(drum roll) It’s the native Apple Notes app. I know, perhaps it sounds boring but let me explain.
Like many people out there I have tried many different to do apps. This is just a short list. I tried Any.do, TickTock, Google Keep, Trello, WorkFlowy, Notion, Taskade, Todoist and probably a dozen others.
I always wanted a simple to do app where I can keep a list of tasks I need complete. Once a task is done I wanted to mark it done (or cross it out). I didn’t need any complicated project management features or collaboration features. On a number of occasions I wanted to just switch to using pen and paper. I imagined I’d write my list of tasks and cross them out when completed. One drawback with a pen and paper is that you need to carry it with you.
As I continued to try more apps and read what other folks are using (there are thousands articles on various to do apps and approaches out there). I decided to give a very simple app a try. I thought this approach would bring me the closest to a pen and paper but I’d still be using an app.
That app is the native Apple Notes app on iOS, ipadOS and macOS.
I created a folder called Tasks. Inside the folder I have three notes. The main note is pinned so it is always at the top. That’s my main to do list.
Inside the note I have a simple list of tasks I need to complete. I’m using a checkbox for the list. As I complete a task, I check it and it moves to the end of the list (you can turn this option off in settings). I also have some recurring tasks. I don’t need to mark them complete but I list them there so I remember I need to do these tasks.
I also use emojis in folders, note names and inside notes to make it more fun and a little bit easier to find notes that I need.
There are more options in the context menu. For example, you can cross out items, add more formatting and share:
You can also include photo in a note, scan a document and sketch. This brings me to other devices. The app is of course available on the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. All the notes are quickly synced between devices via iCloud. That’s a great benefit. With other apps you would probably need to install them all separately and sometimes they might not be available on all the platforms (and might not be free).
One feature I use often on the iPhone is Scan Documents. It works very well for scanning documents. It allows scanning a single or a multi-page document. Once you are done scanning you can export the file as PDF. I used to have a dedicated scanning app which I uninstalled.
You can also use the sketch feature. I don’t use it often but I can see it can be handy on the iPad if you also have the Apple Pencil.
One thing you might find missing is being able to set notifications for tasks. As Apple Notes is first a notes app it doesn’t have a notification feature. To set notifications you can combine it with the Apple Reminders app.
You can create a reminder manually and you can also highlight text in the Notes app and then using Share to send it Reminders app. With the Reminders app you can get notifications when a task is due.
So that’s my setup. You should be able to setup these apps for you as well. I wanted to make it as simple as possible, have apps available on all devices and also important that it works fast (all native Apple apps usually work fast). If you are looking for something a little bit more sophisticated you can take advantage of setting folders in the Notes app. You can pin a note (I use that) and also password protect notes. If you need to collaborate on tasks in a note you can share the note with other iCloud users.
One minimum requirement for this setup to work is that you need at least one Apple device.
And, the Notes app is first of all a notes app so I use it to take notes as well. One awesome capability is inserting pictures when using notes on your laptop/desktop computer. You can right-click in a note and select Take Picture. This will open the camera on your phone. Once you take a picture, it will be inserted in your note on laptop/desktop. This is very handy when taking notes and pictures at a conference talk (that’s when we used to go to conferences, before Covid-19).
I’d love to hear about your tasks setup. Let me know what you are using in comments.