I’ve used Grocery on and off for a long time, but what finally made it stick in a way that it never did in the app’s early days was the addition of a HomePod in my living room/kitchen area. The app is built on top of Apple Reminders, which means that even from the earliest days of the HomePod, adding items to our family grocery list using Siri was reliable. Grocery’s Siri support was available before the HomePod, but the ability to add things to the list while I’m cooking or rummaging through the refrigerator transformed Grocery into an app I use throughout the week.
With version 2.0, Grocery has added a new level of power to the app by creating a flexible system that allows you to do everything from storing a template grocery list that you can reuse over and over to recipe management and meal planning. The new features add some complexity to Grocery, but if you invest a little time in understanding how the app works and take advantage of its Shortcuts integration, the update opens up interesting uses far beyond what was possible before.
I last covered Eventail in April 2018, when its developer Jozef Legeny brought support for the iPhone X and new color schemes to his compact calendar widget for iPhone and iPad. With version 3.1 released today, Eventail (which over the past year also gained support for overdue reminders and interactive mode) is adding integrations for popular third-party apps and a convenient shortcut to reopen links contained in events and reminders.
Apple’s Reminders is one of the few native iOS apps with a database that can be directly tapped into by third-party clients. Like the iOS Calendar app, which has no shortage of alternatives on the App Store, developers can create their own task managers that fully integrate with your Reminders database, offering the convenience of a built-in system with the benefit of having multiple options to choose from.
A couple months back I wrote about two of the best third-party Reminders clients on the App Store, one of which was Reminder. Today as part of its big 3.0 update, Reminder is being renamed Memento and bringing a handful of improvements that take better advantage of Apple’s full device ecosystem. There’s an Apple Watch app for the first time, keyboard shortcuts on iPad, 3D Touch shortcuts on compatible iPhones, custom time presets, and more.
Apple has long prided itself on being a company that carefully weaves hardware, software, and services together to offer a holistic user experience. Because of this, every purchaser of Apple products benefits from the built-in apps and services that accompany those products. And on the two most popular sellers, the iPhone and iPad, one of those bundled apps is Reminders.
At its core, Reminders is a simple list and to-do app that can be surprisingly powerful thanks to features like repeating tasks, location-based reminders, collaborative lists, and note support. Many times over the years Reminders has been my primary task manager and served me fairly well. It may not be as capable as alternatives like Things, but the app remains an appealing tool for those whose needs are light, and who value the ease afforded by Apple’s built-in ecosystem.
Unlike most of Apple’s other iOS apps, Reminders is built on a framework that’s accessible to third-party developers. Though developers can’t build apps that hook in directly with your Messages or Notes databases, Reminders is a different story. The underlying system powering Reminders is calendar-based, meaning it’s not tied to a single first-party app. Just as Fantastical and Timepage offer access to your existing iCloud calendars, developers can similarly build entire replacements for the Reminders app utilizing your existing collection of lists and to-dos. Two such apps, Reminder and GoodTask, serve as perhaps the best third-party Reminders clients on the App Store.
Each app takes a different approach to enhancing Reminders, with one focusing on modern design while the other offers power user features and flexibility; both, however, retain some of the benefits of staying in the Apple ecosystem while improving upon the first-party Reminders app.
Fantastical was updated last week to version 2.10, which brought support for some of the key features of iOS 12 and watchOS 5 – namely Siri shortcuts and complications for the Infograph watch faces. I want to highlight some of the changes in this release and how they fit my usage of Reminders as my main task management system.
My task manager is packed with personal and work tasks. I rely on it to keep me on track day-to-day and week-to-week. The reason my task system works though is that it doesn’t include absolutely everything. If I started adding the minute-to-minute minutiae of life, I’d get bogged down in the volume of tasks each day.
For a while now, I’ve been using Apple’s Reminders app to keep track of one-off tasks, little things I might forget to do, errands, and tasks with deadlines. I’ve found that it’s a great way to stay on top of items that don’t have a home in a formal project. For the past couple of weeks though, I’ve largely replaced Reminders with Due, which was updated to version 3.0 today.
