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Task Manager Comparison: Toodledo vs. Remember the Milk

Toodledo vs Remember the Milk This post needs to start with a disclaimer.  I was initially going to compare two task managers, Remember the Milk and Toodledo, giving equal time to both as I put them through the paces.  But along the way, something strange happened.  As I put the two services to the test, I fell head over heels for one of them.  I’m talking about the kind of love I previously have only felt for Evernote and LastPass.  This post will still touch upon both Remember the Milk and Toodledo, as each one is useful in its own way, but you will see a bias here, and a more thorough discussion of Toodledo, as I abandoned Remember the Milk after a few days of using both.

If you’re sold on Toodledo, also check out our post on melding Toodledo with Getting Things Done.

 

Why a Task Manager?

Why do you need a task manager, when you could just use your memory, email inbox, or paper?  Or maybe you’re a Getting Things Done fanatic, and have tried Bobby’s excellent method of using Evernote as a GTD tool.

I had taken a look at task managers in the past, and even had a mothballed Remember the Milk account, but nothing ever made me say “I need to keep using this.”  My task management system consisted of sticky notes on my desk, emails to myself, and liberal use of the “Mark as Unread” button in my Gmail inbox.

Recently, though, as I felt more and more disorganized, I decided that I needed a system, and set off to try out several task managers.  Eventually, after trial and error, I narrowed my search down to three: Remember the Milk, Toodledo, and Todoist.  While Todoist is very elegant and easy to use, it lacked many of the features I needed, so I narrowed my search down to Remember the Milk and Toodledo.  Both received great reviews around the web, and, important to me, both had an iPhone app.

 

Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk task list

 

Usability and UI

On a complexity scale, Remember the Milk sits somewhere between Todoist and Toodledo.  One of the nice things about Remember the Milk is that, out of the box, it is simple and easy to use.  If you’re looking for a task manager that you can dive right into it, then Remember the Milk is a better solution than Toodledo.

Remember the Milk’s interface is simple, although it took me some time to realize that the way to perform certain actions on a task (such as moving it to another list, changing its priority, deleting it, etc.) was by using a dropdown menu just below the tabs near the top of the screen.  Remember the Milk does use AJAX, which enhances the smoothness and elegance of task entry.  Remember the Milk makes setting up a task easy.  You simply type in the task, and hit enter.  You can then set the various task options in an area on the top right of the page.

 

Options and Features

Remember the Milk makes it easy for new users to get started.  You can switch between a few predefined Lists on the front page, such as Personal, Work, and Study, and enter tasks into the big entry box below the tabs.  Whatever you enter will go into that list.  In your Remember the Milk settings, you also can create different lists.  For example, I created a list for 40Tech.

Each task that you create can be assigned to one list.  From there, you can assign tags to a task, set a location, set a due date, designate whether the task should repeat, set a task priority (1, 2, or 3), and enter a an estimate of how long it will take to complete the task.  You also can associate a URL with the task, and associate notes with the task.

Remember the Milk has some other nice touches.  When you set the priority of an item, a rectangular box to the left of the item will change to a different color, making it easy to pick out your higher priority tasks.  Remember the Milk’s search feature is very powerful as well, allowing you to search by almost every task characteristic you can imagine.  You also can enter tasks by emailing them to a RTM email address.

Although Remember the Milk’s simplicity is one of its strengths, it does have some customization options that make it more powerful.  You can save searches, which adds those searches as tabs to the right of your lists.  For example, I have a saved search that displays all the high priority items in my Work list.  Tags also give you some flexibility, as you can add multiple tags to a task.  Some users use tags as a way to overcome RTM’s lack of subtasks (a task within a task).

 

Overview

Remember the Milk is a clean, fast, and easy to use task manager.  There aren’t many customization options, though.  You can use the tagging feature to mold Remember the Milk to suit your needs, but that felt a bit like a workaround to me.  But if you don’t need to mold a task manager to your own system, Remember the Milk is a strong choice.

