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Kill the past: It's time for Wunderlist users (and its founder) to move on

Back in 2018, I remarked how the popular task app Wunderlist was still ahead of Microsoft To Do. The irony, of course, was that Microsoft owned both after the company acquired Wunderlist in 2015. Now four years on, Wunderlist's founder, Christian Reber, wants to buy back his app from Microsoft.

It's not only a terrible idea but a waste of time. Nostalgia for tech is tedious and an odd take from those who are supposed to be creating the future.

We love the rosy past

But I get it. There are two significant factors here for Wunderlist users: comfort, and a taste for the past. Like web browsers, it's tough to get people to switch away from something that they know and use dozens of times a day. No matter how good Firefox may be over Chrome, the switch rate is meager.

Wunderlist users enjoy the simplicity, design, and familiarity of using it to manage their daily lives. There's no easy solution here. People need to jump ship sometimes even with a little push. So yeah, Wunderlist will die someday. There's your shove, familiarize yourself with your life jacket.

To Do's September 2019 redesign brings it closer to Wunderlist.

To Do's September 2019 redesign brings it closer to Wunderlist.

There's also function, too. I noted that last year, when I said the To Do team needs to do more. Luckily, they have. We now have inking, dark mode, shared lists, list groups, Planner support, a Mac version, file attachments, shared attached files, flagged emails from Outlook, multiple account support, Cortana support, multi-list Live Tiles. Amazon Echo integration, new smart list sorting options, and beyond. Anyone who thinks Microsoft is not serious – or not working hard on To Do – is full of it.

Is there still more to do in To Do? Of course. But it should be clear that the To Do team is working harder than ever. They're delivering more features now than a year ago and more consistently too. To Do will get there even for Wunderlist users. Once To Do is ramped up and Wunderlist usage falls, the latter will be retired. Until then, nothing changes.

As to Reber's remarks about buying back Wunderlist, why? He took that Wunderlist money and put it into Pitch, an open platform for presentations and collaboration. It'll likely compete with Microsoft in other areas like PowerPoint, SharePoint, Whiteboard, and more. As usual, he has his eyes on what comes next — but buying back Wunderlist? Let's not oversell how important Wunderlist is to the digital foundation of the modern tech world. Like Blackberry Messenger, WinAmp, MySpace, Google Hangouts, etc. you sometimes need to let go recognizing the time has passed.

Forget what was, look to what is

Microsoft To Do iOS

Microsoft To Do iOS (Image credit: Windows Central)

Nostalgia is a dangerous drug. It's an alluring thing to reminisce about yesteryear. Microsoft fans know this all too well with Windows Phone, Zune, Windows Media Center, and Microsoft Band to name a few cult-faves. If all you do is think about how great things were years ago, you're missing all the fantastic stuff that is yet to come (or even here today).

Long term, To Do is going to hook into machine learning, AI, Outlook, LinkedIn, Skype, and more to work as a central tool. It'll be a hub for work and consumers to organize one's work life. Wunderlist would never be able to do any of that because Wunderlist was powered by Amazon's AWS, not Microsoft Azure. But Wunderlist's linegage and heart lives on in To Do (it also maintains a 4.5 rating on the Google Play store, Wunderlist is at 4.7).

