Clear, a minimalist to-do listing app, was launched to almost-universal acclaim for iOS in January this year. Utilising a very simple UI that resembled a heat map of priority, Clear offered a viable alternative to the recently-shipped stock Reminders app and a simpler competitor to rivals in its category.
We’ve been using Clear for Mac, which launched Thursday, for a couple of days now and, in this article, we’re going to investigate how it stands as a Mac app and alongside its iPhone counterpart.
Clear for Mac is simple in all senses of the word. Upon first launch, the app runs you through a tutorial of its basic — nay, its only — features before throwing you straight into a default list of tasks that again go over how to manipulate your task list.
Just like in Clear for iPhone, you can manage multiple separate lists of tasks in Clear for Mac; new ones are added by simply right-clicking. When viewing your list of lists, Clear for Mac shows a nice numerical indicator of how many tasks are left uncompleted in each list.
Once you’re into a specific list, the app is fairly easy to navigate, even if there’s no actual buttons to click. To create a new item, users need to merely begin typing while the app is in focus in OS X. To complete a task, simply select it and press the space bar. This is a little bit tricky, however, since clicking will actually allow you to edit, and therefore pressing space then actually adds a space to the item’s text.
Items can be re-ordered by dragging and deleted by swiping to the left. Navigating between a list and the list of lists can be achieved in a number of ways too: by pinching on a trackpad, scrolling up/down through the full lists or clicking the app’s single button in the top-right.
You can also pull out individual lists by dragging out their item in the “list of lists”, creating a multi-window setup that shows more lists at once, something certainly not possible with the iPhone app. However, that feature is pretty much the only non-iOS function in the Mac version.
Overall, the app is pretty simple. An outlier in a world of apps still dominated by ones featuring actual buttons, Clear is different, but is easy enough to use once you’ve committed the full control set to memory.
Gestures, Gestures, Gestures
Clear is very heavy on gestures. Without the aforementioned traditional use of buttons and menu items, Clear can take a while to get used to. Ultimately, it feels like the iOS app being emulated for OS X, rather than an app that’s had significant consideration into the differences in UX between touch and mouse/keyboard. The same minimalist style could easily have been achieved without such an unfamiliar control convention.
However, once the controls and gestures that Clear uses are memorised, it does end up being a pleasant experience, on trackpads especially.
Clear for Mac syncs your tasks and lists with iCloud, meaning users of the iPhone version (and/or multiple Macs) will be able to keep all their tasks completely in sync with a new update.
However, this is a feature long available in Reminders, the stock and, importantly, free app in OS X. It’s also an app available for iPhone, where Clear is not available unless you run the iPhone edition in 2x mode. As we’ll discuss in just a moment, Clear for Mac has a hefty price tag and isn’t able to boast any substantial features that Reminders doesn’t have, aside from an interface that most will pass on in order to save a significant amount of cash.
Clear for Mac is a nice app, and the minimalist interface combined with a notable simplicity will appeal to a lot of users who don’t want to spend a lot of time in the app they’re using to organise their time for more important causes.
There are some usability concerns but enough exposure mitigates these. The big issue here, though, was never the app. After introductory pricing, Clear for Mac comes with a $14.99 price tag, a significant increase over the $1.99 price for an iOS version that is OS X’s is essentially ported from. Something about this doesn’t seem right, especially with a number of significant cheaper and free alternatives being available, including the one you already have installed on your Mac by default.
The app itself would probably get a strong 8 or 9 out of 10 if it were cheaper, especially for those looking for a simpler experience. However, price is a big factor here and it’s not something that can be ignored.