Does Wunderlist 2 Satisfy Our Wanderlust for New GTD Apps?

In our modern interconnected world we are growing used to the idea of information in the cloud and access to our stuff from any device, be it a smartphone, a desktop, laptop or tablet. Though it is easy to forget that this is a relatively recent development, a whole industry of “Getting Things Done”, or GTD, has emerged.

An innovative company, 6Wunderkinder, produced what was perhaps the first OS X to-do list app that allowed you to synchronise information wirelessly between your Mac, iPhone and the then newly-launched iPad. That was Wunderlist. Now they’re back with Wunderlist 2 but the landscape has changed. How has Wunderlist faired?

History

Back in the heady days of OS X Snow Leopard (2009-2010), there was no Apple Reminders app, there was no iCloud synchronisation and though there was MobileMe — for cross-device syncing of information — it was only good for notes, calendar and contacts.

As little as three years ago, we were not routinely synchronising our tasks data — wirelessly — across devices, GTD apps could be expensive and our digital hub was the Mac not the cloud.

With Wunderlist, 6Wunderkinder came along and shook up the GTD category with an app that let you create to-dos on your Mac, iOS device, and more, and keep them in sync with the cloud. It was something seldom seen in competing apps, and quickly caught on.

Development

6Wunderkinder, the developers behind Wunderlist, had imagined a tool, a product that would reinvent project management. Knowing that the development would take a long time, they introduced a task-list manager — Wunderlist — to demonstrate their capabilities and give an idea of what their project management tool could be.

Wunderlist itself has, to date, been downloaded in excess of 5.5 million times and 6Wunderkinder claims it has almost three million users creating more than 100 million tasks in less than two years. This is a phenomenal achievement.

Meanwhile, work continued behind the scenes on the project management tool: Wunderkit a tool to merge business and personal projects allowing tasks, notes, comment and collaboration. For one reason or another, crystallising their thoughts into code was not, by their own admission, straight forward and Wunderkit never enjoyed the wildfire success of Wunderlist.

Despite visits back the the drawing board, 6Wunderkinder realised that the development of the two products was unrealistic.

Wunderlist was already providing management of business and personal projects for many users, so 6Wunderkinder took the brave decision to cease development of Wunderkit and instead concentrate on a new version of Wunderlist, completely rewritten with the experience of the Wunderkit project.

Wunderlist 2

That brings us to today, with the new version of Wunderlist that brings much of Wunderkit’s goodness to the original popular Wunderlist. The new app is a fully native Mac app, unlike the original version, and you can install it directly from the Mac App Store, or download it from their site.

If you’re new to Wunderlist, you should check out our older reviews of the previous versions in December 2010 and September 2011. Once you’re up to speed, here’s what’s new and exciting about Wunderlist 2.

It’s all About You

6Wunderkinder has drawn on its experience in developing the (now defunct) Wunderkit team management tool and evolved Wunderlist into a to-do manager that is social in enabling the easy sharing of lists with friends. If you desire, you can connect to your Facebook account.

Activity Centre

The Activity Centre is located in the middle of the top bar of the app. This helps you to keep track of your Wunderlist notifications.

If someone adds you to a list, or if they add or complete a task, you will find the notification here.

Activity Centre notifies you when collaborators perform actions.

Recurring Items

Some things that we do we don’t just do the once. Some times we needed to be reminded of something on a regular basis – such as invoicing customers, perhaps.

Wunderlist 2 adds the ability to set recurring tasks within any list. Tasks must be set individually to recur and you can choose daily, weekly, monthly, annually or a custom period.

The custom period takes the form of every n time period, which does not afford as much flexibility as the custom recurrence function in iCal, for example, which would allow you to specify the second Wednesday of every month.

Setting up recurring tasks. It doesn’t have quite the same flexibility as iCal.

Subtasks

Wunderlist 2 introduces subtasks – tasks within a task. This effectively gives three levels in lists, tasks and subtasks. Tasks containing subtasks are indicated by a map pin symbol.

