Of all of the new bits and pieces of iOS 5, one of the apps I’m using the most is Reminders. It’s a simple yet effective app for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad that is used to set up self-reminders and task lists that are synced through iCloud. Let’s take a look at this latest feature of iOS and Mac OS.
The icon for Reminders describes at a glance exactly what it does — it looks like a list of tasks, each with a check mark indicating completion. Reminders works on the concept of lists, and you can create any number of them. The app automatically adds a list called “completed” that contains any task that you have finished but have not deleted.
To add a list, there’s an edit button on the Lists page. With a tap you see the names of all of the lists that you have created, and can create new lists either on the device you’re working on or in iCloud. For syncing, it’s best to create new lists in iCloud. On the Lists page, a tap of a specific list (“Work” for example) displays all of the individual tasks underneath.
Creating tasks is also easy: you just type in the name on the Lists page. Once the name is entered, a tap of the task takes you to a Details page where you can enter in a reminder. How do you do that? Tap on the “Remind Me” button, which opens up a dialog asking if you wish to be reminded on a day, at a location, or both. Choosing a day to be reminded brings up a standard date and time picker for an alert, while choosing a location displays buttons for Current Location, When I Leave, and When I Arrive. A tap on Current Location brings up a list of locations — usually your current location, a work location, and a “choose address” location.
The latter only lets you pick addresses from your contact list. That’s a real bone of contention for me, since I’d like to be able to set location reminders for businesses that aren’t in my address list. For example, let’s say that I want to be reminded to buy laundry detergent when I go to the nearby Whole Foods Market. I don’t want to enter the grocery store into my contacts, but right now that’s the only way I can add the location into a reminder — that or go to the location and set the reminder using “current location.”
You can choose to repeat the reminder at a set duration, either every day, week, two weeks, month, or year. The Details page also provides a way to add a priority and notes to a task, or change the list that it is added to.
You can look at your reminders not only by list, but also by date. The date view provides a calendar you can look at, or you can swipe between dates. For each date, any reminders that “come due” are listed. As with the Calendar app, you can tap a Today button to see what’s on your agenda for the current day.
On the iPhone and iPod touch, Reminders only works in portrait orientation. On the iPad, you can flip between portrait and landscape at will.
How well does the syncing over iCloud work? If I entered a task on the iPad, then turned to my iPhone to bring up Reminders, the new task was already there. That’s fast. Of course, the syncing also works with the Mac.
“But wait,” you may say, “There’s no Reminders app on the Mac!” You’re right — but iCal does have a Reminders pane that appears. You can add new reminders in iCal (5.0.1 or later), and they’ll appear instantly on all of your other devices. There’s also the ability to add a local (on my Mac) or iCloud Reminder list from iCal, as well as a shortcut for creating Reminders using Command-K.
But wait, there’s more! If you want to access those Reminders from any other computer in the world, all you need to do is sign onto the iCloud.com site with your Apple ID, bring up the calendar, and there they are. Windows users who don’t want to use the iCloud.com website should note that using iCloud with a PC requires Windows Vista or Windows 7, and Outlook 2010 or 2007 is recommended for accessing contacts and calendars.
Reminders is also integrated with Siri, although I was not able to test that integration prior to publication. Just ask Siri to remind you to do something at a particular place or time, and a reminder is created.