wunderlist and microsoft to do

A year and a half ago, we covered how Microsoft had purchased Wunderlist and released its own version of the software, Microsoft To Do. At first, I was very skeptical. Microsoft is a large company with demonstrated success, and Wunderlist is a newcomer with a great, mostly free product.

A great tactic of businesses with extra cash is sometimes to just acquire a smaller business in the best of its class and make it part of the acquiring business’ ecosystem. Microsoft’s plan, I have to guess, has always been to integrate a powerful task-management platform into its ecosystem. Acquiring and basically absorbing Wunderlist into To Do was its way to go.

Microsoft To Do: Initial Skepticism

How could I not be skeptical? Wunderlist has long been loved by people looking for task management software capable of handling their to-do lists and maybe integrating Getting Things Done (GTD), as I have, and do.

I have been shameless for my love of Wunderlist. It works. It has recurring tasks, subtasks, due dates, reminders, is lean, and best of all, is mostly free. When I heard Microsoft acquired Wunderlist, I asked myself: “Was the best to do platform about to go away?”

Even when Lawptimal covered To Do in the past the question about Wunderlist’s future was always marked with a “?”.  Would Wunderlist go away? If yes, when?

Recently, we got the answer. Wunderlist sent an e-mail to its users notifying them that Wunderlist support will cease forever in favor of Microsoft’s new software, To Do, and urged users to transfer their Wunderlist data by May 6 or risk losing it all.

Wunderlist e-mail syncing is stopping

If you use Wunderlist, or follow Lawptimal on Twitter (@lawptimal), this is not news to you. You might be a little bummed, maybe even upset…maybe (at the end of the day it is just task management software). You might have been using the software since its inception, or maybe, even just a few months or weeks. Either way, it feels like a good friend is going away forever.

Can Microsoft To Do Replace Wunderlist?

Now that Microsoft has stepped in, you might wonder how the transition will go. Will the features be the same? Will I be able to keep my old tasks? Can I manage tasks in an efficient manner? Maybe most important, will it cost me money?

If you are at all like I was, you totally ignored Microsoft To Do at first. I only tried it out for a couple days when it first came out because I was reviewing it for Lawptimal, and then went right back to using Wunderlist.

If you have those above questions, I have some answers. They are: (i) yes, with more features included, (ii) yes, (iii) that is up to you, but very likely, and (iv) no, especially if you are integrated with Microsoft applications (Office 365).

Features and User Experience

Microsoft To Do is feature-rich and aesthetically pleasing. I cannot think of one Wunderlist feature that To Do is not capable of handling, and for “free” (more on that below).

When I first covered Microsoft To Do, my review was less than positive. Actually, it was negative. Microsoft had taken the outward appearance of Wunderlist but removed nearly all the useful features that made Wunderlist what it was: simple and effective.

At first, Microsoft had basically just made a simple to do checkbox application that allowed users to set due dates and reminders. There were no subtasks. There was no ability to assign tasks. And there was no ability to set recurring tasks. And there was no ability to print and email lists to others.

Microsoft To Do 2018
Microsoft To Do in 2018

Microsoft at that time also had added a “My Day” feature, which, I suppose, is there for you to pick tasks from your “scheduled tasks” and put them at the forefront. Why include this is you already have an “important tasks” feature. Who knows? I rarely use “My Day,” but it is there for people.

Perhaps the coolest thing about To Do is that you can assign tasks to other To Do users and create shared lists. These were premium/paid features on Wunderlist. If you have a Microsoft account, all these features come free.

Finally, To Do looks like Wunderlist. If you have been using Wunderlist, you will already know where everything is and basically how to use To Do. Also, To Do appears to have been designed with touch-ready screens in mind. The various buttons work will for touch and mouse. I would say Microsoft has improved the UI over what Wunderlist was already doing.

In short, To Do beats Wunderlist in terms of free features and retains Wunderlist’s user interface (UI). It also makes several improvements in the user experience (UX) and design. I also like how you can choose a different background picture or theme for each list.

Transition from Wunderlist

A short note about making the switch from Wunderlist: It is extremely easy. Microsoft To Do has included an import feature to pull your entire Wunderlist account, completed tasks, old lists, and all. I have tasks going back to 2014 on Wunderlist that To Do even imported.

If you currently use Wunderlist, you may have gotten the recent email about Wunderlist support ending. You will still be able to transfer your data from Wunderlist to Microsoft To Do for a short time after May 6, but you will not able to add new tasks to Wunderlist.

Coupled with the many features provided by To Do, this makes To Do a no-brainer, especially in the face of Wunderlist’s impending end.

 Task Management

Microsoft To Do retained what makes Wunderlist so great:  Unlimited lists, subtasks, recurring tasks, notes, files uploads, ability to share lists and assign tasks, reminders, all wrapped into a pretty and easy-to-use, clean, user experience.

Also like Wunderlist, there is the option to use To Do for free as a web application without using a native application, with all the same features as the downloadable version.

If you liked Wunderlist I can’t think of one reason you wouldn’t like Microsoft To Do other than it’s new, the fact that it’s just not Wunderlist, or if you don’t like Microsoft for some reason.  I think Microsoft To Do is so good that you should just try to ignore these things.

Price

Microsoft To Do is absolutely free. You do not even need a Microsoft 365 subscription.

In a market where so many great task management platforms want you to pay money or sign up for a recurring bill to use their services, Wunderlist was free and easier to use at the same time. While you did not get some powerful reporting features with Wunderlist, and it was less effective for project management, it is ease of use and features made it one of the most popular pieces of software.

[Best Simple Productivity Applications 2020]

Microsoft probably could have made the changes it did and asked everyone to sign up for Office 365 or pay another subscription. They did not do that. That being said, having Office 365 is nice because To Do can also integrate with Outlook and other Microsoft 365 applications (for instance, adding Teams support soon), but Microsoft is letting us use this software for free. I highly suggest giving it a try.

Conclusion

To Do is a great Wunderlist replacement. It is feature-rich, retaining the usability of Wunderlist while making improvements in several areas including price, user experience, and the features.

This is my current go-to software for task management and that will likely not change anytime soon. I do not receive compensation for any of these opinions. If something new comes around that I think could replace Microsoft To Do for me, I will be sure to write an update about that.

Author: Ryan Ullman

Ryan Ullman is an attorney at the boutique law firm Spence | Brierley in Baltimore, Maryland. He is particularly interested in technology, productivity, peak flow states, music, and the outdoors.

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