You’d think it would be easy to make a good to-do app for a platform. After all, paper and pencil have been doing the job for years on end already, haven’t they? Still, it’s proven to be surprisingly hard to find a simple, functional to-do list app for Windows 8. Like Goldilocks, they’re either too clunky to use, too chock-full of features, or too sparse.
My gold standard, as with most PIM apps, is the Tasks app for Palm OS. Though it’s over a decade old, the Palm OS got a lot of things right. The right balance of simple with being full-featured enough to use daily is a terribly hard balance to strike. Minimalist for Windows 8 gets a lot of the balancing right, though.
DesignMinimalist is one of the nicer Windows 8 apps I’ve seen. The grey, white, and green color scheme is quite striking, and everything is nicely and simply laid out. There are, of course, a few flaws: the ‘create new list’ form at the right is redundant to the button on the top bar; the stroke between the buttons and the lists themselves looks out of place; but overall, this is a nice example of just how nice Metro Windows 8 style can look when it’s properly done: maybe it doesn’t follow all of the guidelines to the letter, but it sure looks good in the process.
Unfortunately, Minimalist is ad-supported – and there’s no option for a pro version to upgrade and remove these ads. Still, it’s a minor annoyance: everything has ads these days, even Microsoft’s Weather app – and better yet, the ads only pop up in Minimalist some of the time.
Minimalist shows you your lists, and nothing more, when you open the app. Your various lists are similar to categories in other to-do list apps. You can fit 11 to-dos on each category, or roughly 22-33 to-dos on the entire screen, depending on the screen size.
Everything is gesture-based, and would do excellently on a touch screen. When you open Minimalist for the first time it shows a sample list, with various items explaining how to use the programs. Various gestures control the items: double-tap to edit; swipe right to check off an item, swipe right again to uncheck an item. Swipe left to delete a to-do, and hold down a to-do to reorder it in the list.
On the left of every list are some list-related tools: delete list, check all, shuffle list, and add a to-do. Pretty simple stuff, and indeed those few paragraphs cover just about the entire app. There’s no way to set priorities, like in many to-do list apps – although rearranging the items manually does work to prioritize your lists roughly.
The biggest shortcoming of this app is its lack of a snapped view. A snap view would be perfect for a to-do list, as it could stay open on the side of the screen as you work on various tasks. Unfortunately, Minimalist offers no snapped view, but instead displays the full application with a scrollbar at the bottom. This is really the make-or-break feature of the app, for many people, and Minimalist doesn’t work at all in snapped view. It’s disappointing, but the app isn’t quite good enough in normal view to make the lack of snapped view worth it.
One significant lack is due dates – there is no way to set due dates on Minimalist, and consequently no way to arrange tasks by date. This is a major shortcoming, as it’s really all that’s missing to make a nice, well-rounded to-do list app. Adding due dates would also allow for an alarm feature which is definitely handy with to-do list apps. A priorities feature would be nice as well, allowing the app to keep track of how to sort your to-dos instead of having to do everything manually.
While it’s only a little feature, there is no option to rearrange lists between themselves. The most recent list you’ve created is the furthest to the left, and the others follow it one by one. There’s also no option to move to-dos between lists, which would be nice, especially with Minimalist’s emphasis on gestures.
And maybe I’m really dreaming here, but a Windows phone version of the app, and real-time sync between the two, would be great. Too often I’m dependent on my phone – not my computer – for my to-do list, as my phone is in my pocket with me all the time. Real-time sync would make moving from my pocket to my desktop effortless.
There’s a mixed bag of missing features, but the reality is that for what Minimalist does, it does extremely well, and for free to boot. Some of these features, particularly dates and syncing, would make this app worth money, so it would be nice to see a Minimalist Pro sometime in the future.
Overall, Minimalist is getting there. It’s definitely the best to-do list app out there in the Windows store. There are definitely far worse to-do apps out there, but that doesn’t excuse all of Minimalist’s flaws. It has a nice, simple design, and for what it does, it does well, but it’s lacking too many features that it needs to be a truly excellent to-do list app. Still, the beauty of Windows 8 is that updates are easy and painless, so hopefully in the future Minimalist 2.0 will be a better companion for your lists of things to do.