Reminders App Wears the Badge but Lacks True Grit
Sep 30, 2010 5:00 AM PT
To me, the ideal reminder application is aggressive, rude, and above all persistent.
I want something that makes some kind of grand entrance when the moment arrives -- a noise, a buzz, an obnoxious interruption. And I don't want something that meekly backs off and forgets about the task I gave it after I tell it I'd like to procrastinate once, twice, or even 15 times, like I've somehow hurt its feelings or something. I want it to be as doggedly determined as the snooze alarm next to my bed, only with more information and with a more adjustable interval than the standard nine minutes.
This is because when I put a note into a reminder app, that means I really do mean accomplish that task. These are not suggestions to my future self that can be accepted or ignored. These are orders. If my future self isn't in a position to conveniently carry out the task at the exact moment the reminder sounds off, that's fine -- finish what you're doing, then do this other important thing. But I happen to get my share of "what was I about to do next?" moments, so isn't there some kind of app out there that will reliably and aggressively remind me again and again until the damn thing is done?
If there is, I haven't found it yet. Others that I've tried have disappointed me, but another app, REMINDERS! (all caps and with the exclamation point, mind you) offers a straightforward reminder system that, while still meek and mild in terms of noise, at least includes a reliable icon badge and a few nice tricks.
Set 'Em Up
REMINDERS! (I'll drop the shout caps from here on out) starts you out by inviting you to create your first reminder. All the action remains in the phone -- there are no push notifications involved, so you don't have to register with an outside service.
Hit the "+" button in the upper-right corner, and you come to screen where you can describe your task. You'll need to select an Action (scroll wheel options include Meet, Check, Buy, Pick Up and the catch-all ToDo). The What and Where fields are optional, and you can type content in yourself instead of selecting from a wheel. The Time field lets you set your reminder down to single-minute increments, and Notes lets you jot down any extra info you'll need.
Once finished, your task will appear as a red bar on the app's main screen.
Along the bottom of the main page are options for sorting your reminders (Daily, Actions, People) and checking your history of complete tasks.
Check This Space Tomorrow
Hitting the italic "i" at the top left of the screen takes you to Settings, where you can choose from a couple dozen default sounds. You can also set a default time -- this is the time at which all new notifications are set when you first create them. Of course, you can adjust that setting as you create the note, and you'll probably do that more often than not. But it is nice to be able to set a default -- if you're the kind of person who makes notification-worthy plans at least a week in advance, this setting will cut down the scrolling you have to do.
Settings also has an option for making a bookmarklet. Doing this requires you to mess around a little with Safari's bookmark tool, but there are clear instructions. When you're finished, you'll be able to turn any Web page you visit into an instant reminder. Say you're looking at a website on the iPhone's Safari browser and you decide you want to check back on it in a week. Open your bookmarks, hit the Reminders bookmarklet you've created, and Reminders will immediately open with a new notification set up for you that will remind you to check that page again, complete with link. Just set the time and save it.
Now or Later?
Reminders' input system is pretty much spot-on, but its output still falls short of the taskmaster ideal I described earlier. It will buzz you exactly once and give you a pop-up window when the time comes. The pop-up has two options: Close or View.
Choosing View will open Reminders and give you another set of options: Later or Done. Hitting Done checks off the reminder; hitting Later (or ignoring the notification altogether) marks it as "Late."
If you ignore that notification or choose the Later option, you won't get a new reminder. There's no snooze alarm here. Instead, you'll get an icon badge -- one of those red circles with a number in the upper-right corner of the app's icon. Personally, I want to a notification app to get in my face every 15 minutes until the job's done, but for some, that icon may be just enough of a reminder. And at least the badge is reliable -- I've tried notification apps where that badge disappears before I even delete the note. Reminders doesn't lose the badges unless you tell it to.
Reminders may not be as reliably irritating as my imaginary perfect notification app.
But those badges may be enough of a tap on the head for some users, and at least Reminders manages to keep those badges in place until you actively delete a notification. Perhaps the best place for this one to sit is on the main screen, where it's seen all the time.