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Find The Perfect Outliner, Task & Productivity Tool For You

Updated on June 17, 2016
Stay on top of your tasks and projects with this software
Stay on top of your tasks and projects with this software | Source

Finding the right task management and outliner tools

If you're a small business owner, freelancer or project manager, you know how difficult it can be to plan and stay on top of the numerous tasks you need to complete every day! Project management isn't easy at the best of times, but when you've got a business to run, things can get very hectic, very quickly.

Fortunately, there are a number of software applications that can make things easier for you.

One of the more popular types of software for doing this are 'Outliners'. These allow you to place tasks and projects in a hierarchical 'tree' so that you can track projects, tasks and subtasks more easily.

In my efforts to find the most effective task and project outliners, I've downloaded and tried out many of the different applications that are available and made notes on each. This list discusses many of the popular ones, shares my research and lists some of the key functionality of each as follows:

  • Name - The name of the application / software
  • Website - Where you can download the software from
  • Description - A very brief description of the software, taken from the vendor's website
  • Price - Cost for the software
  • Trial - Trial period (if any)
  • Multi-Level Outlines - Does the software allow outlining at more than one level? (Important for more complex projects and tasks with lots of subtasks)
  • Sync - Does the software sync with other services to allow it to be used when mobile or on other computers?
  • Clipping - Will the outliner easily clip information from the web or other sources?
  • Task Recurrence - Does the outliner allow recurring, regular tasks on a schedule?
  • Project Recurrence - Does the software allow projects to recur as well?
  • Calendar view - Does the outliner provide a calendar view of upcoming scheduled tasks and projects?
  • Goals - Can you align tasks and projects with short, medium and long term goals?
  • Simple Input - Is it easy to input new information?
  • Customise Columns - Can you customise columns to your unique needs and information?
  • Note Taking - Is it easy to add notes and other information (non-tasks)

I have covered each of these for each of the outliners below. Ultimately I would recommend downloading trial versions of the applications that you are interested in and trying them out.

In this hub, we'll be looking at the following outliner and task management software:

  • Achieve Planner
  • Agenda At Once
  • All My Notes
  • Daisho
  • Efficient PIM
  • Essential PIM
  • Infoqube
  • LeaderTask
  • My Life Organised
  • MyInfo
  • Task Coach
  • The Brain
  • Task Merlin
  • Task Unifier
  • Thinking Rock
  • Ultra Recall


What exactly is Outliner software?

Outliner software is used to track tasks and projects that you need to complete. In many ways, outliner software is similar to standard 'To Do' task management software (like Outlook tasks, Google tasks or similar.) In other words, at the simplest level, you input tasks that you need to complete and tick them off as you complete them.

Where outliners differ however, is as follows:

  • Standard 'To Do' list software generally only allows one 'level' of tasks, a 'flat task list'. This means that all tasks are literally in one long list and you tick them off as you need to
  • An outliner puts all of those tasks into a hierarchical tree. This means that your outline might look like the screenshot below
  • An outliner is very good for organised project managers that want to break their projects out into multiple levels

A screenshot of Outliner software, showing the hierarchical tree structure; screenshot from author's 'My Life Organised' software.
A screenshot of Outliner software, showing the hierarchical tree structure; screenshot from author's 'My Life Organised' software. | Source

The main features of Outliner software

Feature
Explanation
Hierarchical structure
Allows individual tasks to have 'parents', 'children', 'siblings' and 'dependencies', this means that there is an organised structure for tasks
Tree like outline
Part of the hierarchical structure involves the outline itself; you have the main branches, then the projects, sub projects, deliverables, milestones and tasks
Task management
Outliner software allows you to track relevant tasks, contexts, due dates, recurrence, importance, priority and the like
Searchable
You should be able to quickly and easily search for any information or task that you need
Synchronization
Some outliners enable you to sync your tasks and projects across different devices (desktop PC, online, tablets, smartphones etc.)
Clipping
Some outliners will allow you to clip information directly from the web, meaning that you can use the outliner to store and retrieve notes and other reference materials
Customizable
Some outliners allow you to customize the columns and fields where you enter information so that you can store data of different types and needs

