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.
Nice update to MindNode, a great mind-mapping app for iOS and OS X, which can now attach tasks to items and (optionally) sync with iCloud Reminders:
Mind Maps are a great way to kick off a new project and Tasks are often a major part of this workflow. MindNode now offers native Tasks support. You can turn any child node into a task and check off completed tasks directly on the canvas. To help you stay on top of your tasks, MindNode will also show a task progress indicator on parent nodes that have children with tasks.
If you prefer Apple Reminders to manage your tasks, you can also export your Tasks to Reminders and MindNode will keep the completion state in sync with Reminders. For example when you mark a task as completed in Reminders, it will also be marked as completed in MindNode. This feature works across iOS and OS X.
Even better, if you use Reminders with 2Do, you'll be able to work on a project with a tree structure in MindNode, then share to Reminders and complete tasks either from 2Do or MindNode. Clever integration – though it would also be useful to import lists from Reminders and visualize them as mind maps in MindNode.
This Week, a lightweight Reminders client that I first covered in December, was updated to version 1.5 last week and relaunched under a new name: GoodTask.
Initially, This Week was a simple iPhone app to view Reminders on a weekly basis, but with time developers at haha interactive added an iPad version and support for more views besides the default weekly one. The new name reflects This Week's evolution in becoming more than a utility to check todos for the current week, and it coincides with the app's new focus on any kind of task – whether it's a reminder or an event in Calendar.
In GoodTask 1.5, calendar events can be displayed below reminders, which makes for an interesting presentation, slightly different from what apps like Fantastical and Calendars 5 are offering. Reminders and events are displayed in two different areas of the main view, and they're each color-coded to match the list or calendar they belong to. Thanks to the addition of filters, it's now possible to customize views to show a specific set of reminders and events – in the screenshot shown above, for instance, I customized my Day view to show all dated reminders and events, hiding undated and completed reminders because they're the ones I know I won't have to address on the current day. In the Settings, it's also now possible to enable special lists that collect undated and recurring tasks, making GoodTask a convenient solution to see due tasks and quickly manage the ones that have no date or that repeat over time.
I've been following the development of GoodTask since its first version, and I'm enjoying the changes and new features in version 1.5 – I'm especially a fan of the clean presentation provided by the Day view. I'm curious to see what's in store for GoodTask, which is available at $4.99 on the App Store.
This Week is a lightweight and elegant Reminders client that I covered on MacStories when it came out for the iPhone, and when it was later updated to run on the iPad as well. Over a couple of updates, This Week has turned into an efficient utility to browse and manage reminders using a variety of views and filters.
With today's 1.4 update, This Week gets a night mode, a larger font option, and a plethora of URL schemes with support for x-callback-url (documented in the app). If you use apps like Launch Center Pro, Drafts, or Editorial, This Week can now be easily integrated to launch views and create reminders with or without alerts. The Night Mode is also well implemented, with settings to automatically activate it during a specific time of the day, every day.
If you're only interested in a having a different visualization of reminders (not calendar events) without natural language support, This Week is a fine app and a solid alternative to Apple's Reminders app. This Week is Universal and $4.99 on the App Store.