Alarms: Simple & Stylish Reminders on Your Mac

You usually have a general idea of what you’ll work on during the day, that’s why GTD apps work: you schedule ahead of time what you want to get done through your day, so that you don’t forget about it. But what about the tasks that come up during the day? You know, suddenly you remember that you told someone you’d give him a call, or that you haven’t washed the car in weeks.

That’s what the app that we are reviewing today, Alarms, is useful for. It’s a simple app that lets you create quick and simple reminders without interrupting what you are doing.

Interested? Read on to find out more.

Getting Started

Alarms is as simple and pretty as apps can get. It will run in your menu bar, showing up by way of a little bell icon. If an alarm goes off, the bell will continuously vibrate and make a sound until you snooze the task or get around to doing it.

Once you complete something, you’ll have to notify Alarms by going into the app and checking the task. If you click the little bell, a timeline will drop down where you can schedule new tasks and interact with the ones that you already have. You can also drag pretty much anything to the bell and make it into a task.

That’s pretty much Alarms in a nutshell, but let’s take a slightly deeper look…

The Interface

As I mentioned, Alarms is very pretty and it goes along with your Mac well. If you click the Menu Bar icon, Alarms will bring up a timeline divided into three parts.

The first one is a box that has all the things that are due now. There you can check tasks as done or view them (if your task is a link, for example, it will bring up the page). You can also drag the tasks that are due to re-arrange them for a later time.

In the second part, there’s the timeline itself. Here you’ll see a bar broken down into hours. This is where all the other tasks that are due later in the day live. The third part is a small calendar that is positioned to the right part of the timeline, and with it you can jump between days so that you can schedule tasks ahead of time.



Adding New Reminders

Adding new reminders or tasks is, like anything in this app, very simple. You can jump into the timeline and double click on any hour and create a task there. Once your task is created, if you want it to be at a more specific time (say, 2:15 instead of 2:00), you can slowly drag the task to the time that you want it to be in. I’d much prefer to just type in the time that you want the task to be in, but there doesn’t seem to be any option to do that.

Another option to create a new task is simply to drag something into the app. I tried this with folders, files and links and all of those seemed to work. You just need to drag something into the bell icon, and the timeline will open. Then you’ll be able to drop what you are dragging to a particular point in time.

New Task

New Task

Managing Tasks

Once an alarm goes off, you’ll be notified by an alarm sound, a Growl notification (if you’ve selected this as an option), and the little bell icon will begin to “vibrate”. You can then go into the app and view the task, mark it as done or move it to another time.

The sound will continue to play every minute or so, and the little bell won’t stop vibrating until you complete the task, so if you want to avoid all this annoyance, you can snooze the task by quickly moving your cursor to the left and right 4 times.

Once snoozed, the alarm will stop bothering you for some time, but it will come back to remind you again a little later.



Other Features and Settings

Alarms also has a few additional features. If you click the bell and drag it down, a timer will activate, which you can control by moving your cursor further down or up. The timer notifications work very much like the reminders, and it’s a handy way to quickly set a timer. Maybe you’ve started boiling an egg, and want to be reminded to take it out after a few minutes…

You can also transfer your tasks from iCal, and birthdays from Address Book to quickly create reminders related to particular calendars or events. Under the applications preferences, you’ll find lots of options. You can change sounds, set shortcuts for the snooze feature, and even stop the alarm sound from repeating after it sounds the first time.


Alarms can make a great little companion to your GTD software of choice. Even though it doesn’t have a “History” feature and lacks some features, the sleek simplicity makes up for that. It might not replace your current GTD app, but I don’t think it’s really trying to.

Think of Alarms as a reminder app that gets you through the day, used for quickly setting up tasks that you have to get done by a certain time. Handy, reasonably priced, and worth looking into if you regularly get interrupted with tasks and to do’s during the day!


Alarms is a menu bar app that allows you to quickly set up reminders through your day. It's simple, pretty, and easy to learn; but it might be one "task" app too many if you already have a GTD system.



Add Yours
  • I use a simplest menubar alarm app: TinyAlarm, enough for me.

  • A trick that I use with Things is to attach Things and Alarms to the same calendar. So when a task is in my Today box it is pushed into Alarms automatically. And everything in Alarms is added to Things. This also allows Alarms reminders to be pushed to my iPhone and iPad. It would work better if Things had a time field but it is pretty seamless otherwise.

  • Used and adored this software for the trial and now sad that it’s over and I’m too cheap to pay $15 for it :)

  • I’ve used this with Things since the day it came out and it’s been a godsend. In fact, I could probably just as easily swap out Things for The Hit List (if they ever come out with an iOS app) and not miss a beat. But it took me less than four hours after the trial to realize there was no way I wanted to go back to my previous workflow.

    It works with Things, iCal, BusyCal exactly the way Bryan outlined. I’ll bet the ability to just drag files onto the menubar to work on later has saved me hours. If I get an email with a file that needs to be worked on and don’t have time, I just drag it onto the icon at the appropriate place in the timeline and I’m done with it. When the time comes, I don’t have to hunt around for the message or even open Mail.I just finish the work and hit send.

  • Alarms is slick. I use OmniFocus for my main GTD database, and sync tasks to iCal via Omni’s Sync Server. Do you know if I could get these tasks to show up in Alarms? They say it supports “Things and other GTD apps,” but don’t specify OmniFocus specifically.

  • This is a great piece of software!
    One question: Can somebody explain to me how Alarms treats iCal Events, that are scheduled for the whole day?

  • This is a great piece of software. I got a month ago and just love it. Very Smooth!

  • They should have a place for storing UNschedule task. Not every task has a definite time of action at the point of entry.

    This is another one which is interesting. GTD alarm with iPhone Sync coming:

  • I’ll go with @CTShop too. Just found the little gem Notificant on the Mac App Store and it’s a really cool app if you have multiple Macs. What they need is a iOS app soon.

  • I’ve been using this app for a while now, and it’s excellent! However, as mentioned, I am unhappy with the lack of a “History” feature. It adds a feeling of more urgency when you know that if you don’t complete a task your history will show that you’re not being productive.

  • I use Do It, really simple and nice. I recommend it.