Tick: A To-Do App To Call Your Own

About a week ago I expressed a sentiment on Twitter regarding iCloud Reminders integration into third-party apps. Having transitioned to Reminders for all my to-dos and lists some months ago, I’ve found myself wanting a bit more from the first-party app. Reminders works well enough, and I mainly use it because it’s accessible almost anywhere and allows me to use Siri. However, being the app enthusiast I am, I can’t help but wonder why more productivity app developers don’t include Reminders integration into their apps.

Those familiar with Fantastical 2 and/or Calendars 5 know that these apps do a spectacular job with Reminders integration, which works hand-in-hand with a calendar app. But what about apps like Clear, Wunderlist and Any.Do? While the developers of these apps may not care to integrate Reminders, developers of similar apps could possibly see the value in doing so. Enter developers Taphive, who saw fit to do this very thing with their highly customizable to-do app,Tick.

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Getting Started

When you fire up Tick for the first time, the app will request permission to your Reminders. After providing/denying access, the app immediately opens to a grid of five square–each featuring a unique icon–and a plus button. If you grant Reminders access, each of your previously created Reminders lists will load as well. The design of Tick initially struck me as a play on the Windows Phone 8 interface, as both use minimalistic tiles with icons. The big difference between the two, though is that tiles in Tick can have unique colors and can’t be resized (so it’s more like Windows Phone 7 in that aspect).

Simplistic by its very nature.

Simplistic by its very nature.

Another thought that struck me is that the app is obviously designed to be uncomplicated with it’s minimalistic layout. However, it somewhat falters in that objective in a few ways. There’s no real indication of what the user should do first, other than the tile in the upper-left displaying a number indicator, which references the number of to-dos within the list (obvious to some, but not all). When tapped, this list offers “Tick Tips” on how to navigate the app.

Creating & Managing Lists

There are two aspects of Tick that makes the app enjoyable–its ease of use and its customization options–and list creation and manage embody both of these traits. Creating a list is initiated by tapping the + icon at the bottom of the list (main) view. From here, you’ll transition into the list customization view. An icon and color are selected by default, but you can alter both. Tick offers 64 icon options, which should cover most users needs.

Countless color options are available in Tick.

Countless color options are available in Tick.

I do have a gripe with the icon set, however, which has to do with the varying styles present. Icons feel as if they were purchased from a stock website (nothing wrong with that) and not necessarily from the same set (that’s when you run into issues). Most icons appear consistent, whereas others are wildly different. Take for instance the automobile and truck icons, which share many design traits. Now, compare them to the bicycle icon. Pretty big difference I’d say. I may be a bit nit picky to point this out, but as a lover of consistent design it bothers me.

These two icons aren't similar in any way.

These two icons aren’t similar in any way.

Once you’ve selected an icon, you’ll need to utilize the color picker to select your list’s color. The color picker allows for several color options, and selecting a color is straightforward for anyone familiar with a color picker (more in this in a second). Simply tap and move your finger around the color picker and the tile preview will change to match your selection. As you move inward colors become less saturated, whereas moving towards the edges will increase the color’s saturation. This method of color section works well enough, but color pickers aren’t exactly a common tool for most individuals, and I think a grid of color options may be a better suited for this task.

Your final task is adding a list name, which is initiated by tapping the “List Name” field. Once entered, tap the Save option in the upper-right. When you’ve saved your new list, you’ll find yourself in the new list’s view where you can add to-dos (more on this in the next section).

When you’ve set up all of your lists, list management now becomes important. While in the list view, you can reorganize tiles by longpressing and dragging a tile to your desired destination. This should feel familiar, as it’s the same method used to organized app icons in the iOS Springboard. If need be, you can delete a list by longpressing its tile and dragging it to the trash can icon at the bottom. You’ll need to confirm your action, and then watch as the tile explodes in a violent death.

Boom goes the deleted list!

Boom goes the deleted list!

Tick’s previous version displayed a bomb icon instead of the trash can, which makes more sense with the explosion animation. My guess is that users didn’t understand what the bomb icon represented, and thus didn’t know how to delete lists. I personally like the bomb icon better, as it provided an element of fun and uniqueness to the app. However, I agree that is more important for an app to offer clarity.

If you end up creating several lists, you may find solace in the list edit more. Enter the mode by swiping right anywhere in the list view, and the grid will minimize to the center of the screen–allowing you to quickly view more of your tiles. This mode serves three functions: it allows you to rearrange several icons more quickly, it allows you to easily navigate to lists near the bottom, and it’s where you can access the app’s settings. Lists can also be managed from within a list itself. In addition to adding a new to-do, the bottom tab bar also offers tabs for sharing, deleting and editing the list. You can share via message, email and AirDrop, or print your list. Deleting a list works as you’d expect, and tapping the customize tab opens the customize view, where you can choose a new color, icon or name.

List edit mode is a cool and beneficial feature.

List edit mode is a cool and beneficial feature.

