Software

How to organize your to-do list with Google Tasks

This guide shows you how to install and use the task manager Google Tasks, and explains why it might be the best task-master on the market.

I've used more than a fair share of Android apps for keeping tabs of tasks. With a life that grows busier by the day, that particular app becomes more and more important. However, the problem with many of these apps is they offer too much in the way of bells and whistles to be truly useful, especially when all I need is to be able to check off a list. Even Google Keep, which I depend upon daily, becomes a bit too cumbersome for a simple task list. To use Keep, you have to open the app, locate your task list, and then hope it has properly synced with your account (on more than one occasion this has burned me).

So when Google finally released the Google Tasks app, I released a sigh of relief. Surely the developers understood what was missing from the Android/Google ecosystem—a simple app that would do one thing and do it right. When I finally installed Google Tasks, my hopes were most certainly not dashed. Google Tasks is a straightforward app that lets you do one thing: keep lists of tasks.

Now, before you groan saying "Any app can keep a bulleted list," I will stop you and say that Tasks does have a couple of really cool tricks up its sleeve. This is Google, after all, so integrating into your Google account is key.

Let's install Google Tasks and check out how it works.

Installation

Installing Google Tasks is just as easy as is installing any app on Android. Do the following:

  1. Open up the Google Play Store on your Android device.
  2. Search for Google Tasks.
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Google, LLC.
  4. Tap Install.
  5. Allow the installation to complete.

That's all there is to installing Google Tasks. You should now see an icon for the app on your home screen or in your App Drawer. You won't have to sign in, as it will automatically be associated with the Google account being used on your Android device.

Usage

Are you ready for this? Google Tasks is incredibly simple. From the main window (Figure A), you tap the Add a new task button and type a task.

Figure A

Figure A

The Google Tasks main window.

New tasks will appear in a single bulleted list (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

A small list of tasks, ready to be completed.

As you complete a task, tap its associated circle to close it. All closed tasks will appear in the Completed list. If you tap a task (not the radio button) you can gain access to a window that allows you to add details, a date, and subtasks (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

Adding details to a task.

Task lists

You didn't think Google would relegate you to a single list of tasks, did you? If you tap the menu button (three horizontal lines) in the bottom left corner, you can create a new list and select from any other lists you've created (Figure D). This way you can keep lists for clients, jobs, shopping, home, school, etc.

Figure D

Figure D

Create a new list or select from another list.

Once you've created a list, you can then add tasks to the list in the same way you did the main My Tasks list.

Emails to tasks

This is another one of those tricks Google Tasks has up its sleeve. If you go to the desktop version of the new Gmail (new being crucial here), you'll notice Tasks in the right sidebar. If you click to open tasks, it'll appear in that sidebar. Now you can drag an email into that Tasks area to create a task in a list (Figure E). Those new tasks will automatically sync with your mobile device.

Figure E

Figure E

Adding tasks from emails in the new Gmail.


There is one caveat to adding emails as tasks. If you click the task's email link in the desktop app, it will automatically open the email in Gmail. If you tap that same link in the mobile app, it will give you an error that there is no installed app to handle the job. That's a shame, as the Gmail app is installed on the device, so it should be able to automatically handle that task. Hopefully, this is something Google will fix in the near future.

Simplicity over overkill

What draws me to Google Tasks is its simplicity. The app offers just the right amount of features as to not distract from its one job: to keep you on task with your tasks. Google Tasks has mastered the art of simplicity and avoided the dreaded overkill that causes many similar apps to become too cumbersome to use during a busy, on-the-go day. Give this app a try; I feel confident it will quickly become your go-to task tool.

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About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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