Wunderlist was great. But Microsoft To Do is becoming excellent. Follow the path of the one that has momentum, not the one living on fumes from yesterday. And to Wunderlist's current users – give To Do another shot. The recent callbacks to Wunderlist design in To Do is a testament to the idea you can have your cake and eat it too.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • Okay, was just listening to the "Nostalgia Kills" album by Jill Sobule. Couldn't get it out of my head as I read through this (:
  • It seems, for a large percentage of the population, change is unacceptable. The past is always better than the present or future.
  • At least until they're forced to change, learn to love it, then hate on the next change, and so on.
  • The one exception to that rule........... Wow Classic > BFA :-P
  • To Do is great? Try to add something in IOS or MacOS. Its all manual. Yes, you have to copy and paste a link, the title, the subject, etc. Some tasks take that long just "to do". On top of that, they removed the inbox. Its literally the most challenge To Do app to add items to. I love My Day and try and use it once a month to always get stuck on the fact, it wastes my time to add items. By the way, Wunderlist has all of the items and a handful of other items like "Read Later", which I use to add all of these articles too. Now its a pain in the rear to add your articles if I am using To Do. Crazy!!! Just update the darn app to do the normal things before dumb integrations with Microsoft products that no one is using like Cortana.
  • "To Do is great?"
    No where did I call it great. I said it's becoming excellent. But, lets go with your initial claim and assume it's accurate. On the Apple Store Microsoft To Do is rated 4.6 out of 5 from 20K ratings. So sure, some people do consider it great I suppose. As to your complaints and issues - look, this is life and this is software. The idea that everyone is going to agree on what is "great" or efficient, or even good is never going to happen. I'm not trying to convince you that To Do is the best app ever, or that even you should use it. The things you point out bother you. That's fine, I'm not going to challenge those (I will say that they don't bother me, or that they haven't seemed to negatively affected Store ratings). But when you look at what has been done in the last year, it's clear To Do has a lot going for it. I hope someday it meets your needs.
  • No Daniel. No. To-do is no-go for me until they add the email-to-task email address. Period. If I can't add to my list using Google assistant I don't want it. Wunderlist it is.
  • Which IS FINE. No need for you to even justify it, use what you want. But the idea that Wunderlist - which is just tasks app - is going to get bought back and become a thing again is just wrong. Everyone has one thing they need/want. I'm sure To Do will eventually get email-to-task email address, just like it got shared lists, attachments, inking, mutli-account, etc. Microsoft could just kill WL right now, but they won't until To Do is up to par and WL usage drops. That's a good thing.
  • Have you tried using Flow to do that? I think it may be simple enough
  • Disagree, if you want to look at a good to do list (and soooo much more) then look to Todoist, it is hands down the best. Wunderlist stalled under Microsofts watch, they are utterly useless and soooo slooooooow at adding useful features, the team are a laughing stock. I say let the original people take Wunderlist and show the MS To Do chaps what 'to do'.
  • I tried Todoist years ago and didn't like it, so now what?
    "I say let the original people take Wunderlist and show the MS To Do chaps what 'to do'."
    But why, you use Todoist. What makes you want Wunderlist now too. If you say "competition is good" then you have to be rooting for To Do as well, otherwise it makes no sense. And do you really think that a task app is this important to the world of software? The original Wunderlist sold it to Microsoft. End of story. There are no do-overs.
  • > the team are a laughing stock. I say let the original people take Wunderlist and show the MS To Do chaps what 'to do'. The team working on todo is the former wunderlist team...
  • I switched to To Do once the Cortana integration was done. :)
  • Toughest part of moving on to a new app is accepting that the new app may not yet have all the things you had in the old app, and may never have them. That's a tough pill to swallow, especially if those were features you valued. Unfortunately apps eventually reach an end point the same way tech does. Sometimes because the app is no longer profitable, yes, but also just because it's too old to continue supporting and changing in useful ways. Hopefully To Do continues to grow in usefulness as time moves on
  • The unfortunate story of many Microsoft software products. Truth is, there has never been a legitimate reason for this, as far as I could see.
  • This is dumb. Shouldn't have bought it if he would have second thoughts. No need for both To Do and Wunderlist. They're exactly the same.
  • Well summarized Daniel. Microsoft To-Do is getting better after each updates and to me it is already an excellent solution. I switched from Wunderlist probably 6 months ago and I'm very satisfied.
  • The amount of retards (inclunding WC) that think Christian Reber's tweet was not a deliberate publicity stunt, probably paid, to draw attention to the upcoming in the suspiciously very next few days new To-Do design is mindblowing
