Clear To Do List iPhone App Review

Clear to do list
Clear copyright Realmac Software

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

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

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 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, we 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 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 is 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 by 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.

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 like 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.