Manage Your Tasks on a Windows Phone with Remember The Milk

Windows Phone 7 does not include a tasks application and there's no way to sync Outlook tasks to the device.  Even if there were a way to sync tasks, there's no place to store them once they get there.  This to me is one of the greatest deficiencies of windows phone.

A few years ago I signed up for a free "Remember the Milk" (RTM) account.  At the time I didn't have a prevailing reason to move my tasks to the cloud and there was no windows mobile support for RTM, so I didn't seriously consider using it. 

But now with windows phone 7, I had a strong incentive to find a different way to work with tasks on my phone, so I rummaged around and found my RTM login credentials and took another look at this well known, well regarded, cloud-based tasks application.  I figured I could at least have access to my tasks through RTM's mobile website.

Then last week, I discovered WinMilk in the Marketplace (in the Productivity category). I downloaded it to my phone, set up my Remember the Milk login credentials and all my tasks information synced beautifully to my phone.

Getting Remember The Milk ready to Sync to a Windows Phone

1.  Sign up for a free account with Remember the Milk

RMT001

2. Use MilkSync to Move your Outlook Tasks to your Remember the Milk account.

The easiest way to move your tasks from Outlook to your Remember the Milk account is to install the 14 day trial version of MilkSync to your computer.  MilkSync is RTM's Outlook connector. 

RMT002

After you install MilkSync to your computer, you'll enter your RTM Username and Password in the login screen and set up a few parameters to manage how you want to sync your data.

RMT003

MilkSync runs automatically in the computer's taskbar.  You can force a sync or change the RTM Account Settings by right clicking on the RTM taskbar icon. 

Notes about Syncing Outlook Tasks to Remember the Milk

  • Remember the Milk doesn't use categories, but instead organizes tasks into Lists and Tags.  When you sync your Outlook Tasks to RTM, RTM converts the categories that are associated with a task into Lists. When you select the List view (see 2nd screenshot below), you can enjoy filtered views of your tasks.
  • If you create tags in your RTM account and attach tags to your Tasks, the tags will be synced back to Outlook and show up as categories with a pound symbol (#) preceding their name (i.e., #Personal)

3. Use WinMilk Task Manager to Sync Your Tasks to your Windows Phone. 

WinMilk is a free Remember the Milk client that you can find under the productivity category in the Marketplace.  WinMilk lets you view your tasks by date, list, or tag and you can also edit and delete tasks on your windows phone.

ScreenshotTasks  ScreenshotListsScreenshotTags   

Here's some screenshots of the various screens you'll work with on your windows phone:

First screenshot shows the detail of a specific task.  If you tap a task, you'll see detailed information about it in this screen.

  • When:  this is the task's due date
  • List: this is the category that is used with Outlook
  • Tags:  shows any tags that you've associated with the tasks.  When synced back to Outlook, the tag information will be included with the task as another category that is prefaced with a pound sign (#).

While in this screen you can edit and delete tasks.  These screenshots are not up-to-date, but now when you tap on a task to see the detail you'll see four icons that run along the bottom of the screen that shows a checkmark, an arrow, a pencil (to edit), and a trash can (to delete).

Second screenshot shows the search screen.  You can search tasks by selecting the magnifying glass on the tasks, lists or tags screen (see the three screenshots above).

Third screenshot shows the smart add option which is accessed by tapping the plus icon on the tasks, lists, or tags screen.

ScreenshotTaskDetails ScreenshotSearchScreenshotSmartAdd

Before you can use WinMilk on your phone, you'll have to log in to your RTM account from the phone and authorize the application, so the first time you open up WinMilk you'll be prompted to login to your RTM account. 

WinMilk then takes you to the Remember the Milk login page where you can input your RTM login Name and Password.  The screen is small, so just tap (and keep tapping) the screen to get the screen large enough to see and enter your login information.  After you login you'll be asked to grant WinMilk authorization to your RTM account.  Afterwards you'll tap the "done" icon on the lower edge of the screen. Then WinMilk will automatically sync all the data in your RTM account to the phone.

WinMilk syncs changes back to your Remember the Milk account.  If you decide to upgrade your account to a professional account, which costs $25 a year, you can continue using RTM's MilkSync to sync the tasks back to Outlook on your computer.

I'm still running the trial version of MilkSync on my computer, but since I plan to continue syncing my older windows mobile devices to my computer, I'll probably upgrade my RTM account to a pro account so I can continue using MilkSync beyond the 14 day trial.

