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In the Field of To-Do Apps, This One's a Clear-Cut Winner

In the Field of To-Do Apps, This One's a Clear-Cut Winner

With its built-in functionality and ability for Siri to get involved, along with OS X Mountain Lion's promise of integration this summer, Apple's own Reminders is the app to beat in this space. I'm a big fan, and Reminders made my previous to-do app obsolete. If Reminders wasn't around, though, Clear would be my new go-to list app.

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
03/05/12 5:00 AM PT

Clear, an app from Realmac Software, is available for 99 US cents at the App Store.

Clear iPhone App
Clear
With the proliferation of list-based to-do apps, including Apple's own category-thumping Reminders app, one thing has become plain to me: The very best to-do app or list app is 100 percent subjective. Why? The best to-do app is the one that you, the holder of the iPhone, actually use.

If it's pretty or powerful and lets you set deadlines and reminders or snap photos and add them to list items or email assignments to people you know ... those features are all well and good, but only if you use the features.

If you're a process improvement manager, a simple to-do list-making app might not be for you. If you just need a fast and easy way to create lists of items, Clear might be perfect. It all will depend on the kind of person you are, how you like to organize your thoughts, and how you want to communicate with yourself.

Beyond the list-making itself, Clear appeals to someone who is into elegant design, minimalism and simplicity. The fanciest thing about clear is subtle animations as you move lists and list items around. At just a buck, the price is right. You can give it a try without breaking the bank.

How Clear Works

Clear sorts items by priority by showing the most important items in red at the top of a list. Items of lesser priority become lighter shades of orange until the last item is yellow at the bottom.

To move an item in priority, it's wicked easy: Tap and hold it to pick it up, then drag it up or down your list.

You have three navigation levels -- Items, Lists and Menu. A vertical pinch will collapse the level you're on and navigate you up. So if you pinch a bunch of items in a list, you'll squeeze them together and see your group of lists. To go back down, it's easy too. Tap on a list to open it to reveal the items and tap on an item to edit the item.

Along the way of all this pinching and tapping, you'll hear chimes or tones to go with the actions. If you pinch your lists, you'll reveal the Menu, which has four sections: My Lists, Themes, Tips & Tricks, and Settings.

My Lists is simply your lists. If you hate shades of red, orange and yellow, you can change your Theme to a graphite gradient shading system instead, as well as pink, green a and grayish "noir" theme.

The Tips & Tricks tells you how to swipe to erase, rename lists and delete lists and such. Settings lets you change turn sound effects on or off (can't create your own sound effects) or turn off vibration cues.

Utterly Simple, Surprisingly Cool

Along the way to using Clear, you'll get the hang of pinching, tapping and swiping to navigate around and add or erase items or lists. The touch controls are responsive and the animations of movement just fast enough to be noticed yet not get irritating.

You can't, for example, email your list to yourself, and as near as I can tell, you can't sync it with anything. It just exists on your iPhone. What about handy due dates or deadlines or creation dates or flags or reminders? Nonexistent. The items are what they are and nothing else. They are a jog to your memory, a vague plan of action illustrated by colored gradient bars and a few choice words.

Speaking of words, your list items are limited to about 30 characters or so -- whatever will fit on the iPhone's screen. The text is not mono-spaced, so if you use a bunch of "i" letters, you can use more than 30 characters. The point? Use basic command verbs and nouns and keep it short and sweet. That's how Clear works. No verbosity allowed.

All in All, Clearly Solid, Clearly Fun

I hate to say it, but it pretty much has to be said: Remember Apple? The company introduced Reminders, a simple and elegant to-do list and reminder app. Apple definitely needed to have a built-in to-do list app, and the company delivered. That's the new standard of competition in the to-do list app space. Sure, Reminders is horribly limited for really smart people who can micromanage themselves.

For many people, though, with its built-in functionality and ability for Siri to get involved, along with OS X Mountain Lion's promise of integration this summer, Reminders is the app to beat in this space. I'm a big fan, and Reminders made my previous to-do app obsolete. If Reminders wasn't around, Clear would be my new go-to list app. There's a lot to like in it. In fact, for creating quick lists and knocking them out, it's much faster than Reminders, and I like that speed a lot.

But like I said, to-do list apps are all about you and finding the one you personally want to use.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.


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