Decent simple reminders app for mac?

(gastropod) #1

I have a 27 inch iMac running Sierra. Any alerts that pop up, assuming that they ever show up at all, don’t show up in my visual field at all. sound is of no use, since I’m often not at the computer when the alert comes. It used to be bad on a 21’ or 24" monitor, now it’s impossible. There’s also the serious lack of snooze options for Reminders and Calendar.

What I want is the much beloved Alarming Events from the Classic era. Since that’s not possible, what should I try?

I need a dialog box that comes up in the middle of the screen with largish text that can’t be hidden by other windows, and completely flexible snoozing, from minutes to years plus particular dates and times in the future, all settable in the alert. I don’t need or want sync, operability or data exchange with any other apps, or any other fancy features (though if it could remind me about friday the 13ths in advance, it would be nice). Just genuine alerts that can’t be missed, with simple repeating alerts, such as daily or every month on the 5th.


(Diane D) #2

I found this article that may have something that appeals to you. I’d be interested in knowing what you decide on, and if you can use Siri to set reminders to yourself with another app.

Way back in the Classic days I remember having some sort of timer app that would tell me to check the laundry or stove. I now use Reminders for that, but yep I miss them sometimes!


(Tommy Weir) #3

I use Due, it’s a very effective reminder app. There’s iOS and Mac version (which I don’t use at all, it can sync but I prefer my hassling to come from just one location). It parses natural language, it can be repeating, it’s flexible as to setting up prompts.

I don’t use it as a list app, or broader task manager, I use Things for that though I like Folding Text’s schedule timer feature for crunching through a set of tasks on a project. But for plain old reminding and nagging, I like Due, it’s good.

(Doug Hogg) #4

I also use Due on my iPhone.

(frederico) #5

Due to my failing memory (degenerative), I am in love with Due for iOS, and I at least appreciate it on macOS, despite it being less elegant to use than iOS, and that the macOS version is in need of an update and some love. I especially love the fact that it is in total sync across all my iOS devices/Macs.

It can even be used in conjunction with Reminders (or not; you can select some or all or none of your lists to also appear in Due); one of my favorite features is I can set Due to scan and “capture” Reminder events added to a particular list; in my case, I set it to the default “Reminders” list in; this way, I can say, “Hey Siri, remind me to do that thing with Dave tomorrow at 10:15AM”, and Siri will oblige (without the frustrating frequency of failures if I also try to designate a particular list to which to add said reminder); then Due grabs that item from and it becomes a Due item, where I can later add snooze, repeat, custom times, retitling, logging, etc.

If I say, “Hey Siri, remind me to do that thing in two minutes”, Due will grab it and its own Notification will then promptly appear, and from its notifications options, I can then quickly add all the details/snooze/sounds/repeats/etc. as desired.

Due also has Timers and Alarms, but I don’t personally need those as much; but when I do, I find them pretty feature-rich.

It does everything you ask for, with one exception: large, in your face, persistent notifications on macOS (the default is standard Notification Center flags); however, if you simply combine it with Growl for Mac (yes, it still works), you can choose a Growl notification style that is to your liking. I personally use ‘Music Video’ (don’t let the name mislead you) which produces a large banner that pops up across the entire bottom of whatever display I select. Growl also has many options to customize each notification style (color, opacity, style, font, duration, persistence, etc.); and even more fun, Growl will let you select a different style/theme for every app you choose to display with it. You can slect from a plethora of ready made, downloadable themes, or create your own. It’s even super easy to take one you like and use it as a template to tweak for every different app/use you can think of,

Growl will further (optionally) display a ‘missed notifications’ “Rollup” window anywhere you like, and can be optionally set to only appear after you wake the screen, to see what events you missed while you were away. The “Rollup” is customizable to always include or exclude certain events or apps so it doesn’t get too crowded.

Sadly, Growl is seemingly no longer under development (for most people Notification Center is good enough, and NC is essentially a Sherlock of Growl in the first place), but, again, it still works fine for every app that still supports it (and you can even manipulate other apps into supporting it via AppleScript).

Another alternative to your notifications complaints with stock might be to deploy some pretty basic AppleScript or Automator; as part of both Reminder and Event Alert options (bizarrely only visible in, you can optionally choose the type of Alert (“Alarm”) you wish to receive (Custom… -> Message, Email, File, Location, etc., ) and from there you could use it to trigger an AppleScript message or Automator popup which would appear dead center of your screen (in addition to as many other alert/alarms you also wish to receive).

Third party utilities like Keyboard Maestro and GeekTool, which also have floating message/object display capabilities, could be employed to pick up Event alerts and generate more visible displays of reminders that are persistent as you desire, as well.

There are probably other solutions; I’m happy to continue the conversation if you have questions.

(gastropod) #6

frederico writes another extremely useful software description, this time of Due:

Thanks much for the details. I’ve mostly dithered on this because I haven’t found any others to try, and $10 is a little above my impulse buy price since the documentation on the site didn’t really cover some things in enough detail. (Free trials really are essential.) I’m sorry to hear that it doesn’t do old-fashioned can’t-possibly-miss-it alarms.

