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Make Wunderlist Into the Ultimate To-do List

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There's expensive and advanced productivity apps like OmniFocus and Things that are universally praised for helping people get things done. There's online tools like Basecamp and Trello that teams rely on to keep track of what's going on. And then, there's the simple, free tools like Wunderlist that are almost an afterthought in the crowded market of productivity apps.

Wunderlist, it turns out, is far more powerful than its fun interface would suggest. It's got everything you need to turn it into the productivity system that works just like you want—for free. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to get the most out of Wunderlist to make it as powerful as your workflow demands.

Creating Lists And Tasks In Wunderlist

When you first download Wunderlist or open its web app, you’ll notice that it includes five pre-made lists. Though these lists can be helpful for general use, but you’ll likely want to make your own personalized lists sometime in the future.

Fortunately, making your own lists in Wunderlist is quite simple. To do this, look towards the bottom right-hand corner of the app, under the pre-made lists. You should see a button labeled Add a list….  Click on this button to add a new list. You can now name your new list.

If you’d prefer to create your new list via the Apple toolbar, you can do so by clicking File > New List or use the keyboard shortcut Command-L on a Mac or Control-L on a PC.

Adding Items To Your Lists

Adding an item to a Wunderlist list
Wunderlist 101: Lists and tasks. That's where it all starts.

Creating new items within your lists is just as simple. All you have to do is open the list where you’d like to add items and look at the top of the list. Here, you will see a text box labeled Add an Item to [list name]. Click on this text box—or tap Command-N or Control-N, respectively—and you’ll be able to start typing the name of your new item. When you’re finished naming said item, press the Return key on your keyboard to save it.  Moving items between lists is easy too: all you have to do is drag and drop the item onto another list.

That was easy, but what about adding due dates, repeating items, and other various enhancements? Fear not, we’re about to dive into those goodies right now. First off: setting due dates.

Adding Due Dates And Repeating Tasks

Adding a due date to a item
Due dates, reminders, and repeating tasks make sure you'll never forget anything you need to do

Setting due dates for items is a necessity when using Wunderlist for managing schoolwork and professional assignments, or just using it to keep up with your bills and other commitments. To set a due date for your new task, start creating a new item and look towards the right-hand corner of the new item window. You will see a calendar button. Click on this button, and a mini-calendar will appear. From this calendar, you will notice two buttons: Due Date and Reminder. From here, you can set dates for when said items are due, and when you’d like to be reminded with a push notification.

From this menu, you can also make your item repeat. To do this, click on the Never repeat button and change it to how often you’d like the item to repeat. When set, the item will automatically re-add itself to your list at its set interval, even if it’s been checked off previously.

You can add due dates, reminders, and repeating tasks to previously created items by right-clicking on said items and clicking the appropriate option. Repeating tasks are a great way to automatically keep up with the tasks you have to complete every so often, without having to re-add them each time they're due.

Using Wunderlist’s “Detail View” For Items

If you want a bit more control and a more detailed view of your tasks, you can gain that by clicking opening Wunderlist’s “Detail View” for an item. To access this menu, right-click on the task you’d like to view and click on the button labeled Show Detail View. Within Detail View, not only can you add a due date and make an item repeat, but you can also add subtasks, make notes, attach files, and enter comments.

Adding subtasks is one of my personal favorite features of Wunderlist. You can add your own within the Show Detail menu by looking towards the center of the menu, and clicking on the Add a Subtask textbox. You can now type in a new subtask. When you’re done typing said subtask, press the Return key on your keyboard to save it. When you’ve completed a subtask, you can check it off like you would with any normal item.

Directly below the subtask menu is an area to add notes about your item. If the provided area doesn’t have enough room to write your notes, you can push the notes section into its own window by pressing the small new window button on the upper righthand corner of the Notes menu.

Attaching files to your task can be helpful when working in a group on a school assignment, or when you want to make sure the document you need to work on is right there with your task. To attach said file, look directly below the notes section and press the Add A File button. You can now select and upload said file.

Adding a comment to a Wunderlist item
Tasks, more tasks, notes, files, and more, all inside each individual task.

Finally, if you’d like to add a comment to your item, type it into the box below the Add A File button. When you post your comment, it will be signed with your name, making it easy for your collaborators to identify the commenter. Other collaborators can comment on the item as well.

Collaborating In Wunderlist

Speaking of collaborating, one of the best features of Wunderlist is the fact that you can share and collaborate on lists with coworkers, friends, family members, or other groups that you want to share lists with. When you share a list, you give the other user the ability to view, add, and complete tasks as well as add notes and other information about the tasks. This is convenient for team projects, family to-do lists, and other sharable lists, and can even be used to let you work together with others at your company.

