Clear To Do List iPhone App Review

Clear to do list
Clear in action. Clear copyright Realmac Software

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

The Price
US$4.99, with in-app purchases

Purchase at iTunes

Clear is unlike any other to-do list app I’ve used. It takes the fullest advantage of the iPhone’s multitouch interface of any to-do list app I’ve tested, using swipes and pinches to not just control the screen you’re looking at but not also navigate through the app, and 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, I won’t be switching to Clear for my to-do app. Read on to find out why.

Doing Things Very Well

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 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 in to 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’s 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 create with the iOS—and yet, it’s not for me.

Shortcomings or Design Choices?

Despite all the glowing things I’ve said about Clear, I’ll be sticking with the bare-bones teuxdeux as my to-do list app. Why? It’s all about how I work. [This review was written in 2012. I've since switched to Todoist, which I'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. I don’t work that way. I prefer to organize my tasks by what I 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, believe me, it’s a rare day when I complete every item on my 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 I 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 I can access my to-dos anywhere there’s a web browser. That’s not an option with Clear.

The Bottom Line

My point isn’t that teuxdeux is better than Clear. For my needs it is, but that’s the point—my needs. My way of working isn’t everyone’s way. People who work like I 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.

Purchase at iTunes