Q: I’ve just upgraded to Mountain Lion, and discovered that the new Reminders app for the Mac is almost exactly the same as the one on my iPhone, with many of the same annoying limits. I’m glad I can create repeating tasks on my Mac finally, but it seems I can only choose from a very limited set of options like every day or every week. What do I do if I want to repeat a task at another interval, such as every three or four days? What about repeating after I complete the task, rather than from the original due date? Am I missing something here, or is this app really as stupid as it seems? I know there are other apps out there, but I do like the Reminders for the location features and that it works in the background without me needing to open it all the time to check for and sync my tasks.
A: Reminders is an odd sort of app on both the iOS and Mac side as it is capable of supporting more capability under the hood than Apple has actually provided in the limited user interface. In fact, if you’re using an iPhone 4S, you can create a Reminder via Siri that includes options such as custom repeat intervals that aren’t available from directly in the app. For example, telling Siri “Remind me to take the garbage out every three days” will create a Reminder with a “custom” repeat interval of three days.
By default, this Reminder will start the next day at 9:00 AM, but you can customize this further by expanding your command to Siri, such as “Reminder me to take the garbage out every three days starting Sunday at 9 AM.”
Siri also provides additional hidden functionality for the Reminders app, such as Setting Call Reminders.
Further, since both the Calendars and Reminders applications use the open CalDAV standard, you can actually create and manage items in your Calendars and Reminders lists (which are also just CalDAV calendars under the hood) from just about any CalDAV application.
For example, as you’ve observed, your choices in the app for repeat intervals are limited to Every Day, Ever Week, Every 2 Weeks, Every Month, and Every Year; however not only can you create a task with a different repeat interval using another CalDAV application, but Reminders will display this as a “Custom” repeat interval and honour the repeat interval appropriately.
BusyCal, for example, actually provides direct support for iCloud Calendars and Reminders, yet allows users to specify additional properties for Reminders that are not normally supported directly in the Reminders app. This includes both highly customizable repeat intervals and the ability to specify a due date instead of a reminder; the due date feature allows a task to appear in the Reminders app on a specific day without actually firing off a notification alarm.
Not only are these features handled by the Reminders app, but once you’ve created tasks with these settings, they’ll actually be displayed in the Reminders app accordingly, with a new “Due Date” field available for that particular task, and a “Custom” repeat interval that expands to show the specific repeat information.
Further, you can even use both BusyCal and the Mountain Lion Reminders app in parallel, since they both sync with the same iCloud data. Reminders can be useful for quick entry as well as providing a nice “today list” while BusyCal is great for more sophisticated management of both Reminders and Calendars. It’s unfortunate, however, that Apple requires users to purchase and use additional software to access functionality that is inherently built-in to the Reminders applications in the first place.