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Free vs Paid To-Do List Apps for 2021

We all need a great to-do list app. But is it worth paying for one? We tested the most popular options to find the best to-do list app at the best value.

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Free vs Paid To-Do List Apps for 2021
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Mobile task lists have organizational features that just can't be accomplished with pen and paper, so it's no wonder there are tons of app options. After testing 10 of the most popular apps, we found that most people do not need to pay for a premium service, but an upgrade may be useful for complex tasks. Overall, Todoist was the clear winner, combining powerful features with an easy-to-use design for free or upgraded for $3.99/month. Here are all the details:

Our Pick

Best All-Around To-Do List App, Free or Premium

With an intuitive interface and lots of features, even in the free version, Todoist was our favorite to-do list app. It’s a pleasure to use for everything from jotting a quick list of errands to managing complex projects. 

Why we chose Todoist:

  • Best combination of easy to use and powerful features.
  • Seamless user experience — makes you want to return to the app each day.
  • Excellent language parsing (can create recurring tasks by typing “do x every day,” etc.)
  • Good support for complex projects.
  • Many ways to organize and view tasks.
  •  Premium upgrade for $3.99/mo or $35.99/year. While this sounds a bit steep, it is comparable to similar apps like Remember the Milk and Any.do.

Spring for the upgrade if:

  • You want reminders of upcoming tasks. The app offers phone, email, or location-based reminders.
  • You want to make time-saving templates for repeat projects.
  • You want more options for sorting and organizing your tasks -- labels, filters, and themes help you easily visualize and prioritize all your tasks.

Stick to free if:

  • You just need a simple (but still powerful) to-do list app that you enjoy checking in with on a daily basis. 

Both the free and premium versions of Todoist work well; what’s best for you will depend on your needs. We’d recommend starting with the free and seeing if you find yourself wanting the extra features of the Premium app.

Read Todoist's Full Review
Runner Up

Best simple to-do list app

  • Simply create any task or subtask. Integrated with Gmail for easy collaboration
    4.6 Ratings 234K+ Reviews 10M+ Downloads
    Free Fresh
    Free
    Free

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If you’re looking for a simple to-do list without the bells and whistles, Google Tasks is for you. It could not be easier to use, and it integrates with Gmail and Google Calendar, a significant benefit if you use those products. 

Why we chose Google Tasks:

  • It's free for an excellent, simple to-do list!
  • Easy to use, as simple as jotting a list on a piece of paper.
  • Minimal, frictionless design.
  • Useful integration with Google Calendar and Gmail.
  • While it doesn’t have a ton of features, you can make multiple lists and sort tasks by date. 

For those who want a digital alternative to a paper to-do list, Google Task’s lack of features is its best feature. We found the app convenient, simple, and minimal.

Read Google Tasks' Full Review
Also Groovy

Best way to plan your day

  • Increase productivity! Make a daily to do list, create a reminder & share notes!
    4.6 Ratings 306K+ Reviews 10M+ Downloads
    Free Feature Rich Fresh
    Free
    Free

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Another simple-yet-powerful option, Microsoft To Do (formerly Wunderlist), greets you each day with a blank screen titled My Day rather than a list of predetermined things to do.

Why we chose Microsoft To Do:

  • See other lists of project tasks and add them to the My Day screen with a simple tap to plan your day.
  • Great combination of simplicity and robust features — the basic interface is a simple day planner, but there are options for more complex task management as well.
  • Easy to set up projects and recurring tasks.
  • You can save your to-do list from being derailed by planning the day of rather than in advance.
  • Another great choice for free

This was one of our favorite apps to open each day. The My Day feature is more compatible with real-life than many other apps.

Read Microsoft To Do's Full Review
Also Groovy

Best if you love games

  • Treat your life like a game to stay motivated and organized!
    4.3 Ratings 22K+ Reviews 1M+ Downloads
    Free Feature Rich In App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases
    Free In-App Purchases

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Can a to-do list actually be fun? With Habitica, the answer is yes. The app is designed like an RPG video game, with a little avatar that earns health points, objects, and coins when you complete your tasks. We found it motivating, effective, and fun. 

