Tuesday, October 6, 2015

talk about hidden features

I've relied on a "Todo"-app for almost two decades, starting with the one built into the PalmPilot PDA, amazingly good for its time. (But not perfect: here I am in 2005 geeking out about what my "ideal" app would look like.) After Apple opened up the appstore, Appigo's "Todo" actually met most of my 2005 requirements, and has proven reliable for all these years. Over that time, I've realized what really sets apart a decent Todo app is flexibility in recurring events: every couple weeks I want to be nudged to pay off my credit card bill, every couple months I want to be nudged to get a haircut, every day I want the double check that I've video recorded a "second of the day", etc. (Heck, Todo Apps are even the "Hello, World" for JS frameworks, but they skip over the recurrence issue, because it's not trivial from a UI or implementation standpoint. Many Todo apps out there make the same shortcut.)

On Shaun McGill's blog, he wrote about starting to dig Apple's builtin apps and services, leading off with Reminders, thanks to the convenience of its Siri integration. I wrote back to complain that iOS "Reminders" will always feel like a baby app because it doesn't do recurring reminders. He said he preferred the simplicity in not having the UI ever-cluttered with future tasks, and that there were hundreds of other 3rd party task apps for my needs. I was about to continue our civil disagreement by pointing out none of those apps will be usable via Siri (which is a whole argument) but then I realized the joke was kind of on both of us:  you can create repeating Reminders via Siri.

And, I thought, only by Siri. But I was mistaken: the functionality is hidden, so that this screen

becomes the following once you click on "Remind me on a day":

(Palm had the same kind of hiding, where the recurrence details were hidden until you set a date.)

It was interesting that Shaun and I both made the same misassumption. Out of sight, out of mind!

Anyway, I'm not sure if Siri integration is enough to make switch over to Reminders. For one thing Reminders can't add a date to a task without a time as well... a very datebook way of thinking that goes in hand with "when should I send a notification" thinking, but doesn't match how I cope with my load of tasks. Similarly, the badge icon task count is underbaked, or at least not updated in a timely fashion. UPDATE: Thinking on it further, I realized that Reminders' repeating notifications lack a feature I find critical: repeat a certain time after completion vs repeat based strictly on start time. This reflects a critical conceptual difference, Reminders really consists of reminders of tasks, some of which might have a date/time or location approached, while Appigo is a bit more like Getting Things Done.

One thing I like about Reminders is that you're free to edit the order of the list, while Appigo assumes Due Date and priority sorting. Appigo also makes engineery-smart and UX-y dumb assumption about ordering... its due date sorting is strictly chronological (to the day level, and then alphabetical) - time sorting makes some sense because older items are "more overdue" and, presumably, a higher urgency. In reality, an item that has drifted a day or two overdue is probably ok there and demonstrably not a 100% priority, but the stuff that came up today has a chance of being absolutely critical. My ideal, then, would be a reverse time sort option. This might feel strange since it means everything due or overdue is sorted in reverse chronological order and everything upcoming is sorted in more normally, but from a workflow sense it's a viable option.

UPDATE 2: I realized another stupidity of Appigo... any user with a moderately full plate of tasks - SOME of which with deadlines, must in effect put a (sometimes arbitrary) deadline on ALL their tasks, because the "No Due Date" section occurs after all tasks with dates, even those far in the future. So after all my "today" events (and again, I'd prefer to see those listed earlier than things I've already allowed to 'slip' especially since I now realize I'm slapping utterly arbitrary dates on EVERYTHING) I have the 8 or so things I have pending tomorrow, and then the 12 things I have under "Next 7 Days" and then the 24 things of "Future". And THEN the 2 items I humbly suggested don't have a due date, I'd just like to do them at some point. That is really bad UI; I think the app really needs an option to fiddle with the ordering of its sections. My ideal would be "things due today" "things overdue" "things without a date" "things in the future"... actually, probably things overdue showing up first would finally make sense.

Sigh. Maybe I SHOULD make my own damn iOS app for this.

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