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Checking Google's Tasks: Still More to Do



Google is again trying to create a coherent to-do list by turning tasks into a complete, stand-alone service with its own mobile apps and deep integration with the new Gmail redesign.

The new app is a fresh coat of paint for the long-neglected tasks built into Gmail, with a crisp, cleaner user interface and ambitions (at least on the Paper) to serve as a one-stop shop for all your tasks. Unfortunately, while Google has designed tasks to make them look better than ever before, the new façade has the same patchwork chaos of missing features and competing services it has always been.


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Let's start with the good first. Along with the new look, which feels like an updated version of Google's Material Design formula, with more smooth menus and the use of Google Product Sans font in the apps, the biggest goal of Tasks is the impressive Gmail integration. The updated web version of Gmail now includes sidebar tasks that are always available, and you can drag and drop emails onto them to turn them into task list items. Since I'm the kind of person who already uses my inbox as a secondary ad hoc to-do list, it's better to be able to better organize and track that process directly from the website.

Google also has the most basic features of a to-do list of tasks. You can create multiple lists, assign data to items (which is also the only option to sort, other than moving things manually), add additional notes to a task, and add multiple subtasks under a parent task. And the app itself is lightning fast, both when navigating menus or accounts and when syncing from the desktop site to the mobile apps.

Unfortunately, these basic functions all can do the job. There are a lot of things you would expect from a reasonably usable to-do list app that is not in work. You can not set specific times for tasks to remind you of what a huge oversight looks like. There is no option to rank items with different priority levels, no ability to browse lists for a specific task, no recurring tasks, and no categories or tag filtering systems.


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

There are a number of notifications in the mobile app, but since you can not assign times or due dates with tasks, there is no way to control the popup feature (ie To be honest, I'm still not quite sure what I did to get the one that could show up.

Google Reminders (part of Google Calendar and Google Keep) is still confusing, and with features that tasks do not but you can not even fill in the gaps left by Google tasks, because Google does not let you use both at the same time – you'll have to manually switch between tasks and reminders, which is like a crazy step backwards.


You can use tasks or reminders – but not both

tasks feel similar the typical Google product of the last decade – instead of repairing the app or service that Google has delivered, Google just makes a few new improvements to some of the features and hopes that eventually everything will sort itself out. It's one thing we've seen over and over again with things like messaging (see: Talk, Hangouts, Voice, Messenger, Allo and Now Chat) or the fact that Google Earth and Google Maps are still separate apps.

In Google Tasks, there is the bone of a good to-do list, but without some important additions, it probably will not get full of features like todoo or things. And if it ever gets there Google will have to scrutinize some of its redundant services and start cutting things, rather than simply adding half-baked alternatives.


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