Tasks in Outlook have been given a major update with the development of Microsoft To Do.
To Do is way better than the old Tasks with more options, its own app and web page options. It’s available for everyone but works best with a Microsoft hosted mailbox (Outlook.com, Microsoft 365 with mail hosting).
To Do works with Outlook for Windows and Mac to a limited extent under the Tasks section.
Use the web interface for all the power of Microsoft To Do . There are apps for Apple, Android and Windows 10 (though the latter isn’t mentioned much, even by Microsoft!).
What’s in To Do
Microsoft To Do has three levels:
- Lists – tasks can be grouped into Lists. If not, the task is in the default Tasks list. Lists can be shared with other people with limitations. Not to be confused with Microsoft Lists, a separate product.
In each List there are …
- Tasks – the main part of To Do. Each Task has reminders, due dates and other features we’ll look at below. Tasks can be assigned to others, again with limitations.
- Steps – each Task can have sub-tasks or steps. Steps are a line of text only.
Tasks are more than just a single line.
Each task can have steps or intermediate tasks with it.
Each Step can be marked ‘Completed’ or deleted.
To Do Task options
Tasks have more options than Steps which only have a single line.
Click the little star to mark the Task as Important.
Choose the Important pane to see those Tasks.
My Day is a listing of tasks scheduled for today or tagged as ‘Add to My Day’.
Get a popup reminder of a Task for any date/time you like.
Reminders are separate from Due Dates …
Tasks can be given a due date or date range (limited). Tasks with a due date appear under ‘Planned’ and, when appropriate, ‘My Day’.
Having Due Date as a range is a nice touch but it’s limited to choosing ‘Next Week’. There’s no way to choose your own week or date range.
Tasks can be repetitive, just like life <g>.
Daily, Weekdays, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly or a custom pattern.
It lacks the ‘Edit Occurrences’ option available in Outlook Calendar which lets you delete or change specific dates within a repeated appointment.
A task can be assigned to someone sharing that List. You can assign a task to yourself!
An assigned task appears in the ‘Assigned to you’ list.
Assigning tasks appears to be limited to Microsoft hosted mailboxes (at least we can’t get it to work elsewhere). The above screen shot came from an Outlook.com mailbox.
Category is available in the web interface
At the moment, To Do categories are very limited just as ‘colors’ with no custom labels. It’s like the very old Outlook categories and not what you’d expect in a modern app.
If your To Do list is linked via a Microsoft hosted mailbox, you can change the categories in Outlook for Windows/Mac. The changed categories will appear in the To Do web interface.
Categories don’t appear in the Apple or Android apps, not yet anyway.
Any type of file can be attached to a Task.
Attachments are limited to a total of 25MB.
Surprisingly, there’s no in-built support for OneDrive stored files. The workaround is to save links to files in the notes.
Only plain text notes are available, not the rich-text, formatted notes we’re used to in Outlook.
Who can get To Do?
To Do is available to anyone with a free Microsoft account but there’s definite advantages to having a Microsoft hosted mailbox.
Integration with Outlook for Windows/Mac is limited to Microsoft hosted mailboxes (including Outlook.com).
Others can use Microsoft To Do via the web interface and apps. That’s not a major hassle except for things like Category customization which can only be done via Outlook.
Starting with To Do is easy. Go to https://todo.microsoft.com/tasks/ and login with your preferred Microsoft account.
Here we’ve logged in with an Outlook.com account so we’ve actually opened that mailbox and switched to the To Do pane. At bottom left are the usual links to Email, Calendar, People and Files.
There’s also a Windows 10 app for PC’s, Surface Hub and the few people left with Windows Phones. Like most UWP apps for Windows, it doesn’t get a lot of love from Microsoft. Generally better to stick with the web interface.
For Microsoft hosted mailboxes, To Do lists will appear in Outlook for Windows/Mac under ‘My Tasks’.
Migrate from Wunderlist
Microsoft To Do was born from the Wunderlist app which was bought in 2018.
It’s possible to migrate old Wunderlists into To Do following the prompts provided when starting with To Do.
To Do is still a work in progress
Microsoft is still developing To Do. There are limitations and inconsistencies between features depending on how you’re accessing To Do and the MS account you’re using.
In writing this article we found too many differences and anomalies between the web interface, apps and especially Outlook for Windows/Mac.
Typically for Microsoft, they hide or don’t tell customers about limitations in the product. They make it seem like To Do is the same for everyone but that’s not true. As we’ve already noted, a Microsoft hosted mailbox is necessary to get the most from To Do. There are limits on sharing Lists and assigning Tasks.
To Do apps are inconsistent. For example, the Android app supports multiple accounts and quick switching. The iPhone app doesn’t, at least not yet.
To Do as a web page has most features and options. If you’re looking for a ‘missing’ feature, check the web interface. What you’re looking for might only be available for MS hosted mailboxes, an important point not always mentioned.
We suspect To Do suffers from it’s history as an app bought in, not built from scratch, by Microsoft. Developers have to ‘shoe-horn’ To Do into the existing Outlook/Exchange Server infrastructure which leads to limits and inconsistencies.
Try Microsoft To Do and see if you like it. List and planning apps are very much a personal choice. You might prefer OneNote or Evernote which are more flexible or stick with paper and pencil.