I’ve always been one to organize and get things done by making lists — shopping lists, TODO lists, and so on — but I’ve generally not been good at following through on lists of things that fall into the “not right now, but not never” category. Lists like that have a long lifetime and a low priority and tend to get scattered, forgotten, etc. I’ve tried several TODO apps and services in the past few years, but the one that has actually stuck has been Apple Reminders+Siri, especially since I recently switched to an iPhone. I’ve always got a computer, iPad or iPhone with me, and while Siri isn’t as good at recognizing my voice or meaning as Google, it’s got two critical advantages:
* It’s good enough.
* It’s exactly one button-hold away at all times.
So now no matter where I am, whenever I think of something, I can hold down that Siri button and say something like:
* Add a ball peen hammer to the shopping list.
* Add The Wealth of Nations to the reading list.
* Remind me to change the car’s oil when I leave work.
* Remind me to help Ian build his pinewood derby car next Saturday.
Siri almost always understands what I mean, and the experience is vastly different than tap-tap-tapping to find an app, then typing on a tiny keyboard. Different enough that with Siri my lists actually get made and used, unlike every other similar tool I’ve never used.
YMMV – I think I read somewhere that the word “list” is important in those instructions to get Siri to do the right thing, something that came naturally to me but may take an adjustment for some.
That ball peen hammer example is a good one: I don’t have a ball peen hammer b/c:
* I only need one once in a blue moon.
* When I need one, you can always work around it by other means – it’s not worth a trip to the store.
* When I’m at a store that might have one, the memory of having needed a ball peen hammer is too distant to come to mind.
With Reminders+Siri, the evidence is that I’ll end up with a ball peen hammer in the next week or two, whenever I happen to be at a store.
Reminders itself is pretty primitive. There’s a few things I’d like to do for longer-running lists/projects, like archiving reminders without deleting, or grouping related TODOs. There are workarounds, though, and these gripes are tiny compared to the one major benefit: it’s well-integrated enough that I actually use the tool to get things done.
Siri isn’t perfect either; again, Google is often better at understanding what I mean. Siri has a tendency to do things like look for nearby restaurants b/c I said a sentence that happened to have the word “steak” in it. If Google (or any other app) could hook into that home button and replace Siri, somebody might make a better Siri for iOS hardware (imagine one of the more fully-featured TODO apps coupled with Google voice recognition!) Apple’s walled-garden approach seems unlikely to see that happen. However, even if they did open up a configuration option and plugin API for what happens when you hold the hardware button, I have little hope that anything better than Siri would actually emerge. I had Android phones for years, and tried a number of “Siri-like” apps, both before and after Siri itself made the scene. Nobody else I’ve tried has gotten it even close to right – they all do unacceptable things like take decaseconds to start listening, or do web searches in a tiny, framed, feature-limited embedded browser instead of switching to the phone’s actual browser app.
Got to go. Siri is reminding me to “Fix the shower door before my wife’s brain melts”.
Anybody know where to buy a good ball peen hammer?