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Using the Reminders App to Sync Data Between a Mac Running OS X Mountain Lion and Your iOS Mobile Device

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Planning to upgrade your Mac to the OS X Mountain Lion operating system this summer? If so, you’ll discover it comes bundled with the Reminders app. In this article, Jason R. Rich explores how to use this app and sync your Reminders to-do lists between your Mac and iOS mobile device that’s running iOS 5.1 (or later).
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Apple’s latest edition of its OS X operating system, called OS X Mountain Lion, is being released this July. As you’ll quickly discover, it offers many impressive additions and enhancements that make Mac computers even more enjoyable and intuitive to use.

Many of the changes that have been made to the OS X operating system allow Mac computers to function more like the iPad. In fact, the Address Book and iCal apps that you’re probably familiar with on your Mac have been renamed to Contacts and Calendar, and they now look and operate virtually identically to their iPad counterparts.

Once you upgrade your Mac to OS X Mountain Lion (which costs just $19.99), you’ll also be able to benefit from running Notification Center and the Reminders app on your Mac, which have also been adapted from the iPad (running the iOS 5.1 operating system). Another way that your Mac will now operate more like an iPad is how it integrates more with Apple’s iCloud service.

OS X Mountain Lion seamlessly integrates in more ways with iCloud, allowing for app-specific data from Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Safari, and other apps that come with the Mac operating system to backup and sync data automatically and in the background.

As an app for the Mac that now comes free with OS X Mountain Lion, Reminders is a powerful and versatile to-do list manager. It allows you to create and manage an unlimited number of separate to-do lists, and within those lists include an unlimited number of individual items. Each item can then be given a separate priority and up to two alarms, plus you can link text-based notes to them.

When the Reminders app’s iCloud feature is turned on, as you create or update your to-do lists, that information will almost instantly be uploaded to your iCloud account (assuming your Mac is connected to the Internet) and then sync with all of your other Macs and iOS mobile devices that are linked to that iCloud account. This includes your iPhone, iPad, and/or iPod touch.

Thus, all of your to-do lists are always up-to-date and constantly accessible when and where you need access to them, regardless of which computer or mobile device you’re using.

How to Use the Reminders App: A Brief Introduction

After upgrading your iMac, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air, for example, to OS X Mountain Lion, you’ll discover the Reminders app is accessible from the Applications folder, Launch Pad, Mission Control, and the Dock that’s displayed on your Desktop.

Like all Mac apps, the Reminders app runs within an app window. Near the upper-left corner of the app window, you’ll discover a Search field and a listing of your to-do lists by title, as well as a master Completed list. Below this, a monthly calendar can be displayed. Near the lower-left corner of the app window are three command icons.

The command icon on the left hides the left column of the app window, allowing only the currently active to-do list to be displayed on what would otherwise be the right side of the app window. The command icon in the middle displays or hides the monthly calendar, while the plus sign command icon on the right allows you to create a new to-do list from scratch, and then give that list a unique title, such as “Today’s Errands,” “Phone Calls,” “Shopping List,” “Don’t Forget...” “Meeting Agenda,” “Packing List,” etc.

Displayed on the right side of the Reminders app’s window on the Mac is the currently active to-do list. Near the top of the list is its title. To the right of the title is another plus sign icon (displayed near the top-right corner of the app window). Use this icon to add individual to-do items to the currently active list.

As you add new items to a to-do list, just like in the iOS version, a checkbox will appear to the immediate left of it. When you’ve completed an item on your list, add a checkmark to the checkbox. Doing this will automatically add the completed item to the app’s master Completed list (along with the time and date of completion).

After adding an individual to-do item to a list, click on it once to reveal a circular ‘i’ icon to the right of it. This gives you the option to add an alarm, priority, and/or notes to that particular item within the list.

To add an alarm, click on the checkbox associated with the On A Day or At A Location option. Upon choosing On A Day, you’ll be prompted to select a date and time for the alarm. If you have Notification Center on your Mac set up to monitor the Reminders app, alarms generated by this app will automatically appear within your computer’s Notification Center window.

If you click on At A Location, you’ll be promoted to enter a location (such as your Home, Office, or Current Location). The At A Location option taps into the Location Services feature of OS X Mountain Lion (or the iOS 5.1 operating system) to determine your location. The At A Location option will remind you about a to-do list item when you arrive at or when you leave the set location.

For example, when you arrive at the supermarket, your shopping list will appear on your iPhone. Or when you get to your office in the morning, your listing of outgoing calls to make that day will be displayed.