Outliner software - Side by side comparison

A side by side comparison of the key task and productivity software outliners
A side by side comparison of the key task and productivity software outliners | Source

Related books from Amazon

What To Do When There's Too Much To Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 a Minutes Day
What To Do When There's Too Much To Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 a Minutes Day

Following Stack’s step-by-step Productivity Workflow Formula, you’ll organize your life around the tasks that really matter and—this is crucial—let go of those that don’t. Dozens of practical strategies will help you reduce your commitments, distractions, interruptions, and inefficiencies. You’ll shrink your to-do list and save time—around ninety minutes a day—while skyrocketing your results and maintaining your sanity.

 


You can find more details on each of these applications below.

Achieve Planner - 'A time management software system that gets you organized and focused, helping you get more done in less time.' 30 day trial, then $80 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: Yes
  • Clipping: No
  • Task Recurrence: Yes, but awkward to manage
  • Project Recurrence: Yes, but awkward to manage
  • Calendar View: Yes
  • Goals: Yes
  • Simple Input: Yes
  • Customise Columns: No
  • Note Taking: Yes



Agenda At Once - 'Clean and simple Personal Information Management software' 15 day trial, then $40 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: No
  • Clipping: No
  • Task Recurrence: Yes
  • Project Recurrence: Yes
  • Calendar View: Yes
  • Goals: No
  • Simple Input: No
  • Customise Columns: No
  • Note Taking: Yes



All My Notes - 'An advanced outliner. Keep all your information well ordered, securely protected by password, ready for fast access and fast search' 30 day trial, then $34 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: No
  • Clipping: No
  • Task Recurrence: No
  • Project Recurrence: No
  • Calendar View: No
  • Goals: No
  • Simple Input: No
  • Customise Columns: Yes
  • Note Taking: Yes



Daisho - 'Time management software for professionals; you decide what's important and what isn't' Free Edition, c. $45 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: Yes
  • Clipping: No
  • Task Recurrence: Yes
  • Project Recurrence: No
  • Calendar View: Yes
  • Goals: Yes
  • Simple Input: Yes
  • Customise Columns: No
  • Note Taking: No



Efficient PIM - 'With Efficient PIM you can keep track of contacts, appointments, tasks, to-do lists, birthdays, and much more.' 30 day trial, $32 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes - Tasks only
  • Sync: No
  • Clipping: Yes
  • Task Recurrence: Yes
  • Project Recurrence: Yes
  • Calendar View: Yes
  • Goals: No
  • Simple Input: Yes
  • Customise Columns: Yes
  • Note Taking: Yes


Essential PIM - 'Personal information manager that lets you manage appointments, tasks, notes, contacts, password entries and email messages across multiple devices and cloud applications.' 30 day trial, $40/$80 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: Yes
  • Clipping: No
  • Task Recurrence: Yes
  • Project Recurrence: Yes
  • Calendar View: Yes
  • Goals: No
  • Simple Input: Yes
  • Customise Columns: No
  • Note Taking: Yes


Infoqube - 'The most advanced Windows outliner, capable of managing all your information.' Free while in beta, $50 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: No
  • Clipping: Yes
  • Task Recurrence: Yes but awkward
  • Project Recurrence: Yes but awkward
  • Calendar View: Yes
  • Goals: No
  • Simple Input: No
  • Customise Columns: Yes
  • Note Taking: Yes

Infoqube is an advanced information manager and outliner
Infoqube is an advanced information manager and outliner | Source

LeaderTask - 'LeaderTask Personal Organizer — reliable assistant in managing tasks, meetings and contacts!' $35/$70 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: Yes
  • Clipping: No
  • Task Recurrence: Yes
  • Project Recurrence: No
  • Calendar View: Yes
  • Goals: No
  • Simple Input: Yes
  • Customise Columns: No
  • Note Taking: Yes


