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Automatic due date and reminders in Microsoft To Do

Microsoft’s To Do app can now automatically add due dates, reminders and repeat tasks automatically based on what you type.  It works quite well but there’s some traps for the unwary.

Whatever you type in a new task is analyzed for hints of due dates, reminders and repeat tasks.  Here’s Microsoft’s example:

Source: Microsoft

Office Watch has tested this feature and it works pretty well.  There are two problems with the ‘smart’ recognition.  Microsoft mentions the minor issue but there’s a huge trap which Microsoft hasn’t mentioned.

How To Do text recognition works

Click the Add Task button and type in some text.  The text recognition will convert key details into due dates, reminders or repeat tasks.

At it’s simplest, it’ll add a due date:

The text used to create due dates etc is underlined.  On the left is a summary of the details set.

Be more specific with a time and To Do will add a reminder:

Keywords like ‘every’, ‘daily’, ‘weekly’ etc will create a repeating task.

Here’s a full display task created so you can see everything that’s done by To Do, a Due Date, Reminder and repeat schedule for the task.

Change the due date, reminder or schedule

Click on any of the three items at right to change them from whatever the app has guessed for you.

Changing the task text does NOT update

You might think that changing an existing task text would also update the details, but it does NOT. 

‘Smart’ text recognition only works when the task is being added, any later changes to the task text don’t change the set date/time details.

For example, here’s the above task “Take out trash every Wednesday”, we’ve changed the text to Friday but the task due date does not change accordingly.  Not even a warning that the text doesn’t match the current task settings.

Confusing months with names

Microsoft does admit that their text recognition can’t tell the difference between some words as months/days and names.  Most of these conflicts are rare except perhaps out ‘March’ example.

We did this test in April 2022, so ‘March’ is pushed to the following year.

Adding a specific date changes the text recognition from the vague month to an exact date.

Also Days

Microsoft doesn’t mention the possibility of day name confusion too.  Some days of the week are also used as names, like these famous examples.

It’s an old joke that we could not resist.

Who gets it?

At the moment, smart recognition is only available in the To Do apps for Windows, iPhone and iPad (iOS).  English language only.  Microsoft says other platforms and languages will be rolled out in the future.

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