The Internet has been awash with hype about Clear since it was first announced and demoed by developers, Realmac Software. The app finally hit the App Store last week and is already proving itself a worthy competitor to the hordes of other list-making apps available for the iPhone.
It’s cheap, simple and very easy to use but is Clear (launch price $0.99) worth a dollar when a pen and paper has served us so well in the past? If you’ve been looking for an easy way to remember menial tasks from a somewhat revolutionary UI then Clear might just be what you’re looking for. Then again, maybe you shouldn’t expect too much…
Let’s Talk About That UI
Clear doesn’t follow the usual formula we’ve come to expect from touchscreen apps. Instead it embraces gestures, something many have been waiting for since our phones became big bright fingerprint magnets. There are no context buttons to speak of and the whole user interface is traversed with swipes, taps and pinches.
This makes the interface very clean, minimalistic and focused on the tasks at hand. There are no tabs running along the bottom of the screen, no logo or branding and that means no distractions from the tasks at hand. Clear uses a sequence of layers, with the first being a basic menu, not dissimilar to any other run of the mill app. The menu features My Lists, a choice of Themes, some tips and tricks to get you started, the Settings page and an option to follow the developers on Twitter. A tap of My Lists will return your personal lists which you can name and order in any way you want.
Swiping down from the top of the screen creates a new list at the top of the screen. Pinching apart two existing lists creates a new list in between those two. This is exactly how each list operates too, allowing you to quickly prioritise notes, reminders and anything you deem worth writing down. Swiping right-to-left will mark a list (or item on a list) as completed, swiping left-to-right instantly deletes that item or list.
This makes the app a real joy to use and takes a generally boring activity – reminding yourself to do even more boring things – and makes it a fresh and speedy experience. Re-ordering involves a tap, hold and drag (as you’d expect) and clearing your previously completed items is accomplished with a swipe from the bottom of the screen up. To move to the previous layer, pinching your fingers together does the trick. Once you’ve played with it for 30 seconds you’ll never wonder “how do I do that?” again.
It’s Really Quite Simple
Perhaps it’s due to the ultra-minimalism that some may feel that the app is slightly over-simplified. The developer have clearly stated the app’s purpose, its simple approach and ease of use are indeed the main attractions here. If you’re looking for a more advanced way to manage your lists, however, you might find Clear a little limiting.
Each item you create can only be a maximum of 28 characters long, which is perfect for “Get Milk” or “Email Work” but if you’re trying to remember something with a little more substance, you’re going to have to trim it down to fit on the screen. This has caught me out a number of times, mainly when jotting down ideas for this very website. Usually I stick that sort of thing in the iPhone’s basic Notes app but it becomes somewhat of a mess and is nowhere near as nice to navigate or janitor.
Something else that may strike some as a missed opportunity would be the lack of collaboration. On the main menu there could easily be an option for “Shared Lists” in addition to the “My Lists” you tap to get to the meat-and-gravy. The best use I can think of for this would be something along the lines of a shared shopping list, and while there are apps out there that do this wonderfully none are as slick or pleasant to use as Clear.
Reminders would also have been nice, but I can see how this risks clogging up what is currently a very streamlined experience and thus I don’t see it as a deal-breaker.
Download: Clear for iPhone @ App Store (launch $0.99)
I really want to use this app a lot, but I can’t help but feel a pang of disappointment over what could have been (or what might still be in the future, with an update or two). Collaboration would be one feature I would absolutely love to see, and would surely have quite an effect on the competing offerings in the App Store that are already share-friendly.
Overall, Clear is a brilliant way to manage your lists, and I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who is looking for such an app. I’d also hasten to warn those “power-users” who expect all manner of extra features that they won’t find them here, just a beautiful and extremely simple way to remember that you’re good at forgetting things.