Every day, before I go to bed, I grab a pen and my Moleskine journal and take some notes on what I need to do the next day. Usually I’m just writing down some of the things that are in my Reminders list, but it helps me manage my world a little more easily. I could just track it digitally with Reminders — and I do — but I like my day to be fluid, and something about planning it just one day in advance helps with that.
That’s why I was really excited when Kyle Rosenbluth told me about his new todo list for iOS 7, Begin. Begin is meant to be a todo list for today, not longterm planning — just like my Moleskine. Kyle’s also the guy behind Horizon, my favourite iPhone calendar app. And I couldn’t wait to dig in to his new creation. Read on for my thoughts on Begin.
Begin, conceptually, is all about planning your day and simply getting through the tasks ahead. Instead of jotting down something you need to do next week, this is all about managing what has to happen today. If you fail to get something done, Begin will remember this and let you know that you have an uncompleted task. You can simply swipe to bring that task back to your daily todos.
What you can’t do is add a todo for a week from now. You can’t manage tasks. There are no extra menus or fluff. This is simple and minimalist, with very few excessive flourishes. From a design perspective, this is opinionated software. And that’s a good thing, because it keeps the app focused.
The premise is genius, and it works beautifully. Adding todos is simple, and because it runs on iOS 7 exclusively, it’s smooth as butter. You can turn on notifications, if you’re the sort of person who’s into that kind of thing. I’ve set mine to remind me every day at 10am that I’ve got things I need to do.
How It Works
As far as adding and managing your todo list, Begin — like I said — is limited. To add to your list, simply pull down while you’re in the app. To complete an item on your list, swipe it to the right. To move it to tomorrow (more on that in a moment), swipe it to the left. And when something’s been completed, you can un-complete it by swiping it to the right again. You can delete it by swiping it to the left. It’s very intuitive and works very well.
If a task is uncompleted when the day is done, Begin notices this and keeps it in the app for a day. You can view yesterday’s uncompleted task(s) by pulling up from the bottom of your todo list. Swiping overtop of them will return them to your list of things to do today.
You can also manage one day ahead. After you’ve punched in an item to do today, if you decide you need to do it tomorrow, swiping it to the left pushes it one day ahead. Again, this is useful for workflow. Before I go to bed, I can open the app and punch in tomorrow’s tasks. With just a couple swipes, I’m ready for the day tomorrow.
If you’re thinking to yourself that the app sounds a lot like Clear as far as the way users interact with it, you’d be right. That being said, it would be a mistake to call this a Clear clone. Clear is still a task and list “manager.” Philosophically, there isn’t very much management happening here — at least, not in the same way. This is solely about managing your daily tasks, not micromanaging every detail.
Down the road, I’d like to see some additional features. Kyle and I have discussed things like integrating Horizon and Begin together. It’s not on the roadmap, but I think it should be. It could be a great way to make planning your day even easier.
I can’t believe I made it this far into the review without talking about the design. I love this app. Begin is beautiful. It fits in beautifully with iOS 7. It’s also got a great selection of themes that I think you’re going to love.
The app comes with a Light and Dark theme. The Dark theme can be triggered automatically, using background geolocation updates, or it can be changed by the end user. I think the Light and Dark themes are both very useable, and it’s nice to be able to set the Dark theme automatically, but it’s the in-app purchases that are really fantastic.
There are several additional themes: Dusk, which is blue in nature; Forest, which is green; Black, which is a very dark Dark theme; Solarized Light and Solarized Dark, which I’ll get to in a moment; and Flamingo, a bright theme that plays with the high-contrast black and pink colours Disney traditionally animates flamingos with.
The Solarized Light and Solarized Dark themes are my favourite. They’re similar to the Light and Dark themes, but just different enough to appear more alive and lifelike. The Solarized Light theme looks very similar to paper, and it’s become the one I’ve been constantly using.
Beyond that, as far as design goes, the best thing I can say about Begin is that design and function go hand-in-hand with this app. There are no extras. There’s very little to talk about beyond its purpose and how to use it. And I think that’s a good thing. Begin is a sterling example of what iOS 7 should be about: a deference to clarity for the sake of your content.
At the end of the day, Begin isn’t an app that’s going to sell iPhones. This isn’t demo material. But for those of us who keep track of a daily todo list, Begin is going to be indispensable. It’s one of the coolest iOS 7 apps I’ve tried both conceptually and from a design perspective.
When it comes to starting off your day, Begin will help you do it right. Highly recommended.