Microsoft To-Do Picks Up List Sharing and Steps

Posted on June 6, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, iOS, Mobile with 26 Comments

Microsoft To-Do for iPhone, Android, Windows and the web is picking up some new functionality this week: The ability to collaborate and share lists, and to break down tasks into smaller steps or sub-tasks.

“Our goal for Microsoft To-Do is to provide a personal and intuitive way to help people stay organized and get the most out of every day,” Microsoft announced. “We’ve listened to your feedback and have added two of the most requested features.”

They are:

To-Do list sharing. Now, you can share your To-Do lists with family and colleagues so you can collaborate on getting things done. This works for both personal (Microsoft account) and work (via your organization) scenarios, Microsoft says.

Steps. A new Steps feature lets you break down any to-do into smaller sub-tasks. These sub-tasks can be reordered and then completed independently. And each task will now display the number of steps.

The latest update to Microsoft To-Do is rolling out “around the globe today and will be available to everyone this week,” Microsoft says, across iPhoneAndroid, Windows, and the web.

 

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Comments (26)

26 responses to “Microsoft To-Do Picks Up List Sharing and Steps”

  1. Harrymyhre

    Okay I will try it. Worth a look for me

  2. VSB

    I have little programming talent but could duplicate the functions of Wunderlist (minus integration with Outlook) in one day with a local database (adding incomprehensible omissions such as start dates).


    Can anyone explain to me (1) why development has to be so pitifully slow (apparently) once one stores the data remotely and (2) why Microsoft spent over $100m acquiring such a simple app?


    I've used Tasks in Outlook intensively since the first version (1997) and everything else (OneNote excepted) seems like a primitive toy in comparison.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to VSB:

      They didn't just acquire such a simple app. They also acquired the people who made it. That's where most of the value comes. Actually they bought Wunderlist and built To-do in house.

      • VSB

        In reply to lvthunder:


        They acquired a team of people who had built a simple app for >$100m then. I can't believe they didn't have more expertise in house.


        > Actually they bought Wunderlist and built To-do in house


        ...and I'm asking, why did they do this for such a simple project (for which much of the plumbing must have been available already)?

        • behindmyscreen

          In reply to VSB:

          Probably because: 1) It isn't simple to do what Wunderlist does and 2)User Community

          • VSB

            In reply to behindmyscreen:


            What do you think is so sophisticated about Wunderlist (see my original post)?


            If Microsoft valued the user community so much, why have they done so little to keep it happy?



            • yaddamaster

              In reply to VSB:

              >> What do you think is so sophisticated about Wunderlist


              The scalability. I remember one programming task I was given - take a look at this incredibly cool web application a business user had created and figure out why it kept crashing.


              I took a look and within 30 seconds realized that he had actually hooked up an access database to a web application. And the thing failed spectacularly after three concurrent users. Rewriting the app and porting to SQL Server took 4x longer than it took him to originally write. But it worked and scaled.


              So no - you cannot rewrite Wunderlist in a day. You could perhaps write a very simplistic web app that talks to a local data store - but that's about it. And I doubt your app would be extensible, maintainable, et al.


              But that's not to say your baseline critique is correct - it probably shouldn't take THIS long between releases.

  3. gregsedwards

    I'm probably on par with Brad in my love of To-Do...for whatever reason, I'm really pulling for it to become the task management tool of choice for the Microsoft ecosystem. And I agree they've moved at a glacial speed until recently, when someone seems to have lit a fire under their team to finally start implementing these long-requested features.

    I've been using Steps for a couple of months now, and while I see the potential, I've really been bothered by some key issues that they've yet to resolve.

    Here's my scenario: I want to create a daily checklist for my kids. To keep it manageable, I'll create a single task called "Morning Routine" and add steps underneath it - brush your hair/teeth, get dressed, get your backpack together, etc. Because they need to be reminded every weekday, I set a due date with a weekday repeat schedule. So far, so good.

    But here are the three issues:

    • I can now share the tasks with my kids, but I can't assign it to them.
    • Marking all of the steps as complete doesn't mark the task complete.
    • Marking the task as complete manually causes the next task occurrence to propagate with any steps completed in the previous occurrence already marked as complete.


    I've contacted the To-Do team to report the bugs, and they've assured me they're working on the step status propagation. And task assignment will come in time. But they suggested that the roll-up behavior is intentional, as they don't want to assume the task should be marked as complete, just because the steps are complete. Fine, then provide an option that can be configured. These annoying little shortcomings are holding back this otherwise fantastic app.

