How To Create And Assign To-Do Lists With Basecamp

Basecamp is the world’s most famous web-based project management software. It was launched in 2004 by 37Signals, a leading Chicago software company founded by Jason Fried.

Basecamp boasts millions of users and even more importantly, it’s the software that all other project management applications (both web and desktop) are now judged. In short, it’s the lifeblood of many web workers, this one notwithstanding. I see a real need for formal documentation on Basecamp’s best practices, so I’m going to be publishing a series of posts about properly using the software, starting with how to use to-do lists. I hope you enjoy.

Creating To-do Lists in Basecamp

Basecamp makes it incredibly easy to split up responsibilities and keep your team on track. With Basecamp’s to-do feature, you can quickly create a list of tasks and determine who’s doing what. Here’s how to do it.

  1. First, select the project you and your team will be working on. Make sure everyone you need to include in your project has been included. You won’t be able to assign your to-do items to people who aren’t included in the project.
  2. Next, click on the to-do tab. It’s right under the name of the project and three spaces over from the leftmost side of the upper menu bar.
  3. You should see two small red links at the top of the to-do list page. Click on the one that says “new to-do list.”
  4. As soon as you click the link, you’ll see two boxes. One of them has a title field and another contains your to-do list description. There are a few other options like the ability to make the list private, but we’ll ignore those for now.
  5. Enter the title of your list and your short description of the items in the list. Once you’re done, click on the “create this list” button at the bottom.

Congratulations, you’ve created a new to-do list for your project! Now you can start to add items and assign them to your team members.

Adding and Assigning Tasks

  1. The “enter a to-do item” box should appear right under the title of the list. Enter a description of the thing that needs to get done.
  2. Just underneath, you’ll see the words “who’s responsible.” When you click on the menu below it, a list of team members will pop up. Select the person who is responsible for the task.
  3. You can also decide if you want this person to receive an email notification as soon as you post the new to-do item. You do this by clicking on the box next to the menu.
  4. If more than one person is responsible for an item, you can just pick “anyone” under the who’s responsible menu.When you’re finished adding items to your list, click on the small red link below.
  5. You can order the items in your to-do list by click and dragging the cross shaped icon on the left. You can also check items off of your list by clicking on the box to the left of each item.

Commenting on To-do Items

Another really cool feature in Basecamp is the ability to comment on individual to-do list items. That way, whenever somebody stumbles upon the to-do item, that person can see what others have said about the item in the past. This keeps everyone up to date on any recent project developments.

  1. Move your mouse over the to-do list item. As your mouse hovers, a little speech bubble will show up on the right side. Click on it.
  2. When you click on the speech bubble, you’ll get redirected to the to-do item’s page. If there are already comments on the to-do item, you can read them or you can add your own comment below.
  3. Whenever you leave a comment, you can attach important files and pick who gets an email notification. This is handy when you don’t want to bother everyone with your comment.
  4. Go ahead and leave a comment. Now head back to the to-do list page and have a look at your to-do list item. You should see a black speech bubble to the right of the item. The black speech bubble means the item has a comment (i.e. your comment silly).
  5. Whenever you see a to-do list item with a green speech bubble, it means the item has new comments that you haven’t read yet. It might be worth your time to have a look at the item’s comments.

And that’s it for to-do lists in Basecamp. As you can see, Basecamp was designed to be simple, fast, and intuitive from the bottom up. With to-do lists, it’s remarkably easy to get things done!


  1. Barry Harrison on November 23, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Good instructions but Basecamp to do lists leave a lot to be desired. Our wish list includes:

    1. You should be able to indicate who is creating the to do
    2. You should be able to assign to more than 1 person (“anyone” is the equivalent of “no one”)
    3. When the to do is checked off it should send a message to the creator (otherwise how do they know it’s done)

  2. Melanie on April 2, 2014 at 11:55 am

    I have no +1 option to assign tasks to multiple people…help please.

  3. latifa on May 11, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Nice tool that emphasizes focusing on the important and getting rid of the habit of running after ‘urgent’ things –

Leave a Comment