Sharing a list in Wunderlist is very simple. In fact, to share a list with collaborators, all you need to is click into the list you would like to share and look to the right of the list’s name in Wunderlist’s sidebar. From here, you’ll see a small, add person button. Click on this, and you’ll be prompted to add contacts from your Contacts or Facebook.

You can view currently added members from the same add to list button. If you ever need to remove a collaborator, just hover over said collaborator’s name and click the “X” button that appears to the right of their name.

If you use Wunderlist in teams, assigning items to a team member can be an invaluable help. To do this, just start typing the collaborator’s name, and Wunderlist will autocomplete their name in the item, and then remove their name from the text of the title in exchange for a photo of their avatar on the right-hand side of the item. The collaborator will then be notified via Wunderlist’s Activities Center which is located towards the top of the app’s window. You can assign a collaborator to a previously created to-do via the Detail View.

Customizing Wunderlist 

Though Wunderlist is very functional out-of-the box, there are quite a few changes you can make to the service that can make it work better in your workflow. One of these ways is customizing the keyboard shortcuts within Wunderlist. To do this, click on the account button located towards the upper left-hand corner of the screen. From the drop-down menu, click on the Preferences button.

Editing keyboard shortcuts in Wunderlist
Tweak Wunderlist's apps to work the way you want.

Look towards the top of the pop-up window and click on the button labeled Shortcuts. From here, you can view all of Wunderlist’s default keyboard shortcuts. You can also change these shortcuts by clicking into the shortcut box and typing in the desired shortcut. In the Mac and PC apps, you'll also find a keyboard shortcut to quickly add new tasks to Wunderlist no matter what app you're currently working with.

If you’re not a huge fan of Wunderlist’s standard, wooden background, you can change that as well. Click on the account button and look down until you find the Change Background button. From here you can choose one of Wunderlist’s pre-installed backgrounds, or you can upload your own if you’re a Wunderlist Pro member. You'll also find options to customize the sidebar, to make it show exactly what you need for a personalized task management experience.

Using The Add To Wunderlist Web Extension

The Add To Wunderlist tool is by far my favorite feature offered by the service. The feature is actually an optional web browser extension for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox and allows you to add URLs as items within lists. When added, the page’s name becomes the title, and the URL is added as a note. The extension is available as a free download on Wunderlist’s website.

Using Add To Wunderlist in Chrome
Quit bookmarking everything, and instead turn sites you like into actionable tasks to come back to later

Once installed, using the extension is quite simple. When you find a page you’d like to add to a list, just click on the Add To Wunderlist extension within your web browser. In Chrome, this button is located towards the upper, right-hand corner of the window.

Now, a Wunderlist window will open with a preview of the item’s title and note. You can make any changes you’d like, and look towards the bottom of the window and choose the list you’d like to add this item to. When you have everything tweaked to your liking, click the save button located towards the bottom of the window.

The Add To Wunderlist extension also adds Add To Wunderlist buttons to various websites throughout the web. For example, Amazon, Asos, and Etsy have buttons, making Wunderlist wish lists a click away. Or, when you've come across a site you need to come back to later, instead of bookmarking it, you can make it into a task that you'll be sure not to forget.

Mail To Wunderlist

Chances are, a lot of your to-do’s end up in your email inbox. Luckily, Wunderlist makes it easy to forward these to-do’s directly to your Wunderlist with the Mail To Wunderlist feature. This feature allows you to forward a plain text email to me@wunderlist.com to have the email added as an item in Wunderlist’s inbox list. HTML formatting is not supported, so formatted emails will show up as plain text without their formatting.

When you forward an email to your Wunderlist account, the email subject will be the item’s name while the body of the email will be attached as a note.

Mail To Wunderlist comes pre-enabled on all Wunderlist accounts. All you have to do is forward the email you’d like to use as an item using the email address that’s linked to your Wunderlist account.

Congratulations: You’re Now A Wundermaster.

And there you have it: everything you need to know to make Wunderlist a super powerful, yet extremely simple cross-platform to-do application. It's simple and easy to use, and yet with a little customization can be turned into a productivity powerhouse that works the way you do. And if you're still feeling overwhelmed by your tasks, check our tutorial about how to overcome overwhelming to-do lists by creating your own productivity system—something that's simple in a simple to-do list app like Wunderlist.

If you have any questions or Wunderlist tips you’d like to share, feel free to drop them in a comment below.

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