Creating & Managing To-Dos

While in a list’s view, you can create a new to-do by tapping the + icon in the bottom tab bar; if no to-do is present in the list, you can also tap in the list itself. Creating to-do is a great experience, as they’re created inline (i.e. without the need of a separate menu). So, simply type your to-do or list item, and tap the Next button to create another. When you’re finished, tap Done in the upper-right.

Creating to-dos is a quick and easy process.

Creating to-dos is a quick and easy process.

While creating or editing a to-do, an info icon is displayed to the right. Tapping it will open the Details view, which offers two options: changing the list associated with the to-do (i.e. move a to-do from one list to another) and setting a reminder (not to be confused with iCloud Reminders). Reminders can be set for a specific day and time, and you can select a repeat option if desired. Reminder functionality isn’t dependant on iCloud Reminders integration, which is great. The downside of Reminders integration, though, is that location based reminders can’t be created within Tick. If you use Siri or Reminders.app to create a location based reminder, however, they’ll still function as you’d expect.

Reminders are one of the few "advanced" features in Tick.

Reminders are one of the few “advanced” features in Tick.

In terms of to-do management, you can delete a to-do by swiping it left and tapping the Delete button. In addition, you can reorganize to-dos by longpressing and dragging them to your desired location, and clear completed to-dos by performing a pulling up gesture (more of a swipe up, hold and release gesture). There’s nothing intricate about creating and managing to-dos, which is exactly what’s needed for an app like this to appeal to the masses.

Deleting and sharing lists.

Deleting and sharing lists.

iCloud Reminders Integration

Integration with iCloud Reminders is a major selling point for me. Not only does it make the app cross platform, which is a must for any productivity tool of this nature, but it allows me to take advantage of all the great features Reminders offers without actually using the app. However, these benefits are only beneficial if the integration isn’t a burden, which sadly isn’t the case in Tick.

You'll have a few tasks on your hand when integrating Reminders.

You’ll have a few tasks on your hand when integrating Reminders.

If you grant access to Reminders, a number of issues and annoyance begin take shape. For starters, the five lists automatically generated in Tick are synced to your iCloud Reminders, which means you’ll have to delete them if you just want to use your previously created lists. Reminders lists don’t have an icon associated with them, and will instead display a warning icon. So, you’ll have to go through and edit each list to set an icon, which is also necessary to remove another issue. An option to display list names in the list view is available in Tick’s settings, but if you fail to change a Reminders list icon the list name will always display regardless of if the setting is turned off.

Before integration and after. Colors not match iCloud Reminders.

Before integration and after. Colors not match iCloud Reminders.

Customization also take a major hit with Reminders integration. Shortly after granting access, you may notice that the colors for the five original lists soon change to colors similar to your Reminders lists. Reminders only offers seven color options, and these limited options must be adhered to in Tick. If you select a different color in the color picker, the list’s color will automatically change soon after to match the closest available color based on the seven options. This will come as a sacrifice to users that really enjoy selecting from a vast selection of colors, whereas other won’t mind the diminished number of options.

When you tap a Reminders list, you’ll find all of your completed to-dos displayed below those you’ve yet to complete. You can clear the completed to-dos, but doing so will also clear them in Reminders.app as well. Unfortunately, there’s no option to hide completed to-dos, so if you’re the kind that enjoys keeping an archive of completed to-dos but don’t necessarily want to see them all the time (managed perfectly in Reminders.app) you may be in somewhat of a pickle with Tick.

In most instances, clearing completed to-dos  won't be a big deal.

In most instances, clearing completed to-dos won’t be a big deal.

If you decide that integrating iCloud Reminders isn’t worth the trouble, you’re able to remove access, but not within Tick. Instead, you’ll need to navigate to Settings.app, choose Privacy and then tap Reminders. From here, turn off Reminders access for the Tick option. When you return to Tick, you’ll find all of your lists as you left them, but they won’t sync with Reminders and can be fully customized (i.e. you can select the color of your choosing).

During my time with Tick I went through the process of syncing and setting up Reminders lists a few times–mainly to test out different settings and options. Having to go through the set up once is a chore, but not so much that it should discourage all individuals from using Tick as a Reminders replacement. With that being said, it does seems as though the integration could have been thought out much better by Taphive, and I hope to see it approved in a future update.

Design

Besides the inconsistent icons, Tick’s design is quite lovely. I’m fond of the use of color and the overall minimalistic approach Taphive chose, which all ties together nicely. There is one potential snafu with offering such a wide variety of color options, however, which is inconsistent color combinations. When you look at previews of Tick on the Taphive website and promo video, you’ll notice that color combinations are impeccable. It’s the same thing you see with Apple ads, where people’s profile photos are high quality and look as if they were captured by professional photographers. But that’s not how it works in real life, is it?

It'd be tough to set up this consistent design.

It’d be tough to set up this consistent design.

I’m not saying you can’t select color combinations as well as the promos, but it’s a bit difficult to do so. First of all, color pickers make it incredibly difficult to select the same color twice (something far less difficult to manage with a grid of color options). So, if you want to to take a two-tone approach with list colors, best of luck to you. Second, and the most probable issue, is the possibility for wildly inconsistent color selections. To me, it seems incredibly easy to select a bright and vibrant pink for one list, and then follow it up with a list that uses a dull and dark green. But, the funny thing is most individuals will probably care less about such things–they’re probably the same individuals with an iTunes library that’s the equivalent of a nuclear holocaust (in terms of its organization), which is far more frustrating to deal with.

