Better than Apple’s Reminder app.

I’m one of those people who can’t remember anything unless it’s written down somewhere. (Indeed, I often consult my books to remember how to do something I actually wrote about!) So it should come as no surprise that I lean heavily on my Mac and iOS devices for a to do list or reminders.

Until recently, Apple did not provide any app that synchronized reminder items between iCal on a Mac and the iOS calendar apps. Not content to wait until they added such functionality, I tried two different reminder applications. The one I settled on — and still use daily today — is called 2Do by Guided Ways Technologies Ltd.

2Do App IconRight from the get-go, 2Do enabled me to synchronize reminder items between iCal and the 2Do app on my iPad and iPhone. It did this through MobileMe, which was very convenient. (2Do now supports iCloud, too.) I could create reminder items on any device, synchronize, and see the items on every device. I could also change or mark an item as complete on one device, synchronize, and have the item change or be marked complete on all devices.

2Do on iPad
In this example, I’m viewing 2Do’s reminder items in my “Air” calendar on my iPad. The grouping is customizable.

What I like a lot about 2Do is that it offers a wide range of fields that you can use to enter information about a reminder item. So not only can I add an item title, description, calendar, and other iCal-supported information, but I can also add fields for a start date, location, recurrence, tags, audio note, and pictures. I can customize the item entry form to include only the fields I use most in the order in which I want them to appear; I can access other fields with a tap. With the location features, you don’t need Siri on an iPhone 4S to take advantage of location-based reminders.

2Do supports three kinds of reminder items: ToDo, Checklist, and Project. A ToDo is a standard reminder. A Checklist is a reminder that includes individual checkable items. A Project is a reminder that includes individual ToDo items. Although I mostly use simple ToDos, Checklists and Projects are especially handy for grouping related tasks that you might need to focus on without creating a separate calendar for them.

2Do’s interface is completely customizable to display specific calendars in the order you want to see them in. You can view reminder items by calendar, tags, or location. If you specify a start date for an item in the future, it will not clutter up your current reminder list.

Reminders App
My “Air” calendar’s reminder list in the Reminder app on my iPhone.

2Do plays nice with Apple’s new Reminders app. When you sync 2Do to iCloud, that data is automatically pushed to Reminders. Likewise, when you make a change in Reminders, that’s automatically pushed to iCloud so it’s updated when you sync 2Do. While it’s true that syncing is not automatic — at least not right now — it is quick and does not require WiFi (as other iOS reminder apps do).

Although folks with very basic reminder needs may find Apple’s Reminders app good enough to meet their needs, I think the power and flexibility of 2Do makes it worth the nominal purchase price. Its additional features and fields help keep me organized, whether I’m planning my next 1200-mile helicopter trip or just trying to remember what to pick up at the grocery store.

The Real Benefit of .Mac

Why every serious Mac user should have a .Mac account.

I have a .Mac account. I’ve had it for almost two years now and I think it’s money well spent.

Before you accuse me of being a sucker, take a moment to look at .Mac and what it has to offer. (Go to www.mac.com.) Sure, you can use it to send postcards via e-mail (that’s called iCard) or store the contact information for your friends, family, and work associates online (that’s called Address Book). And you can also use it to build simple Web sites (that’s called Home Page). And the .Mac user name sure comes in handy when you want to use iChat. But I don’t use any of those features. I use the ones that add convenience and security to my life.

iDisk is 100 MB of disk space on a secure Apple server that I can use any way I like. Because it’s on a computer outside my office, it’s a great place to back up important files. .Mac includes Backup, just for that purpose, and I have it set up to back up certain files on a daily basis. Because of my relatively slow connection to the Internet (256 Kbps cable modem), I don’t use iDisk space for storing files I need to access regularly — as Apple seems to expect by including an iDisk icon in Panther’s Sidebar. But I do use it to store files that others may need to access via the Internet, including some of the photo albums I throw together with iPhoto. (No need to use up my bandwidth serving images, is there?) I also publish one of my iCal calendars to my iDisk space, making it accessible from any computer. A link on the related Web site sends visitors to my iDisk Web content without them having to type in long, complex URLs that don’t start with one of my domain names. Frankly, the way I use iDisk is enough to justify the cost of my annual .Mac membership.

.Mac Mail is a lifesaver for me. It provides me with an e-mail address that never changes and never moves. The server doesn’t go down (or, if it does, I haven’t noticed it). This is a big difference from my own mail server, which resides at the end of that — you guessed it — cable modem connection. Not necessarily reliable, especially given all the problems I’ve been having with WebSTAR lately. (Let’s not go there, okay?) Best of all, I can use my .Mac account from any computer connected to the Internet for both sending and receiving mail. So I don’t have to lug my laptop (okay, so it’s only a 12-inch PowerBook so it isn’t much to “lug”) around and find an Internet connection for it when I travel.

iSync is also pretty helpful. I use it to synchronize my Address Book and iCal calendar data files on my main production Mac (a dual G5 these days) to my PowerBook. It does this via my iDisk disk space, where all the data is stored. iSync also copies my contacts and calendars to my iPod, so I have them with me when I fly.

.Mac also comes with free software, like Virex, which can keep your computer virus-free. And there are always special offers for free or discounted products. I picked up iBlog (mentioned in another blog here) on .Mac and am very pleased with it and the ease at which it enables me to publish my blogs to my iDisk Web space. Offers change all the time. For example, today they’re offering free puzzle games, access to Panther training videos, a 10% discount on camcorders purchased at the Apple Store, and discounts on Keynote.

Membership is $99 per year (plus tax), but when I renewed, they offered me a $30 discount, bringing the total down to $69 plus tax. They threw in a copy of The Simms software (which I tried and found uniquely disturbing). And I just noticed that they’ve begun a referral offer that gets you 20% off for each person you refer. Refer five new members and your next year is free. (Believe me, I didn’t know about the offer when I started writing this blog — this is not an attempt to get you to sign up with me as a referrer. In fact, to prove it, I won’t even give you my .Mac member name.)

That’s how I see .Mac. I’m glad I signed up. If you have your doubts, check it out and imagine how it could benefit you.