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Posts tagged with "reminders"


Agenda 4.0 Review

Agenda 4.0

Agenda 4.0

Savvy Apps’ Agenda, one of the most popular third-party calendar apps for iOS that we’ve been covering on MacStories for years, has been updated today to version 4.0, which adds a beautiful new user interface and builds upon the previous version’s app integrations, support for Reminders, and gesture-driven event management. Agenda 4.0 is sold as a separate app for $1.99 on the App Store.

I’ve had the chance to test Agenda 4.0 before today’s public release, and as I kept using the app I noticed how it was turning into a powerful complement to Fantastical, my favorite calendar client for iPhone. As I have discussed this week on The Prompt, in fact, I’m currently going through my annual re-evaluation of my workflow, and, partly because of my curiosity in regard to iOS 7, I’ve started using Apple’s Reminders on a daily basis again. Reminders are easy to use, the app is fast, and, more importantly, it’s one of the Apple apps that can sync in the background all the time with iCloud. I can integrate Reminders with IFTTT for iPhone, and, overall, I have been enjoying the simplicity and deep system-wide integration of Reminders. While I’m a big fan of Fantastical’s Day Ticker (I think it’s one of the best calendar interfaces ever shipped on iOS), Agenda allows me to view calendar events and reminders in the same list (something that Fantastical for iPhone still isn’t capable of), and with version 4.0 this list is even more polished and clear than Agenda 3.0. Read more


IFTTT for iPhone: A Different Kind of iOS Automation

IFTTT for iPhone

IFTTT for iPhone

I used to heavily rely on IFTTT for my daily automation workflows that involved appending bits of text to files in my Dropbox, forwarding tweets to my OmniFocus inbox, generating PDFs, or archiving Instagram photos to my Dropbox account. IFTTT, acronym of If This Then That, is a web service that lets you connect other web services together to create automated workflows that run every time a piece of data is triggered: by leveraging a variety of APIs from compatible channels (such as Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote, Feedly, and more), IFTTT lets you automate the web in powerful (and sometimes unexpected) ways. Browsing Popular recipes on the IFTTT website can give you an idea of the scope of web automation that’s made possible by the service, and we’ve covered IFTTT in the past on MacStories as well.[1]

However, I stopped depending on IFTTT because, once I got more comfortable with my own Mac mini server as a remote automation assistant, I wanted to control the pipes of my personal data. I’m still using IFTTT for things like receiving an email if it’s going to rain tomorrow or a new SMS for press releases published by Apple (just an example of the power of IFTTT channels and recipes), but it’s not the primary system that I rely upon for automating daily tasks. The new IFTTT app for iPhone, which I have been testing and has been released today on the App Store, may make me (partially) reconsider my decision. Read more


Enhancing Reminders with AppleScript and Macros

As The Omni Group keeps working on OmniFocus 2 for Mac and Apple continues seeding new betas of iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks to developers, I have been reconsidering Reminders’ simplicity and enjoying the built-in iCloud sync, which, unlike other types of iCloud, is working fine for me. However, two things I miss from OmniFocus are the possibility to integrate the app with a web browser through bookmarklets and the system-wide Quick Entry panel; I use both tools on a daily basis to easily save a browser’s tab into OmniFocus’ Inbox, or to bring up a text field where I can jot down an idea and know that, no matter the app I’m using, it’ll be saved into OmniFocus. Luckily for me, Apple’s Reminders app comes with a good AppleScript Dictionary, which is likely something that Reminders’ core mainstream audience won’t ever care about, but that we can leverage to extend the app’s capabilities and input areas beyond Mountain Lion’s leather-and-paper window.

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Automatic Reminders for nvALT

Another nifty solution by Brett Terpstra:

Inspired by Evernote, I whipped up a little script to find “@reminder” tags with date parameters in nvALT notes (or any folder of text files). It can generate notifications or send HTML emails at the specified time. It’s just for fun right now, but I thought I’d put it out there to see if anyone had any ideas for it.

Brett is already working on Reminders integration, but I'm more interested in the idea of "self-hosted" Evernote-like reminders from nvALT. This is a great match for a TextExpander feature that's not mentioned very often -- date/time math macros.

