Done and Clear: Making a Case For Minimalistic To-Do Apps

In my constant search for new apps that are worthy of a review, I stumbled across a pretty minimalistic to-do app called Done in the Mac App Store. After a few weeks of trying it out, I’ve found myself using it almost everyday and preferring it over my usual to-do app, Wunderlist.

This got me thinking about similar minimal to-do apps like Clear, and where they might fit in a workflow. Are they really necessary? Are they just surrounded by hype? Why would you pay for a premium for an app like this?


Done is as simple as a to-do app can get. There’s no synchronization, no iCloud linking, no registering or logging in, no iPhone apps or complicated task inputs. Instead, with Done you get a light and intelligible interface, with just a couple columns and big, prominent text and buttons on the forefront of a pale, paper-like background.


Done Interface

There’s nothing to configure or set up, what you see on first sight is all there is to the app. A sidebar gives access to a button for creating new lists, as well as navigation buttons for browsing through a view that shows active and past tasks, or a view that hides completed activities and shines a light on the current ones.

Starting a new task is very similar to Wunderlist: you just type it into the text box while browsing the list you’d like your task to go into. Everything else is just what you’d expect, check a task to mark it as done, and there’s a configurable keyboard shortcut for automatically opening the app and creating a new task. It can be that simple.


We’ve covered Clear before: it’s a beautifully designed app that relies solely on touch gestures to get you across. It’s colorful, simple and expensive. Its design might be familiar to iOS users (there’s also a complimentary Clear iPhone app, where it started out originally), but when brought to the Mac it’s a truly unique thing to see.


Clear Interface

Just like Done, it has support for different lists, but beyond that there’s not much to the app other than creating new tasks and marking them as completed. So, what justifies the $9.99 price tag, compared to free apps like the similar Done and the more complete Wunderlist?

A Premium for What Exactly?

It’s hard to justify the staggering price of Clear when most of its competitors go for free and offer many more features, but given the success of the app, there are plenty of people willing to pay a premium for the app.

Done, while just as simplistic in nature, lacks the interactivity and visual stunningness of Clear, but unlike it it’s also free and has no learning curve at all. On the other hand, Clear takes quite a while to get into: it’s meant to be used fast when you’re already familiar with it, but getting used to it is the difficult part just because it’s a tad unconventional. Its main strength is also a problem in terms of adaptability.

Clear Prices

Clear Prices

Compared to Wunderlist, which offers wider platform support for free and a much more conventional approach to the category, Clear takes the upper hand in terms of design and simplicity. It feels much more rewarding to use: it is very pleasing on the eye and its “slide to mark as complete” feature provide a special kind of satisfaction, much better than just clicking on a box to check it off. Overall, it’s a better experience at the expense of a few features and some bucks.

Less Is Better?

Even though I am a user of Wunderlist and I’ve tried tons of to-do apps out there (we all know there certainly isn’t a shortage of them out there), there’s something about Done and Clear that caught my eye and made me interested in giving them a try.



See, there’s a point when apps like Wunderlist get too needlessly complex for daily tasks, and they end up getting in your way instead of being useful. I don’t really need to set dates, “starred” items and collaboration members just to set my daily tasks in the morning. Those things have their time and place, but it’s a bit annoying having to deal with all the bells and whistles that these apps have, when I just want a simple way to input tasks for the day and cross them off later. I mean, didn’t we use to do this kind of thing in a plain piece of paper?


I’m not knocking elaborate to-do apps, I’m just making an observation that perhaps, when it comes to managing such mundane tasks as setting and crossing off duties, less is better and something simpler might make you more productive, which is ultimately the goal of this type of apps.

I still use Wunderlist for collaborative lists and for keeping up with long term projects and tasks, but for daily usage I find it easier and more comfortable to use something a tad less demanding. What about you? Do you prefer your apps to be simplistic, and if so, would you pay a premium for that kind of thing? What works for you in terms of productivity?