This allows for even more details if there are a number of elements to a particular task.

Alternatively, it could be argued that if a task requires subtasks then it becomes a list in its own right and therefore only two levels — lists and tasks — are required.

Subtasks. These are tasks within an individual task within a list.

Reminders

Wunderlist 2 enables you to set a specific date and time to be reminded of any individual task. Selecting the time and date is done easily enough but every tasks for which you want a reminder must be set individually.

Setting a reminder. Be reminded of the task on a specific date and time.

Notes

A new addition to Wunderlist 2, Notes allows you to detail more information about any given task.

Notes can be detached from the main Wunderlist 2 window and moved, separately, around the screen. It is even possible to select a different task and open a new note for that task. Any notes that you detach will remain on your screen until such time that you close them or close the Wunderlist 2 application.

Adding notes to your task. Notes can be detached and moved around your screen.

Smart Lists

Smart lists are useful, separate lists that appear at the top of your list of lists. Any task to which you assign a star is given a red ribbon and ascends to the top of its list.

There is a smart list for starred tasks and, by clicking on this smart list, you are shown all (and only) starred items from across all of your lists. This is useful if you want a quick overview of all the tasks that you have prioritised.

There is another smart list for all tasks that are due today. The list is simply marked “Today” and lists all tasks, including those that are starred, for a quick overview of what is immediately due. It also lists, in red, any tasks that were due before today!

Smart lists. A smart feature that allows a quick glance at tasks due today and/or prioritised tasks.

Collaborate and Share Tasks With Friends

Sharing lists with others was already possible in Wunderlist. In Wunderlist 2, the functionality remains with the addition connecting Wunderlist to Facebook ostensibly to share lists with your friends.

Sharing a list with a friend.

Email Reminders

Wunderlist 2 will send polite emails to remind you of certain tasks… if you want it to. A reminder email is the sort of thing that helps some people, but if that’s not for you then the app can be configured to suppress the emails to avoid email overload.

If it is your preference, the Wunderlist icon in the dock can display a badge so that you can keep an eye on the number of tasks due to be completed.

What’s Uncool?

There’s a few things that aren’t quite so awesome in Wunderlist 2. Aside from some sync and update issues, there’s a number of little things that can make it not as usable as we’d like. Here’s some of them:

  • The “Welcome to Wunderlist 2” screen is useful in that it introduces you to the new features of version two, but the gently pulsating semi-transparent circles are all too easily missed before clicking continue.
  • The only way to move the Welcome window around the screen is to click and hold the bar at the bottom of the window which is not a convention in OS X. This is an unnecessary designer’s indulgence at odds not just with OS X but with the rest of the Wunderlist 2 app.
  • Subtasks can be awkward to deal with. Be aware of the rubbish bin icon – clicking on that deletes not just a subtask but the original task as well.
  • Once you start scheduling recurring reminders or a due date, the task is appended with an icon and a date. You’ll end up needing to use a larger window to show your full tasks
  • If you add people to collaborate from your address book, you can’t add them via their name, as Wunderlist will crash if you do so. You’ll need to enter their email instead.
  • An old feature of Wunderlist, the ability to print a list of tasks — useful to carry around with you and tick off when done — has inexplicably been removed from Wunderlist 2.

Conclusion

The original incarnation of Wunderlist shook up the GTD landscape in that the application worked not only across Macs and iOS devices, but also on other platforms including Windows, Android and Linux. Oh, and it was free. And free of advertising. It was, at the time, incredible.

The landscape has changed, however, as Apple now bundles its Reminders app that syncs across iCloud – a solution that will remain the default for many. That said, Wunderlist 2 has the advantage of providing cross-platform synchronisation of tasks not only to iOS and OS X devices, but to non-Apple devices including Android, Windows and a web-browser based interface. This gives Wunderlist 2 a clear advantage over Apple’s bundled Reminders App, especially for people who are required to use PCs as well as Macs.

