Mochi Takes on Clear — For Better or Worse?

The critically-acclaimed iPhone task manager Clear just came to the Mac earlier this month. Even though it received a lot of great support from reviewers across the Internet, users responded harshly to this release. Some claimed that it “doesn’t live up to its hype”, others that it was merely a start, and some went so far as to bash every living feature of its being. For the price, can you get more? Jimmy Do, developer of Mochi, thinks so.

Do introduced the app in August, put it on sale for 99 cents last month, and then updated it with printing and bug fixes and raised the price back to normal. In other words, it’s been around for a few months and the developer cares about updating it — two good signs. Mochi takes the same simple approach as clear, only with a bit more detail in the areas that count. It’s not to be considered a competitor to the colorful task manager, but rather an alternative. Does it live up to such expectations?

“Mochi” is a short-grained, sweet, glutinous Japanese rice.

Leave Gestures to Another App and Focus on the Task

All those Clear gestures get tiring, don’t they? Some people like them, others find from swiping left to right all the time to be a redundant thing, especially with a trackpad. It does feel a lot more natural on a touchscreen, that’s for sure. Mochi doesn’t even touch gestures though, surprisingly. The developer took a different approach here and decided to go with the more handled controller: the keyboard.

The start screen.

The start screen.

Keyboard shortcuts are used by many, so why not keep the tradition going? (Clear isn’t an outcast because it uses gestures, it’s just a different kind of app.) With Mochi, you can do just that. If you navigate your Mac with many a CMD + Space and open Alfred for all the basic actions, you’ll enjoy creating tasks in this app. All it takes to make a new note (the bubble titles you see to the left) is CMD + N. Type a title and press tab to begin making your list of tasks.

Optionally, you can give the note a description before beginning your task list. When you’re ready, press Return and type a + followed by a space to make a new task. Alternatively, you can use the shortcut CMD + T, which comes more natural if you haven’t been doing mathematics on your computer lately. When you’ve checked off all the tasks in a list (either by clicking or by shortcut, which I’ll discuss below), it will be hidden from the Only Notes With Tasks (CMD + 2) list.

If only there were an easier way to scroll though tasks with shortcuts. Right now, you can press Esc to move to the notes list and then use the arrows to eventually make your way to a task. After that, pressing Return will bring up the cursor for your editing needs. Moving it over a task and pressing CMD + D will complete it. All this seems like a bit much, doesn’t it? Welcome to the world of the keyboard. That’s why Clear is popular. It doesn’t mean Mochi can’t be though: more advanced users will find additional keystrokes welcoming.

Nice Minimal Interface

The aforementioned Only Notes With Tasks section.

The aforementioned Only Notes With Tasks section.

Clear includes that “brilliant” multicolor user interface — exactly what you would expect after using the iPhone app. That’s all good and well, until you look at the boring old top bar of the app: it’s OS X’s default one. At least Mochi takes things a step further with a different color. If you think white, black, and shades of gray make for a colorless and dull app, go look at other minimal designs out there.

This app is optimized for the Retina display.

The developer took the most basic approach he could with this design, and it shows, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s better to have plain old white with a single crisscross pattern on some buttons than 24 shades of the same grayscale color. If you think Clear is too flashy and annoying, this app will be perfect design-wise. The bouncy animations when you make a new task with the + key also help the aesthetics. It’s the perfect counterpart to the dramatic design of Color.

Like Cheddar, Only More Textual

Searching for something.

Searching for something.

Nothing Magical’s Cheddar is, for some, the epitome of digital lists. It manages them perfectly, looks beautiful, is accessible on iOS devices, Mac, and the Web. People use it for shopping, tasks, and as an alternative to Apple’s Reminders app. Unfortunately, if you compare Mochi to Cheddar, it doesn’t quite hold up. Organizing your lists, for instance, is something Mochi can’t do as well as Cheddar.

In Cheddar, you can drag items up and down to create an order for your tasks. Mochi doesn’t have this. Instead, since it’s text-based, you must copy and paste items to move them. This seems extremely unproductive and forces you to create a task list in the correct order the first time. If you don’t, have fun re-editing it.

