Clear ToDos iPhone App Review

The Clear to do list app for iPhone was created to make lives easier and more productive. Find out if it's worth it. 

While Clear is still available in the App Store and will work on your iPhone, the app hasn't been updated since 2019. This leads us to think it's been abandoned by its developer. So, use it if you want, but don't expect it to work forever. Clear's interface was pretty groundbreaking at the time, but many of its best qualities are available elsewhere these days.

The Good

  • Beautiful, iPhone-specific interface
  • Productivity-focused
  • Excludes unnecessary features

The Bad

  • No group/shared to-do features
  • Task-based lists only (no date-specific lists)
  • To-do length limited to screen width

A Quick Look

Priced at less than $5, Clear is unlike any other to-do list app we’ve used. It takes the fullest advantage of the iPhone’s multitouch interface of any to-do list app we've tested, using swipes and pinches to not just control the screen you’re looking at but not also navigate through the app. It feels the most like it offers a workflow designed specifically for the iPhone. On top of that, it’s very well designed visually. And yet, we won’t be switching to Clear for our to-do app. Read on to find out why.

Screenshots from the Clear to-do list app
Clear Todos in action.

Interface and Gesture Control

The experience of using Clear is pleasing, efficient, and, well, cool. All of which starts with its interface.

Clear leverages the multitouch features built into the iOS to great effect. You won’t find any buttons or checkboxes or other traditional user interface elements here. Instead, everything in Clear is done by a gesture.

Want to create a new to-do list? Go to the main list overview page and drag the lists down. A new one will appear. Adding items to to-do lists works the same way. To step up one level in the app’s hierarchy—either from the to-do level to the list level or from the list level to the settings level—pinch into the center of the screen. Marking an item complete takes just a left-to-right swipe. To undo that completion, repeat. To delete it, swipe the opposite direction. And when it comes to reordering to-dos, forget about the standard, tap-hold-drag on the three bars icon that most apps require. Just tap the to-do and drag it. It’s a minor change, but it feels much more natural.

To-do lists themselves also have intelligence built into them. For instance, every list is color-coded to assign a bolder color to the more pressing items. Items at the top of the list are bright red (by default; there are a number of other color themes to choose from), with each successive item progressing down through the spectrum. And there are no assigning priorities to these items. Just drag an item to a new place in the list and Clear automatically assigns a priority color to it.

All in all, Clear is a beautiful example of the kinds of powerful, natural apps that can be created with the iOS—and yet, it’s not for us.

Shortcomings or Design Choices?

Despite all the glowing things we’ve said about Clear, we’ll be sticking with the bare-bones teuxdeux as our to-do list app. Why? It’s all about how we work. [This review was written in 2012. We've since switched to Todoist, which we've used for a few years.]

Clear is a task-focused app. That is, you create to-do lists around groups of tasks and then check them off as you complete them. We don’t work that way. We prefer to organize our tasks with what we intend to get done each day. That’s not really what Clear does. Sure, you could create a list for Monday, a list for Tuesday, etc., but Clear doesn’t seem to have any way to automatically move uncompleted tasks from one day to the next to keep them on your radar, something teuxdeux does (because it’s a rare day when we complete every item on our to-do list).

Clear’s iPhone-specific design can also be a shortcoming, believe it or not. For instance, to-dos in Clear can only be as long as the iPhone’s screen is wide. That’s a great bit of interface awareness, but it’s also pretty limiting. What if we need a to-do that’s longer, more detailed, as some require? Clear doesn’t support it.

Lastly, there’s the issue of portability. Clear is a beautiful, exciting app on my iPhone, but what about when my phone isn’t right at hand? Teuxdeux, for instance, started as a web app, so we can access our to-dos anywhere there’s a web browser. That’s not an option with Clear [Clear later added Mac and Android app, but they haven't been updated in years, either].

The Bottom Line

Our point isn’t that teuxdeux is better than Clear. For our needs it is, but that’s the point—our needs. Our way of working isn’t everyone’s way. People who work as we do probably won’t make Clear part of their daily work. But if you work in a more tasked-based style, don’t wait to get this app and try it out. If that’s your preferred style, you may find Clear to be the perfect combination of well-designed, focused, and effective.

What You'll Need

An iPhone 3GS or newer, a 3rd gen. iPod touch or newer, or an iPad running iOS 5.0 or higher.

Still looking for a good way to manage your tasks? Check out our list of top do-to list tools.

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