With this update, 6Wunderkinder has tried to improve on a near-perfect app. Whilst the addition of subtasks is questionable, recurring tasks is welcomed. Sometimes the beauty of an app is its simplicity; less is always more.


Summary

Once the leading to-do list app that introduced cross-device, cross-platform cloud syncing before it was available in OS X. Version 2 is now a native app that is let down by synchronisation issues and underdeveloped functionality and questionable subtasks.

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  • http://pauladupont.com Paula DuPont

    I’ve had terrible synchronization issues with Wunderlist 2, to the point that it’s unusable. It often steps my due dates back 24 hours, and sometimes it triples (or more) all of my tasks. I do like the app so much and I wish it worked!

    • http://about.me/johnwinter Johnny Winter

      The sync issues with Wunderlist 2 have been very bad indeed. More so than I think 6Wunderkit are happy with, too. They have been open with the fact that they have had issues and I held off on the review to give them time to address the sync issues.

      That said, the sync issues are a major drawback to what was once their USP. Others have caught up now. Cross-device cloud syncing is now the norm. Its expected.

    • Dom

      The syncing issue has been fixed in the latest version. I’m not affecting anything and it’s pretty good synchronisation across my other devices including my iPad and iMac.

  • Rasmus WP

    What’s Uncool?
    The fact that you cant attach emails/images/evernote makes it useless, from a GTD perspective.

    • Johnny Winter

      Doesn’t it then become something it’s not trying to be? Lots of to-do list apps do not allow you to add images or emails.

      • Yury G.

        GTD is not the same as To-Do system. GTD by David Allen is about creating a ToDo System where you store all relevant data that You can use anywhere based on the Available time.

        To Do = Simple list of tasks.

  • Tim

    More like 4/10 compared to the original.

    • http://about.me/johnwinter Johnny Winter

      I originally scored it as 6/10. I was trying to be fair. To be honest, I used to be a huge proponent of Wunderlist. Wunderlist 2 has been a disappointment and I no longer recommend it over competitors and I don’t use it myself anymore.

      • Adrian Katz

        What do you use? I’m also unsatisfied with Wunderlist but I just haven’t been able to find anything else that is native, affordable and has the features I need.

      • Mike Ackerman

        What competitors do you suggest? I’ve been up and down this site for months now and I just can’t find a GTD app that I really like. I would love something that I can sync across my Mac, iPhone and iPad. A web UI would be nice for when I have to be on my PC at work. I looked into Todoist but the yearly fee for all the features was a letdown. Plus the free account only lets you sync onces a day. Please save me…

        • Gautam

          Have you had a look at MobisleNotes ? I was in your predicament and this seems to be the best solution. Also syncs with Android.

        • PeterW

          I’m in a similar situation, i.e. Mac at home, iPhone and iPad but use Windows at work. Appigo’s Todo Pro covers these platforms with native apps for the Apple gear and an online browser-based version. I’m happy with it and support is good.

  • Mary

    To add in “What’s Uncool ?” – 64b support only.
    So much for supporting an app since it’s beginning and now be stuck with a “web-only” version.
    What’s so special to make it 64-only ? No point. Disapointed.

    • http://about.me/johnwinter Johnny Winter

      I hadn’t spotted that one. If that is the case then I agree. Uncool.

  • Anonymous

    I like to resize the window to the smallest size for simplicity’s sake. All of those menus and buttons are too distracting.

