A smartphone showing the Microsoft Lists app logo.

Looking for a tool to track items for yourself or your small business? A version of Microsoft Lists is opening up to everyone outside of the Microsoft 365 umbrella. All you need is a Microsoft account and something to manage.

What Is Microsoft Lists?

Microsoft Lists offers organization and tracking features for you to stay organized, share and collaborate, and work efficiently using customizable lists. The new lightweight version of the app is intended for both individual users and small businesses.

You can start with a blank list or template to track work and tasks, home inventory, schedules, trip planning, donations, itineraries, and more. This makes it a good tool for just about anyone or any project.

The customization options give you great flexibility when tracking and managing tasks, schedules, and projects of almost any size. You can put statuses, images, due dates, links, and more, all in one spot and with an intuitive interface that keeps items clean and clear for everyone.

You can easily share and collaborate, assign tasks to others, and control the sharing permissions. And because you can use Microsoft Lists on the web, you can access it from any web browser and without downloading additional software.

About the Microsoft Lists Preview

If you have a Microsoft 365 plan that includes SharePoint, you may already use and like Microsoft Lists. But in January 2022, Microsoft introduced the application to a broader audience. Rather than limiting its use to businesses and Microsoft 365 subscribers, anyone with a Microsoft account can use the tool.

The free application is, at the time of writing, in its “preview” stage and so named Microsoft Lists – MSA Preview. It’s for evaluation purposes and the features are not yet final. Additionally, it’s only available to the first 200,000 users as a web application on a first-come, first-served basis. Microsoft says this about the offering:

The Microsoft Lists — MSA Preview allows each user to create 50 lists with each list containing up to 1,500 items/rows and 200 MB of attachments/storage.

If you’re interested and lucky enough to start using it before registration closes, let’s take a look at what you can do with Microsoft Lists.

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Getting Started With Microsoft Lists

When you sign in on the Microsoft Lists website, you’ll create your first list. Click “New List” at the top and then choose a blank list, import a CSV file, or pick one of the templates. Once you make a list, you can create another using the From Existing option.

List and templates on Microsoft Lists

Create a List

The Blank List option is a completely empty canvas for you to add items. You can then insert columns for things like text, numbers, dates and times, links, images, yes/no choices, and people.

List column types

Once you select the column type, you can complete the details per the option you pick. For instance, you can enter dates using a pop-up calendar and format numbers with a currency symbol.

Column format options

Using the Blank List option is good for personal item tracking because you can insert the exact types of columns you need.

Use a Template

The templates currently available in Microsoft Lists are ideal for small businesses. You can pick from options like an Issue Tracker, Content Scheduler, or Employee Onboarding.

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Select a template to see a preview, and if it’ll work for you, click “Use Template” to get started.

Template preview

Add a name and description, choose a color theme, and pick an icon. Click “Create” and you’re on your way to organizing your items.

Use a template, add name and color

The nice thing about using a template is that the columns are built right in. So you can eliminate the extra work involved with a blank list yet still customize the included columns.

Additional Microsoft Lists Features

As mentioned, the addition and finalization of features in Microsoft Lists is ongoing. However, the MSA Preview does offer some helpful features you should know.

Use Calendar, Gallery, and List Views

You can view your list three different ways for the most convenient option and switch between them. Create a List, Calendar, or Gallery view and select the Visibility. For the Calendar view, you can choose the dates and title. You’ll see the views along the top of your list as tabs. This lets you move between them easily.

Views for Microsoft Lists

Share or Export a List

If you want to share a list with a friend, family member, or coworker, simply copy and paste the provided link where needed. You can also adjust the share settings for editing the list, requiring a password, and setting an expiration date.

List sharing permissions

If you prefer to share your list as a one-time snapshot, you can export it to a CSV file.

RELATED: What Is a CSV File, and How Do I Open It?

Other Features

Here are just a few extra features that make Microsoft Lists a nice organizer.

  • Favorites section on your main Microsoft Lists page.
  • Filters for finding specific items, statuses, dates, titles, and other things in your list.
  • Formatting for columns to hide, show, set up conditional formatting, and use alternating rows.
  • Add a New Item in a dedicated window or in the grid view.

Add a New Item window

Microsoft Lists is a solid tool for managing anything from home inventory and school schedules for personal use to content publishing and event planning for small businesses.

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Profile Photo for Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
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