[Differences] Microsoft To Do vs Planner: The Better Tool

[Differences] Microsoft To Do vs Planner: The Better Tool

Are you confused about the different management tools that Microsoft offers?

Well, you’re not alone (and not to blame). After all, these Microsoft tools all look and feel the same.

But are there any differences at all? Why will Microsoft have these separate tools if they can do the same thing?

In this article, let’s talk about the differences between Microsoft To Do and Planner and the best way to use each one.

Let’s get started.

What is Microsoft To Do?

Microsoft categorizes To Do as a list and task management app. Basically, it’s a personal task management tool designed to help its user prioritize tasks.

Although it’s not really that popular, Microsoft To Do is one of the highest-rated task management software in big directory websites like G2.com.

G2 scores Microsoft To Do a 4.4 star rating

Features of Microsoft To Do

The first thing you will notice in Microsoft To Do is its simplicity. Right after logging in, you will see a form where you can enter your tasks.

Entering more than one task will give you a list (you can create as many lists as you like):

A task list in Microsoft To Do containing 5 items

Now, when you click on a task, you will be able to give it more details like:

  • Specific steps (tasks within a task)
  • Reminders
  • Due date
  • Repeat option
  • Category
  • File attachment
  • Note
Additional details on a To Do task

Then, if you have related lists, you can group them together:

Sample group containing sample task lists

Microsoft To Do also has some awesome ways to tag a task as important or part of your day. Tasks with a designated due date will show on the “Planned” section on that date.

Task showing up on the planned section

On the other hand, they don’t automatically appear on the “My Day” section since you have to manually select or tag the tasks you want to put there.

It’s also possible to share your list with anyone in your organization (for personal accounts, you can share a list with anyone).

Share a list on Microsoft To Do with anyone in your organization

Microsoft To Do won’t be as useful as it is now if there was no way to use or access it easily on whatever device you’re using.

It’s actually available on all platforms — Android, iOS, and even on Windows (through the Microsoft store).

Download Microsoft To Do on Google Play

One of its best features is its integration with Microsoft Outlook.

All the tasks that have a specific due date will show up on your Outlook calendar events. You can also access your tasks right on the same panel.

Sample task showing on Outlook calendar events

Pros and Cons of Microsoft To Do

Here are my thoughts on Microsoft To Do:

  • Great if you are looking for a lightweight and simple task management tool. The details you can add to a task make it compatible with those who want a more robust tool.
  • The tool is designed for personal management. Despite this, the fact that your tasks reflect on Outlook is helpful as you don’t need to keep on switching tools.
  • Unfortunately, if you don’t use Outlook, there’s no way to directly integrate the tool with other calendars. On the other hand, you can always integrate Outlook with other calendars.

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    What is Microsoft Planner?

    Microsoft Planner is another app from Microsoft 365 that’s used for task management. The main difference is that Planner is more robust and team-oriented.

    Organize teamwork with intuitive, collaborative, visual task management with Microsoft Planner

    Note that Planner is only available to users who are paid subscribers of Microsoft 365 (whether personal or enterprise).

    Features of Microsoft Planner

    If you’re familiar (or have used) Trello, then you will find the user interface familiar. Planner has buckets (or columns) in the board view, which functions like a Kanban board.

    Naturally, you can control the elements in the Kanban board. You can name the buckets, move them around, or create new ones.

    Sample tasks in Planner in Board view

    Once you click on a task, you will have a great idea of how robust this tool is compared to Microsoft To Do.

    On a single task, you will be able to add the following:

    • People assigned
    • Label
    • Progress level
    • Priority
    • Start date
    • Due date
    • Notes
    • Checklist (steps)
    • File attachments
    • Comments
    Opened task in Planner with more details

    These details make it easy to work with a team and see how other team members are progressing towards their own tasks.

    You can also leave some comments on a task to communicate your thoughts and help your team members with what they’re doing.

    Another feature in Planner is the calendar view, which allows you to see tasks with a defined start or due date.

    Schedule calendar in Microsoft Planner

    If you want to read more about the calendar feature of Planner, I talked more about it in my article about the calendar options in SharePoint Online.

    Microsoft Planner also has good integration with Outlook and SharePoint.

    Tasks with dates reflect on Outlook while you can access and use the Planner app itself right within SharePoint.

    Example plan showing the Kanban board view

    If you want to read more about task management options in SharePoint, check out this other article I wrote about it. 

    There’s also a view in Planner where you can see a dashboard with charts that show you the status of a project.

    Dashboard on Planner with charts about the project

    This view also gives you an overview of all the tasks (both open and completed) and which ones are overdue.

    Pros and Cons of Microsoft Planner

    Here are my thoughts on Microsoft Planner:

    • Planner may be robust but it’s still simple enough to understand due to its user-friendly interface.
    • You will never be surprised with deadlines again since Planner will send you email notifications for tasks nearing their due dates.
    • This tool is fully integrated with Microsoft 365, which is why you can use it right inside a team site in SharePoint (though some of the features like the calendar view are not available yet in SharePoint).
    • In Planner, there’s no option to repeat a task. If you want to repeat a task, you need to duplicate it or start it from scratch.

    Microsoft To Do vs Planner: How do they differ?

    From the details I shared above, you can easily see a conclusion:

    Microsoft To Do is better for personal task management while Planner is more ideal for project management.

    To Do is designed to help you easily handle your tasks, even ones that came from Planner itself. Though it’s simple, it has nice features that make it robust enough for anyone’s taste.

    Planner is designed to help teams collaborate on projects and tasks. Even with its robustness, it’s not made to handle personal tasks and priorities.

    On the other hand, you really don’t need to select one over the other since their use cases are quite different.

    You can always use Planner with your team and use To Do to manage your own tasks and priorities — both for work and personal things.

    Hope I was able to clear things up! Feel free to leave your questions (if you have any) in the comment section below.
    For inquiries and concerns, please send me a message through the contact page of my website and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

    About Ryan Clark

    As the Principal Solutions Architect at Mr. SharePoint, I help companies of all sizes better leverage Modern Workplace and Digital Process Automation investments. I am also a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) for Office Apps & Services.

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