Microsoft Lists, Planner, Tasks in Teams, or To-Do, do not all do the same thing.
Lets start by giving an overview of the four apps:
Lists is a major feature and interface upgrade to SharePoint lists, separated out into its own new app. While Lists can be really useful for task tracking and project management, that’s not the only thing it’s good for. You can use Lists to create custom tables and columns that make the most sense for your needs; perhaps to track inventory, build event schedules, manage travel plans, and more.
More information on KB article - What is Microsoft Lists?
Planner is an easy-to-use, team-based project management tool. It uses Kanban boards to track tasks and provide rich information about each task. There is also a personal view of Planner so each individual can see all their Planner tasks across Groups and Plans.
More information on KB article - What is Microsoft Planner?
Tasks in Teams
Tasks is a recent addition to Microsoft Teams and is a central listing of your tasks in a Teams-friendly way. It’s essentially a combination of Planner and To Do within Teams. It doesn’t really do any work; it simply centralises your tasks in Teams, which is the app that Microsoft is putting the most emphasis on for their modern workplace vision.
More information on KB article - What is Microsoft Teams?
To-Do tracks personal tasks in lists and groups managed by you, the user. But the big connection To Do has with the other apps is it will show you your Planner tasks and any flagged emails from Outlook right in the app. Given its Power Automate connector, you can also add tasks from other apps, like Microsoft OneNote. To Do can centralise your tasks across your Microsoft account.
More information on KB article - What is Microsoft To-Do?
The answer to this comes down to whether the app stores and manages your tasks or presents your tasks into a single frame.
The table below helps identify which tool will help based on your requirements:
|Planner||Lists||To-Do||Tasks in Teams|
|Store team-based tasks||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Store personal tasks||Only from the perspective that you have a task in a team task list||Only from the perspective that you have a task in a team task list||Yes||No|
|Display planner tasks||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Display List tasks||No||Yes||No||No, but you can add the List to your Team as a tab|
|Display to-do tasks||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Central listing of tasks in Microsoft 365||No||No||Yes||Yes|
Now that we’ve covered the separation between storing tasks and viewing them, the real question of “Planner, To Do, Tasks in Teams, or Lists” breaks up into two questions:
When it comes to deciding what app you want to use, consider the information above and remember that if what you choose doesn’t seem to be working, it’s smart to sit down with your team, discuss what you want to see, and play with each app to see which one can get you closest to your end goal.