Clear: A Revolution in To-Do Apps?

Smartphones have become an invaluable part of life for many, and, thanks to many productivity apps, we’ve been able to invest our entire life onto our iPhone, Android handset or Windows Phone. I’ve personally owed a lot of my organisation to Wunderlist thanks to it’s cross platform syncing, but a new to-do list app caught my eye as it become much hyped on Twitter.

For the past few days, i’ve seen a lot of people talking about Realmac Software’s app Clear, a to-do app that’s already spawned an imitation days before it’s own official release. Clear is all about simplicity, with a simple list of tasks organised visually by priority that are manipulated by some fun gestures. Let’s get into the details after the break. 

Clear as Colour

Most to-do apps have near identical functionality; you add items, sometimes with a due date, and then tick them off as you complete them. Whatever app you’re using, the base functionality is pretty much the same. The real differentiator is interface, and how we consume said functionality.

The striking thing about Clear is it’s heavy use of a hierarchy of colour, which is utilised to represent priority within the app. The idea is that your to-do list becomes a heat map, where the warmest areas (i.e. the ones with the strongest shade of red) are the tasks you should attend to first. I find this to be a really intuitive design that, through a basic use of visual hierarchy, offers up the best way i’ve experience at getting quick access to your most important tasks.

Clear for iPhone has multiple themes, with some being hidden and unlocked when you perform certain actions.

Clear for iPhone has multiple themes, with some being hidden and unlocked when you perform certain actions.

Clear’s minimalist interface mitigates most of the time you waste in the to-do app itself.

Don’t worry if you’re not a massive fan of the red, orange and yellow design. While that is the one Clear enables by default, a number of themes are available to activate in the app’s settings. These include the blue/grey-ish theme Graphite, the green Lucky Clover and the pink Pretty Princess. Unfortunately, there’s no way to create a custom gradient, which is mildly disappointing, although there’s quite a few included themes I like.

There are a couple of bonus themes that are initially hidden away in Clear. These are unlocked almost like achievements for completing actions or having something specific. For example, the [fairly ugly] grayscale Tweetbot theme is enabled simply by having Tweetbot for iPad or iPhone installed on your device. Another example is the Scorched theme — one that is a slightly darkened version of the default Heat Map design — which is unlocked by following a Twitter account from within the app’s “Follow the Team” section. None of the themes that I’ve unlocked are that impressive though, so don’t spend too long trying to unlock them.

Other aspects of Clear for iPhone's interface.


Clear doesn’t conform to the traditional iPhone UI, so there’s no things like fixed navigation bars or back buttons. Instead, Clear relies on gestures for the majority of tasks.

Some gestures are pretty basic, such as tapping at the bottom of a list to add a new item or swiping up to ditch between the menus and the open list. I found the upwards swiping motion to be really confusing to the app, since it would sometimes interpret this as adding a new item, instead of navigating to the menu. For this reason, I prefer pinching to access the higher levels of navigation.

Gestures in action in Clear.

Gestures in action in Clear.

In order to create a item at the top, simply swipe down very lightly. To create one at the bottom, simply tap in the black space. However, if you want to enter a new task in between existing ones, pinch two items apart.

The set of gestures for Clear are easy enough pick up, and are a viable replacement for a buttoned interface.

Final Thoughts

Clear is a very nice app, but I really don’t understand why it was so hyped. It’s a nice package with the use of colour hierarchy to represent priority and it’s use of gestures, but I can’t honestly see myself using it in the future. The app is only on a single platform right now whereas competitors will sync your lists between all of your devices, a feature that I really need in my to-do app of choice.

The interface is something new and if it weren’t due to lack of availability on multiple platforms, I’d definitely give it a try. My only real annoyance with the interface (which is really what differentiates this from the competition) is the lack of the iPhone’s native time/status bar at the top. Considering that little bar holds the time, and this is an organisation/productivity app, it’s a bit of an odd omission.

Nevertheless, as I continuously stress, the app is fantastic on it’s own. I just can’t really justify using it when alternative options offer a cross-platform, synced experience.


Clear is a much hyped to-do app for iPhone, using a hierarchy of colour to represent the priority of your tasks.