 

Remember the Milk Summary

Strengths: Ease of use, AJAX interface, saved searchs.

Weaknesses: Limited customization, lack of subtasks.

Target user: Someone who likes an easy interface, and doesn’t require too much customization.

 

Toodledo

Toodledo task list

 

Usability and UI

One of Toodledo’s strengths is just how customizable it is.  That customization means that it isn’t as easy to pick up, out of the box, as Remember the Milk.  You will need to make some decisions on how to use it, whereas Remember the Milk guides you along.  For example, Toodledo doesn’t have predefined lists like Remember the Milk, but does have Folders, Contexts, and Tags that you can populate to your heart’s desire.  I use Contexts to designate my tasks by type: Work, Personal, Errands, and 40Tech.

Toodledo’s interface, while not pretty out of the box, is very functional.  Like Remember the Milk, Toodledo uses AJAX, eliminating many page reloads.  Want to change a task’s context?  Click on the task’s designed context, and select the new context in the dropdown menu without every reloading the page or having to click a “Save” button.

Toodledo supports different user-created styles, using Greasemonkey or Stylish.  With just a couple of clicks, you can drastically change the appearance of Toodledo.  The screenshot above shows my setup, using the “Toodledo by Nonimage” style.  The look is very similar to the base Toodledo look, but I find the colors to be easier on the eyes.

 

Options and Features

The columns in the screenshot above show only some of the options that are available in Toodledo.  In your settings page, you can specify which columns you want to use.  I use the following columns: Star, Task, Folder, Context, Priority, Due Date, Due Time, and Length.  Other available columns include Tag, Timer, and Start Date, among others.  You can also arrange the columns in whatever order you want, although the Star column must always be first, and the Notes column must be last.  There is also an option to toggle to a more basic view with one click, which will hide most columns from view.

A strength of Toodledo is the manner in which you can slice and dice your data.  As with Remember the Milk, Toodledo lets you save your searches, but the available searches are almost mind boggling.  You can set up, in essence, arguments in your search, using “and/or” parameters. While Remember the Milk’s advanced search instructions suggest that such searches are supported, Toodledo allows you to set up these searches with a few clicks.  You don’t need any knowledge of Boolean search strings.

All of Toodledo’s features let you use it how you want to use it, not how the developer envisioned you would use it.  I’ve implemented a Getting Things Done system of sorts, and use Folders for that purpose.  For example, some of the folders I created are named Someday, Actions, and Projects.  In my GTD system, I start each day by going through my “Next list” (those items I target during my weekly review), and adding a star to those tasks that I want to accomplish that day.  I then have a saved search that lists all tasks that meet the criteria of being in my “Next list” folder, in my “Work” context, and that are starred.  I have several other saved searches, including what I call my “weekend” search.  My weekend search contains all tasks that are in my Next List folder, AND are starred, AND have a Personal or 40Tech or Errand context.

Like Remember the Milk, the free version of Toodledo does not support subtasks.  So, for example, I could not create a task of “create new website,” with subtasks of “pick theme,” “set up database,” and “write content.”  Unlike Remember the Milk, however, Toodledo’s paid account does offer subtasks.   In addition to subtasks, Toodledo’s Pro Account retains your completed tasks up to 2 years (on a free account, it is 1-6 months), gives you access to stats and a task scheduler, gives you an SSL connection, and several other features.  A Pro Plus account has all of this, plus 5 GB of storage for any files you want to upload with your projects.  A Pro account is $14.95 a year, while a Pro Plus account is $29.95 per year.  You can find a full comparison here.

Toodledo’s usefulness can best be measured by looking at the results.  In my case, there is no question it has made me more efficient.  My staff at work joked that they needed to get me out of the office more, because I was generating much more work for them than normal.  I credit Toodledo for much of that increase in productivity.

 

Toodledo Summary

Strengths: Customization features, AJAX interface, saved searchs, powerful.

Weaknesses: Not as pretty as RTM without some customization. Harder to grasp in the beginning.  Can only have one context and one folder per task.

