Need to collect and organize tasks? You can with Apple’s Reminders apps for macOS and iOS.

I’m currently reading Tim Challies’ “Do More Better” that I picked up at a men’s conference a few weeks ago. After some chapters about responsibilities and roles in life, I got to the geeky part where he discusses:

  • Task management
  • Scheduling
  • Information

In the book, Challies recommends Todoist, Google Calendar and Evernote. I’ve used all three (I’m still a Google Calendar and Evernote user), but have tried to use the default macOS/iOS apps instead. Granted, the iCloud apps have limitations, but there are some things they can do well. Why go through the trouble of adding yet another account if you can use the tools right out of the box.

In this article I’m going to focus on Apple’s Reminders, the default task management system. I plan to cover Calendar and Notes in later articles.

Task Management: Reminders

Things Reminders does well

  • Good integration with Siri: For example, you can tell Siri “Remind me to do laundry when I get home”. I’d argue you can set better reminders with Siri than you can with the touch user interface (UI).
  • Geolocation: Reminders can remind you based on a location, which is handy if you want a reminder to ding you when you get home or work or anywhere.
  • Repeating reminders: Like most calendar events, you can set reminders to repeat at customized interval, so once you complete one, a new one will appear.

Where Reminders falls short

  • Limited structure: While you can create separate lists of tasks, you can’t create sublists of tasks. This was a glaring omission I noticed as I was reading about setting up Todoist subprojects in “Do More Better.”
  • Poor calendar views: Unlike other user interfaces (UI), Reminders has a poor calendar-style view. The best you can expect is a dot underneath each date indicating you’ve got a task due that time. If you want to see something like a calendar-style grid, you’ll need extra apps like Fantastical.
  • Limited contextual sharing: If you try using the Share button from other apps to set reminders, you’ll be surprised how few times it works, unless you use Siri. More on that later.

Integration with other apps

On macOS and iOS, I often see the Sharing icon available. Many times, you can share something from one app to Reminders, Calendar or Notes. Yet, you can’t always share to the same app, and sometimes the behavior is less than expected.

For fun, I tested out some apps to see what I could share to Reminders. At the time of writing this, I’m using macOS High Sierra and iOS 11.

Sharing to Reminders on macOS

From macOs, you can share to Reminders from several apps, meaning they will contain some content based on the app that you’re sharing from. For example,

  • Notes: Copies the note’s content into the reminder’s description. But, it doesn’t contain a link back to the original note which is disappointing.
  • Safari: Contains a link to shared URL. Useful for reminding yourself to visit a website on a certain day, or when you arrive somewhere.
  • Maps: Contains link to map location. Useful for if you wanted to remind yourself to contact a business at a certain time, or if you were planning an outing.

Sharing to Reminders on macOs is quite limited. Of all the native Apple apps I tested, only Notes, Safari and Maps could share information that would seem useful. Some apps like Pages and Contacts could share to Reminders, but the context would get lost.

Sharing to Reminders on iOS

The experience on iOS isn’t much better. Notes, Safari (and other apps using web content like Tips), and Maps were the only apps that seemed capable of sharing with Reminders. If you’re aware of an app I missed, please let me know.

Better Reminders using Siri

You can add more reminders using Siri. If you sell Siri “Remind me about this…” while having an app open, it will often add a reminder plus a link back to the app whatever you wanted a reminder about. It’s odd though that Siri can sometimes do what the Share menu can’t.

The verdict: meh.

Reminders works well as a basic task management tool, but don’t expect too much out of it. I use it only because it’s one less app I need to worry about, which is nothing to boast about. That’s like telling your pet, “The only reason I’m keeping you is because you’re easier than taking care of a dog.” No offense to dog lovers.

What I’d like to see is for Reminders to have better integration with other apps:

  • Calendar: See your tasks and events together like Google Calendar and Outlook.
  • Podcasts: If I’m listening to a podcast, I want to be able to remind myself to share it at a time or place.
  • Pages, Numbers, Keynote: If I need to work on a project, I want to be able to remind myself with a link back to the file.

The good news is that Reminders is the lack-luster piece of this trio of managing tasks, events, and information.

If I missed any features or issues with the Reminders app for macOS or iOS, please let me know.

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