Google is working on a big update to Google Tasks, the company said today. It’s bringing a couple of new features to the app, making it easier to add tasks, and finally integrating its reminder system across Google Assistant, Calendar, and the rest of the Google suite of apps. The new changes should make Tasks a better to-do list app and might also make Google’s overall task management tools make sense. Finally.
Going forward, Google views Tasks as a hub for all your tasks across Google products. Hit the button that adds any Gmail thread to your to-do list so you can get to it later. Create reminders in Google Calendar, and they’ll show up both in your schedule and in Tasks. Say “hey Google, remind me to take out the trash at 9” to the Assistant on your phone or smart display and, you guessed it, it’ll show up in Tasks.
This sounds good and pretty straightforward, right? Well, it is. And it should have been a long time ago. For years, Google’s reminder and task systems have been incomprehensibly divided; Google Reminders was different from Google Tasks, and a reminder in Calendar was different from a reminder in Keep, which was different from a reminder in Assistant. The only place to see all your to-dos in one place was the Google Calendar mobile app. It didn’t make any sense, and everybody knew it.
Even now, Google hasn’t fully solved its problem. Its announcement today doesn’t mention Keep, which likely means that app’s reminder system will still be separate. And the best version of this feature would extend across much more of Google’s ecosystem. It might notice when someone assigns something to you in Docs or Sheets, for instance, and add it to your to-do list.
Microsoft To Do is a good example of what Google should aim for: the app consolidates tasks across Outlook, Planner, and Teams so you can get a decent picture of what you’re working on everywhere. Microsoft has its own systemic issues — there are Tasks and To Do and Outlook Tasks, all of which are different things — but it’s trending in the right “everything everywhere” direction.
There’s also the fact that Google Tasks isn’t a particularly powerful app. As a universal list of reminders, it’ll work well enough, and it lets you create multiple lists and star your most important tasks. It lacks some basic project management features like automatic sorting or priority levels, and you can’t even search your tasks. Plus, if you have a Google account for work and another for personal use, you’re going to be stuck with two totally disconnected lists. Tasks still won’t convince many people to ditch their dedicated to-do list app.
Still, it’s a good sign to see Google pay any attention at all to its task and reminders ecosystem. The company launched Tasks in 2018, then seemed to pretty much forget about it entirely. (I like to imagine a Google product manager setting a reminder to get back to improving Tasks and then it just never resurfaced because they created it in Keep.) This update both makes Tasks better and makes it a more important part of the overall Google productivity ecosystem, which might mean it stays on the priority list a bit longer this time.
The new Tasks experience is rolling out “in the coming months,” Google VP of product management Ilya Brown wrote in a blog post, and it’ll be opt-in at first before eventually becoming the default behavior. Google, with its search and AI prowess and its connection to practically all of your personal data, has always had the potential to build a killer task manager. If it’s ever going to happen, it looks like it’ll be in Tasks.