I’ll look into growl and geektool (assuming I don’t keep getting distracted); one of them might be a good alternative on its own, triggered from cron, if one or the other has it’s own snoozing or can fake it. I also looked a bit at the Keyboard Maestro docs, and for the initial alert it should be fine, but at first glance at least I didn’t see an easy way to add a snooze, let alone flexible snoozing. I really should buy it and learn it, but there are too many other hares I’ve started lately that I need to do something about first. Plus :slight_smile:

Triggering a script from Calendar may not help enough, because:

One thing that I didn’t mention properly when I asked earlier, is that one of the worst problems I have with Reminders/Calendar is that they can’t always tell time. This has been going on at least from Snow Leopard, on many different systems on a variety of hardware. As an example, I have a daily calendar entry / reminder set for 10 pm on all of the home macs. On snowie, it’s always correct on sunday through wednesday, it’s 18 minutes late on thursday, correct on friday, and is completely awol on saturday. On one of my El Cap minis, it’s actually reliable, though not useful since it’s seldom visible (screen shared). On my primary Sierra iMac it’s always hours late–it appears sometime or other between 4 am and noon. All of the systems were set up from scratch, no migration. I can delete the Reminders prefs and re-enter things with no improvement. I’d blame it on the underlying sync engine even though I’m not using sync, but snowie predates all that.

The watch so far seems reliable but the lack of an adequate snooze keeps me from just moving everything to it.

(frederico) #7

At a certain point, you have to just ask if trying to roll your own can possibly be worth even $10. If I don’t miss a doctors appointment I’ve waited six months for, or forget to take my medication on time, $10 isn’t even on my radar.

That said, I can easily envision a vanilla AppleScript UI that presents an alert message, and offers to mark completed, repeat in x [time], or offer an array of snooze options. It’s probably under twenty lines of code. But it still needs a backend to feed it (already built into calendars), and a front end to build the back end.

Yes, it would be a great learning experience in daemons, cron, shell, AppleScript, and maybe some Automator, too; if you really want a slick interface, you could dive into AppleScript for ObjC.

To be clear, this is primarily a system limitation, as Due didn’t try to build anything for itself, instead just offering a choice between Growl and Notifications. Add in Growl (since Notifications Center is what is failing you), and you get pretty much everything you originally requested above.

I should’ve also pointed out that BusyCal also provides a pretty good, separate alert/alarm/missed-items window, which you could position front and center. It has reasonable snooze controls.

Sorry, no; they are purely information delivery systems; you’d have to feed them from something.

KM is another case of needing to be fed; you can script it, but you’re just reinventing the wheel again, which is great, if it opens doors to other solutions.

That’s kind of bizarre (that it is so incredibly predictable and consistently inconsistent), but I’ll bet dollars to donuts it’s because your mini is effectively taking priority and “stealing” the notifications; i.e., macOS/iOS/watchOS/iCloud is trying not to bombard you with Notifications you have to both see and act on (if only to dismiss) on multiple devices. So, I’m guessing the mini is in a never-sleep condition, possibly also headless, and thus, as far as macOS is aware, it’s “screen” is always in and you are presumed to be staring at it.

You might try turning Notifications on the mini off for the services you want to be sure to see elsewhere; running different versions of macOS on your other two Macs might also be a contributing factor. I’d bet with some tuning, you could get reliable Calendar and Reminder alerts where you want them.

I think you’d adore the from-notifications alert options for snooze/deferment/marking that Due for iOS/watchOS offers; the newest major release was a GAME CHANGER for action on items from the Lock Screen and Watch while in the move.

(Tommy Weir) #8

+1 to this.

(gastropod) #9

frederico wrote:

“At a certain point, you have to just ask if trying to roll your own can possibly be worth even $10.”

I’m more than happy to pay money for what works. What I’m no longer willing to do is pay money for pigs in pokes; I’ve been disappointed too many times. At $1, I’ll still sometimes bite, but much more rarely than I used to. I once totaled up all of the $1 App Store gambles I took over the years, and it was…disturbing. There’s a reason why Apple makes it non-trivial to do that sum.

I also never stated the magnitude of the problem: I have all of about ten reminders that I need, plus an occasional one-off. One daily (which is generally the one that doesn’t work, but that I most need to work), the rest scattered between weekly, monthly, and yearly. So most solutions are horrible overkill for me.

“I’ll bet dollars to donuts it’s because your mini is effectively taking priority and “stealing” the notifications;”

The mini (2011, el cap) is the only one that works (by accident?) but it’s no longer my primary mac, so I don’t often see them. Snow Leopard is the most bizarre; it lives on a 2010 Mac Pro, and currently has only that one reminder, because it’s so weird I can’t bring myself to kill it. It also long predates the current notification manager. The Sierra iMac, which is the one that I need to work, has only that one reminder on it just now, so if one entry is overload the OS has real problems.

I turn off all notifications for every app that I can; I have near zero tolerance for them. The only mac that gets a (comparative) lot of notifications is the server mini (2014 el cap). It gets the backup and a few other housekeeping notifications with no problems as far as I can tell. Maybe the take home message is that I should go back to El Cap even if I have to run it in a VM? :slight_smile:

Right now the race is mostly between Mac Due plus Growl (thanks!) or iOS Due with the watch app (more thanks!) I have to think some about how I really feel about using the watch for everything.