If you are interested in learning more about how you can use software or an app to manage your tasks and to-do list, you are in the right place!  Here will will be discussing task management software programs.

What is Task Management Software?

Task management software is an application built to help you and/or your team organize tasks and track the status of a task within a project.  This application may be web-based (accessed within your browser), or can be downloaded as an application on your computer or mobile device. 

Generally, a task management program will allow you to enter a task, provide some context for the task, possibly set a “due date”, and then allow you to mark the task as “complete” when it is done. 

There are hundreds of task management programs, all with the goal of helping you organize your work and life.

Enterprise Project Management Solutions

While some task management programs can also be expanded to include large teams and manage multiple projects, some software is specifically designed to support mid- to large-sized businesses.  These programs are project management applications.  They deal with “tasks” and broaden them across teams to allow groups to collaborate and accomplish parts of a whole. 

For this article, we are focusing on the solutions that fit the needs of individuals or small teams. 

Common Features in a Task Management Program

What should you look for in your digital to-do list?  That depends entirely on you, but here are some common features to keep an eye out for:

Organization and Structure

Something a paper to-do list can’t do: reorganize items.  Many software options allow you to move around tasks, put a task within a certain category, or adjust its placement in a hierarchy. 

Let’s say you want to clean out your garage.  Creating a task that is: “Clean Out Garage” is both vague and overwhelming.  Try creating the task to clean out the garage, and within it break down all the subtasks you need to accomplish.  These might include: sell sports equipment, move wood pile, return tools to dad, and sweep floor.  By breaking down your tasks, you can work toward the goal, all while knowing what it is for.

Setting Reminders

A task program is no good if you don’t use it, and remember to look at it.  Too often we create “systems” to keep us organized and then never look at them again. 

Don’t rely on your memory or willpower.  Use a program with a reminder setting. 

Want to send an email to your mom after work, but keep forgetting?  Create a task, then set a reminder.  Reminders may be notifications on your phone, or emails.  Whatever will help you remember.

Assigning Responsibilities

This feature is more useful for teams, but can also be applied to households.  When creating a task, you can choose a “user” to assign the task to – they will be responsible for the task and it will show up in their task list when they sign into the program. 

If you are using the task manager for just yourself, this may not be a necessary feature.  However, if you are a project manager, this tool usually comes accompanied by the ability to filter tasks by an employee.

Changing Display of Tasks

How you look at your tasks can be an important element of choosing a program.  For example, if your tasks are very time-oriented (Task A must be done on Monday, Task B on the third Wednesday, etc.), you may appreciate the ability to view tasks in a calendar format.

Or, you may prefer a long list, in order of due date.  Or by the project.  Changing the display and visual setting of tasks is a helpful feature in a task management program.

Adding Context to Tasks

Tasks may require more information to accomplish.

  • Description or notes: providing more information or background on what the task is and how/why it needs to be accomplished. 
  • Comments: timestamped ways to provide a status update, or leave more context about a task.  Comments are also a way for teams to communicate on a task or project.
  • Attached documents: attaching a document, spreadsheet, or note can be a great way to provide supporting information, or even linking directly to a document to be edited in the task.

How to Choose a Program

Choose a task management program can be overwhelming.  However, knowing what you need and how you work can help narrow down your options.

Cost and Pricing

Your budget may play an important role in choosing a software program.   There are plenty of free, or free trial options, however.  Many solutions also have a tiered pricing structure based on the number of users or additional features.

Number of Users

Are you looking for a task program for just yourself, or for a team?  If it is just for you, you won’t necessarily need features like “assigning user”. 

However, choose a program that has the capacity to grow with you if you are a budding start-up or small company.  The last thing you want to do while onboarding a new team is to change an existing task management software!

Work Flow

The way you interact with a task management program is very personal.  Some people are more visual and want to see tasks laid out on a dashboard.  Others prefer lists or the ability to “check off” finished projects.

Here are some ways you may interact with a software program:

Task List

Create a task or to-do list.  Check off when complete. 

It can also be helpful to be able to add details about a task, such a link to a document, commenting for status report, or other notes.

Asana Task Creation
Creating tasks in Asana

Status Flow

Also called “kanban” or “boards” this is a layout that shows where a task resides in relation to time or status.  A task is placed in a category, and as pieces are completed, the “task” moves to another category.

This flow type is common for tasks that go through phases, or editorial calendars.

MeisterTask Kanban View

Hierarchical Systems

If you like to create a lot of subtasks, down to the minutia of a task, this is for you. 

Create a task and then add subtasks to break down what needs to be done to accomplish the main task.

ToDoist Task Add Screenshot
Adding a Task in ToDoist

Calendar or Timeline

This is a display type that requires a “due dates” feature.  Then, you can view tasks as they relate to a calendar.

If you are interested in a Gantt chart view, you will need a task management system that A) supports conditional task formatting and B) has an integrated Gantt chart view.

Or maybe just a way to plan one day at a time…

Marvin Productivity Diary
Placing a task in your calendar with Marvin

Final note on work flow: if you have never used a task management software before, you may not know what your preferred work flow is.  Therefore, we recommend trying some free programs and see what you like!  There is no one right way to be organized and productive. 

Device Support

Part of your workflow includes the device you use.  If you need a task manager to help you when you are running errands, a desktop-only program won’t be of help – you need a mobile interface or app!

Task management software can come in the form of web-based, computer downloadable, or even an app for iPhone or Android devices.

Now what?

Time to find a program and try it out!  While there are too many to list, Capterra has a great database of software programs.  You can filter by your desired features, and sort.

Want some recommendations?  Here are a few of Office Otter’s favorites:

Disclosure: This is a totally biased list based on what we’ve tried and liked, companies we consider friendly on the customer support side, and owners/developers we know.  We have not received any payment for inclusion and do not get a commission for posting these.


Near and dear to our hearts, MeisterTask has a simple and fun interface that makes getting into task management super easy. 

Our favorite part: customizable colors and icons for easy visual sorting.

Who would like it: those into kanban/boards style list management.


This feature-packed program makes it easy to see why it has gained in popularity.  Great for a solo-adventurer or crew.

Our favorite part: the celebratory rainbow narwhals splashing across the screen when you check off a task.

Who would like it: those who like creating lists within lists.

(Amazing) Marvin

Power to the female developers out there!  Created by Christine Willner, Marvin is the task manager for those who want to create their own systems, all while housed in a beautifully clean, minimalist aesthetic. 

Our favorite part: creating your own day-planner by picking from a list of existing tasks

Who would like it: the DIYer who wants something full-featured they can design themselves

What program did you end up downloading?  What do you use now?  Share with us in the comments below!

Featured photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Posted by Amanda Parsons

Amanda has always had an appreciation for writing instructions that are easy to follow. When not curled up with her laptop trying to figure out why Word on the Mac is so weird, she can be found kayaking in the Pacific Northwest.

Add Your Thoughts