Microsoft Lists: What is Microsoft’s newest productivity tool? 

Published on 2020-10-05

ChartDescription automatically generated 

Microsoft Lists: What is Microsoft’s newest productivity tool? 

If you follow us on social media, you may have noticed that a lot of our recent update posts have featured the new service, Microsoft Lists.  

Microsoft Lists was first announced during the all-digital Microsoft Build 2020 event and has continued to be a key focus for the Microsoft365 community this year.  

With the surge in remote work and virtual collaboration, Microsoft has had to react to a change in how people work and what they require from their software. The new Lists service has been one of the many ways that Microsoft has responded to the new demand.  


What exactly is Microsoft Lists? 

You may be aware of SharePoint Lists. The lists service has been around for the past 20 years, so there is a good chance some of you may have used it or you still actively use it now. Microsoft Lists is a smart evolution of SharePoint lists. 

Microsoft Lists is a 365 app, built to help users maximize their productivity through task tracking. The app uses lists to track information, like issues, assets, routines, contacts, inventory and more. Lists' simplistic views and smart rules make it easy for users to focus on what is crucial for their business. 

Graphical user interface, applicationDescription automatically generated

If you are keen to get started with Lists, but not sure which is the best set up for you, Lists provides ready-made templates. No matter which platform you access Lists from, these templates are available to you, whether you are using Lists online, the mobile app, or with Teams. 


Where does that leave SharePoint Lists? 

The introduction of Microsoft Lists does not equal the eradication of SharePoint Lists. If you are currently using the Classic SharePoint Lists service, you do not need to worry about losing your trusted service. Microsoft has assured users that they will continue to support the Classic SharePoint lists. Users that use the classic version but are looking to move to the modern update can also look forward to retaining their Lists with the added value that Microsoft Lists brings. 

Graphical user interface, applicationDescription automatically generated  

What makes Microsoft Lists different?

A lot of questions we get when we talk about Lists is about how it differs from Microsoft’s other productivity-driven apps, like Planner, To-Do, and Tasks. 

Right off the bat, it can be hard to differentiate between these apps as they all boast similar management services. However, each app has distinct differences that, when used in the correct situation, make all the difference. 

Mark Kashman, a senior product manager on the Microsoft SharePoint team, explains that an easy way to tell the difference between these apps is by looking at the 'broader notion of task-based and work-based management'. 

Applying that perspective, we have demonstrated how they can be distinguished: 

Microsoft Lists:  

  • Microsoft Lists is primarily a work management and work tracking app.  

  • Users can use the app to build and share custom tables to track structured information across status, lifecycle, ownership, etc.  

  • Lists has similarities to tools like, Asana, and Wrike. 

Microsoft To Do:  

  • Microsoft To Do facilitates task management for individuals. 

  •  To Do tracks personal tasks in lists and groups managed by you, the user. To Do can also connect with the other apps to show you your Planner tasks and any flagged emails from Outlook right within the app. Given its Power Automate connector, you can also add tasks from other apps, like Microsoft OneNote. To Do can centralize your tasks across your Microsoft account. 

Microsoft Planner:  

  • Microsoft Planner is an easy-to-use, team-based project management tool, so best used as Task management for a team. 

  • Microsoft Planner is integrated within Microsoft 365 Groups, so each Outlook Group, Teams Team, and Yammer Community can track its open tasks in a way that does not require a formal project manager.  

  • Microsoft Planner uses Kanban boards to track tasks and provide detailed information, similar to tools like Trello, Wrike, and Asana. 

Microsoft Tasks:  

  • Microsoft Tasks is a task management app hosted within Teams.  

  • Tasks sources tasks from Microsoft To Do, Planner, and other Microsoft 365 productivity tools and compiles them into one central listing that works best for Teams. 


Graphical user interface, textDescription automatically generated 

What can you do with Microsoft Lists? 

In Microsoft 365, a list is 'a collection of data that gives you and your co-workers a flexible way to organize info.' For reference, lists are very similar to an Excel table, both with rows and columns that can contain a variety of data, 

Within lists, you have a wide range of options for what data you wish to include; people, links, dates, etc. All of which can work with the different data types supported in columns; numbers, text, etc. 

Flexibility is the key focus of this app. There are several ways that each user may want to interpret their data, and the ability to support that variance is what makes Lists such a valuable tool for businesses. 


A picture containing diagramDescription automatically generated 

As mentioned previously, if a user doesn't wish to build a list from scratch, they have the option of choosing from one of the many list templates provided by Microsoft 365. Templates use pre-configured layouts, colours and structures to help the user get started. Once a template is selected, they can also choose to edit that template further so that it suits their needs exactly. 

Microsoft Lists currently offer the following templates; 

Asset Manager 

  • Keeps track of physical assets that your team is using 

Content Scheduler 

  • Helps you schedule and manage your content strategy 

Employee Onboarding 

  • Helps you manage your new employee’s onboarding process 

Event Itinerary 

  • Helps you organize all your important event details in one place, 

Issue Tracker 

  •  Helps you track, manage, and bring issues to a close 

Recruitment Tracker 

  • Helps you track and manage the recruitment pipeline in your organization or team 

Travel Requests 

  • Helps you manage all your travel requests and keep an eye on budgets 

Work Progress Tracker 

  • Helps you track priorities and progress as you work towards delivering products and services. 


As you can see from the templates, Microsoft Lists can help you in a variety of areas. Whether your workload involves HR, marketing, or just general management, Lists provides the perfect platform for you to track your workload and share it seamlessly with your team. 

As Microsoft Lists is a relatively new addition to the Microsoft 365 family, we see new and improved features announced pretty frequently. If you would like to get to know more about how Microsoft 365 as a whole can help your business send us a message and we can help you out. 


As well as being Microsoft experts, we are dedicated to keeping our followers up to date with Microsoft's latest launches and developments. If you'd like to stay in the loop, follow us on LinkedIn now 

To keep up to date with our latest news follow us on social media – Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook