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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.7