Some task management apps seem inspired by steampunk: bells and whistles, lots of brass, faux leather, wood veneer and plenty of levers to throw. Others are light and fluid, almost zen–like in their barely there simplicity. Do not underestimate these ethereal apps, dear reader, for they may have a lot of potential bubbling away under the hood, ready for you to unleash.
Okay, that was fun. Down to business now: today I’ll be comparing two slender high flyers: Asana and Todoist.
Both apps appear to be supported by a dynamic team of developers who keep strengthening their product. Over the last year Todoist has overhauled its website and issued significant upgrades, including the recent rollout of location–based reminders. Asana too has added new functionality (including rich text and formating for task descriptions and comments) and recently released completely overhauled mobile apps for the iPad and the iPhone.
I have used both Todoist and Asana to manage significant work projects. While both apps offer strong team collaboration features, my personal experience with both apps has been as an individual project manager.
This is what I found:
Both Asana and Todoist offer the following features:
- compatibility with David Allen’s Getting Things Done™ (GTD™) approach to productivity
- robust functionality to support individual task and project management including:
- projects with inbox, tasks, subtasks, due dates, notifications and reminders
- task recurrence based on frequency (every x) or task completion (after x)
- task sorting options
- drag and drop
- keyboard shortcuts
- hyperlink–based navigation
- use multiple tags and create filtered views across projects
- attach files to tasks
- sophisticated search function
- print task lists
- see completed tasks and projects
- calendar and email integration
- create templates
- solid team collaboration features
- a clean and colourful user interface
- excellent mobile apps for iPad and iPhone
- fast and reliable syncing
- extensive online documentation.
Note that some of the above features require the premium version of Todoist ($31 p.a.).
What neither Asana nor Todoist offers:
- support for more specialised, ‘heavy duty’ project management features (such as Gantt charts, dependencies, time and resource tracking or customer relationship management). If that is what you are after, you may need to look at project management software designed for larger teams or organisations.
Where Asana excels:
- fluidity of navigation and data entry; no need to save your changes
- notes can be viewed on the same page as the list of projects and tasks—see screenshot
- easier to create and rearrange subtasks
- future tasks can be hidden from view
- tasks are automatically ‘promoted’ (e.g. from later to upcoming) as the due date approaches
- focus mode (Tab + X) lets you concentrate on a single task
- task activity tracking
- workspace separation for security reasons (this may be a drawback if you do not require the feature, as the workspace structure makes it more difficult to have an overview of all your tasks)
- Asana is free for teams of up to 15 members.
Where Todoist excels:
- integrated Today and Next 7 days views across all projects
- location–based reminders (when using iOS or Android devices)
- supports audio notes
- greater coverage across a range of platforms (e.g. desktop apps for Mac and Windows; mobile apps for iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets) means that your task list is available even when the internet is not
- the Karma feature gives you an overview of your productivity by project by day for the past week and project by week for the past month—see screenshot. You can disable the tool if you think it is a distraction rather than a help.
- Todoist deserves a multiculturalism award for providing support for twenty languages!
In my view, Asana and Todoist are pretty much on a par. They offer very similar functionality and are both a pleasure to use. For me, Asana’s major drawcards are the fluidity of data entry and navigation; and the well–designed pane for notes, subtasks and comments. The recent overhaul of Asana’s mobile apps has made the app even more compelling. Todoist makes it easier to see all your upcoming tasks in the one view—though I don’t like how clicking on a note brings up a ‘notes’ pane, which overshadows the work area. Todoist is available on a broader range of platforms and as a desktop app, which means that your data are available even when you have no internet connection. Both Todoist and Asana offer a solid and versatile tool for supporting individual or team–based project management. The choice is yours!
Please note: I have removed some comments that related to user interaction with developers as I cannot accept liability for comments that involve interactions between third parties. Please restrict your comments to how you see the strengths and weaknesses of applications discussed on this blog. Consumer satisfaction issues should be raised at the respective developers’ user forums. I apologise to users whose comments have been removed. This discussion thread is now closed.
It would have been good to mention that although Asana just released new apps for iOS they won’t work in offline mode – they require internet connection all the time. This is a huge problem when commuting on public transport where signal is weak.
Todoist is far superior for individual task management than Asana is. Asana comes into its own for collaboration.