App face-off: Taska versus ToDo

Taska and ToDo , two of my favorite task managers for the iPhone and iPad, recently came out with updates. Since the updates came out pret...

Taska and ToDo, two of my favorite task managers for the iPhone and iPad, recently came out with updates. Since the updates came out pretty at the same time, I thought it would make sense to mini-review them together.

ToDo version 4 includes better support for iOS 4, fast task-switching, sync with Appigo's own sync servers, local alerts, better robustness, and a few other minor features.

Taska version 1.0.8 constitutes a significant update and includes a new look and feel, tweaked fonts and icons, simplified interface, accommodating new functions in iOS 4, alerts, and a whole lot of bug fixes. I should also note that Taska's look and feel is remarkably similar to that of Things for iPhone, by Cultured Code. However, having used both apps, I can say that there are significant functional differences between them, and to read more than this into the matter is, in my opinion, unwarranted. Cultured Code may beg to differ, but it's a free country and that's my opinion.

While Taska shows the greatest improvement and has superior functionality, I find it still needs more work.

ToDo supports all the key functions one would expect from a GTD-oriented task manager: folders, priorities, stars, due dates, task repetition, tags, contexts, and search. It's quite customizable, it syncs with toodledo, and it's very robust. It also has a pretty good fast-entry mode and push alerts thanks to iOS 4. ToDo has a fairly configurable Focus list that let's you gather key tasks in one place for easy reference. It also supports projects and checklists, but can't sync them with toodledo unless you subscribe to toodledo's premium service. Appigo has also introduced it's own fee-based sync service for ToDo.

Taska does pretty much everything ToDo does, and then some. Its Action list is an even more flexible version of ToDo's Focus list. It can sync checklists and projects to toodledo without requiring users to have a premium toodledo account. It manages this by embedding information in other task fields. While this is an interesting way of doing things, it also means that toodledo's browser interface doesn't understand Taska's notion of projects and checklists. This is only a problem if you expect to use toodledo's browser interface, or if you expect to use toodledo as a medium to transfer your tasks from Taska to some other app.

Taska also supports location services for its contexts, which ToDo doesn't do so far. This means Taska can change the content of your Action list depending on where you are - which is pretty cool. (Taska isn't the only app that does this, but it is one of the most affordable.)

Another really cool feature of Taska is it's support for horizons. Setting the horizon of a task tells Taska to pop that task into the Action list before its due date. This is great for tasks that require some advance warning. It's a feature I don't use often, but it's screamingly useful when I do need it.

On the face of it, Taska seems far superior to ToDo. However, Taska does have some shortcomings that, for me at least, are substantive enough to make choosing one app over the other a hard choice.

Taska still requires more "taps" to get things done than does ToDo. This is especially evident when quickly entering a task the details of which you'll add later. I can see why Taska's developers did it this way: to integrate fast task entry with detailed task entry. It's a noble goal, but not if it ends up costing the user extra taps. ToDo's developers forsook that integration for the sake of speed, and I think that it has worked well for them.

Searching is also easier in ToDo. In Taska, you can only search one list at a time; to search all your tasks, you have to navigate to the "All" list, which I find distracting. In ToDo, there's a search icon in the toolbar which let's you search all tasks from almost any screen. It makes sense: if you need to search for a task, you're probably not sure which list it's in, so a global search would seem to be the most useful thing to do.

While Taska's Action list is a wonderful thing, it remains rather hard to reorder tasks in an arbitrary way. It was even more confusing in older versions, so again there is certainly a big improvement, but it's still not quite there. And a proper action list can be simulated quite well in ToDo.

The other odd thing that I noticed is that changing the sorting of tasks in Taska tends to cause unexpected changes in order. For instance, say you have your Action list sorted by due date, and you want to change to a manual sort. As soon as you select manual sorting, but before you actually do the manual sorting, all your tasks get rearranged in some way that I still can't figure out. This is unexpected and distracting. It should instead keep whatever order was there, then let you adjust it by manual reordering. (Again, ToDo does this right.)

Taska also sorts things oddly when you create a new list (Taska lists are like toodledo folders); it seems to sort tasks in the new list in reverse alphabetic order. While this might seem like a minor thing, it's unexpected. And unexpected things are jarring to the user and raise the spectre that something has gone wrong.

These differences are perfectly understandable: Taska is quite new, but ToDo has been around for a long time (by app standards). And I don't mean to rag on Taska; it has a number of great features, like horizons rather than start dates, and contexts that use your current location. Even though I don't use contexts myself, I can certainly understand how others could find this very useful.

So which would I recommend? I don't know, really. It depends on which features you really need, and whether you're willing to put up with a few rough edges. Since I use my task app for seriously important work-related stuff, I tend to use ToDo because it's just more robust and efficient. Taska is more effective in that it offers an excellent range of functions without being a bloated software monster. I would rather use Taska, but I'm worried that I'll lose important information due to its occasionally odd behaviour. I am a patient man and I will keep an eye on how Taska evolves; all else being equal, if Taska's development continues at its current brisk pace, it will surpass ToDo.

One word of caution: if you expect to be able to switch between Taska and ToDo easily, be ready for a disappointment. While both apps sync with toodledo's task management web service, they don't use comaptible data formats; don't be surprised if tasks are synced between the apps via toodledo imperfectly and incompletely. (I note that this isn't anyone's fault - there are no standards for task app data storage and representation, so the kinds of incompatibilities are entirely expected.)



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The Trouble with Normal...: App face-off: Taska versus ToDo
App face-off: Taska versus ToDo
The Trouble with Normal...
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