A couple of weeks ago, the usual suspects were abuzz with a new app. I’ve made it a point to take a look at releases like these, as they often come with a lot of fanfare, praise, and even a few pledges to replace coveted home screen real estate. This time, the app is Checkmark 2, a to-do list with focus on location-based reminders.
First off, and honestly the bit that I think garners Checkmark a place in lists like these to begin with, is the visual design. Animations are smooth and lively; check circles (instead of boxes) swivel like spun coins, strikethrough lines sweep across the item cell, colors shift subtly to indicate state. By most measures the app is beautiful. But that isn’t enough. This is a to-do app. And in such a popular category, the bar is already high.
Next is Checkmark’s most impressive feature. Location-based reminders. Regardless of the rest of the app, and the rest of this review, no other app I’ve used even comes close here. In fact, were Apple to add the same functionality to its own reminders app, I can think of no greater single way that they could improve it. Here, the most important feature is the ability to add a location by dropping a pin. It’s quick, easy, and so brilliantly obvious that I find it difficult to understand why Apple hasn’t been doing it this way all along. On top of that, when you add a location, a selector comes up at the bottom of the screen indicating the size of the geofencing area. I found this incredibly useful when needing a reminder for “when I get into town.” Location based reminders are the reason I’m still using Checkmark and why I will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
I do have a couple of criticisms, however. There’s an issue (or at least I’m assuming that it isn’t intended) where the map view readjusts to a too-near zoom level when selecting the area for a new location. It’s an annoyance more than anything, but one that users will encounter frequently when first starting out with the app. The more locations added, the more unwanted zooms and re-zooms.
The second issue I had was with location groups, a great feature with which you can select several related locations that trigger a single reminder item. The best example is the grocery store. There are likely several in your town or city, and all of them likely sell milk or eggs or whatever it is you need to pick up. With groups, Checkmark will remind you when you arrive at any store that’s grouped into that category.
My issue was with understanding this functionality without having read a review like this one. In the app, location groups appear to be a way that you can organize your locations. For instance, I tried to drag and drop all the locations in my town into one group labeled with the town’s name. Needless to say, the behavior didn’t align with my mental model. A hint, triggered upon first use, would go a long way in remedying this situation; or, if that seems too ham-fisted, a visual cue that suggests these items will trigger together rather be grouped in a folder, sub-folder sort of way.
Lastly, I find myself jumping around in the app too much. Most of my time is spent navigating from one section to the next when it should be a simple, drop in, check an item, drop out process (a recent update greatly improves this).
So, I’ve labeled this post with consider rather than recommended not because I think Checkmark isn’t worth your time or money. On the contrary, it is. Just be sure you know what you’re getting: a beautiful app, like most apps that hit the usual Mac nerd blogs, but one that’s a bit high-maintenance for certain situations. If location based reminders are a staple for you, it’s easily worth the purchase price.
For my everyday reminders, I’ll still be using Fantastical.