There are many, many iOS apps that will help you remember tasks, events, and appointments. But most are effective only when you’ve got your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch handy. What about all those hours you spend, every day, in front of your Mac?
My solution generally alternates between setting alerts on either my iPhone or my Mac, based on which I think I’ll be using at the time I want to be reminded; or setting reminders on both my Mac and my iPhone, just to be sure I’m covered. Caramel Cloud’sNotificant, a combination of a $3 iOS app, a $5 Mac app, and a free Web service aims to reduce the amount of alarm-setting you need to do by letting you set a reminder once and have it appear on all your devices. It’s also a useful tool for quickly sending URLs and other bits of text between devices.
Once you’ve installed the Notificant app on your iOS devices and your Macs, and signed up for a required Notificant account, you log in to that account from within each copy of the app. This one-time setup process allows Notificant to coordinate your reminders across all your devices.
I previously reviewed the Mac version of Notificant (), but the iOS version is actually a more-polished product. Tap the new-notification (+) button, and you can type (in 160 characters or less) your reminder message—or any other text, such as a URL, you want to transfer between, say, your iPhone and your Mac. Tap Devices to choose which of your configured devices should receive the reminder. If you want to send the message immediately, just tap Notify; otherwise, tap the alarm-clock icon to choose a date and time for the alert, and then tap Notify to schedule it.
Interestingly, your e-mail address is also listed in the Devices list; select it, and you’ll also receive an e-mail message at the time of your scheduled reminder. Unfortunately, the subject line of these e-mail reminders is simply “Notification,” rather than a snippet of the reminder, and you can’t currently add multiple e-mail addresses to your account. I’d love to be able to add my wife’s address so I could send reminders or bits of text to both of us. Alternatively, it would be great if you could send, with permission, to another person’s account.
At the scheduled time, your reminder appears—and an audible alert sounds—on all the selected devices. If you included your e-mail address as a destination for the notification, you also receive the e-mail reminder at the same time. No matter where you’re at, or which of your computing gadgets you’ve got with you, you’re sure to get your reminder.
I tested Notificant with an iPhone, and iPad, and two Macs, and Notificant’s reminders never failed to appear on the chosen devices. Notificant uses Apple’s notification service, so the app doesn’t need to be running on your iOS devices to receive messages, although your iPhone, iPad, or iPad touch does need an active network connection (mobile or Wi-Fi). (The Mac app does need to be running, however, although you don’t need an active Internet connection at the actual time of the reminder—Notificant will store reminders for later notification.)
Notificant messages are limited to 160 characters. If your message includes a long URL, you can tap the Shorten URLs button—which looks like two links in a chain with arrows pointing towards each other—to use the bit.ly service to shorten those URLs. URLs are clickable/tap-able in the resulting notifications, making them useful for quickly shuffling a URL between devices.
As with the Mac version of Notificant, you can choose from nine different alert sounds. However, the iOS version offers a number of additional features. First and foremost is an Upcoming screen that lets you quickly view all upcoming reminders; you can edit any reminder before its scheduled time. You also get an Archive screen that lists past reminders. And the iOS app’s Home-screen icon can display a badge indicating the number of reminders you’ve missed.
Notificant also offers an excellent Web app that lets you manage your account and schedule reminders from any Web browser. Like the iOS app, the Web app lets you create new reminders, view past reminders, and view and edit upcoming reminders. But it also lets you rename your devices, so you can choose how they appear in the Devices list in all versions of Notificant.
Thanks to its cross-device alerts, Notificant offer clear advantages over most reminder apps. But why wouldn’t you just use your normal calendar program (which is presumably synced across devices)? Notificant lets you decide exactly which devices produce reminders for each event; using MobileMe Calendar, Google Calendar, or some other calendar service means getting alerts on all of your computers and iOS devices. In addition, Notificant lets you keep your “real” calendar clear of items such as Pick up milk after work! Finally, creating a new reminder in Notificant is a bit quicker and easier than creating a new event in most calendar programs.
But Notificant is not without its shortcomings. In addition to the limitations I’ve already mentioned, I wish Notificant offered the capability to set repeating reminders, and I often found myself wanting to set a timer so I could be notified, say, “15 minutes from now.” (Caramel Cloud told Macworld that these options are planned for a future update.) But even without these features, Notificant is quite useful for those of us who never know—or would rather not worry about—which gadget we’ll be using at a given time. It also makes it simple to send URLs and text from one device to another.
(Disclosure: Macworld contributor Aayush Arya is an employee at Caramel Cloud, the developer of Notificant.)
[Dan Frakes is a senior editor for Macworld.]
Updated, 5/27/11 12pm, to clarify that you need an active wireless connection for Notificant to receive messages.
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