It’s no surprise that being organized is directly linked to productivity. Whether you’re a die-hard to-do lister, someone who lives and dies by their paper calendar, or simply need to get all your events, tasks, and work project deadlines in one place, finding the best task organization tool for you can be a daunting task.
While you may be tempted to pick up another old-school paper office planner – and let’s be honest, have it collect dust in a drawer yet again – consider upgrading to a planner app instead. These apps replace a traditional office planner and keep your task lists, calendars, and scheduling at your fingertips – right on your smartphone. Read on for our favorite to-do, calendar, and general planning apps, and prepare to get organized.
Best Overall: Things 3 for iOS
An iOS app that organizes your to-do list by category, Things 3 makes it easy to stay organized and, as the name suggests, on top of things. With a clean design, interactive checklist (who doesn’t love crossing something off their list?), and an easy drag-and-drop interface, Things 3 is the perfect planner tool for those who want to download an app and start using it immediately without any complicated processes or how-tos required.
The app also allows you to create headings within your task lists, which makes it easy to stay on task and accomplish your list without being distracted by other to-do items. This feature can also help you stay on track if your mind tends to wander. After all, did you know that those who multitask are actually less productive? One downside of Things 3 is the price tag — it's one of the more expensive options. But, sometimes you get what you pay for. Also, it's only available on Apple devices, so Android users will have to find an alternative.
Best Calendar App: Google Calendar for iOS and Android
You don’t have to be a Gmail devotee to use Google Calendar. This classic calendar app offers daily, weekly, and monthly views, with a seamless toggle between them. The search option is another great tool, for when you can’t quite remember when your last dental appointment was. You can also set reminders, which, for the perennially forgetful, is a must.
Though avid Gmail users will likely benefit the most from this app, since events mentioned in your email (think dinner plans, hotel reservations, and flight times) automatically populate to your calendar, it’s still a solid choice. Another plus? You can share your Google calendar with other users, which makes it a great tool for multi-user households.
Best for Productivity: ZenDay for iOS and Android
Are you someone who needs an overview of all your daily to-dos before you can begin plugging away? Do you benefit from a functional, yet pretty tool? Then ZenDay is the app for you. With a calming, flowing timeline, you can zero in on your first task, but also see what you need to focus on next.
As the name implies, ZenDay is meant to help foster a sense of zen while approaching your task list. The app’s interface is unique, featuring a 3D display that scrolls as you complete tasks. The app also has a color-coding feature, which turns nearly overdue items a different color, which helps you zero in on priority items and get caught up at a glance.
Missed something? Not to worry. ZenDay will automatically reschedule those “floating tasks.” The app's debriefing feature is another major plus. It gives you an overview of how well you’ve completed tasks on time lately – a productivity grade, if you will.
Best for Note-Taking: AwesomeCalendar for iOS
Avid note-takers, this one is for you. AwesomeCalendar combines notes, calendar events, color-coding, and your local weather forecast, all in one handy tool. You can even add photos and stickers to individual events. Think: a Starbucks cup for a coffee date, an airplane for your upcoming trip, even a colorful clothesline to mark laundry day. Adding photos and stickers to individual events is a great organizational tool. Plus, it’s fun. Sharing events with other users is also a snap.
This app is compatible with a ton of other calendar apps like iCloud, MobileMe, Google Calendar, Yahoo! Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, iCal, and more. Once you make a change in AwesomeCalendar, it’s automatically visible in your other calendar apps. Same goes if you make a change in, let’s say, your Google Calendar. Your AwesomeCalendar shows that event, too.
Another bonus? You can also check the weather via AwesomeCalendar. Great for those who frequently find themselves out and about – without an umbrella.
Best for Making Lists: Any.do for iOS and Android
A calendar and to-do list in one, Any.do is ideal for those who need a comprehensive tool that covers tasks ranging from buying a birthday gift to finishing a work presentation. It’s like the virtual version of crossing off every item on your paper to-do list.
Any.do is ideal for viewing both your month at a glance and a closer, day-to-day list of action items. The app’s dual view shows your calendar at the top, then a scrolling list below of to-dos, events, and even overdue tasks. Tap on an event, and a new window with the location, time, invitees, and other details of the event pop up. Minimize, and you’re back to the main screen.