    Then there's the ongoing question of "how many freaking task management solutions do you really need?" Wunderlist, To-Do, Outlook Tasks, OneNote checklists, Calendar, Email Flags, Cortana reminders...it's just too much. Actually, this list is a bit of a red herring, because it turns out that most of these aren't great task management solutions at all:

    • Wunderlist. So, we know this one is going away; it'll eventually be replaced by To-Do.
    • Outlook Tasks. For Office users, these are the gold standard. They support assignment, due dates, reminders, recurrence. But they don't work on the Outlook Mobile app.
    • OneNote checklists. OneNote lets you add a checklist that you can use to check off items, but it doesn't provide any kind of reminders on its own. If you use Outlook and OneNote on the desktop, then there's an integration to create Outlook Tasks for flagged note items, but that's a whole different thing.
    • Calendar. This one is really a stretch, because appointments aren't tasks. Appointments don't nag you until you mark them complete, because there's no concept of an "overdue" appointment. Sure, you can manually move calendar events from one day to the next, but at that point, you might as well just write everything down in Notepad. Pass.
    • Email flags. In Outlook, these are fine, because they coordinate with Outlook Tasks. But in Mail and Outlook Mobile, they're woefully inadequate, because the flag is simply a toggle. There's no way to set a due date, and no way to show "flagged complete." Unless you just want a way to filter email, it's really quite useless.
    • Cortana reminders. This is probably the best alternative option, because you can create and manage reminders using your voice, and they generate notifications via Cortana. They don't support complex recurrence, steps, or assignment, but they do provide some pretty nifty features like location-based reminders. And they work with the Cortana bot in Skype.
    • Planner. This one is geared more toward group project work, but it's yet another place to track work with due dates. The integration with Teams and SharePoint is particularly interesting.


    So that really just leaves a few players in the mix: To-Do, Outlook Tasks, Cortana reminders, and Planner. And To-Do already syncs with Outlook Tasks, now we're down to three.

    The Mail and Outlook Mobile apps lack proper task management functionality; however, in much the same way that Outlook's core functions have been broken out into separate Mail, Calendar, and People apps, the addition of the To-Do app would seem to fill in this functional gap. It'd be nice to see email flags in apps work more like they do in Outlook on the desktop (that is, create proper tasks that sync with To-Do). And likewise, Planner tasks should sync with To-Do (and/or Outlook Tasks, I'm honestly unsure about the current state of this integration), so any project work assigned to me can be tracked there as well.

    But Cortana is where they really need to work out a better story...or at least strengthen her connections to To-Do/Outlook tasks. Of course, I guess you can't assume everyone who uses Cortana has To-Do and access to Outlook Tasks. Maybe they should just offer different levels of integration depending on which other services you have connected to Cortana. Ideally, Cortana should provide an option to sync tasks on Outlook Tasks and/or To-Do if available, otherwise Cortana manages it in her notebook. But ultimately, they need to figure out a way that your tasks are just your tasks across the board; you shouldn't lose track of something because you were looking in the To-Do app, but it was actually in Cortana's notebook or vice versa.

    Like most Microsoft solutions, it's 90% of the way there, they just need to finish the job.

  4. overseer

    Would love if this would tie in with Planner. Actually, I would rather they just roll the basic to-do list functionality into Planner and consolidate on one task management app. As long as they insist on having multiple task management products for "reasons" though, would be nice if they integrated.

  5. sj3vans

    I'd love to use an Office365 integrated to-do list manager, but it hasn't measured up to do. Hopefully they can get some focus on it and have it be a contender. I've been using ToDoist for the last 6 months and love features like a single click to turn an email into a task, but even more cool is my ability to have Google assistant ream me my todoist list while I'm driving and by voice add new tasks.

  6. djncanada

    Good start for Marcus Ash and his leadership with the ToDo/Wunderlist Team.


    I hope email to task for mobile is quick to be implemented as well as dated comments like WunderList.


    It would be nice for Microsoft to help users understand how and where to use all their task based apps/services.


    Bravo Marcus!

  7. Bats

    That UI looks very googley.

  8. Daekar

    So... until this is built integrated into Cortana and is the same across Outlook.com and the other ways I access my MS account (including the Microsoft Launcher for Android), this seems like a total waste of time. I don't need yet ANOTHER separate group of lists.


    Doesn't everybody use OneNote for this anyway?

  9. innitrichie

    Any word on when Cortana will finally acknowledge the existence of Microsoft To-Do?

    • IanYates82

      In reply to innitrichie:

      I know, right? I joined Wunderlist a long time back since it's what MS Launcher on Android ties in to, as well as Cortana.

      This can't be the "preferred" ToDo thing from Microsoft until those two, now major / strategic products, support ToDo.

  10. 2ilent8cho

    I use ToDo cloud as they have a Mac app and an iOS app. Might have been tempted to switch if they had a Mac client.

  11. dontbe evil

    old news, paul was too busy writing about apple and google news … I miss when this website was MS focused

  12. Bart

    Syncs surprisingly fast

  13. Pierre Masse

    It looks like they are starting to use it for themselves suddenly.

  14. RonH

    I have it on android. For kicks, I shared a list with my wife and it works great. She is rocking my old 950XL!

  15. behindmyscreen

    Finally! My wife and I shared a list in Wunderlist and I missed this feature a lot. Steps is huge too!

  16. Atoqir

    Nice.


    Why do they keep maintaining the Windows app. This could be perfectly a PWA with notification and offline support. No need for 'native app' for this kind of thing.

  17. kdjones74

    I really like To Do and trying to organize my day by focusing on specific tasks to complete. It's great that it is tied into the tasks in Outlook (Exchange Online). However, there was an update to the To Do mobile app in the last couple of months that broke it for my organization. Turns out, To Do doesn't support Microsoft InTune's conditional access security. Before the update, it worked no matter what your organization did (booo), but after the update, it simply stopped working because it didn't support it!


    How in the world does Microsoft release a mobile app like To Do, designed to access enterprise data in Office 365, yet doesn't support their own security scheme?

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