Why Todoist is not worth the reviews it gets

As part of the search for the Perfect GTD system, I stumbled upon Todoist as one with many rave reviews and users who swear by the system. Even before I decided to try it out, I knew that it worked on a freemium model – which meant that basic features of the app were free, whereas you would have to pay for the more advanced features.

1) No reminders for the free version – You read that right. The free version of Todoist does not support reminders. So here you’ve got a whole list of tasks nicely categorized into projects, with proper contexts and due dates. And you’re all expecting for Todoist to remind you when each task is due. Sorry son. If you’re using the free version, it is up to you to remind yourself whenever a particular task is due. Well then, a todo app which does not provide reminders. Imagine buying a watch which doesn’t tell you the time, unless you insert a coin.

I was still interested in the tool based on the praise it got online. So I went ahead and signed up for the free version. While I was previewing the app, I got an email that Todoist was providing me a one month premium upgrade. That was fortunate. I could now test out the other advanced features including the reminder feature and see whether it was worth the $30 they charge for a year. The application is simple to use, be it the Android version of the Web version. The interface is clean and adding a task is easy. Todoist supports natural language due dates and times. i.e I could add a task saying it was “due tomorrow at 3pm” and it would automatically identify the correct due time and set it. But then you would have to set a reminder separately if you wanted to be reminded through SMS or push notifications.

You can set up projects as separate top level or in a hierarchical manner which is a useful feature for keeping everything sorted in minimum groups at the topmost level. For example, Personal and Work could be just two top level projects with others nested below either one of them.

The mobile push and the email notifications work well enough. However, I could not get the SMS notification to work (mine is an Indian phone number). Google Calendar, on the other hand, sends perfect SMS reminders.

Todoist also has a karma system which increase with each task you complete on or before time. Don’t know how useful it is in the long run, more of a gimmick to me.

2) Limited compatibility – Another thing which disappointed me is that although they claim that Todoist is compatible on a wide variety of platforms (12 or 13 as per their site), it seems to be full of disclaimers. When I tried to download the iPad version of the app, it mentioned that the app requires iOS7. I’m running iOS6.3 on my iPad 2 and that puts me out of luck. Will see if there is a workaround to download an older version of the app. (Edit: I downloaded an older version of the iPad app. It seems that this is just a mobile web version. So yet another no-go)

3) No persistent notifications – With each and every app on Android providing push notifications, you need a way to be able to clear notifications except for some important ones – like those tasks which are due. Todoist does not support persistent notifications. So even if I open and read the notification, it disappears from the notification bar. Why is this so? I should have to complete a task or snooze it before the notification goes away. Else it defeats the purpose of depending on an app to remind me until the task is done. Astrid was one of the best in this aspect. It had persistent and nagging reminders which kept me at it until I finished the task.

Looking at this initial review, I do not see Todoist yet becoming the weapon of choice in my GTD workflow. Though will continue to review Todoist for the rest of the time the premium period is on. Currently, I use the DGT GTD app which (even though is only Android based) is a very decent app and does a robust implementation of the GTD method.

1 comment

  1. I feel the same way. Todoist is a glorified to do list, basically. That’s really what you get with web apps though at this point in time. The technology just isn’t there. I tried to use Todoist recently with the news that they are integrating 2-way sync with Google Calendar but the app itself is not that great. It’s only great if you haven’t known anything better that did more, essentially.

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