To-do list showdown!

I’ve been using Todoist for several months and am really starting to develop and trust my system with it. However, I had recently been hearing a lot of hub-bub about TickTick and decided to take a look at their offering and compare it with Todoist. I didn’t pick a “winner”, I merely compared offerings in several categories and then gave a few pros and cons of each. I compared the premium offerings of both primarily in the web version but also on my Android phone (running Android O); this offered the best oranges-to-oranges comparison. My goal was to give people the tools to decide which of these two tools best meets their needs or fits with their process. If you don’t plan to pay for either premium version, I suggest you continue reading, decide which features are most important to you, and then compare the free versions of both (here and here). Without further ado …

Task Creation

Both Todoist and TickTick have quick and easy ways to enter tasks. Todoist has you click a + symbol at the top to popup a little entry box, or you can hit q to bring up the quick add. TickTick has a box to start typing right at the top of the page, or you can hit n to bring up the quick add. Both have keyboard shortcuts available so you can simply type a task out and have tags/labels added, due dates, and moved to a specific project or list. If you’re like me, you focus on adding a task quickly and just have it dump to the inbox for processing later. Both TickTick and Todoist will default to the inbox if you don’t specify a project or list.

Todoist task entry

TickTick task entry

Due Dates

Both apps have “smart date” parsing available. What that means is that you can just type the date in the text of your task and both apps will set the date (and time) that you specify. These are very powerful in that beyond the standard “tomorrow at 4pm”, they also recognize dates like “every thursday” or “next saturday”. It’s pretty incredible some of the plain English verbiage you can use that will be interpreted: every other week, mid January, in three days, etc. In fact, both apps can even interpret “next week” and set the task due at the start of next week. Both let you choose which day is your start of the week, but only Todoist seems to let you actually pick which day of the week “next week” should be. TickTick also lets you choose whether you want the text of your date/time to remain in the task title, which is a nice little feature; Todoist will remove it no matter what.

Todoist seems to have a leg up with smart dates in two ways, however. First, you can put an end date on your recurrence and it will understand. For example, every day until Friday would give you five occurrences of the task if today was Monday. Second, Todoist lets you use every! in addition to every. The distinction is that the exclamation mark will move the next occurrence of the event. If you want to do a task every! three days, but don’t get the task done until the fourth day, the next occurrence will be three days from when you completed it. This helps you maintain the recurrence even if you miss a deadline.

Tags / Labels

Both apps allow you to add labels or tags to your tasks. This expands the functionality from just a simple “to do list” to a simplified project management tool. It also allows you to fully utilize custom lists and filters (see below) to find tasks in different lists or that share a specific tag/label. Todoist’s labels can be selected from the available tags or you can start them with @ and type them in (@label). TickTick tags can be added by typing # followed by the tag (#tag). Todoist treats labels as metadata, so it’s not part of your task. While TickTick keeps the tag text with your task; which I found a little distracting, but can also be helpful. Additionally, Todoist allows you to color code labels, which can be useful visually.

Custom Lists and Filters

Again, both apps are pretty close in this category. TickTick offers normal and advanced options when creating custom filters. Normal gives you dropdowns and checkboxes to select which elements your tasks must have to be included in the custom list. Advanced mode lets you get into AND vs OR logic based on various criteria.

Todoist is only text based and requires you to be more invested in the logic of the filter. While this requires a steeper learning curve, it’s also much more powerful. For instance, Todoist custom filters allow you to use NOT logic as well as the traditional AND and OR. Todoist filters also allow you to group criteria using parentheses as well as build an extensive list by combining queries. Again, a steep learning curve, but infinitely more powerful.

Todoist custom filters

TickTick smart lists

Subtasks

TickTick and Todoist handle subtasks differently. Todoist sees subtasks as just regular tasks which are nestled underneath a parent task. This allows for many levels of tasks and subtasks as well as customizing each and every single task or subtask. Very flexible, but also potentially more overhead and management. Additionally, it can be difficult to filter out the subtasks from your custom lists when all you’re really interested in is the parent task.

TickTick, however, allows you to actually add a subtask list to a specific task. While this doesn’t give you the flexibility of multiple levels like Todoist, you are still able to tag specific subtasks and have separate due dates. There are two other cool features about the way TickTick handles subtasks. First, you see a nice little “progress” indicator showing you a graph of how complete the whole task is (or progress on the task bar depending on your browser, your view, etc.). Second, a repeating task with subtasks will have all subtasks “reset” once complete. In Todoist, all the subtasks show as completed, meaning you have to manually “uncheck” them. TickTick allows you to setup a repetitive task with subtasks properly.

Todoist subtasksTickTick subtasks

Browser Extensions

Both apps have browser extensions available. Chrome is my browser of choice, so I really only extensively tested in that browser; but I assume they all function similarly. Both allow you to right-click any page and add that page link as a task. They also both allow you to click the extension icon to view your to-do lists. Todoist shows as a popup in the browser window, TickTick pops up as a separate window. Both have their pros and cons, it all comes down to preference. Additionally, both Chrome extensions also added buttons to Gmail allowing you to add an email as a task. Very handy! Finally, both browser extension icons display the number of tasks that are overdue or due today. Also very handy.