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Evernote Launches Reminders

Evernote Reminders

Evernote Reminders

In the years I’ve spent using and recommending Evernote, I’ve always noticed a chasm between people who rely on the service to store reference material and notes, and those who want to also use Evernote as a “getting things done” system to keep track of their todos. The topic has been widely discussed on the Internet, with smart folks such as Sven Fechner and Fraser Speirs delving deeper into the subject of Evernote as a GTD system. Tutorials and eBooks have been published with tips on how to use tags and saved searches to turn Evernote into an app capable of equally handling documents, notes, and todos under a single, searchable archive. Clearly, there was a demand for a task management feature built right into Evernote.

Today, Evernote is releasing updates to its Mac and iOS clients to introduce a major new feature: native reminders. I have been testing the new versions of the app, and I believe reminders are a good addition that fit well with Evernote’s focus on remembering everything through a unified, polished interface. Read more


Add Multiple OmniFocus Actions at Once Using Drafts 3.0

When editing my Drafts 3.0 review last night, I removed this sentence from the Reminders section:

"Again, I don’t use this functionality, but it’ll be interesting to see something like this being tweaked to work with Drafts and Reminders"

Sid O'Neill figured it out right away:

Drafts just updated today to version 3.0. There are a whack of new features but one that I'm most interested in is the new "list in Reminders" action. It makes it easy to add multiple actions to Omnifocus without requiring Pythonista.

I forgot Daniel Jalkut had a script to monitor Reminders and add todos to OmniFocus for Mac. If you're like me, you know you'll try to make this work with a Mac server and modified default sync times.

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Integrating OmniFocus and Reminders On OS X

Integrating OmniFocus and Reminders On OS X

Daniel Jalkut and Sean Korzdorfer have been working on two aspects of the same problem: bridging the gap between OmniFocus and Reminders on OS X.

Sean put together a series of AppleScripts to send tasks from OmniFocus to Apple's Reminders app for Mac. Daniel created (and open-sourced) an app to check Reminders for newly added items, transfer them to OmniFocus while keeping due dates, and deleting them from their original location in Reminders.

I love OmniFocus for both Mac and iOS, but it turns out that because I lean so heavily on using Siri to add items, I tend not to open OmniFocus while I’m on the go. When I come home and get to work on my Mac, I notice that OmniFocus doesn’t contain any of my recently added items, so I have to go through the cumbersome steps of opening my iPhone and launching OmniFocus just to get this theoretically time-saving trick to work right.

I have tried to get into using OmniFocus' iCloud capture feature on iOS, but because I don't use Siri on a daily basis, that didn't turn into a habit. I know many rely on OmniFocus-Reminders integration, and I think these are nice solutions for the desktop.

I, however, have become a big fan of The Omni Group's Mail Drop service. Using Drafts, I can write down a task, send it to Mail Drop, and have it in my OmniFocus inbox after a few minutes; if I want to save a link to a webpage, I can use a bookmarklet that sends a website to Drafts and then to Mail Drop. Rather than further integrating OmniFocus and Reminders, I'd like to open OmniFocus on iOS and find it already synced with all other copies of the app and Mail Drop. Right now developers have to resort to location-tricks to update information in the background, and I wish Apple will allow more background options in the future.

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Checkmark Review

When iOS 5 came out last year, I wrote about location support in Reminders:

One of Reminders’ key features is its location-based alert system. Thanks to Apple’s geo-fencing technology introduced in iOS 5 — and open for third-party developers to create apps with — the app can send you an alert when you’re about to “arrive at” or “leave” a particular place. This can be useful if you, say, want to be reminded of groceries when you arrive at the supermarket’s parking lot, or don’t want to forget about those documents when you’re leaving the office. There’s a caveat though: you can’t manually type an address as Apple chose to restrict this feature to a “contact location”. This means the address will have to be already attached to a contact in your Address Book, which can be inconvenient if you don’t want to keep the supermarket among your friends and family contacts. On the other hand, I assume Apple has done this for two reasons: saving users the time of typing addresses, and providing a familiar way to access often-used locations.

For the most part, Reminders works fine as a lightweight todo manager synced across devices and platforms. However, if you're serious about location reminders and would like better control over how geofencing is triggered, Apple's software won't cut it. Because of Apple's implementation -- restricted to addresses associated with entries in your Address Book -- iOS' Reminders effectively forces you to create new contacts for places that you might need someday. So if you're planning on setting up reminders for when you leave the grocery store, the office, the local coffee shop, or your friend's house, you're going to have to configure those in Address Book. Which, if you want to set up quick reminders for tasks that you won't repeat on a daily basis, is a rather cumbersome process.