  • Nosenation

    Using W2 till beginning. My opinion about your mentioned issues:

    + The “Welcome to Wunderlist 2” screen ….. – not big deal, most of users will ignore this view, because many of them aren’t just clicking monkeys and will find all needed functions (new also) right away. For me they maybe not very expressive, but I see point of interest on this view so this is minor issue (low priority).
    + The only way to move the Welcome window … – ok this isn’t very convenient, but user will see this screen in most cases only once, so minor also.
    + Subtasks can be awkward to deal with … – seriously? This icon is placed at the bottom of task, away from subtask list, so it can’t be connected with them. It is obvious (for me) that clicking it will remove whole task. No issue for me.
    + Once you start scheduling recurring reminders … – I assume you speak about full task (task, reminder, date, subtask and notes). Depends mainly on your screen resolution, and this is normal for most of apps. No issue for me.
    + If you add people … – This is issue, ok.
    + An old feature of Wunderlist .. – they bring this back to web-app and will be back on native version very soon, so minor, “fixed” issue.
    + Synchronization issue – I use it on my Mac, iPhone, Windows PC and right now i don’t see anny issues. Their were some after launch of version 2.0, because their servers got problems, but right now everything for me looks ok.
    + Only 64bit version – Don’t know what percent of users use 32bit system nowadays but I assume that this is way less than 30-20%. All new versions of Mac OS X are 64bit, and most users users have at least Lion or ML systems, so this is minor-medium issue.

    I like Wunderlist 2, it isn’t perfect, but it have time to be such. In FREE GTD competition it is still leader for me. In PAID GTD maybe not, but I don’t like idea to pay $20-50 for just task list app. It’s just my point of view.

    Regards :)

    • Johnny Winter

      Re: Welcome screen, fair enough, but they are niggles and worth pointing out. They don’t affect the overall operation, agreed.

      Subtasks. I think you misunderstood where I was going with this. I just don’t see any need for “nested tasks”. It makes no sense.

      Sync issues have hopefully all been cleared up. Some people haven’t had any issues. Some have. I’m hearing mixed stuff on this.

      Thanks for your feedback ;-)

  • http://webcreationcentre.com.au Mitchell Bray

    I am so over people bitching about free software Wunderlist 2 is amazing yes it has some syncing issues but they know and are working on it, lets focus on the fact that its an amazingly polished todo list with an outstanding ui and it comes to you for the grand price of NOTHING!!

    • tensider

      I would absolutely pay for Wunderlist if it sync’d at the right times. A free app that doesn’t work is worth less than nothing. It’s worth the frustration that my wife and I feel when we try to sync our lists.

      People are so angry because the potential of the program is so high. Fix it and THE WORLD WILL PAY YOU.

      For now, I am moving on to something that works. It will cost money, probably, and I’m okay with this.

      • Johnny Winter

        You know, soon after Wunderlist (the original version) came out of beta, I emailed 6Wunderkinder and said they should charge for the app. I said that I wanted to pay for it, it was _that_ good! Hell, there wasn’t even any advertising on it. It was excellent.

        Unfortunately, I feel that they kept “fixing” the best-of-breed (IMO) to-do app until they broke it.

        They had it nailed in version 1, and they’ve felt compelled to introduce new features that detract from its previous beautiful simplicity.

        That’s my opinion on it.

  • tensider

    Does Wunderlist 2 take 22 seconds to respond each time I check an item? Yes. Yes it does. Does it then take another 8-10 seconds for the checked item to disappear from my list, all the while locking up the screen? Yes. Yes it does.

    All we wanted from Wunderlist was stability in interaction and in sync. We were promised this in no uncertain terms. Thus far there has been no delivery. Half the time, when I start the iOS app, it crashes to the desktop.

  • http://thedunahoos.com Paul Dunahoo

    In response to this article’s title, no. However, it may change over time with continued updates.

    I personally am looking forward to OmniFocus 2.

  • Devan Flaherty

    I’ve always been a fan of wunderlist, for me it has always been the GTD app of choice because of how friggin simple it is, and beautiful.

    Really what I “NEED” though is base camp. I’ve used Basecamp at my past companies and I’m addicted to it, problem is they have no free, really limited version.

