There are some apps that I use on my iPhone every day. They’re very rare, and they have to offer just the right combination of design, utility, and overall usefulness to make it that far. But usually, these apps litter my home screen. They’re essential to my work because they keep me on task, and they’re often exclusive to iPhone. They’re the reasons I don’t want to leave the iOS platform.
One of those such apps is Begin, which I reviewed I’m September and gave extensive praise. Begin is an all that helps you plan the minutiae of your day, every day. Although I stand by the grades I give my reviews, I don’t always find that an app I love one day is an app I still use every day over a month later. For me, Begin is the rare exception. Read on to find out more about what’s new with version 1.5’s update to the app, and what makes it such a stellar addition to your iPhone’s arsenal.
What Begin Is
Begin is daily motivation for me. It replaces the Moleskine notebook that I used to write down my daily todos in. I like to describe Begin as a daily agenda, one that lets me plan my day out in a little more detail than Reminders does. It’s a pretty simple concept: add your todos just by pulling down on the screen. Throughout the day, you cross them out as you complete them. If you want to move your todos to the next day, you just swipe them down.
What makes the app interesting, though, is that if you don’t finish the todos, they’re marked as Uncomplete and deleted after five days of ignorance. In other words, Begin is a todo list for today. It’s not long-task management or planning, and it’s not trying to replace your favourite task manager. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it a task manager. It’s just today’s list of things that need to get done.
In that sense, some people won’t find Begin inherently useful. That being said, I know a lot of people — including myself, prior to using the app — who keep track of their todo list in a notebook or on a stray piece of scrap paper. Begin eliminates that need for me. It keeps all of my todos in my pocket at all times, and I can use my Moleskine for more important things like real notes and sketches that aren’t worth pulling my iPad out for.
Advanced & New Functionality
Begin has always offered little things, like a notification at the beginning of the day to show you what needs to get done. The in-app purchase also got you a handful of beautiful themes. I don’t call them beautiful lightly. A couple of the themes are so gorgeous that Begin immediately became one of the most honestly-designed and brilliantly-executed apps on my iPhone.
With version 1.5, the team behind Begin has added a few other features to the in-app purchase set. You can now turn on a great full screen mode that makes the status bar blend in with the todo entry field. It’s just gorgeous. The app now comes with a handful of gorgeous fonts, all of which are worth checking out. If you know me, you wouldn’t be surprised to find out my favourite choice is predictably Avenir Next.
Extending Begin with an in-app purchase also enhances the notifications. You can now be reminded about Begin’s notifications twice every day instead of only once, which is great for those of us who are forgetful without feeling our iPhones buzz. The app also allows you to turn off notifications during the weekends and have a badge display the number of todos left in your day’s todo list.
At this point, I have to wonder what extra features Begin could gain. For people who love good design, the in-app purchase is a bargain. And for those those who love flexibility, the in-app purchase gives them a lot more of it. I purchased it right away.
What I’d Still Like To See
Kyle (the lead developer) and I have discusses the possibilities for Begin a fair bit. I’d love to see Begin integrated with Kyle’s calendar all, Horizon. But that requires server space and user IDs and a lot of other processes that make the experience more confusing for users, and it’s hard to say whether or not it would really make the experience better.
One thing I would like to see is some integration with Reminders. It would be handy if Begin were able to fetch information about upcoming todos I’ve got in Reminders, so the app already has some tasks pre-filled when I open it. I’d like to see it scan today and tomorrow’s schedule. Granted, I don’t know if this is possible, but apps like Fantastical and Agenda make a habit out of integrating with Reminders.
That being said, if there’s one thing Kyle isn’t short on, it’s ideas. From my discussions with him, I’ve learned he’s consistently ahead of my curve for his app, understanding problems and finding elegant solutions. I look forward to being surprised by Begin’s updates in the future.
Begin is a really simple app that solves a big problem for me in a simple and well-designed way. I think the in-app purchase gives Begin a necessary boost and helps make it a little bit more powerful and flexible for those of us who need it, but the app quickly made its way to my home screen and stayed there. That in itself is hard to do. The app is free, and whether you choose to get the in-app purchase or not, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Begin is highly recommended for busy people.