  • Please continue telling us just how smart you are while using a pejorative from the 90s.
  • To Do is my go to, especially for shopping lists, list sharing, and for daily must-do tasks and errands. Lately it seems there's something new every time I launch it but without being overkill.
  • I only came to know and appreciate features of Wunderlist after they came to To-Do, so I'm not the best judge of this. That being said, To-Do IS great, right now. And it's only getting better. I'm not sure what incentive MS has to sell WL back to its original owner. And who benefits anyway? Probably only a very small number of original WL users who might miss some key features that won't have been incorporated into To-Do when WL is shut down ...
  • It's not that change is unacceptable. It's that change needs to be for the better and right now, ToDo is not better for most people not hooked into everything Microsoft. Does Microsoft actually have any designers on their team? The look is crap, the intuitiveness and functionality is crap. I stick to Wunderlist because even though Microsoft has sat on it for years, it's still better than the bare bones awfulness of ToDo
  • How can you speak for "most people"? You really can't, so please just speak for yourself.
  • I use To-Do daily. I use it for actionable tasks that are one time and reoccurring, for shopping, and learning goals. I never did use Wonderlist. I switched over from using a self imposed system of OneNote tags and OneNote pages. To-Do is central to running my life now (so please Microsoft, don't kill it). I've been using it since June of 2018. I switched from what I learned on Windows Central about the effort feeding into this app. I have found To-Do syncing to work extremely well (like within a second). OneNote syncing can take up to 30 seconds. I've also noticed that To-Do essentially uses Outlook tasks as its underlying data store. Does this mean you need an or Exchange mail account to use To-Do? Is it compatible with using task storage in a gmail account?
  • To Do is a terrible idea from people who should know better. I used to be a straight up fan over everything MS produced and the solid ecosystem. Now? Not so much.
  • I just wish they would integrate ToDo with Launcher. Wunderlist is there, Launcher's own Tasks too, and Sticky Notes as well. ToDo, not so much. A visually jarring widget.
  • Isn't that done since last year ?
  • It is on Launcher and has been for awhile.
  • I guess the Tasks page does sync for the account Launcher is configured under. Doesn't appear to be a way to configure any secondary account - say a work O365 account.
  • I finished moving when they implemented folders, no regrets.
  • ....What caught my attention to this article was "Kill the past" and another remark from Daniel; "Nostalgia is a dangerous drug. It's an alluring thing to reminisce about yesteryear." "To Do or not to do" "wonderlist or no list," If Mr. Reber chooses to buy back his creation from MS...who cares? The conversation has no value. Any app, good or bad, has an end of life which we have no control. Any app can live on, only if it's creator chooses to improve and upgrade features in direct response to reviews and user requests. MS over the years has dropped support for several good apps that worked very well for the average person, only to replace with something, in their mind, bigger better. Windows Live Essentials come to mind, movie maker in particular, it was a fun app, easy to learn. The "past" is who we are and what we went through to get to where we are today. The "nostalgia" of looking back to our past is quite remarkable as we track how our character grew and matured over time. It's sad you think of it as a "dangerous drug." There are those who embrace change and those who do not, its human nature. Opinion is healthy but do not use it to attempt influence. To be fair regarding this thread, I have never used any apps discussed herein, I'm not even a windows user. Out of frustration paying for a product that I was having less control over with each new version, I became an advocate for Linux and use it exclusively in my personal environment. I configure it and it only changes when I decide, not someone else.
  • What exactly does one do with a “To Do” app? Wouldn’t your time be better spent actually doing things, instead of fiddling with yet another app? Never heard of Wunderlist, nor MS To Do. I already know what I need to do, every day when I get up. It would never occur to me to look for software that tells me what to do and when to do it. Clearly I am not the target market for this stuff.
  • Software doesn't tell you what to do and when to do it. You're literally telling yourself what to do and when (if there's a deadline). It's like using an alarm clock to help remind you to get up on time in the morning to go to work.
  • Ah, OK. I don't use an alarm clock either. I wake up at the same time every day, regardless of when I go to bed. I already know what to do and when to do it. So "To Do" software is basically for disorganized and/or unmotivated and/or unreliable people, so they can appear to be organized/motivated/reliable. Got it.
  • Yes, and the gym is basically for obese suckers so that they can appear fit, school is for dumb-ass who are incapable of self-learning. Seriously what are you trying to say snowflake?
  • Is this also a part of that five years plan to take over the mobile market?