    So I stick with Wunderlist.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Hey Devan, if you’d actually like to use Basecamp on your own, they do have a new version that I’m now using for my own projects: Basecamp Personal. Check my review at that link for more info. In short, it’s a one project version of Basecamp for a one-time $25 fee – not free, but not nearly as pricey as paying $20/month for it, or $anything/month for almost every other pro productivity app on the web.

      • Johnny Winter

        That’s compelling at that price, Matthew.

        I’m sure I’m not the only one who would pay 6Wunderkinder $25 to reinstate the original Wunderlist.

        • http://www.taox.carbonmade.com Edgar

          Hi, you mention before that you no longer use Wunderlist but you never said what you are using instead, I have been looking the ¨kickoff 2¨ app, but it is not free and is mac and iOS only, not even plans for an ipad app, I miss the little green sync icon maybe not important but it was simple as it should be…

  • http://shegeeks.net Corvida Raven

    Thanks for the note about subtasks because I was wishing for sub-lists.

    Overall I’ve been enjoying Wunderlist for a few years now. No it doesn’t satisfy my wandering in search of better todo apps, but nothing’s replaced it. I aldo experienced sync issues and a random list that couldn’t be deleted when the new version launched but haven’t had any problems since.

    My two complaints are not being able to use my own background image and lack of Windows Phone support. They offer nice options, but I still want to use a few of my own. They pulled support for Windows Phone and I wish they hadn’t.

    Great review!

  • Phil

    Hi.
    Same question as Edgar: Johnny, what are you using now ??? ;-)
    Thanks.

    • http://about.me/johnwinter Johnny Winter

      I have been using Apple’s own Reminders app. Remember,6Wunderkinder had first mover advantage on this with the original Wunderlist – it was not possible to sync todos with Apple at the time.

      That said, Reminders is fiddly to use and not without faults. And it’s not available on non-Apple platforms.

      TBH, a lot of the time I resort to pencil and paper – it’s a whole lot easier than apps on iPhones/Macs, sometimes.

  • Sheldon

    I just love Wunderlist and use it everyday, 9/10 from me.

    • http://about.me/johnwinter Johnny Winter

      You’ve not upgraded, then? ;-)

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  • Mehmet Alpsoy

    I had been using the original since it was first released. After upgrading to W2, every good about Wunderlist turned into a nightmare.

    - I could not login for a few days after the upgrade, so my lists were gone, my workflow was ruined during that time, without knowing my tasks.

    - Then my lists appeared, every single item was duplicated, had to remove duplicates manually.

    -The print option was gone, not a big deal, but it was being useful, sometimes.

    - Crashes, crashes, crashes…

    - Wunderlist 2 is totally an unusable app for me.

    So, now I am using Evernote, adding my tasks to a note with checkboxes, sharing these notes with people for collaboration, and I will be doing this until I decide on an alternative to do app.

    • http://about.me/johnwinter Johnny Winter

      Yes – this is very much my experience, too, Mehmet.

  • mike

    printing is in there again, so is sending tasks via email :) they just updated it.

  • Joe Cotton

    Is it just me or is the wood theme tacky as hell???

    • Johnny Winter

      It’s tacky as hell!!!

  • Stupid

    “Things” is the best but it’s not available for Windows or Android.
    Try the mac version. You will see what I’m talking about.

  • TedP

    I had been using Things on the laptop and phone. I needed it for the iPad and got annoyed at the lack of a universal iOS app and a 3rd dip into my wallet.

    I went with Reminders for a few weeks and it worked well enough. On a whim I downloaded Wunderlist. So far, no complaints and works great. Considering it’s cross-platform and free, I’d say its a winner.

  • http://soundcloud.com/butch-tuffington chris

    I had Wunderlist 1 and when prompted, I did the update. Now all my data is gone because my device doesn’t support Wunderlist2 and there is no way to save/export/import the data.

    The updates DO NOT indicate or warn users that they may lose all data when doing an update.

    Use at your own risk of data loss. I found this article while searching ‘wunderlist alternatives’.

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