I started using a naked app last week on my iPhone. No, I’m not talking about some new variant on Scruff or Grindr, but an app that is completely naked in terms of UI controls. There’s no buttons, checkboxes, menus or sliders. The entire interface is gesture driven, and should be applauded in terms of looking at a touch screen interface as a mechanism of breaking away from old UI habits.
TODO list apps (otherwise known as GTDs – Getting Things Done) have been a dime a dozen on the App Store – input a set of tasks, mark them off as you’re done. Sometimes that’s as simple as they get, and other times they’re significantly more complex, akin to a primitive version of project management software, having subtasks, due dates, etc.
Yet, much as I always set out to use a TODO app with good intentions, they always last just a few weeks before I give up on them.
Over the last week I’ve been trying out a new style of TODO app though, Clear, and it’s making me re-evaluate why I fail at TODO apps over time. One possible explanation is they’re fiddly. When I want to jot a TODO item I want to do it really quickly. If I’m waiting for the app to launch, then need to click a button, enter text, click “Done” or some other input-complete button, there’s sometimes seemingly as much time spent on meta activities as there is on the actual input.
Clear’s innovative interface process is completely gestural, ditching all buttons, etc., in favour of:
- Pinching in to collapse interface areas back to their parent menu;
- Swiping to complete or delete tasks, or to switch between sections of the program;
- Pulling up, down, pinching out to create new tasks in specific locations;
- Dragging tasks to position them, assigning priority.
All of that may sound a bit odd, so here’s some examples:
The above shows the “Category list” – TODO items are lumped into different categories; in the example above, I’ve got 3 existing categories, “Blogging”, “Personal” and “Work”. Having pinched apart I get a new category list which I can name, thusly:
Tapping on a category list goes into the list, and from there you can start adding items. Since it’s the first item, you can either drag up or drag down:
Once you’ve got a couple of tasks, you can equally start to use the pinch-out gesture to create new TODO items in between those existing tasks:
When tasks are complete, you can swipe left-to-right against the task to mark it complete:
Alternately, if you’re not going to complete the task and want it gone, swipe right-to-left against it to flag it for deletion:
When you’ve gone manipulating a list of tasks and you want to return to the task categories, you can pinch the entire list to collapse it:
Demonstrating a gestural interface via screenshots is of course problematic at best. There’s a demo on the Realmac Software homepage, which you really should watch – check it out here.
One of the things I’m already appreciating about Clear, outside of the gestural interface, is the contextual badges for the icon. This is optional, but worth using; if you close Clear when you’re at the category list, the App icon badge will reflect all outstanding tasks. If you’re in a task list, the contextual icon badge will reflect just the number of outstanding tasks in that list.
Whether I stick with this application or not is yet to be determined – I’m still within that grace period of the first two weeks where I’m keen to keep myself organised. However, this is truly a fascinating approach – a naked app, graceful and without conventional UI controls that we’ve grown accustomed to over the last 20+ years of computing. Proof that interfaces can still evolve.
Pretty much every list app I’ve used has had some form of reminder interface. I recognise getting this built into a gestural interface may be a challenge, and while for some people it may be a “killer feature” that’s required, I struggle to think of how it could be done gesturally. (Then again, I probably couldn’t have imagined Clear at all to start with.)
So, I recognise it would be dangerous to add it in – that this may very well rob Clear of the simplistic elegance it currently has. I’ll also note something – whenever I use TODO style apps and set reminders, those reminders end up annoying the hell out of me. Maybe that’s why I end up dropping those apps; like Eddie in ab-fab throwing her digital diary out the window when it gives one too many annoying alarms, it could very well be that my tolerance for chirping reminders about tasks at seemingly inappropriate times every time is just such an irksome process that it actually degrades the experience.
So I hesitate to say that it’s a missing feature, because I’m enjoying the “no pressure” nature of it. I can’t specify due dates and/or times for tasks, so I can’t resent it triggering reminders, or worrying about exactly when I should flag an item as being done.
How would I rate it?
4.5 out of 5. This has significant merit and will likely trigger a wave of similar behaving apps, both in this space and in other spaces – but Clear most certainly deserves credit for getting the ball rolling.