Why we chose Habitica:

  • A gamified habit tracker/to-do list that makes getting things done rewarding.
  • Simple and fun to use — completing tasks results in points and prizes for your avatar.
  • Can share your progress with friends and form parties.
  • While it’s probably not full-featured enough for a work to-do list, it’s motivating for personal use.
  • Premium upgrade for $4.99 a month, $14.99 for 3 months, $29.99 for 6 months, and $47.99 annually.

Spring for the upgrade if:

  • You love games — the upgrade doesn’t unlock real features but gives you points to acquire more stuff for your avatar.

Stick to free if:

  • You just want to use a cute and fun app to get more done and make behavior changes. 

While fans of video games may be especially drawn to Habitica, it’s simple enough for anyone to use and enjoy. It’s definitely made for personal use and doesn’t have powerful project management features, but turning tasks and habits into a game really helps promote behavior changes.

Read Habitica's Full Review

Everything We Recommend

  • Our Pick
    🏆 2020 Editor's Choice by Google
    🥇 "Todoist is the best to-do list app right now" - The Verge

    Todoist is used by 20 million people to organize, plan and collaborate on projects, both big and small.

    Use Todoist to:
    • Capture and organize tasks the moment they pop into your head.
    • Remember deadlines with reminders and due dates.
    • Build lasting habits with recurring due dates like "every Monday".
    • Organize your projects in kanban style with Boards.
    • Collaborate on projects by assigning tasks to others.
    • Prioritize your tasks with priority levels.
    • Track your progress with personalized productivity trends.
    • Integrate your tools like Gmail, Google Calendar, Slack, Amazon Alexa and more.

    Available on any device, Todoist will quickly become your hub for getting work and life organized.

    Why you’ll love it on Android:
    • Stay organized from your phone, tablet and watch.
    • Drag the Plus Button anywhere to insert a new task.
    • Simply type details like "tomorrow at 4pm" and Todoist will recognize it all for you.
    • All the power from Android: lock screen widget, Quick Add tile, Assistant, and notifications.

    Happy organizing!

    • • •

    Questions? Feedback? Visit get.todoist.help or reach out on Twitter @todoist.

    *About Pro plan billing*:
    If you upgrade to the Pro plan, payment will be charged to your Google Play account, and your account will be charged for renewal within 24-hours prior to the end of the current period. You can choose to be billed monthly or yearly. You can turn off auto-renew in your Google Play settings any time after purchase.
    Cost
    Free
    Free
    In-App Purchases
    $0.99 - $36.00 per item
    $3.99 - $35.99 per item
  • Runner Up

    Google Tasks

    4.6 Ratings 234K+ Reviews 10M+ Downloads
    Get more done with the Google Tasks mobile app. Manage, capture, and edit your tasks from anywhere, at anytime, with to-dos that sync across all your devices. Integrations with Gmail and Google Calendar help you get tasks done—faster.

    Quickly capture tasks anywhere
    • Create task lists with your most important to-dos
    • View, edit, and manage tasks on the go, from any device
    • Manage tasks created in Gmail or Calendar on the web from your mobile device

    Add details and create subtasks
    • Break down your tasks to subtasks
    • Add details about the work you need to focus on
    • Edit details about any task as your work progresses

    View tasks created from emails
    • Create a task directly from an email in Gmail
    • View your tasks in the side panel of Gmail
    • Trace a task back to its source email

    Stay on track with due dates and notifications
    • Set a due date for every task to help you achieve your goals
    • Organize your tasks by date or prioritize using drag-and-drop
    • Receive due date notification reminders to keep your tasks on track

    Part of G Suite
    • Bring Google's suite of powerful, intelligent apps to your business
    • Leverage Google’s AI to bring data insights and analysis to every employee
    • Connect with your team seamlessly using one suite: Gmail, Tasks, Calendar & more

