. Both apps include a one-click method to turn an email into a task from their respective email client interface. This means that Gmail gets an “Add to Tasks” button while Outlook gets “Create a Task” as a new option in its “…” menu. Both will create a new task with the title set on the subject line of the original email.

More: Will double-checking my Gmail email take up my space?

Nor is it a life-changing function. The web-based Gmail interface that allows you to instantly fill in additional fields such as due dates and notes gives me the benefit. All To Do variants require you to create the task from an email and then edit it later if you want to add the above details to it. This again gives an extra, unnecessary step to what should be a simple process.

Winner: Google Tasks

microsoft-to-do-vs-google-tasks-widgets.jpg

Three of Microsoft’s four available To Do widgets (left) and both of Google’s available Tasks widgets (right).

Michael Gariffo

Widgets

Both apps support a selection of widgets that are largely identical in their Android and iOS installations.

Google has two variants: a small 2×2 version that provides a truncated image of your main tasks, with one-touch access to open the app; and a larger 4×2 list that provides quick access to individual tasks, as well as an included button for adding new tasks.

Microsoft, meanwhile, includes four widgets: a 2×2 version that lists data from the “My Day” screen; a 2×2 version similar to Google’s smaller offering, but with the support of one-touch access to create new data; a 4×2 version that lets you view longer titles, mark individual tasks as completed, and add new tasks; and a screen-filling version that does pretty much the same things as the previous widget, but takes up much more screen properties.

Both companies’ widgets contain options that allow you to choose which of your to-do lists a widget displays, which means you can have multiple widgets for multiple lists. But Microsoft’s slightly wider range of widget size options and the fact that you can add a new task from any of them, regardless of size, gives it the advantage here.

Winner: Microsoft to do

Functionality

As I mentioned in the introduction, Google Tasks and Microsoft To Do take very different approaches to introduce their functionality to new users. Microsoft chose to immediately present new users with a long list of automatically cured lists, while Google Tasks says hello to beginners with an almost completely blank page.

This first comparison informs about almost every aspect of the user experience for both apps. At each turn, Google Tasks provides a minimalist framework to provide users with just enough functionality to manage their tasks. At the same time, Microsoft is trying to go beyond what an average user might need. While Google’s lack of complexity may mean that its options fall short for some advanced users, Microsoft’s attempts to exceed expectations often backfire.

More: Best Task Management Software

During my time testing both apps, I constantly felt that Tasks gave me the freedom to create a surprisingly comprehensive set of reminders and lists of my personal calendars and work calendars. While Microsoft To Do provided the same functionality for me, I constantly encountered features I had no use for and worked through interface elements that only slowed me down.

Winner: Google Tasks

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The first menu you get when you try to set the date and time in Microsoft To Do (left) and Google Tasks (right).

Michael Gariffo

Easy to use

I have nibbled around the edges of this category above. But it deserves its own section because of the basic purpose of to-do list apps. We are looking for organization to make our lives easier, reduce the time it takes to perform unpleasant tasks and errands and to increase the amount of free time we have by improving our daily efficiency.

This is why it is of utmost importance that the app we choose to organize our packed schedules does not in itself drain our time.

More: Working From Home? Things I wish someone had told me before I started

I will not be hyperbolic here and act as if Microsoft To Do has a huge learning curve, nor will I claim that most actions in it take more than a few extra seconds to complete compared to the same action in Google Tasks. But the few extra seconds are enough, especially if you create a lot of tasks per day. Setting up a new task should be as simple as it can be. This ensures that we, as very human and often very lazy individuals, actually continue to use these apps with a frequency that will have a real, beneficial impact on our daily lives.

If it’s always easy to add a task, we’ll do it when there’s a chance it’s useful. Conversely, if it’s a hassle that takes more than 10 seconds or so to complete, we’re much more likely to just let it go and try to remember on our own. I think we all know how dangerous that can be.

More: We spent almost 5 hours a day on our mobile devices in 2021

Google Tasks does just enough to make it a fast, easy, and flexible solution for keeping track of what you need to do in a given day. Although Microsoft To Do can meet almost all the same goals, it takes just long enough for me to want to use it less.

Winner: Google Tasks

Summarize

Since both of these applications are free, I still suggest giving both a chance to see which one works best for you. That said, I would definitely start with Google Tasks. This is the solution I would choose and the one I continue to use as I write this comparison. Its simple design, never overwhelming interface and basic but practical Gmail integration make it perfect for me. I think many readers out there will find that it fits all of their needs, without ever getting in the way of you by making you browse through options you will never use or mess with ready-made lists that you did not ask for.

Of course, preferences differ. That’s why it’s good that there’s no downside to giving Microsoft To Do a crack as well. If you feel that you encounter some limitations in Tasks, To Do may be the solution for you. Or, if you’re part of a family or business actively using Planner, its collaboration features may actually work for you.

None of the offers will be perfect for everyone, but Google Tasks is the more likely of the two to satisfy the largest group of potential users across the widest number of use cases. For this reason, I would recommend it as the best starting point, even if you may feel that you have grown out of it along the way.

Winner: Google Tasks

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