I’ve been playing around with GoodTask, a Reminders client for iOS, as part of my experiments with Shortcuts and Reminders for this year’s iOS review. GoodTask is a powerful utility that extends Reminders in ways that I’d love for Apple to consider whenever they decide to update their own Reminders app. GoodTask has grown a lot since its debut four years ago; I recommend reading Tim’s review of version 3.0 to get an idea of its capabilities. The app has got a bit of a learning curve, but it’s much more powerful than Reminders while retaining its key advantages (such as Siri integration and immediate background sync between every Apple device).
Today’s update to GoodTask brings a couple of features that I suggested to its developer a while back. The first one is a quick action to reopen a web link (or URL scheme) contained in a reminder, if any. This makes it easier to use GoodTask as a repository for links saved from Safari (perhaps through the Shortcuts extension). I like the way GoodTask automatically extracts URLs from the Notes field of a reminder, and this quick action speeds up the process of reopening links a lot.
The second feature is a change to the ‘Scheduled’ filter for smart lists, one of the best ideas in GoodTask. Smart Lists are liked saved searches for reminders: they let you create custom lists (which you can only view in GoodTask) to manage a subset of reminders based on specific filtering criteria. For example, you can create smart lists for reminders with a specific tag (another GoodTask-only option), items that are overdue, or reminders that are due within 3 days and have a high priority. In the latest version of the app, you can create smart lists for reminders that are due between specific start and end times of the day. Essentially, I wanted to replicate Things’ fantastic Today/This Evening feature in GoodTask. With smart lists in version 3.9.1 of the app, I can now use the ‘Scheduled’ filter to show me reminders due today (between 6 AM and 7 PM) and in the evening (between 7 PM and 11:59 PM). It’s not quite as elegant as Things’ native feature, but it lets me have a similar scheduling setup in GoodTask as well.
I’ll have more to share about GoodTask over the summer as I continue to experiment with Reminders and Shortcuts in iOS 12. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a great alternative to the Reminders app on iOS, you should take GoodTask for a spin.
Tim Nahumck has outlined his vision for a new and improved Reminders app, inspired by the iOS 11 design language and existing concepts found in apps like Files. I’ve long hoped for a full Reminders revamp to make the app look and feel more modern, and Nahumck has some good ideas for what Apple could do. The words that resonated most with me, however, are where Nahumck explains why Apple should do this:
I think a lot of people’s lives can be improved by task management. For years, I’ve tried to get family and friends to see the benefits; sometimes they do, most times they don’t. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.
What I have often found is that the idea of downloading a separate app bothers people. Sure, they’ll have a few dozen free apps – camera and photo editing apps, several social media apps, a bunch of couponing apps – but heaven forbid they get a paid productivity app involved in the mix. The mental friction of having a separate app to manage their lives can be difficult to get over. This is usually the point where I suggest simply using Reminders: it’s basic enough to get the job done, it’s a part of the OS, and they don’t have to pay to try it out. But the app isn’t where it needs to be.
These words highlight the inspiration that I believe Apple should take in approaching a full Reminders rebuild. I know tons of people whose lives would be improved by a bit of task management help; the number of people in this category among all iOS users has to be enormous. As such there’s great potential for a new Reminders – rethought from the ground up – to add true benefit to the lives of millions of users. Like Nahumck’s concept shows, I think this could be done in a way that still offers significant utility to power users, while keeping it simple for those who want it so.
For the last several years I’ve had a refreshed Reminders on my WWDC wish list, only to be disappointed. Maybe with the important groundwork of drag and drop and the new iOS design language now taken care of, 2018 will be the year my wish comes true.
Remind Me by Nick Leith is one of those apps borne out of frustration with a stock Apple app – in this case, Reminders. Reminders has some compelling features like iCloud syncing between iOS devices and with Macs, shared reminder lists, and the ability of some third-party apps like OmniFocus and 2Do to import reminders. Yet despite these benefits, Reminders can be tedious and frustrating when you want to enter a reminder with a due date. Remind Me is a handy lightweight iPhone utility dedicated to fast Reminders task entry.