Microsoft offers 3 different task management solutions targeted at different user groups. It can be confusing so we’ll compare Microsoft to do with Microsoft Planner, explain the overall ecosystem and look at when to use one tool over another. The good thing about these task management solutions is that they can be used on their own or used in conjunction with each other to help you boost your productivity.
If you are already working within the Microsoft Ecosystem at work or have an Office 365 subscription it’s likely that you already have access to both of these productivity tools.
We’ll explain what each one does, how they differ and how to choose the best one.
Let’s jump in!
The Microsoft Task Management Ecosystem
Microsoft offers a 3rd task management tool called Microsoft Project targeted at long term projects like building a skyscraper utilized by professional project managers for highly complex tasks. The three tools, Project Planner and To Do can sometimes be confusing.
The way we think of these three tools is that they serve different time horizons and different sized teams. Projects is designed for complex long term projects made up of many smaller tasks, while Planner is designed for things to complete in the next several weeks or months, then To Do comes in as a daily time management solution.
What is Microsoft To Do?
To-Do is a simple task manager and lets users create and share multiple to do lists. It enables you to keep track of things that you need to do at home, and at work. Then you can combine the lists into a single view of everything that you need to accomplish in day.
Any tasks that aren’t completed, automatically roll over to the next day. To Do integrates with Outlook, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Planner.
It’s designed to help you prioritize tasks that need to be accomplished in the next several hours to days and best for individuals and small groups.
Highlights of Microsoft To Do
- Simple user interface
- Enables near term task tracking and prioritization
- Integration with other Microsoft products
To learn more, check out our detailed review of Microsoft To Do.
What is Microsoft Planner
Microsoft Planner is designed for small to medium sized teams that work on longer term projects that typically span weeks to several months. Projects can be split into smaller sections and checkpoints using a digital Kanban Board.
In addition to keeping track of your own tasks, it allows you to assign tasks to different individuals on your team. Boards are shared with other team members as well so they can see what other team members are doing at any given point keeping everyone on the same page.
Plans can be broken down into individual cards with the ability to attach notes and to do lists for each task. Tasks that are assigned to an individual will automatically sync to the Microsoft To Do app for individuals to prioritize into their day.
Highlights of Microsoft Planner
- Team Collaboration and Sharing
- Task assignments
- Kanban Board and card layout
To learn more, check out our detailed review of Microsoft Planner.
Comparison of Microsoft To Do vs Microsoft Planner
Microsoft Planner and Microsoft To Do are both task management solutions from Microsoft. Both are included in many of the most common Microsoft 365 Enterprise subscriptions but are targeted at slightly different audiences and use cases.
Microsoft To Do is a solution for you to keep track of tasks that require immediate attention or need to be completed in the next several days. People can download a mobile app on Apple iPhone or Google Android phones and take their to do lists with them throughout the day.
Microsoft Planner is targeted at business and enterprise users that work on short to medium term projects that require a level of collaboration across team members. Tasks can be broken down into smaller parts and assigned to individual team members. Microsoft Planner also has a mobile app available on both major platforms.
For a quick easy app to track tasks throughout the day, users should download and utilize Microsoft To Do. For team collaboration and more complex longer-term projects, Microsoft Planner is a better solution.
However, these productivity apps are not mutually exclusive, there are use cases where it makes sense for an individual or team to use both simultaneously.
Microsoft To Do and Planner Synchronization and Integration
One of the biggest benefits of utilizing multiple solutions within Microsoft 365 is that they’re able to talk to each other. Tasks can be assigned to individuals from Microsoft Planner that then become available tasks to add to “My Day” in your Microsoft To Do list. When a task is completed in To Do it will automatically check the box as completed in Microsoft Planner.
Microsoft To Do lists can be shared with other people as well. However, they act in a slightly different way. When you share and give access to a To Do list, others can change the prioritization and mark tasks as complete. It’s a useful tool for families trying to keep track of everything that’s going on or small groups or teams in the business world.
Microsoft To Do App for Microsoft Teams
If you’re a frequent user of Microsoft Teams, there is a Microsoft To Do app available in the Teams App Store. Even though the app is title Tasks by Planner and To Do it really only an embedded To Do App. Tasks that are created by Planner and assigned to an individual become to do list items.
In the sense that task assignments can start within Planner and become To Do list items, the app covers some functionality of both task managers but we would like to see a dedicated Planner app within Teams to avoid having to switch to a web browser to work inside the cloud version of Planner.
At this time there is no dedicated Teams app for Planner or support for the Kanban Card view.
Alternatives to Microsoft Planner and To Do
If you’re searching for a productivity and task management app that combines features of both Microsoft To Do and Planner into one seamless experience, we recommend Notion. It’s an all-in-one task manager that combines note taking, long term planning, and short-term prioritization into a single app. Items can be shared with other team members and your day becomes even easier when using AI features to help you prioritize a day or summarize notes into logical order on your behalf.
Notion is free to try out, and we highly recommend it as a Microsoft task management alternative.
Microsoft To Do and Planner are both incredibly useful task management solutions from Microsoft. They’re extremely affordable if you already have a subscription to Microsoft 365 which many people already do through their workplace.
The two solutions are designed to keep track of projects and tasks across different time horizons. Planner for multi-week or month projects, and To Do for immediate tasks. To Do is well suited for small groups or teams while planner can scale and handle teams with dozens of members within an organization.
While both tools integrate with each other the functionality can be limited, and while people new to the platforms appreciate the simplicity of the layout, they often find themselves wishing for more functionality over time.
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