If I’ve learned anything in my quest to become a productive person over the years by using technology tools it is the following two points.

1. Love the tools you use.

If you find something wrong with your productivity tool within the first 5 minutes of using it, chances are it won’t stick. There are a ton of list making and action tracking apps out there. Find one that has the features you want and is fun to use.

2. Your tools have to be everywhere you are.

The GTD guru, Mr. Allen speaks of making sure that you have a “ubiquitous capture tool” wherever you may go. I tend to take that one step further: you should have a ubiquitous set of tools wherever you go. This holds especially true with how much mobile computing has exploded in use and popularity over the past few years. We are all mostly connected via our smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.; we should have our productivity systems with us.

Like I said before, there are a ton of “GTD” apps out there that promise you how productive you will be and how easy they are to use. While there is no “best GTD app” out there for everyone, there are some that come close and can be highly recommended. The new kid on the block is Wunderlist (by 6Wunderkinder), a cross-platform “easy-to-use task manager” that is available for Windows, OS X, iOS (iPad and iPhone), Android, and the browser that includes over the air syncing across all apps. It sounds pretty awesome, huh?

Today we are going to look at how Wunderlist stacks up as a productivity tool.

Simplified task manager

The thing that I like the most about Wunderlist is that it is dead simple. There are some task management apps out there that have folders, tags, contexts, priority, locations, subtasks, etc. Wunderlist isn’t like this; it gives the user the choice to create a bunch of list groupings (think contexts in GTD) and under each of those grouping a list of tasks. It appears you can have as many contexts as you want and as many tasks in each context as you want.

Your tasks can have a due date, reminder, a note, or a star. They also can be dragged to any list grouping that you want (Windows, OS X, and web versions) or the list can be changed in the details of the task (iOS, Android). There is also a set of filters at the bottom of the desktop and web apps where you can see all tasks, starred, completed, and tasks due today, tomorrow, next 7 days, later, and without a date. One thing that bothers me about these filters is that when you press any option you get a blob of tasks with no indication of what list grouping they are in.

Cloud syncing

You can also set up a Wunderlist account and have all your data sync with the Wunderlist cloud which allows you to keep all of your devices synced up. In general this works well and is faster than any sync I have experience on a desktop task-managment app (I’m looking at you OmniFocus). I have an installation on every platform that is available and the sync seems fairly reliable. What I mean is that sometimes when deleting tasks or marking them complete, the mobile versions on Android and iOS have trouble updating list counts. This can be remedied by exiting and starting the app again but it does happen more often than not.

Other features

Other features include being able to print your current task lists from the desktop and web versions, publish your list “to the cloud” where you are given a “secret” URL to share with friends or colleagues, or email your tasks. And of course, what would Wunderlist be without its beautiful choices of background images? As far as I can tell you can’t add any background or your own without doing some “tweaking” of JavaScript which brings me to the last killer feature; Wunderlist is open source and therefore just begging to be added on to. It is made of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS and can be accessed via github to have your geeky way with.

Cross platform goodness

One of the other best things about this application is that it is truly cross-platform and for someone like me who is using Android, iOS, OS X, Windows, and Linux this is a major feature. All the versions of the apps seem to be similar in features and look-and-feel, and I have to say that 6Wunderkinder did a good job of porting this app to all platforms without totally changing the user experience. The mobile apps are great, but there is still some room for improvement of the UI and possibly utilizing location by providing location based contexts or tasks. But, for a first start that has only been available for a couple of months, Wunderlist hits the major features needed for a good GTD application on all platforms.

Pros and Cons

To wrap up let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Wunderlist:

Pros

  • Cross-platform support: Windows, OS X, web, Android, iOS
  • Fast “cloud sync”
  • open source
  • Beautiful backgrounds
  • Easy task management including due dates, reminders, star, and list groups (contexts)
  • Search
  • Email, print, and “cloud sharing” options for tasks lists
  • Free!

Cons

  • Sync can be unreliable on mobile devices at times
  • No options for subtasks or subcontexts
  • No start date or repeat options for tasks
  • No utilization of location on mobile apps

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