Once you add an alarm to a to-do list item, you the have the option to set it as a recurring even by clicking on the Repeat option, and then selecting the None, Every Day, Every Week, Every Two Weeks, Every Month, or Every Year option from the pull-down menu that appears. The default option is None, meaning that the alarm that’s being associated with the to-do item is non-recurring.

By clicking on the Priority option associated with a specific to-do list item, you can set the priority to None, Low, Medium, or High. Then, it’s possible to attach text-based notes of any length to the item by clicking on the Notes option.

When you’re done adding an alarm, priority, and/or note, click on the Done icon to save this information and make it part of your active to-do list. As soon as a to-do list item is saved, this data gets uploaded and synced with iCloud (if you have this functionality turned on).

To delete an item from a to-do list, click on the item to highlight and select it, and then press the Delete key. To delete an entire to-do list, click and highlight the list on the left side of the app window, and then press the Delete key. A pop-up window will appear asking you to confirm your list deletion decision. Click on the Delete button to erase the entire list from your Mac, the iCloud server, your other computers, and your iOS mobile devices.

Setting Up Reminders to Work with iCloud

Just like on the iPad, before any of the OS X Mountain Lion apps will automatically sync data with iCloud and ultimately your other Macs and iOS mobile devices, you’ll need to turn on iCloud functionality for the app.

To do this, launch System Preferences on your Mac and click on the iCloud option. When the iCloud menu appears, make sure that the computer you’re using is signed into your iCloud account (using your Apple ID and password). Then, place a checkmark next to the Calendars & Reminders option within the iCloud window of System Preferences. (Apple may eventually make the Reminders app a separate option within the iCloud window of System Preferences.)

Upon doing this, as long as your Mac is connected to the Internet, it will automatically sync app related data for Reminders to your iCloud account. At this point, data from the Reminders app running on your other Mac(s) and/or iOS mobile device(s) will automatically sync up.

Access Your Reminders To-Do Lists From Any Internet Enabled Device

Once your Reminders to-do lists are being synced with iCloud, even if you’re not working on your own Mac and you don’t have an iOS mobile device handy that’s already linked to your iCloud account, you can access your Reminders lists using any computer or Internet-enabled mobile device. To do this, launch its web browser, and visit http://www.iCloud.com.

Sign into the iCloud website using your Apple ID and password, and then click on the new Reminders icon that’s displayed. This grants you free access to the online-based Reminders app that will be automatically populated with all of your to-do lists and to-do list items. Any additions or changes you make to any of your Reminders to-do lists while visiting http://www.iCloud.com will be reflected when you next use the app on your Mac or iOS mobile device.

Use Reminders with Siri on Your iOS Mobile Device

If you’re too lazy to manually enter to-do list items using the iPhone’s virtual keyboard, or you’re driving and can’t type on the iPhone, you can activate Siri and begin a command using the phrase “Remind me to...” Doing this will allow you to create to-do list items within the Reminders app (and associate alarms with them) using your voice.

For example, you could activate Siri and say, “Remind me to pick up my dry cleaning tomorrow at 1pm.” Siri will add the appropriate to-do list item and alarm to the Reminders app. In conjunction with iOS 6 (slated for release later in 2012), Siri functionality will most likely also work with the iPad version of Reminders.

Reminders Has Many Uses

While the Calendar app is used to manage your appointments, the Reminders app can be used to help you create and manage all sorts of to-do lists, such as shopping lists, responsibilities you have to handle each day, your list of calls to make, and tasks associated with a specific project. You can also use Reminders to quickly jot down ideas or tidbits of information you need to remember.

You’ll quickly discover that the app is truly versatile, and because your list data automatically syncs up with your other computers and iOS devices that are linked to the same iCloud account, the information you need is always accessible, which makes the app that much more useful in your personal and professional life.

While the Reminders app for the Mac doesn’t have a Share button, using the Export command within the app (found under the File pull-down menu), you can easily share your to-do list data with other people via email.

Jason R. Rich (http://www.JasonRich.com) is an avid iPhone and iPad user, and is the bestselling author of more than 54 books, including Your iPad At Work: 2nd Edition (Que), iPad and iPhone Tips and Tricks (Que), Using iPhone iOS 5 Edition (Que) and iPad 2 Essentials (Que). He’s also a frequent contributor to numerous national magazines, major daily newspapers and popular websites. You can follow him on Twitter (@JasonRich7).

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