The Best To-Do List Apps for Busy Professionals: Stop Making Lists and Start Getting Things Done with these Free and Paid Tools

Sean Lund-Brown

Time is money, and these days, no one seems to have enough of either. Fortunately, along with the slew of productivity apps that have come crashing onto the scene, you’ll find a host of to-do list tools and agenda apps to help keep you on task, on track, and out of the weeds when it comes to making the most of your time. 

The problem, of course, for some users, is that while there are tons of browser-based apps, mobile apps, and even Mac-dedicated solutions, the selection available for Windows desktop apps can be quite hard to find. Fortunately, if you know where to look, you can find all the right to-do list tools and other apps you need, no matter what OS you’re using. 

We’ve taken the time to collect the latest and greatest to-do list tools and apps that we could find, and below you’ll find an overview of the most popular options. The majority of them are great for business and personal use alike, although some may focus on one area or another—it's a lot to cover. Fortunately, we’ve already done the hard work for you. Take a look at the list below and see how you can invest in yourself to improve your effectiveness and get back more minutes every day. 

First, though, let’s talk about what makes a good app in the first place, so you’ve got a better idea of what you’re looking for. 

What makes a good productivity app?

These apps are going to have several features in common. They are also going to have their own features that set them apart and help give you a reason to choose them instead of the next one. In general, though, you’ll want to make sure that you’re looking at apps that can:

  • Provide a clean user interface that includes native features for Windows (or your OS of choice) like notifications and Windows’ live tiles feature. 
  • Offer several options for organizing your tasks, including organization by date, project, list, or even tags. 
  • Make adding new tasks simple and possible without opening the app. (Keyboard shortcuts are ideal!)
  • Sync tasks and schedules to your phone and other devices. 
  • Remind you of self-imposed deadlines and other important dates or deadlines. 

After all, the idea of these GTD (Getting Things Done) apps is to improve your productivity-- if they’re not hitting all the marks, they’re probably just wasting your time, which is costing you money. There are plenty of platforms and tools that offer these features, and more, and we’ll cover the best of them in the list below. 

When you’re ready to streamline more of your to-do's to free up your time, reach out to Smith.ai and find out how our virtual receptionists can help further your productivity with live call answering, lead intake and appointment scheduling, and more

Todoist: best for cross-platform use

Todoist is available for Windows, as well as for macOS, iOS, Android, and browser-based access. It’s slowly becoming one of the most well-known and most-used apps, partly because it’s available on just about every platform that exists. That means it’s easy to find, cross-device compatible, and appeals to the “everyone else is doing it” nature of the human psyche. 

Todoist has a great blend of powerful features and a simple interface that keeps things uncluttered and easy to follow. You can create all kinds of filters, including projects, due dates, custom labels, and more. Plus, the Windows version feels like it was made just for the modern Windows interface, complete with native notifications. Plus, the tool is mostly free to use so it’s a great choice for anyone who’s as limited on time as they are on money. 

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: Starts at $3 per month
  • Native Windows integration
  • Available on all major platforms
  • Robust productivity tools
  • Simple interface
  • Install and get working in minutes

Microsoft To Do: best for Microsoft lovers

Microsoft power users will love Microsoft To Do, which is available for Android, iOS (iPhone and iPad), and Windows. The tool includes the standard Microsoft-style dashboard with tabs on the left to make getting to different tools simple. The main part of the screen displays a daily to-do list with information about where they came from (Zapier, Shopping apps, native Task tool, etc.). 

Microsoft To Do lets you create lists, add custom icons, add due dates, and more. One of the best features of this tool is that it integrates with the entire Windows/Microsoft ecosystem without missing a beat. You can sync tasks to Outlook, ask Cortana to add items to the list, and easy Wunderlist integration (because they’re sure to can that app sooner or later, considering they’ve had it since 2015 and now have their own solution). 

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: Free for Windows, Android, iPhone, and iPad
  • Standard Microsoft-inspired dashboard and navigation
  • Custom icons and labeling
  • Tag tasks with an origin point
  • Integrate with Outlook, Zapier, and more
  • Sync app across devices

TickTick: best for powerful simplicity

TickTick is not an app that many are familiar with, but you definitely should be. This app is available for Android, macOS, iOS, and Windows, and it offers plenty of powerful features with a simple design that makes it easy to stay organized. You can schedule things with ease, track daily, weekly, and custom date ranges, set your own due dates, and more. You can even create tags and labels, sync with Zapier and other apps, and more. 

With TickTick, there are optional widgets and tray icons for Windows and widgets available for certain mobile devices. You can integrate with tools you already use and organize things any way that you like. This is a free tool for most, but those who want the Windows platform will need to pay a subscription fee once the 15-day trial ends. Chances are good that you’ll find it worth the money, though. 