Rich Text, But No Markdown

So many indie apps today have Markdown support, because the world is slowly learning how to use the simple markup language. Once you begin to grasp the concept, it’s easy to remember and it becomes useful for many Web, Mac, and iOS apps. Mochi, just like iCloud Notes, does not use Markdown, but rather OS X’s rich text formatting, which can be triggered with a series of menu actions or keyboard shortcuts (CMD + B makes text bold).

Demonstrating the three types of rich text supported: underlining, bold, and italics.

Demonstrating the three types of rich text supported: underlining, bold, and italics.

To stay with the times, this app really should integrate the latest in text editing. Obviously it wasn’t built to primarily be a text editor or note-taking app, though there are several hints that it’s a sort of hybrid. The whole Notes feature is one of them, and it doesn’t make sense why the developer even bothered to include this. “Why not just tasks?” you say. Because Mochi can also be used to take notes, just in a different way than expected — with no Markdown.

Such a note-taking and task management merge makes this app desirable to students who are taking notes in class but also have homework. It’s perfect for an all-in-one app instead of hopping from Reminders to TextEdit and back. Unfortunately, the lack of Markdown still makes this unworkable for some. The code comes natural, so what are you supposed to do when it’s not turning into anything? Wait for an update.

No iOS or Web Companion

As with all apps like Mochi, it’s nice to have access to the data anywhere. Right now that’s not possible because the only app available is for Mac. I asked the developer what his plans for an iOS app were and he said, “We don’t have a specific date yet, but we do plan to make an iOS version next.” It’s good to know that a companion is in the queue and hopefully it’s even better than the Mac version.

A Different Purpose Than Clear; Still Just Okay

A list of some of this app's pros and cons.

A list of some of this app’s pros and cons.

The developers of Clear probably thought their app would receive unanimous praise. That didn’t happen though. With Mochi, it’s going to be the same way. This app isn’t aimed at the same crowd as Clear, nor Cheddar. During its three months residence at the Mac App Store, Mochi has attracted a certain set of users. Even with its price point — one that seems high to some people — the app has still found a comfortable home in the Launchpad of some.

Overall, it’s hard to say that this app is “great” or “revolutionary” as, even though it does have a great set of features, it’s not the most promising of apps. But that’s how things are with niche software. You win some users over because they think the screenshots for the app make it look great, while others continue browsing because the app looks dull or useless in their eyes. To the people that see potential in this app, it’s worth $9.99. In the end though, it’s a good ways from making it to the mainstream task management market.


Summary

It's somewhat of a mix between note-taking and task management. The app really isn't sure where it is, and it'd be tough to adopt it until it makes its mind up.

7
  • http://www.affonso.org Alexandre Affonso

    I would love to test this app, but for some reason the developer decided to sell it only at USA Mac App Store. I even asked by email if it would be available at MAS around the world but the developer kindly answered: “not planning to sell Mochi outside the United States just yet. We want to focus on one country first before expanding to others”. Crazy selling strategy for a MAS software, but it looks so good that I still want to test it.

    • http://www.thepapermail.com Jacob Penderworth

      That’s definitely a shame. Did you ask them for a demo version or something? Not that they have that, just an idea.

    • tykho

      Yes I’m not quite sure what that means, “We want to focus on one country first before expanding to others”.
      Are there any country specific settings and features in Mochi?

  • munchkin

    I actually like the idea. I am doing lots of notes, that I need to remember, or they needs to be done. It is a mix of both things. In this way, things could get managed. I wish this could be web app.

  • http://mashby.com mashby

    I use Notational Velocity now as my daily notes and quick capture system. The idea of being able to create tasks within my notes is VERY appealing, but since this is a stand-alone system with no mobile option it’s a bit of a non-starter.

    Very, very appealing though. I might actually consider switching if there were cloud/mobile access.

  • Richard

    FYI: The word “Mochi” is indeed the Japanese name of a rice species, but when used alone, it refers to the “cake” made of mochi rice, pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape. We’d use the term “Mochikome” to represent the rice species.

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