Target user: Geeks who want to tweak a task manager so that it fits their needs.

 

Conclusion

Remember the Milk and Toodledo are both great products, with loyal users.  When I first looked at Remember the Milk and Toodledo, I was actually more impressed with Remember the Milk during the early going.  Remember the Milk, out of the box, is easier on the eyes, and easier to jump right into.  The more I used them, however, the more I was blown away by Toodledo.

In making a choice, it really comes down to personal preference.  The short answer is that Remember the Milk is simpler, and a good choice if your needs are basic, while Toodledo is more complex, but more powerful and able to be customized.  Toodledo will work better for someone who has specific needs, and doesn’t mind tweaking an app.

I’ve really just scratched the service of Toodledo’s features.  I haven’t even touched upon the Goals, Scheduler, or Booklet feature (some of which are Pro features).  If you’re looking to get organized, I strongly recommend that you give Toodledo a try.   A 7 day trial of the Pro account is also available, in addition to the free account.  The best way to try Toodledo is to make a committed effort to use it heavily for a day or two.  You may be daunted by its options and interface at first, but once you get comfortable with it, you’ll appreciate just how powerful and easy it is under the surface.

Do you use a task manager?  If so, share your experience with us in the comments.  If not, do you think you might consider using Remember the Milk or Toodledo?

 

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About Evan Kline

Evan started 40Tech to write about tech from his perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. When not writing about tech, you might find him with his beautiful wife and baby girl, out on the ski slopes, at his real-life job as a lawyer, over on Google+, or scrounging for followers on his personal Twitter account after years of focusing on the 40Tech account.

158 Responses to Task Manager Comparison: Toodledo vs. Remember the Milk

  1. I think I should choose remember the milk.

  2. I’ve been using the Informant for iPhone (combo of calendar and ToDo list). It syncs with google calendars and Toodledo list. My Toodledo is not very well organized (after reading your articles) and eventually I stopped using it, just have all these overdue tasks popping up at me. Then I found Remember the Milk and found it cute… yea, the cow did it. Started to use it 3 days ago. Today I found your post(s) and they are all so great. After reading this one, I am going back to Toodledo and just organize it better. Thanks for all the reviews!!!

  3. Thanks for the great topic/information.
    I’ve been looking at ToDo software and I am thinking of going with RTM over Toodledo. One reason is I use Outlook and RTM syncs seamlessly to Outlook with an inhouse solution. Toodledo gave me links to 3rd party software and a disclaimer. I’m using a BB (though I may switch shortly) Mac, PC/Outlook and an iPod Touch, RTM has linked to all of these devices/software flawlessly. I’m very impressed.
    Though Toodledo may be more feature robust I’m OK so far as to what RTM has to offer.

  4. I’ve bounced back and forth between RTM and Toodledo a number of times. They both definitely have their strengths and weaknesses. For some time now I’ve leaned towards Toodledo mainly for the efficiency of it’s iPhone app and better flexibility with reminder notifications.

    Toodledo’s iPhone tends to put more information at your fingertips when scanning your task list. RTM’s larger text tends to cut many of my tasks off so I have to tap the task to see the full text or rotate it which even then may cut it off. Toodledo’s smaller text and multiline wrap allows me to see the entire text for my task. Subtasks are also a nice feature.

    Reminders is the other big issue for me. Toodledo allows me to set the reminder notification on a task-by-task basis while RTM allows me to set some global reminders options that apply across all tasks.

    My other small nit with RTM is lack of a simple calendar popup when picking a due date. It’s very popular request. How hard is that to add? Yet, many times I have to jump over to my gCal just to see a calendar so I can pick a reasonable due date. I need to just see a calendar, any calendar, so I don’t put my due date on a weekend or something like that.

    I think this reviews nails it though. RTM is simpler, cleaner and allows very fast task entry. Toodledo is more of a workhorse and more customizable to the way some like to work.

