Export from Wunderlist

My data have escaped from Alcatraz today. I had some old lists that were locked up in Wunderlist. It wasn’t an easy escape. My Wunderlist version 3.6 on Windows doesn’t offer any export facilities. I found various solutions on the Internet:

  • A PHP script that extracts the data from the SQLite database. Works for version 2, I guess. My version has some DB file as database.
  • A Python script that converts the JSON backup to something more practical. Regrettably my Wunderlist has no options for any form of backup.

So I decided to give Microsoft To Do a chance. Not surprisingly, it can import the Wunderlist data. But neither To Do has any export functions. Well, you can print… you can print to PDF. But when I tried to copy and paste text from the resulting PDF file, I found out that it had a rather deviant encoding. The 17-character sample “Feiten in beeld” revealed the following pattern:

  • Every character takes 4 bytes.
  • Space, double quote and “F” have their ASCII value plus 0xF4808063 (big-endian).
  • Lowercase characters have their ASCII value plus 0xF4808123, a shift of 0xC0 (which is 0xA0 more than I would expect).

Rather perverse altogether. Is that what they mean by “malicious software?” Anyway, I didn’t feel like this puzzle. To my relief Microsoft had left one door open. To Do is automatically synchronized with Outlook. You can see the To Do lists via ‘View’ > ‘To-Do Bar’ > ‘Tasks’. And more important, you can export every individual list by ‘File’ > ‘Open & Export’ > ‘Import/Export’ > ‘Export to a file’ > ‘Comma Separated Values’. The resulting CSV file has really a comma as field separator, there’s no option to choose a semicolon for that. But anyway, having produced these files I feel in full control again. Everything worth keeping is stored in Joplin now.

There is still another escaping route on the Mac, where I had installed Wunderlist 3.4. This version does have a print option, thus giving the opportunity of creating a PDF file of the print. No exotic encoding this time. On the other hand, less attractive because of these drawbacks:

  • You don’t get the tasks that are “completed”.
  • You don’t get all task attributes.
  • The layout doesn’t have the most practical structure for further data processing.

So that were my export experiences. Shared with everyone who once believed in Wunders.

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I’ve been a Wunderlist user for a while. I haven’t tried MS ToDo, but I’m eager not to just put my data in another walled garden.

The Wunderlist web page does include an export option, and the export includes text, html, and (best of all for portability probably) a JSON dump. I found this script someone created for a Wunderlist-to-Joplin transfer: https://github.com/eschlot/Wunderlist2Joplin. I haven’t tried it yet.

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M To Do syncs seamlessly with Outlook. For Outlook desktop there is an add-on from Nextcloud for syncing - again without any glitches - Outlook tasks to Nextcloud/DAV. So, I moved my tasks to Nextcloud-web-interface/Thunderbird (with an add-on TBSync). You should find proper instructions on Nextcloud support/their forum.

Joplin is a great piece of work, but mainly as a notebook, not as a fully-fledged task manager. As it is not a CMS, either. And that’s okay.

Leaving MS ecosystem a year ago made me feel sorrow because of one thing only: At the time of my leaving, After years of work, and waiting, they finally got the task managing and its connections with other productivity software in the clear.

I can recommend @markfickett’s route of four stages. It depends on the list and task types how to proceed. Here are my footsteps of this morning. The journey may seem somewhat adventurous, but once you know what to expect, it is rather straightforward.

Stage 1

Go to https://export.wunderlist.com in order to export the Wunderlist lists. The procedure doesn’t always succeed. In case of a failure, you get an incident number and the advice to contact support. Support is materialized as https://todosupport.helpshift.com/a/microsoft-to-do/?p=web&s=wunderlist-help, where you can only find answers on previously asked questions. My question (with or without) my incident number was not amongst them. https://status.wunderlist.com/ shows “no incidents reported today”. I think I know why. Nevertheless, after several attempts to log in and two failed exports once I was logged in, the third one succeeded, and the download went even smoothly without any hitches. What I want to say is: don’t despair after the first letdown.

The result comprises a JSON file with metadata, a local website with Index.html as main entrance, and for every list a TXT file that contains Markdown text. If you want to convert a Wunderlist list to a Joplin note, then copy and paste its content to that target note at stage 4. If you want to convert a Wunderlist list to a (sub)notebook with to-dos, you’ll need the results of stage 2 and 3.

Stage 2

Convert the Wunderlist export to a Joplin import format by the script Wunderlist2Joplin.py from https://github.com/eschlot/Wunderlist2Joplin. This site is pretty clear about the details. One thing maybe to add: I had to install the dateutil library by pip install python-dateutil before the script could do its work. It’s simple to find out whether you need to do so: run the script and it will tell you what is missing.

Stage 3

Import the stage 2 output in Joplin via ‘File’ > ‘Import’ > ‘Raw Joplin Export Directory’. The result is a notebook Wunderlist Import with the same tree structure as your Wunderlist data, with the tasks as leaves, i.e. notes of the type to-do. In my case, most of the imported notes had no content.

Stage 4

Rearrange the material (Markdown output of stage 1 and/or components of Wunderlist Import) in Joplin as you please.

Yet some other escape routes

Just to be complete, in the meantime I had discovered that the web version of Wunderlist (3.19) does have an option to print to (normal!) PDF. With all the disadvantages I mentioned in my OP. And even better: the option to mail a list, which lets you include completed tasks! Version 3.4 on my Mac has the same facility — I had overlooked it. So if you are really stuck with the export in stage 1 and using To Do + Outlook is not a viable option for you, this is one of the emergency exits.

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