Tick offers a day and night mode. When night mode is turned on in the settings, or activated, tiles change to darker versions of the same color and list backgrounds change from white to black. Icons and other colored elements feature a cool neon glow. Both day and night mode play a role in automatic mode, which is turned on by default. In the Tick promo video, automatic mode is portrayed as automatically switching from day mode to night mode when a light switch is turned off and the room becomes dark.

Night mode offers a cool contrast.

Night mode offers a cool contrast.

It’s a really cool concept, but in order for it work as advertised you’ll possibly need to make a concession. iOS offers an auto-brightness setting, and when turned on, the brightness of your phone’s display increases and decreases based on the amount of light in your surroundings–as read by the iPhone’s ambient light sensor. When your brightness is set at about 40% or lower, Tick will transition to night mode. If auto-brightness is already turned on, which is the default setting, than you can go about your business because you’re all set. Me, and other individuals that enjoy manually setting their phone’s brightness, won’t get to enjoy the feature nearly as often.

Tick offers a few other nice customization options. First, you can select from eight different font options, including Avenir Next, Courier, Gil Sans and Futura. Helvetica is the default font, and always looks great in my book, but I rather like Avenir Next and greatly appreciate the ability to use it. Second, and a feature I mentioned earlier, is the ability to display a list’s name in the list view. This is also a welcomed feature, as icons alone may not necessarily always do the trick. Both of these features can be found in the settings.

There's a wide variety of fonts available.

There’s a wide variety of fonts available.

Animations

In my review of Taasky–another productivity app that offers similar functions as Tick–I expressed a sentiment about animation and how important it has become in app design since iOS 7’s release. Tick is chalked full of animations, and unlike Taasky, most of them are quite enjoyable. Some animations are subtle, while others blatantly draw attention to themselves.

Here are a few of my favorite. After you’ve completed all to-dos in a list, a congratulatory message is displayed that accompanied by falling stars (hooray for me!). When you select an icon while creating or editing a list, the new icon will fly up and replace the previous icon, which then explodes upon contact. When you add or complete a to-do and return to the list view, the icon will perform a custom animation. For instance, the airplane icon will fly to the corner and appear from the opposite corner and return to its original position. I found myself changing the icon on a test list several times just to experience the various animations–most of which were delightful.

A small taste of some great animations.

A small taste of some great animations.

While those animations are the high point of Tick, there are a few that don’t quite make the grade. When you transition from the list view to a list, Taphive attempts to achieve a zoom transition that’s similar to the one used in iOS 7 to transition to a folder from the Springboard. The animation itself is smooth, but a problem exists by the fact that it occurs between a solid color and solid white. When you transition to folder in iOS 7 it’s seamless. Why? Because you can already see the folder and app icon(s) inside of it. The transition just makes the folder and its contents larger. The same effect doesn’t work in Tick because when you transition from the list view to the list, there’s a jarring moment when the tile and icon are exchanged with the stark white background of the list. It’s less jarring in night mode, but not by much.

The transition to list edit mode has just as many faults. If you’re at the top of the list view, the transition is very seamless. However, try doing the same transition from lower in the list and you’ll notice a jarring shift in the collected group of tiles. The animation doesn’t seem to begin from where you’re positioned in the view, and is instead always from the top of the list. So, if you’re at the bottom and perform the right swipe gesture, you’ll instantly see the entire list zoom into the background together instead of starting from the bottom and revealing the entire list.

As I stated earlier, one benefit of the list edit mode is that you can quickly navigate to a list that’s near the bottom. When you tap a tile, you’d expect the the app to immediately zoom to the selected tile. However, the app zooms back to the top of the list and then will auto-scroll to the selected tile. It certainly gets the job done, but seems very out of place.

The Bottom Line

Tick, at its most basic, is a simplistic to-do app that offers a lot of fun features. Some people love colors, and have a great deal of fun when they can select from a sizeable pallette. While not all animations are smooth and seamless, the few bad apples don’t take away from the app’s core functionality, and the others add a great deal to the experience. iCloud Reminders integration isn’t without it’s faults, but it’s far better to have it as an option than not.

Long story short, Tick has obvious imperfections, but it’s still a quality to-do app. If you currently use iCloud Reminders, but aren’t necessarily a fan of Reminders.app, then Tick is a viable replacements. Likewise, if you just need a to-do app that’s simple to use and offers reminders (i.e. alerts), Tick is a good option to consider.

On a final note, I originally began reviewing version 1.1 and was made aware by Taphive that version 1.2 was being released in the near future. Having spent time with both versions, I can say with certainty that Taphive made some great improvements to the app, which I hope is a sign of their dedication to make it even better. If that’s the case, Tick has the potential to be one of the de facto to-do apps for the iPhone.


Summary

A simple and customizable to-do with iCloud Reminders integration.

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