Almost a year ago, I posted a review of Apple’s Reminders app and suggested it needed a couple of features to make it a genuinely useful GTD (“Getting Things Done”) application.
I'm pleased to say that, with iOS/iPadOS 13 and macOS Catalina, they have gone some way towards achieving that. They have implemented one of the features I wanted and a good deal more besides, but I still think there’s room for improvement.
I'll run through the new features first and then add my opinions.
What Apple calls smart lists, I would call a summary. It’s basically an information box you get on the top of the left panel that shows counts of reminders.
There are four in total: Today, Scheduled, All and Flagged.
It’s not really the sort of thing I’d take too much notice of but it might be quite handy for some people.
Your reminder lists can now be grouped to organise them a bit better.
In macOS Catalina you just need to go to File -> New Group to add a new group and then you can drag lists in the left pane on top of a group to place them within it.
In iOS/iPadOS 13 you achieve the same thing by tapping on Edit at the top of the left pane and then clicking on Add Group at the bottom. You can then drag lists into a group with your finger.
You can expand and collapse groups by clicking on the arrows in the left pane list, next to each group.
As an additional degree of organisation, you can create sublists.
There are two ways to do this in macOS Catalina. You can right-click on a reminder in the right pane and select Indent Reminder. The reminder will then become part of a sublist of the reminder immediately above it.
Alternatively, you can just drag reminders underneath another reminder to create a sublist.
There are also two ways to do this on iOS/iPadOS 13. You can either swipe right on a reminder and tap Indent or you can select a reminder, click the little ⓘ, scroll down and tap on Subtasks and add any subtasks you want there.
You can outdent reminders in similar fashion on both iOS/iPadOS and macOS and you can expand or collapse sublists with the arrows to the right of the reminder.
You can now have reminders notify you On a Day, At a Location or When Messaging a Person. Just click or tap on the ⓘ next to a reminder and select what you want.
Images and URLs
There are now fields under a reminder’s info box to attach images or URLs. In the case of the latter, it will show you a preview picture of a site if your URL resolves to such.
Reminders is now fully supported by the system’s Dark Mode, so wet your pants as necessary about that.
The whole interface has been reworked on both macOS Catalina and iOS/iPadOS 13. It’s basically a much nicer place to be now.
Reminders is a much better application now. After letting it languish for many years, Apple now seem to be taking it seriously. You could now use it as an effective, if basic, GTD app. The increased depth offered by groups and sublists is particularly useful in that respect.
I don’t think it replaces the more complete GTD apps such as OmniFocus or Things and that’s fine. I do however still think there are things Reminders could do better.
The first thing is related to the subdivisions now available for reminders. There are groups, lists and sublists but that’s strictly it. I’m not sure why Apple didn’t allow sublists of sublists to any level rather than restricting it to just two. I can live with things the way they are because I don’t need eternal sublists for most of my basic reminders and I’d use OmniFocus for more complex projects, but I think infinite sublists would have been better.
The most annoying thing, though, is the applying of dates to reminders. When it’s just a single reminder, all works well, but let’s take something like a shopping list. I create a list called Shopping and then I create half a dozen or so reminders for things like Food, Household, Cat etc. and then I create sublists for each thing I need to buy within the parent reminders. What I’d like to be able to do is set a reminder on the list itself to prompt me on a certain date. I don’t want to have to go into each individual reminder and set a date.
But let’s assume I did want to set reminders for each individual item. I can’t, it seems, select all the reminders and set a date for them together. I have to select each one individually — all 63 of them — and give it its own reminder date. That’s all a bit tedious.
There's also a certain clunkiness to the new Reminders. For example, if you backspace-delete a reminder, the cursor moves back up to the top of the list instead of to the previous or next reminder in the list (which is what I'd expect).
Finally, in my previous review I requested a way to duplicate lists. This is to allow me to have a template reminder list I can just duplicate and rename when I want to use it. Alas, there is still no direct way to do that in Reminders.
It does however do a copy and paste better than it used to, so if I set up a template of reminders (and store it in my Templates group), I can then select all of them and paste them into a new list, which is a workaround for pure duplication. Reminders did do this before Catalina and iOS/iPadOS 13 but it didn’t used to retain the order of the reminders in the template. When you pasted them into a new list it would just put them in alphabetically. It now retains the order of reminders, which is an improvement.
Reminders is undoubtedly much improved. If you have basic GTD requirements it will serve well. I’d argue there are still deficiencies as I’ve detailed above but it’s now a genuinely useful application. However, those deficiencies are such that I'll only use it for simple reminders but it won't replace OmniFocus as my main GTD app.
I gave it three stars last time and it earns four stars this time.