Stay Tuned!  I've figured out another option you could use to manage your tasks on your windows phone.  This other option is a bit more complicated to set up and I'm still working out the details, but it is completely free and integrates nicely with Outlook on your computer.  I'm still refining and testing the process and will be documenting it in an article that I plan to post to the blog next week.

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Comments

  • November 20, 2010 jim wrote:
    You should becommended for figuring out a workaround for MS's unbelievably stupid decision to drop full OL support, but (no offense) it is only a workaround - and a rather cumbersome one. And, at least for me, wouldn't work because of all the data I have stored in the task body and my heavy use of categories.

    As a looong time user of WinMo [and CE before that] I just can't believe the huge step backwards that MS took w/WP7.

    I ended up giving my wife my new LG Quantum and going back to my TouchPro2 w/6.5.

    No copy/paste? Put ALL my stuff in the cloud? (with various cudgels and CSV exports? really?) Stop working in OL and start working in Live? Forget Tasks and Notes and Journal? No file system access? No SD cards? the list goes on...

    I've used WinMo all this time specifically because it worked with OL. I might as well look at an iphone or android now. I don't consider this a good thing.

    Not to bitch at you (you certainly didn't make these decisions) but I just find it amazing that MS has thrown out all the goodwill of its many longterm WinMo users (most of whom are techies like you and me, the kind that MS depends on) in an effort to pick up some iphone users.

    I'd love to hear your other tasks sync idea(or find out MS has a magical plan to fix all this) because I seriously need a new phone.
    Reply to this
    1. November 21, 2010 ProfJulie wrote:
      I don't find this workaround cumbersome at all - once it is set up it works quite well.  This solution also maintains all your categories and you can still keep all the notes related to the tasks - in WinMilk, you can view the notes that are associated with a task, by tapping on the task.  Then you'll see a Notes heading to the right of "task."  Tapping that will show all your notes.

      We are all hoping for copy & paste in the 1st upgrade to the OS, which will happen sometime in January (I think). 

      I don't have too many concerns with moving my contacts and appointments to the cloud - I know some people are concerned about privacy.  I was probably more concerned about this a year ago, but I've had many things in the cloud now for quite a while and never had much of a problem with it.

      Windows Phone 7 has caused me to change the way I interact with my mobile phone.  In some respects I think it has forced me to reassess the way I am using mobile devices and caused me to come up with some better internal procedures.  It has been painful and time consuming migrating my stuff to the cloud just so I could get windows phone 7 working to my benefit, but now that I've overcome my initial reluctance and skepticism and worked out some viable solutions, I think I'll actually be working more efficiently with my stuff in the cloud.

      This new Windows Phone OS is not perfect and I miss a lot of the functionality I get with my windows mobile devices, but I am not ready to bail on this OS.  It is so much faster and seems more stable than windows mobile and I am very interested to see how it evolves and improves in the coming months.

      I'll be posting another article to the blog this week that details the other method for managing tasks on a windows phone, so stay tuned.  It is more complicated to set up that the WinMilk option, but you might prefer it to this one.  I'm using both methods right now to figure out which one I prefer. There are strengths and weakesses with both methods, and I may wind up using both methods!
      Reply to this
      1. December 22, 2010 Spirou101 wrote:
        You write that you are not concerned about your data in the cloud, because it has been there for a year and nothing happened. Can a turkey be sure he will be fed tomorrow, just because he has been fed all his life? You are of course smarter than the turkey and know that Thanksgiving is approaching...
        You simply cannot relie on past experience in a matter like this, if your data is of any value to you.
        Reply to this
        1. December 23, 2010 ProfJulie wrote:
          Your analogy is a pretty poor analogy.  I take precautions and don't store just any kind of data in the cloud. I certainly don't store sensitive data, like bank account information or login information in the cloud.  But if someone is that interested in my boring tasks I really don't care (but I know my boring tasks are of no interest to anyone but me). 
          Reply to this
    2. November 23, 2010 ProfJulie wrote:
      I've now posted another article that documents the other method you could use to manage tasks on your phone.  You can read it here.
      Reply to this
  • November 23, 2010 Jason wrote:
    Works great - best, easiest solution I've seen so far (besides, oh say MS just syncing tasks with Exchange lol) - thanks!!
    Reply to this
  • November 23, 2010 Marcus wrote:
    Thanks for this proposal. I will try it to see how it works. Now, how about syncing notes.....?????? I would like to avoid having every outlook function in different programs.
    Reply to this
    1. November 23, 2010 ProfJulie wrote:
      Still thinking about the best way to handle notes....I moved all my notes to PhatNotes a long time ago, so I'm not concerned about syncing Outlook notes to my windows phone, but other than moving my notes to OneNote 2010, I am unimpressed by the Notes applications I see in the Marketplace. 