  5. Hi, I was wondering how did you set your Toodledo up to have your contexts as individual categories at the top. I am trying to do that! Is it only available in pro version or is there some way I can adjust my settings to be able to click on the different context categories at the top and see my lists in each of them? Even when I click on “View by Context” it still doesn’t look like yours. Thanks.

  6. Hello, I was wondering if you have ever looked at GQueues? I’d love to see a comparison of GQueues and Toodledo. I started using GQueues a few months ago and really like the way it interfaces (almost) seamlessly with my Google Apps account. However GQueues is hardly mentioned at all on the GTD forums, but I hear a lot about Toodledo.

  7. After receiving an update from this blog mentioning GQueues, I decided to take a look. I ended up reviewing all the instructional videos and playing with the app itself for over an hour. Here is what I posted in their forum afterward:

    I ran across GQ tonite, couldn’t resist checking it out. I’m a long
    time user of various task managers, since 1998, from stand-alone to
    online. I’m currently a power user of Toodledo, which I like a lot.
    I think someone did some great work on GQ – the interface is one of
    the best I’ve seen, nearly as good as “Things”, which is still the
    best I’ve seen. I like all the drag and drop features and how
    intuitive it is. And unlimited levels of tasks is great, though,
    unfortunately, not useful as implemented.
    The reason it’s not very useful is that to create a “Next Actions”
    view, it has to be the next 1, 2, or 3 items in each que. This
    obviates the usefulness of the multi-level capabilities of GQ (this is
    one they’re screaming for on TD, which only has one level of
    subtasks). If my que is a major project, then each sub-area is the
    highest level in my task list. And my next level down from that might
    still be a parent task, not a working task. My “Next Actions” list
    will always consist of high level parent tasks, the sub-areas.
    Shouldn’t there be a choice for your “Next Actions” smart que that it
    be the first (or first 2 or 3) task(s) without a sub-task? That way, I
    could have as many levels of parent tasks as I need, but keep my “Next
    Actions” list all working level tasks (bottom level, whatever that is
    for that set of tasks)?
    There are some other fairly obvious features that would be nice, many
    of which I saw in these forums. But it seems to me, just based on
    watching the tutorials and playing with the software for an hour, that
    this would be the big one for me, the one that would keep me from
    using GQ because it undermines one of it’s best features, the multi-
    levels it can have.
    This app sure has a lot of potential though. I’ll check back from time
    to time and see how it’s coming along.”

    I didn’t mention that the Search capabilities of TD are way beyond what GQ has. Basically, TD is at least one major level of sophistication and features higher than GQ. I’d say GQ would be nearly perfect for my personal life, if I wasn’t already heavily invested in TD. But for someone who doesn’t need something that heavy duty, GQ is a winner.

  8. Thank you salgud for your assessment of GQueues. I am fairly new to task manager programs. Although I do like GQ, especially how well it interacts with Google calendar and email, there are other features that I would really like to see added to it (besides the one you mentioned about the subtasks and next actions). One of these is the ability to add attachments. At this point GQ only allows email attachments.

    I think that I am going to give Toodledo a try as it seems to have many of the features that GQ lacks.

    • Pretty cool, Andreas. If I had an iPhone 4S, I’d be curious to see if something similar could be done with Toodledo. Not sure if Toodledo is CalDAV-compliant or not.

  9. I am just getting started with using technology for task management.

    Though I have been working in IT for many years, and all my other data is digital on my phone/pc, I always felt my todo lists were best on paper.

    Now that I have an Android phone, I am taking the leap, and its either RTM or Toodledo.

    I am heavily leaning towards RTM because of the following features which I think make it more powerful.

    1) easy batch edit:
    being able to edit multiple tasks at once. This is true on both the android App and the web app. ( I couldn’t even find a way to do this with Toodledo)

    * Offline support (website via gears, htm5 soon I presume) … Toodledo could only suggest third party desktop apps that sync. for extra $, not ideal (Yes, there are times when computers exist off line – i.e. on a plane / train / country cottage, etc … and sometimes these are prime time for planning, organizing tasks, goal settings etc)

    Did I miss something??

    Any thoughts ?