Furthermore, Apple's Reminders isn't the most streamlined application when it comes to the number of taps required to create a new item with due dates or alerts. Especially for location, in Reminders you'll have to:

  • Create a new reminder and type;
  • Hit Return;
  • Select the reminder;
  • Tap "Remind Me";
  • Select "On Location";
  • Choose "When I Leave" or "When I Arrive";
  • Tap "Location";
  • Choose an address;
  • Go back and hit Done.

A 9-step process (10, if you want to pick an address from your Contacts) to create a reminder with attached location data. Can it be done better?

For the past month, I have been testing Checkmark, a highly-hyped and recommended new app developed by Snowman aimed at simplifying and speeding up the process of creating reminders on your iPhone. I found Checkmark to be a great replacement for Apple's Reminders, and the kind of app that fits with my way of thinking, rather than forcing me to understand its rules and patterns.

Checkmark creates location and time-based reminders. It is a third-party app, so it won't sync with the official Reminders app, nor will its reminders show up on the iPad or other devices (Checkmark is iPhone-only for now). When you open the app for the first time, you're greeted with a first-launch tutorial that will teach you the basics: you can save favorite locations, view your current and completed items, or create a date/time based reminder if you don't want to be reminded at a specific location. That's it.

The main screen sports an intelligent design that trumps Apple's design in terms of usability and speed. It is organized in two tabs -- Where and When -- that make it instantly clear which kind of items you can create, and how you can navigate between them.

The problem with Apple's Reminders, as I outlined above, is that location is relegated to second class citizen spot inside the Address Book, rather than being displayed front and center in the app. Attaching location alerts to a reminder takes too many taps; a todo manager -- no matter what kind of tasks it supports -- should be fast, easy to use, and capable of receiving new items quickly. For this reason, the Checkmark developers organized the location screen as a grid of places: these are your favorite locations, they're easy to tap on, and they are displayed through custom icons and names you can choose from a location's settings.

Checkmark is smarter than Apple's Reminders: when you add a new location, you can use your current location, add an address manually from the integrated map view, and only as a last option you can import a location from your contacts. In the map, you can drag and drop the pin to adjust the position, and choose a location radius to tweak the behavior of the geofence -- should the app remind you when you're 30 meters from home, or 250? These are functionalities that Apple's software is still suspiciously lacking, even in the upcoming Mountain Lion (except for manual addresses, which Apple seems to have implemented in 10.8).

My favorite feature of Checkmark is its streamlined way of adding new location reminders. From the main "Where" screen, you can tap on a location to view all the reminders associated with it; tap the + button in the upper right corner, and create a new one with a title and (optional) notes. Set arrival or departure -- depending on whether you want to be alerted when you arrive at a place, or leave it -- and hit Save. Done. Unlike Apple's app, it takes me 10 seconds to set up a new location reminder in Checkmark.

Checkmark also combines a timer functionality with geofencing. Say you want to be reminded about today's meeting 30 minutes after you arrive at the office; or perhaps you want to be reminded about buying milk 15 minutes after you leave while you're on your way home. In the Details screen of a location reminder, Checkmark lets you set a timer for 5 up to 60 minutes "after" you leave or arrive at a location.

Another nice touch of Checkmark is how the app calculates the distance from a location. Similarly, I am a fan of the custom sound alert the app uses for Notification Center; notifications (reminders, sound alerts, text alerts, and badge counts) can be configured in the app's preferences inside Settings.app.

Being a utility that runs in the background all the time through Location Services, when I first installed Checkmark I was concerned the app would use too much battery. After weeks of testing, I can say that with the "normal" accuracy I haven't noticed a substantial drop in battery life. This comes, however, at the cost of precision with location alerts, which sometimes went off a minute later than expected. By setting accuracy to "best", precision got considerably better but I noticed the app was draining too much battery.

Checkmark isn't just a prettier Reminders app, it is a better take on a concept that Apple first explored but somehow failed to properly implement on iOS. Checkmark won't sync to your iPad or Mac, so here's to hoping the new Event Kit framework for reminders in iOS 6 will allow its developers to turn Checkmark into a new interface and experience for iCloud reminders. Checkmark doesn't work with Siri either, so if you rely on the voice assistant to quickly create reminders, you might want to reconsider your workflow and the importance of Apple's Reminders before making a decision. However, right now, I find Checkmark to have powerful features for location and time-based reminders, and I highly recommend it.

Only $0.99 on the App Store.