Paper vs to-do’s app – results and conclusion

In the middle of March I wrote about notes and to-do lists. I was considering what is better option: to use paper notes, or maybe to-do applications or my computer and other devices. Choice was difficult, because all possible solutions have advantages and disadvantages. After almost three months of this experiment, many fails and attempts I can say (TL;DR): yes, it’s possible to use apps instead of paper and it can be very efficient way to organize life and work.

In the beginning… there was Wunderlist

I wrote in my previous post that I will use one of many to-do apps – it was “Wunderlist”. Free service that allows us to create to-do lists, subtasks, attach files, add notes, reminders, share lists and many other things. I chose Wunderlist, because I have already known this app from the past and I always think, that is very good – simple, but with many options, fast, elegant and comfortable. And it was great but… there is one great lack. Wunderlist doesn’t show us finished tasks. Tasks disappear when we mark them as completed. It’s fault, because I like to know, what I made in the day. Another fault: it’s still not build-in app and syncing on iOS was… problematic. I tried set reminders, but Wunderlist did not always work correctly.

Next step – back to paper

After about two weekes with only Wunderlist, I came back to paper notes and daily lists – it was better but… I couldn’t set reminders, I couldn’t add new tasks when I was outside my home / office. No synchronization, no important notifications… it’s not great, because I must remember about all “external” things. I worked for tool, not tool for me. Neverthless, I think that is great solution if we can create and organize to-do list in only one place. I also changed one think: came back to describe to-do’s in Polish, not English. I created whole lists in English for long time (as additional possibility to improve language), but it isn’t better, only more problematic in fast reading. Maybe I was not ready… but native language is better.

Big things need better tool

Some people asked me about this experiment on Facebook and LinkedIn – what I think about that and what I use. For to-do’s, paper notes, but what about “big thinks”, that needs more description, maybe images and attachments? I tried Evernote and it’s nice, but have a lot of totally stupid limitations: we can use it only on two devices on free plan and there is also monthly bandwidth limit (!). Why is it stupid? Because there is some competition without that. OneNote is the best example and I move all notes to this application. Microsoft has a lot of weak software, but OneNote is great: it’s very comfortable and expanded notes application. We can create many notes, sections in each and notes in each section – also notes can be grouped. This hierarchy is fantastic option.

But it’s not all. OneNote allows me to use unlimited notes – because all data is synchronized with Microsoft account and OneDrive cloud. Also, without limits and with apps on all popular platforms (Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, web version). There are also a lot of functions: attach files, drawing, creating tasks, add contacts, addresses, record sound… and great addon to many browser that allows us save pages, create pages sections and share links. But there is also one fault. Synchronization is terrible slow. Really, terrible, because mobile app must always refresh sections and notes and we must wait to get new data added on desktop. It caused, that I was looking for alternatives again. And I found that.

To-do app and fast notes

The best choice was… native Apple apps. Yes, I tried Apple Reminders to create daily to-do’s and Apple Notes app to create notes. Both apps are simple and can’t compete with Wunderlist, Evernote or OneNote but… they are very fast, reliable and have everything that I need. Build-in on Mac, iPhone and iPad, sync on iCloud and notifications work great. I use one big (very big?) list in Reminder to add all daily tasks and mark them as complete. If I do not complete task on the day, it goes to the next one in the top of list – simple, but very effective and motivating. There are also reminders (based on time, but also on place) and priorities, so I can mark most important tasks in special way. I can also add notes to every task and use Exchange account – if we add that account on MacOS or iOS, app will show us tasks list and allows to edit.

What about notes? It’s very similar. Simple, but effective. There is two-level hierarchy, folders and notes, (we can also create subfolders, but only on MacOS, not on iOS, it’s strange). We can add documents, images, create tasks lists, lock notes with password, and use simple formatting options (styles). There is also option to simple add pages to notes, but only from apps with MacOS sharing menu like Safari or Opera (we can’t do this in Google Chrome). I’m missing one think – better layout, colors on folders like on colors in OneNote, to simply recognize notes groups. But it isn’t important, because Notes is only for bigger thinks and I don’t use that app daily. I think it’s great idea to create notes app comparison – you can read something like this for me on PurePC (but only in Polish).

Results and conclusion

I have used these two application for about two weeks and everything is ok – no problems with synchronization, no problems with reminders… and – it’s strange (?) – no problems with “real” marking to-do’s as completed. Of course, it’s not funny as using green pen, but… it works and I can update list when I must do this. I can recommend to try to-do’s apps: there are not for everyone, but we must check it to know, what is advantage and what is disadvantage for us.