Google Tasks Explained

Google's best kept secret is a to-do list inside your inbox

A photo of a chromebook and a smartphone on a desk.

 Google, Inc.

Google Tasks is a free online service for managing your to-do lists. You access Google Tasks via your Google account, and it is available for the PC, Mac, and both iOS and Android smartphones. While not as sophisticated as a dedicated to-do list, Google Tasks accommodates both tasks and subtasks, which is enough to cover most needs.

What Exactly Is Google Tasks?

Think of Google Tasks as a piece of paper where you to write down items or tasks and then cross them out when they are done. Only instead of cluttering up your desk, the sheet of paper is stored alongside your email. Presto! No clutter. Google Tasks allows you to create multiple lists, so you can have one for the grocery store, one of the hardware store, and a list of tasks that need to be done before you start that bathroom remodel.

If that is all it did, Google Tasks would be a useful feature, but Google Tasks also works alongside Google Calendar, so those tasks you created for the bathroom remodel can have actual due dates.

Why Would You Want Google Tasks?

Managing paper notes is a tried-and-true practice, but now that we have so many electronic devices, it's time to get rid of that magnetic grocery list stuck to the refrigerator and boot those sticky notes that litter the desk. Google Tasks is an all-in-one list maker and task organizer. If you use any of Google's products such as Gmail or Google Calendar, you already have access to it.

A photo of the Google Tasks app
 Google, Inc.

Google is known for making reliable no-thrills products that strip away all the bells and whistles to give you a simplified easy-to-use application. This describes Google Tasks perfectly. It may not compete with apps like the Todoist or Wunderlist in terms of features, but if you only want an app to keep track of shopping lists or track items on your task list, it's perfect. Best of all, it's free.

Google Tasks exists in the cloud, which means they are stored on Google's computers and not your own. You can access your grocery list or tasks from your desktop PC, your laptop, your tablet, or your smartphone, and it's the same list. Create a grocery list on your laptop at home and view it on your smartphone while you shop.

How to Open Google Tasks in Gmail

The easiest way to access Google Tasks is through the Gmail website. You use Google Tasks right alongside your email, which makes it convenient to add to-dos based on emails you receive. Here's how:

  1. Open Gmail in a browser and log in if necessary.

  2. Select the Google Tasks icon located in the narrow panel on the right side of the screen. If you don't see the panel, expand it using the arrow at the bottom right corner of the screen. Google Tasks is a blue circular icon with a white diagonal dash.

    Google Tasks icon in Gmail
  3. Select Add a Task in the new window to create a new task. If you hover over a task, a pencil appears on the right side. Click the pencil to edit the details of the task, add subtasks, or give the task a date.

    Add a task button in Gmail
  4. To make a new list, click the arrow next to the current list and select Create new list. You can also change to a different list in this window.

    Create new list in Gmail

How to Access Google Tasks in Google Calendar

The flip side of the Google Tasks coin is the ability to check the status of your tasks and add new tasks while viewing your calendar. By default, Google Calendar is set to show your reminders rather than tasks, but it is easy enough to switch views.

  1. Go to Google Calendar at https://calendar.google.com and sign in to your Google account.

  2. To view tasks in Google Calendar, select the box next to Tasks in the My calendars section of the left panel.

    Tasks icon in Google Calendar
  3. If you have assigned a date to a task, it shows up as a label on the selected date. Click it to expand the entry for more information.

    An expanded task in Google Calendar
  4. As with Gmail, the Tasks app is a blue circular icon with a white diagonal dash located on the right side of the Calendar. Click the Tasks icon to add, remove, or edit tasks, just like you do in Gmail.

    Tasks interface in Google Calendar

Click the label for a dated task once to see more information and double-click to go straight to the Google Tasks edit screen for that task.

How to Access Google Tasks on Your Smartphone

Tasks wouldn't be nearly as useful if you couldn't access them through your smartphone or tablet. Instead of embedding Google Tasks in the Mail or Calendar apps, Google created an app just for Google Tasks. The tasks you enter on your computer sync with the phone automatically and vice versa.