    Take control of your task management and install the Google Tasks mobile app. Start easily managing your to-do list on the go with the Tasks planner app from Google.
    Cost
    Free
    Free
    In-App Purchases
    No
    No
  • Also Groovy

    Microsoft To Do: List, Task & Reminder

    4.6 Ratings 306K+ Reviews 10M+ Downloads
    Microsoft To Do is a task management app to help you stay organized and manage your day-to-day. You can use Microsoft To Do to make shopping lists or task lists, take notes, record collections, plan an event, or set reminders to increase your productivity and focus on what matters to you. Microsoft To Do makes it easy to stay organized and manage your life.

    Accomplish what's meaningful and important to you each day with My Day and Suggestions, your personalized daily planner tools. Intelligent suggestions recommend tasks from across your lists that may be relevant for the day. From grocery lists to housecleaning routines, daily tasks are simple with To Do. When you're quickly switching between contexts and tasks, it's important to have tools that help you achieve what matters. Microsoft To Do helps you quickly capture and retrieve your lists and tasks across devices and between multiple accounts.

    Capture tasks from different Microsoft apps and services and sync them with Microsoft To Do. Flag emails as tasks in Outlook or any email account hosted by Microsoft, add to lists with Cortana, and see tasks assigned to you from Microsoft Planner. Get peace of mind knowing that your tasks and lists are hosted on the Microsoft 365 service – one of the most reliable services with industry-leading security offerings.

    Microsoft To Do’s modern, easy-to-use experience makes your lists unique, with customizable features like emoji in lists, colorful themes, dark mode, and more. Plus, shared lists help you stay connected and collaborate with family, friends, and colleagues.

    Microsoft To Do features:

    Daily planner
    • A daily planner personalized with suggested tasks: My Day
    • To do lists are accessible anywhere, on any device
    • Share lists and assign tasks with your friends, family, colleagues, and classmates
    • Task management features break your tasks into manageable steps
    • Take notes to add to any task
    • Group lists together by topic or project

    Task manager
    • Add reminders, tasks and lists with the To Do widget
    • Daily organizer personalized with bold and colorful backgrounds
    • Reminders with one-time or recurring due dates
    • Make task lists and switch between school, work, and personal lists
    • Attach up to 25 MB of files to any task

    To Do lists for any purpose
    • Bill planner
    • Shopping list
    • Reminders
    • Task management
    • Take notes
    • And more

    Office 365 integration
    • Sync reminders and task lists between Outlook and To Do
    • Lists and tasks are hosted with the security of Microsoft 365
    • Task lists are compiled from the apps and services across Microsoft 365
    • Add multiple Microsoft accounts

    Microsoft To Do helps you organize and simplify your plans, whether it's for work, school, or home.

    To Do is free and available across the web and iOS, Mac, Android, and Windows devices.

    Learn more: https://to-do.microsoft.com
    Follow us on Twitter: @MicrosoftToDo
    Need support? https://microsoft-todo.helpshift.com
    By installing Microsoft To Do, you agree to the Microsoft Terms of Use: https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=842575
    Cost
    Free
    Free
    In-App Purchases
    No
    No
    Treat your life like a game to stay motivated and organized! Habitica makes it simple to have fun while accomplishing goals.
    Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests! Fight monsters with friends to keep each other accountable, and use your gold on in-game rewards, like equipment, or custom awards, like watching an episode of your favorite TV show. Flexible, social, and fun, Habitica is the perfect way to motivate yourself to accomplish anything.
    If you have any questions, feel free to send feedback to mobile@habitica.com! And if you enjoy our app, we would really appreciate it if you would leave us a review.
    Cost
    Free
    Free
    In-App Purchases
    $0.99 - $47.99 per item
    $0.99 - $47.99 per item
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The 411 from our Appventurer

Caroline Rothnie
Written by:

Caroline Rothnie

Free vs Paid To-Do List Apps for 2021

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