Review: Remember the Milk 4 (It's Amazing)
According to my App Store receipts, I bought OmniFocus in early 2012 and it has been my go to task management app ever since. I own it for iOS and the Mac, and while I have experimented with other task managers since 2012, I'm always quick to go back to OmniFocus. No app has been able to provide a feature set that fits my needs nearly as well as OmniFocus.
I say this to set the stage for how big a deal this review is for me to write. Remember the Milk, an app that I recall from the early iPhone days, but I had thought had fallen off the map, got updated to version 4.0 on February 3. I downloaded the app out of sheer curiosity and have been using it every day since.
What I had considered to be a "retro app" had suddenly turned into a powerful, good looking task manager that seemed to scratch all the itches I had. I needed to give it a try for a couple days, just to figure out what its Achilles heel was, but I didn't find it in those first couple days. The truth is, over one month later, I still haven't found it.
So consider this less of a review and more of a spotlight on some of the 3 things that I think make Remember the Milk an excellent service that is helping me get my work done better, and with less friction than ever before. I was not optimistic about this endeavor when I started, but I've been completely won over.
Universal access (Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
I don't live my life on one computing platform, and finding a task manager that works for me wherever I am has proven to be quite the challenge. My iPhone is my primary computer, followed closely by my iPad and Mac. But I also spend 40 hours a week working at a Windows computer and every few months I experiment with Android. Finding a single task manager that I both like using and works on all these platforms has proven to be impossible.
Every app I've used has failed at least one of those criteria. OmniFocus has been where I settled for years, as it is an incredible app that continues to be updated and enhanced as time goes on. Its one fatal flaw is that it is not on Windows, but I put up with it because the app is so good otherwise. Meanwhile, the only apps I have tried that are truly multi-platform are apps that I simply don't enjoy using. It's hard enough to keep using a task manager, so you have to like the app you're using if you're to have any hope of sticking with it.
Remember the Milk is finally, finally the app that checks off all those boxes. It's a web-based service, but has apps for every platform imaginable. Feast your eyes on this list of supported platforms:
- Windows Phone
Now in fairness, the desktop apps are basically just wrappers around the website, which is a little disappointing, but even with that caveat it's pretty safe to say that if you have a CPU and a screen, you can probably run Remember the Milk.
I primarily use Remember the Milk on my iPhone, and the iPhone app finally feels modern. Outside of a curious dedication to that cow icon and a UI clearly designed for Android first, this is a first class app.
Remember the Milk is the first task manager I have ever used tat is both on every platform I am, but is also enjoyable to use on each of those platforms.
Smart Add: Natural-ish language task entry
Apps have been doing natural language input for years, but I've never seen an app do it as well as Remember the Milk. You can do much more than just say
Buy milk tomorrow at 9am, which seems to be the limit of some other task managers out there. Remember the Milk lets you do much more when adding a task in a feature they call Smart Add. Here are some examples:
Buy milk every Saturday morning
Buy milk 9am *every Saturday
Add milk to my groceries list
Add a URL to a task1
Download Milk app http://milkapp.com
And of course you can combine these features together to create very complicated rules without clicking/tapping into the UI at all:
Get milk 9am *every Saturday #groceries http://jewelosco.com
That's not even touching the ability you have to set priorities, assign a location, completion time, or user to a task. Most of the time I just assign a date or time to my tasks, but doing it all from the task entry field is very powerful.
Holy shit, these reminders
Most task managers let you set due times and get reminders (I'm looking at you, Things), and this is a critical part of any manager I'm going to use. I need my task manager to do ore than let me check things off a list, I need one that says "HEY BUDDY, DO THE THING YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO DO!"
But yes, I need an app that's going to remind me when things need to get done, and Remember the Milk has the most powerful reminder system I have ever seen.
Before even getting to the advanced stuff, Remember the Milk lets you get notified in a bunch of ways:
- Push notification (iOS and Android)
- Google Hangouts
- Yahoo Messenger
That's already an exhaustive list of just about any way you could possibly want to have your task manager reach you, but Remember the Milk gets more powerful when you get into when you want to get reminders.
You can choose when you want to get reminders, and what devices or services you want to be reminded on. For example, I could set a task that is due at 6PM on Friday, but have the notification for it come in an hour before its due date so that I get it done on time. I can also set up multiple notifications for each task, so I could be alerted an hour, 45 minutes, 30 minutes, and 15 minutes before a task is due if I'm really worried about forgetting it.
Finally, there is the ability to choose which devices and services your notifications are routed to. It's cool being able to have my work-related tasks alert me just on my work computer and not bother me on my phone or home computer. Likewise, it's nice to be able to set an alert like "Text Mom" and have the alert come in as an SMS. This gets me into the app I need to use to do the task, which is cool in a way I just can;'t get over.
The one caveat in this wild praise is that notifications are locked behind the Pro service. If you are a non-paying user, you only get access to email notifications, which is not great. At $40/year, Remember the Milk Pro isn't that expensive, but it's more than I know many people will be willing to pay, even for these cool features.
I'm not an extremely demanding user, and there's more to love in Remember the Milk than I will ever use. Power users can take advantage of:
- collaboration tools
- smart task lists
- bulk updates
- powerful search
And more casual users like me can take advantage of a very nice app that is easy to use, not hard on the eyes, everywhere you want it to be. You can dabble into a few of the power user features if you want, but you definitely don't have to in order to get a lot of value out of Remember the Milk.
- Full disclosure, I have no idea where that milkapp.com link goes. ↩