    • You can batch edit in TD, but you have to do a Search to isolate the tasks you wish to edit as you can only Multi-edit from the Search view. Usually, this is easy, but in some cases, not so much. It gets easier with experience, and I can’t remember the last time I had trouble isolating the desired tasks. YMMV.

  10. I found this today, you can see your rememberthemilk statistics and reports at http://yourdatavisualizer.com/rtmstats/#slide1

  11. I.m very new to toodledo and cannot find how to assign tasks to contexts. Help

  12. Hi,

    First off this blog has been very useful. However, with TD, has anyone else in the past few days been having problems with the interface? Columns are hidden and are not lining up at the side, as well as freezing up. I am unsure if this is my computer or just because I am using explorer, but is anyone else come across this problem recently?

    Thank you,
    Victor

    • I haven’t noticed any issues, Victor. I’ve been experimenting with another app the last week or so, but I used Toodledo today (via Fluid on the Mac) and didn’t have any problems.

  13. Wish I could get to the latest comments in this thread. Unfortunately, the latest ones I can access, even using the URL sent to me concerning the latest threads, is Feb. 9. I have the option to view older messages, but no option to view current messages. Maybe the software isn’t working properly?

  14. I’ve downloaded Toodledo, but haven’t started using it. I want something that has time tracking capabilities as well. Do you know of anything? Or, is there something that can work in conjunction with Toodledo to track time?

  15. Dr. Michael L. McCirmmon Reply May 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Evan,
    Great blog and thread… very educational and interesting!

    Mike

  16. I’ve actually been bouncing from asana, do.com, and producteev. I’ve stuck with producteev. They all have workspaces, projects, tasks, and subtasks. I can email tasks, attach files (and with the producteev web app, I can preview my file even in full screen.)Also with Producteev, I get a daily report, my iphone has push notifications, and I get an email notification which I actually like. These are all free for individual accounts so it can’t hurt to try. Asana and do.com will have both android and ios versions by mid summer 2012.

  17. Your comparison was very interesting, but I am still not clear which one I want, although I like cows and goofy but instructive business parables.

    What I need is something that has both a calendar and a to-do list, but Google Calendar doesn’t seem to work because I can’t seem to prioritize the tasks (is their a way, O Tech Swami?). If a task takes more than 15 minutes, I want to “calendar” it on a real calendar, if less, it goes on a list, which I would like to have in priority order.

    Considering my liking for milk providers, is there a way to add RTM to Google Calendars so I have both a calendar and a priorities task list? And it’s simple– I organize running races, and I have more details than I can possibly want, so if I can Cow this, I am a happy camper…

  18. comparison is good… I am using task management software, Team Task Manager, for the past few years. The weaknesses of both RTM and TD are the strengths of Team Task Manager. TTM is really intuitive with an excellent UI and includes all essential features.

  19. Hey  another task management app you can try out is Brightpod ( http://brightpod.com ) ,  an app specifically for marketing teams. Includes readymade workflows & a whole bunch of collaboration features.

  20. Toodledo (and probably Remember the Milk) have some basic issues that need to be addressed. Toodledo needs to be able to handle task relationships so that you could easily say “I will work on this task *after* that task is completed” (by implication, this means task dependencies) or “this task can be set to complete when all those tasks are done” (by implication, this means parent/child relationships). Note: task relationships need to be multi-level. Toodledo also fails in fully recognizing the difference between an event and a task which causes the integration with Google Calendars to fail (you don’t want to clutter up your calendar with tasks that will be done a little at a time over the next few weeks). Toodledo also fails in that it doesn’t have a useable printout capability (my wife doesn’t do computers). Basically, these tools have only implemented the basics of task management without really describing the use-cases they are addressing. When you begin looking at useful use-cases, you quickly see that Toodledo has some work ahead of it.

    Why don’t these reviews ever think of this?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  12. http://cravingsearch.com/index.php/member/253599/ - June 8, 2012

    The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents, and the second half by our children….

    Small projects need much more help than great….

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