Tend to download an organizational app, then forget to ever open it again? Any.do’s home screen widget can help you stay on top of your tasks and events, keeping your tasks and calendars top of mind. The app is also compatible with your other calendars – Google Calendar, iCloud, and Outlook.
Best for Teams: Trello for iOS and Android
Trello bills itself as “the app that takes care of everything,” and for good reason. This app, while it can be used solo, is best for those working in teams. You can create to-do boards for everything from the personal, like planning your next getaway, to the professional, like making sure your next webinar hits it out of the park.
This tool also has an impressive list of corporate devotees, from Kickstarter to Adobe to Google. But perhaps what is most compelling about Trello is the simplicity of its boards, lists, and cards. You have enough on your plate. Trying to decipher your to-do list shouldn't be one of them.
Best for Work/Life Balance: Fantastical 2 for iOS
Mac’s answer to Google calendar, Fantastical 2 (in its second iteration), is now a full app instead of a menu bar app. This scheduling app allows you to use natural language patterns to schedule your events, and automatically recognizes the location of your event and suggests invitees. It also boasts a home screen widget for ease of use. Fantastical is also great for scheduling with a team of coworkers or even at home your spouse.
While you can toggle between different calendars, that’s not the coolest part of this planner app. Fantastical 2 also has location-based calendar visibility, meaning it shows you the most relevant calendar based on your location. So no more ruining your Game of Thrones Sunday night ritual by stressing out over your jam-packed Monday meeting schedule. However, be warned: it’s also on the pricey side.
Best for Built-In Notifications: Reminder App for iOS
Yes, it’s basic. But there’s a reason it’s a perennial favorite. The Reminder App allows you to keep tabs on all your to-dos across all your accounts, from iCloud to Yahoo! to Exchange. It also has compatibility with coworkers, so you can share your list and they can cross things off as they’re completed, as well. How’s that for teamwork?
Predictably, the tool’s best feature is the reminders capability. Set a notification when something on your list is due, or set a time-based notification. You can even set location-based notifications. And let’s face it: who hasn’t been saved by a last minute reminder for an upcoming credit card payment or family member's birthday?
Best for Office Use: Microsoft Outlook for iOS and Android
Outlook, really? Yep, we’re serious. Thanks to recent improvements, the email powerhouse now boasts a great scheduling and events tool. These features are in addition to the email tools available, from a priority inbox structure to availability sharing. It also has easy access to files, as well as swipe navigation and smart filters. On the go access to your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files is another plus.
What Is a Planner App?
A planner app is an app that helps you get organized and keeps all of your organizational tools in one place so you can access them from anywhere at any time. A planner app can replace your old-school paper planner and can store names and contact information, calendars, appointment schedules, and more. You can even create to-do lists and custom headers right in the app.
How Does a Planner App Work?
A planner app is basically full of templates and blank calendars waiting to be filled in. You can enter your information or upload it from another source and get started using it right away. The app stores your information and organizes it, and it can be customized to your organizational style. The app can create reminders and alarms for important events and even sync calendars and devices.
How Much Does a Planner App Cost?
Planner apps vary in features and functions and therefore also in cost. There are multiple free planner apps, including basic calendar ones. There are also ones that have a free basic version, but in order to access more features, you have to make in-app purchases. Other planner apps charge per team member and per month, typically around $11. Then there are more sophisticated apps which charge as much as $50. These are one-time purchase fees.
Is a Planner App Worth the Cost?
If you have a busy life and want to stay organized, be more efficient, and store everything in one digital home, then a planner app is probably for you. Because there are so many free options and some smartphones have built-in planner apps, it may not be worth it to pay for the app. If you manage a team at work or have some specific organizational needs, then it may be worth it to download a paid planner app instead of a free version.
How We Chose the Best Planner Apps
After researching all the available planner apps, we selected the top contenders. We chose these as our best planner apps based on their features, device compatibility, integrations with other programs such as email, cost, ease of use, and more.