A comprehensive guide to Microsoft To Do and Planner and the differences

Project management is one of the most important aspects of a project. Similarly, so are the tools you use to carry out your project management. In this post we’ll be addressing two tools put forward by Microsoft. Microsoft Planner (from the enterprise subscription of Office 365) and Microsoft To Do, the free counterpart.

FactorsMicrosoft PlannerMicrosoft To Do
Grouped tasks (task lists)YesYes
Group task lists to project/planYesNo
Task attachmentsYesNo
Priority indicatorsLow, medium, important urgentLow, important
Progress indicatorsNot started, in progress, completedComplete, incomplete
Assignable tasks (assign to person)YesNo
Scheduling/datesStart date, due dateDue date
Sort tasks (by)“Bucket”, assigned to, progress, due date, labels, priorityImportance, due date, added to “my day,” alphabetically, creation date
One-day tasksNoYes (“my day”)

Microsoft365 for Business

Below, we’ll be comparing creating a task in Microsoft Planner, versus creating a task in Microsoft To Do. Afterwards, we will take a closer look at the difference in task configuration options, to what extent we can group our tasks and whether your team should utilise Microsoft Planner or Microsoft To Do.

Quick links:

Comparing task creation in Planner and To Do

Creating a task with Microsoft Planner

  • Open plan > Add task > Enter name > Set due date > Assign to member
  1. Open the plan you intend to work with
  2. Select “Add task” from atop your default bucket
  3. Fill out each field
    1. Task name – should be the name of the task
    2. Due date – (optional) when the task should be completed
    3. Assign to – the person/people who must complete the task
  4. Select the new “Add task” button

Creating a task with Microsoft To do

  • Open list > Add task > Enter name
  1. Open a task list from the side panel, or create a new one
  2. Select “Add task” from the top of you task list
    • You’ll automatically begin typing the tasks name
  3. Select “ADD” from the end of the input field

Creation comparison

While Microsoft Planner’s process seems slightly longer- having strayed from minimalism; it’s definitely a better creation process. This is because the task may immediately be assigned with it’s due date set. Resulting in immediately having the task ready for whoever needs it. In contrast, while simple Microsoft To Do’s process lacks in expanding from the most basic functionality. While it does in fact create a task faster, no assignment options are provided, similarly, no relevant configurations can be applied to the task.

Key points:

  • Microsoft To Do is inconsequentially faster albeit limited in capabilities
    • No on-creation configurations
  • Microsoft Planner is slower (if you use the on-creation configuration options)

Comparing task configurations in Planner and To Do

Configuring a task with Microsoft Planner

  • Open plan > Click task

Configuring a task with Microsoft To Do

  • Open list > Click task

Configuration comparison

OptionsPlannerTo Do
My dayNoYes
Repeat taskNoYes

Key points:

  • Microsoft Planner is more option heavy
    • Planner outnumbers To Do in option count
  • Microsoft To do only offers minimal configuration options
    • Additional options are accessed via a context menu including: marking completion, priority and shifting due dates. It is unknown why they are not placed with the other configuration options, as some configuration options can also be found via this menu.
    • To access the menu, right click on a task.

Grouping tasks and task lists in Planner and To do

Plans and buckets in Microsoft Planner

Plans serve as a collection of task lists referred to as buckets within Microsoft Planner. You can think of a plan as the project you’re working on, or alternatively the goal each of your buckets work towards. Plans may be publicly available to all within your organisation, or privately available to only those you invite.

Buckets function as task lists, as such they contain tasks (which may include sub-tasks). While buckets can not be assigned to a particular person, the tasks within them can. This is useful for grouping tasks via their purpose and the team working on said task.

Lists: Microsoft To Do

A list in Microsoft To do functions much like a bucket form Planner. Albeit, lists in To do are often treated much more like a plan from planner, as opposed to a bucket. This is due to their only being one list of tasks (which may have sub-tasks) per list.

Grouping assessment of Microsoft Planner and Microsoft To Do

Microsoft Planner allows users to create collectives of customisable task lists, whereas Microsoft To do servers as a collective of individual task lists. As such, Planner provides greater grouping/organisational abilities to the user.

Should I use Microsoft Planner or Microsoft To Do


Before deciding you should consider your team size, project scope and budget. While Microsoft Planner boasts a greater feature span, it’s costly for smaller companies- similarly, its vast feature set may be wasted on a small team that won’t be fully utilising it.

It may also help to consider Microsoft To Do as a task manager, as opposed to a Project manager like Microsoft Planner. This is due to the scale of organisation provided by both tools.

Our decision

For personal or small projects, we recommend Microsoft To Do. Despite the smaller feature set, Microsoft To Do still contains all of the essential features and functions well collaboratively for small teams. In addition to being free, if you feel it’s not enough you’re still able to upgrade to Microsoft Planner later if need be. However, if you’re currently working on more than one project, have the finances to spare and a ready team, we recommend jumping straight into using Microsoft Planner.

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Jack Mitchell

Jack Mitchell has been the Operations manager at telecoms and MSP Optionbox for more than 4 years. He has played a crucial role in the company, from marketing to helpdesk, and ensures that the IT requirements of over 300 clients are continuously met. With his innate passion for technology and troubleshooting and a particular interest in Apple products, Jack now delivers the most comprehensive tech guides to make your life easier. You can connect with Jack on LinkedIn.

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