  • Free option? Yes, most versions are free
  • Price: Starts at $2.40 per month for the premium membership
  • Integrates with Google, Outlook, and more
  • Shortcuts, widgets, and tray icons available
  • Easily schedule tasks 
  • Cross-platform compatibility
  • Premium membership required for Windows access or other premium features

Outlook: best for Microsoft Exchange users

We know what you’re thinking—Outlook is a mail server. That might have been the case many moons ago, but today Microsoft has engineered Outlook to work as a total productivity suite for communication, calendaring, and more. While the to-do list feature does require a little digging, once you find it, you might never turn back. For one thing, those in the corporate world that are stuck on Microsoft Exchange servers can rely on this tool as the best way to access synced tasks. 

Outlook also makes it easy to organize tasks by folder, due date, or even custom priority level. Tasks can be integrated with email shared with contacts, and more. Of course, the caveat here—Outlook doesn’t support tasks on the mobile version. The workaround could be found in the previously discussed Microsoft To Do app, which syncs with Outlook and is available free on iPhone and Android. 

  • Free option? No
  • Price: Starts at $8.25 for Office 365, or one-time purchase of Microsoft Office for $249.99
  • Technically “free” for users already using Outlook and Office
  • Not easy to find, but easy to use
  • Integrates with email
  • Familiar tool for several individuals and business users
  • Ideal for Microsoft Exchange users

2Day: best dedicated Windows GTD application

This app gets a special mention on the list because it’s a dedicated tool that was built from scratch to be a dedicated Windows productivity application. It’s also one of the most popular GTD apps because it provides such powerful solutions for those people who need to get things done. You can sort tasks by priority, due date, folder, tags, and even create custom smart lists to customize your productivity. 

2Day makes it easy to integrate with Windows workflows and includes an optional Dark Mode so that it doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb. Unfortunately, there’s no mobile version available, but it can offer syncing through ToodleDo or one of several Microsoft services. The app’s developer was picked up by Microsoft to work on their app, so 2Day now functions as an open-source tool. 

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: Free
  • Open-source Windows to-do tool
  • Start menu pins available
  • Easy task sorting
  • Custom smart lists
  • Dedicated Windows app
  • Progress tracking makes it easy to stay on task 

Nozbe: best collaborative cross-platform tool

Nozbe is a great tool for collaboration and cross-platform use. It starts with a robust web application that includes all kinds of features that ensure premium productivity. You can organize projects, use the project templates, set priorities, and due dates, and even create your own categories. Collaboration tools ensure that you can coordinate with your teams and departments with ease, as well. 

This platform is available for Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, and iOS, offering a full-featured powerhouse for getting things done, no matter what business you’re in. You’ll enjoy the Windows keyboard shortcuts and tray icons if you’re in the market for a desktop tool, and the easy mobile interfaces if you’re just in the market for a reliable, powerful to-do-list app. 

  • Free option? No, but there is a trial
  • Price: Starts at $8 per month
  • Custom category creation
  • Collaboration tools
  • Project templates
  • Customization options better than most tools
  • Powerful task management platform

Todotxt.net: best text-based productivity tool

If you’re more into text-based lists, consider Todotxt.net, one of the few text-based tools on the market to keep your to-do list in order. There’s no need to get too fancy if that’s not what you’re into—office supply stores are still selling paper-based to-do lists and planners like they’re going out of style. If you just need a place to write things down without all the bells and whistles, this might be the perfect tool for you. 

You can integrate this through the Windows command prompt application that installs on the computer or visit the Todotxt.net graphical user interface for the same features and access. You’ll find keyboard shortcuts and quick tools, along with automation, integration with other apps and tools, and more. It's also one of the most customizable options on the market. You just have to put in the work first to get it set up to run automatically. 

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: Free
  • Text-based to-do list
  • Built-in automations and workflows
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Basic to-do list app without the extras
  • Integrates with other tools and apps

A quick note about Wunderlist...

Trust us, we’d put Wunderlist at the top if we thought it was worthwhile. The problem is that all sources are pointing to it being discontinued eventually, and now that Microsoft’s To Do has made its debut, the lifespan is probably shrinking by the day. The caveat would be that you could use Wunderlist now (just don’t fall in love) and start learning Microsoft To Do so that you can seamlessly migrate when the time comes. 

Ready to take productivity to a whole new level? Let Smith.ai help

All of the apps on the list above have their pros and cons to consider, but they all do what they should: help you get things done. If you’re looking for a better way to automate your life or your business, these apps can deliver everything that you need. Of course, they can also work even better for you when you have other productivity resources on your side (namely, in the form of human assets). 

At Smith.ai, we are prepared to handle all kinds of “mundane” tasks and routine duties that you might not have the time for—or just don’t want to deal with. From lead intake and appointment scheduling that we can integrate with your calendar, CRM, to-do list tool, and more, to 24/7 live website chat and call answering services, we’ve got you covered when it comes to getting things done. 

Schedule your consultation today to learn more about how our virtual receptionists can free up more of your time and shorten your to-do lists by handling overflow call answering, appointment scheduling, lead intake, and after-hours support. Your mission-critical services will be correctly executed, and you’ll never have to lift a finger—reach out to us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484. 

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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