      Moving my notes to OneNote 2010 is not an option for me since I'm still on Office 2007 and not planning to upgrade to 2010 any time in the near future - since I teach at the University and use classroom computers, which are running Office 2007, to demonstrate Excel, I keep my home computer in sync with the University.
      Reply to this
  • November 24, 2010 M3 Sweatt wrote:
    Good recommendation on using RTM which I cited on my blog here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/mthree/archive/2010/11/24/wp7-notes-112410.aspx
    Reply to this
    1. November 25, 2010 ProfJulie wrote:
      I'm glad you liked the article.  Thanks for stopping by my blog and for linking to the article on yours!
      Reply to this
  • December 7, 2010 DaveClark wrote:
    I bought the WP7 (LG Quantum) because I previously enjoyed the simple sync from Outlook to my CE and successors. My detour into Blackberry-land was not satisfactory, so I came back to MS, only to find that the sync is broken. It has been extreeeeeemely time-consuming (being over 50, there's not much of it left) to figure out how to get through the "cloud" to my phone. Having to resort to MS KB articles is not exactly easy-breezy and I can't imagine how a less tech-aware person than me would even get started. My Contacts have made the transition, but the Calendar only linked up the first week - I have no idea what to do next week...There's a OneNote app on the phone, but connecting it to my OneNote on my PC is a mystery. My main reservation about using the Milk app is the cost. Although small, I thought that I had paid for the functionality when I boulght the MS phone. My bad, I guess, for believing that MS had their long-term customers in mind when they developed this phone.
    Reply to this
    1. December 9, 2010 ProfJulie wrote:
      Unfortunately, the default for syncing appointments is fixed at the prior 2 weeks' worth of appointments and forward (on 1st sync only - afterwards, the old data will continue to be stored on the data).

      To sync OneNote, you'll need to make sure you've got OneNote 2010 installed on the computer.  Then you can open up a notebook and set up the syncing options to sync the Notebook to your Windows Live SkyDrive account (using the same Windows Live ID that you've configured on your phone).  Once the Notebook is synced up to your SkyDrive account, then you can start syncing it to your phone.  See this article for more information about how you'd do this.

      You can use the WinMilk application without incurring any additional cost, but then you'd have to manage all your tasks via the Remember The Milk website and abandon using the Tasks application within Outlook.  You could also explore the other option for managing tasks on your phone which I documented in another article that I've got posted to the blog entitled, "Using Windows Live to handle tasks on a  windows phone."  That option is completely free and works pretty well with some improvisation.


      Reply to this
  • January 4, 2011 MJ wrote:
    All I had to do to sync my iphone to outlook was to install itunes, and plug in the USB connection!!!

    I really appreciate your work around prof Julie. I know that MS had to get WP7 out the door as they were quite behind the iPhone and the Android; it only makes business sense. But now that it is out, and if you have a connection to the folks at Microsoft please pass on my wish list (which I am sure many share and can add to) to them for the next version of the OS:
    1. Cut and paste please
    2. URL hyperlink whenever an address is written in applications other than IE.
    3. Fix the search results for local businesses on WP7 bing. (PS on WP7, if I open IE on WP7, go to bingcom and search, I do get proper results for local businesses; WP7 bing however returns different results)
    4.Add the ability to store a person's extension with their phone #
    5. Sync contacts with outlook without going through the exchange server EAS. I had to manually input my contacts in WP7 in 2011!!!! while my phone automatically pulled all my Facebook and msn contacts. I then had to manually add phone numbers to those. By the way, when two or three contacts are linked (Facebook, msn and phone contact of the same person) please allow the user to choose which name shows (and is searchable) on the phone. for example; I really want to have my friend John Doe's name displayed instead of his Facebook "Dest V 7" on the phone. but WP7 won't let me. And if I search for John Doe, WP7 won't even find it.
    6. If I add a friend on FB after the initial set up of WP7. It does not show in my contact. Please fix that.
    7. The button to minimize the keyboard on the iPhone and iPad is really handy especially with a small screen. Please add one like that to WP7.
    8. Sync tasks and calendar with outlook automatically by connecting WP7 to the PC USB port. (Yes I know WP7 does not have a place to store the tasks. Please, please add that).
    9. Add two finger zoom ability to the market place for those of us who can't read the small letters easily and can't seem to hit the "more info" link the first 5 times they try
    10. Add a week view to the day and month view of the WP7 calendar; it's really handy.
    11. Finally if I had a wish, I'd say that WP7 speech recognition is awesome; WP7 would be a revolution if it had speech to text alternative to the keyboard for text messaging and note taking ... I for one would pay extra for that.