Browser Extension icons

Google Assistant

I don’t have Alexa or Google Home, but I do have Google Assistant on my Android phone. Both TickTick and Todoist allowed me to use Google Assistant to add a task. You’re able to use the “make a note” feature and select either TickTick or Todoist as your notetaking app on your Android phone. Once that’s set, it’s a simple matter of saying “OK Google, make a note to get gas in the car.” This will create the task “get gas in the car” in my inbox of either TickTick or Todoist.

Android 

Both apps have widgets available for Android, and they’re almost identical. Both allow you to pick any project, list, label/tag, or custom list to display in the widget. Both allow you to mark a task as complete directly from the widget. Both allow you to add a new task directly from the widget. TickTick will allow you to style the widget from eight different choices, while Todoist uses the “theme” (really just your choice of accent color) that you have selected in your Todoist account; the consistency among all their apps is nice there, but it’s also nice to be able to deviate when I want to. Both apps also allows you to long press the Android icon and add a task from there or quick jump to “Today” or “inbox”.

Statistics and Metrics

Todoist uses the concept of “karma” to keep you motivated. Clicking on your karma link shows you the amount of tasks you’ve completed in the last seven days in a color-coordinated bar graph (colored by project/list). You will also find your daily and weekly streaks listed and the number of completed tasks. To view your completed tasks, you click the link offered here and then can filter the list by various metrics. Limited, but still possible to view.

TickTick has a much better looking statistics page with your “achievement score”, completion rate, and a couple other statistics. There’s also a “summary” page available which details your activity based on various metrics. TickTick has a much more robust summary, which is valuable for reflection or reporting.

Todoist Karma TickTick statistics

Other Raves

Miscellaneous things I liked about one app or the other.

Todoist:

  • Look and feel is clean and easy to use
    • Including ability to color-code projects, labels, and filters
  • “Unlimited” levels of projects, tasks, subtasks, etc. for ultimate flexibility
  • Can use Markdown to format task titles for more flexibility and ease of use
    • Additionally, can create tasks which cannot be completed (by adding an * and space before the task) – great for adding comments or metadata to a project
    • This allows use of links in tasks – for instance, I have a recurring task to check my son’s report card every week; the task itself is a link to the online report card so I can just click the task title, check the report card, then mark it completed
  • Can set a custom start page – like defaulting to a custom filter

Todoist Markdown use in tasks

TickTick:

  • Calendars – TickTick has a full-page calendar available, integration with your Google calendar, and even a mini-calendar pop-up
    • note: Todoist has Google calendar integration, but TickTick is much better at it
  • Theme options are much better looking
  • Much easier to see comments for a task as they show up on the right-side of the screen when a task is selected

TickTick theme options

Other Rants

Miscellaneous things I don’t like about one app or the other

Todoist:

  • Windows app is not consistent with the web version, which is slightly different than the Android app – Hey Todoist devs, consistency is king!
  • Unable to label individual custom filters – the actual filter shows up in the main workspace, which can be difficult to read

TickTick:

  • Tags don’t autocomplete in the browser extension – kind of a nitpick, but when adding a website or email as a task, it’s nice to be able to auto-complete a tag rather than type (or mis-type) one from memory
  • Everything seems takes an extra step or two (editing, selecting, etc.) over Todoist – sometimes the only option is to use the mouse and click something

Conclusion

Both apps are very similar and offer a majority of the same features. Even both premium costs are practically the same. It really almost does come down to preference. However, if you find yourself living by the calendar or needing good metrics of completed tasks, then TickTick is probably the better choice. If you need more powerful filtering for custom lists or just like how streamlined and efficient processes can be, then Todoist is probably the better choice.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! If you have a specific question, pop it in the comments below and I’ll do my best to provide an answer, comparison, or even some screenshots.


2 Comments

WolfChild Designs · 2018-07-28 at 11:32

This is a very good article! Thank you for taking the time to compare these two apps. I’ve used both in the past and am coming back to them now so seeing someone else’s point of view is super helpful. I’m still trying to deciding which one to use. Here are a few things I wanted to add for people that I’ve discovered just today.

TickTick
Tags are available in the free version
Now offer color coding for tags as well
Shows completed tasks in free version

Todoist
Labels are only available for premium users.
Showing completed tasks is premium.

I also like that TickTick has square check boxes, it’s just a personal preference. They’re both pretty good apps. And it really does just come down to preference like you said. Thank you again for your blog article!

    Tee Jay · 2018-07-28 at 16:39

    Thanks for the reply! Each app definitely has its pros and cons, which was my motivation for the comparison. I liked TickTick a lot, but the killer for me was Gmail integration and the filtering is better on Todoist (my lists live by the filters). But to others, those might not be a big deal… maybe reporting is key, which TickTick handles better.

    Thanks for the update on tags/labels too. It’s been a few months since I posted this.

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