My Life Organised - 'Powerful To-Do list, task management & personal organizer software MyLifeOrganized designed to implement GTD (Getting Things Done) system.' 45 day trial, $60 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: Yes
  • Clipping: No
  • Task Recurrence: Yes
  • Project Recurrence: Yes
  • Calendar View: No
  • Goals: Yes
  • Simple Input: Yes
  • Customise Columns: No
  • Note Taking: No


MyInfo - 'MyInfo is a free form personal information manager (PIM) software for Windows. It is easy to use, but has all the benefits of a powerful organizer.' 28 day trial, $50/$100 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: No
  • Clipping: Yes
  • Task Recurrence: No
  • Project Recurrence: No
  • Calendar View: No
  • Goals: No
  • Simple Input: Yes
  • Customise Columns: Yes
  • Note Taking: No

MyInfo Organizer is a very popular choice for task management
MyInfo Organizer is a very popular choice for task management | Source

Task Coach - 'A simple and friendly task manager written in Python.' Free.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: No
  • Clipping: Yes
  • Task Recurrence: Yes
  • Project Recurrence: Yes
  • Calendar View: No
  • Goals: No
  • Simple Input: Yes
  • Customise Columns: No
  • Note Taking: Yes


The Brain - 'TheBrain provides advanced Mind Mapping Software and Knowledge Management Software that uses visualization and intuitive concept maps.' 30 day trial, $220 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: Partial (Sync between computers)
  • Clipping: Yes
  • Task Recurrence: No
  • Project Recurrence: No
  • Calendar View: Yes
  • Goals: Yes
  • Simple Input: No
  • Customise Columns: Yes (Although not columns)
  • Note Taking: Yes

The Brain takes an innovative and visual approach to displaying information and connections
The Brain takes an innovative and visual approach to displaying information and connections | Source

Task Merlin - 'Organize your projects, tasks and to-do lists with TaskMerlin. Supports David Allen's GTD (Getting Things Done) task and project management software system.' 30 day trial, $75/$150 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: No
  • Clipping: No
  • Task Recurrence: Yes
  • Project Recurrence: Yes
  • Calendar View: Yes
  • Goals: Yes
  • Simple Input: Yes
  • Customise Columns: Yes (Although not columns)
  • Note Taking: Yes


Task Unifier - 'TaskUnifier is a task management software based on the well-known GTD (getting things done) methodology.It will help you manage your tasks and therefore your time.' Free, $12 for sync functionality.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: Yes
  • Clipping: No
  • Task Recurrence: Yes
  • Project Recurrence: Yes
  • Calendar View: Yes
  • Goals: Yes
  • Simple Input: Yes
  • Customise Columns: No
  • Note Taking: Yes


Thinking Rock - 'Use ThinkingRock to establish GTD effectively in your life.' $39 for full edition.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: Yes
  • Clipping: Yes
  • Task Recurrence: Yes
  • Project Recurrence: Yes
  • Goals: Yes
  • Simple Input: No
  • Customise Columns: No
  • Note Taking: Yes


Ultra Recall - 'Ultra Recall is personal information, knowledge, and document organizer software for Microsoft Windows. Capture documents, web pages, notes, and email.' 45 day trial, $49/$99 for full editions.

  • Multi-Level Outlines: Yes
  • Sync: Yes
  • Clipping: Yes
  • Task Recurrence: Yes
  • Project Recurrence: Yes
  • Calendar View: No
  • Goals: No
  • Simple Input: Yes
  • Customise Columns: Yes
  • Note Taking: Yes

An introduction and tutorial for the Ultra Recall outliner

Downloading and trying out the various different types of outliner software can help you decide which one is right for your task and project management needs. It took me a while to find the one that worked best for me (My Life Organised) and your needs will differ.

I hope you have found all of the information on outliners helpful.

Good luck!


Do you have a favourite outliner that isn't mentioned here or hints and tips on task and project management that you would like to share? Let us know in the comments.

If you found this article useful, interesting or informative, please do check out my other guides for small business owners here.

A quick quiz on Outliner software


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Paul is a professional freelance writer with an interest in business, management, marketing, productivity, finance, and more.

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