    Now regardless of my wish list above, I have to say that I LOVE WP7 and I believe the OS has great potential to kick the iPhone's butt out the window. It just needs some fine tuning to suite my needs as a business user (note a teenage Facebook junkie). Special thanks for including the one note app, it beats having to buy 10 different apps to take decent notes on the iPhone/iPad and then having to get more apps to record voice memos ... just my two cents
    Reply to this
  • January 10, 2011 roger wrote:
    Ya, but still no on phone reminders. RTM has to send them sms or email and that doesn't support snooze and easy rescheduling. I'm really mad at MS for not putting tasks on WP7.
    Reply to this
    1. January 11, 2011 ProfJulie wrote:
      I've never been one to use many reminders on my phone for such things because when I did my phone was going off all day long.  After awhile I stopped hearing the reminders and so it really defeated the purposes of using them. 

      Nowadays I'll use reminders for the really important stuff, so I use them more on an exception basis.  If you really depend on tasks reminders to keep you on track, Remember The Milk is probably not the best way to go (I've played around with the email & SMS reminders and for some reason haven't gotten them to work), you might check out my other article about managing tasks on your phone, entitled "Use Windows Live to handle tasks on a Windows Phone."  This other method describes how you can set up a windows live calender to handle your tasks.  Then you get the full benefit of setting and syncing reminders with your tasks, as well as rescheduling tasks, just like you do with your appointments.  That method takes a little more setup, but after several weeks of using a Windows Live Calendar to manage my tasks, I'm finding it very useful and in many ways preferable to the RTM method.
      Reply to this
  • January 24, 2011 TRK wrote:
    Is there any developer or escalation point at Microsoft where we can submit a strong case for implementing Tasks on WP7? I had just embraced all of the deep Task functionality in Office 2010/Sharepoint and broken it all out into multiple workspaces and rely heavily on the master "To-Do" list that is a rollup of all my distributed project tasks. This iscompletely useless without ability to access from my mobile and get reminders, etc.

    As a 10+ year employee of MSFT, I know that a developer could take this and run with it if they want to make a difference. The question is whether any developer at MS will stop talking about how they stopped using features because they were annoying, as a justification for dropping features that other people had been relying heavily on. This type of thing makes me really think about moving to the Apple platforms, because there's no long-termcommitment taking features out of the system that MS has no intention to stand behind (e.g. Tasks, Media Center)...

    I hope someone could offer us a thorough explanation of where MS stands on this. I have 30 days to return my WP7 device, and this may be the dealbreaker.

    Thanks for any insight from the MS dev team.
    Reply to this
    1. February 10, 2011 ProfJulie wrote:
      I hope Microsoft adds a full featured, native task application to windows phone 7 and a way to sync tasks to the phone in the same way that Calendar and Appointments are synced to the phone.  I have no idea if or when this will ever be done.  In the meantime the workarounds that I've documented here are doing a pretty good job for me.
      Reply to this
  • April 5, 2011 Polly-Ann wrote:
    Will this only sync tasks? I'm looking for some sort of Outlook tool that will sync everything across multiple machines that are in different physical locations... :/ Email is driving me nuts!
    Reply to this
    1. April 14, 2011 ProfJulie wrote:
      Syncing contacts and calendar items to a windows phone 7 device is done via cloud-based services such as Windows Live, Google or Exchange Server.  There is no way to sync this stuff directly to a local machine.  If you've got multiple computers, you could install and setup the Outlook Hotmail Connector on each computer and then you can sync each computer to your single windows live account.
      Reply to this
  • February 5, 2012 Paul wrote:
    Thanks for posting this solution. I stumbled on the same one, with RTM at the center. Interesting how a year + later, RTM is still the only game in town if you don't use Exchange.

    I worked at MSFT, at one point on the office team, years ago and I can tell you that it isn't rocket science to get Windows phone to talk to Windows Live to talk to Outlook tasks. In fact I believe the missing link is Windows Live to Outlook tasks.

    At the end of the day it's a matter of MSFT getting organized and making it happen. I think this is Apple's strength--I bet middle management at Apple tried to pull the same BS and were laughed (screamed?) out of the room by Steve Jobs. I miss the days of Bill at the helm--he "got it" and didn't settle for less. Ballmer has sales people running MSFT--dangerous.
    Reply to this
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