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To-Do App Has that Simple Touch

Clear pares down a to-do list to just a few functions, and gives you pinch-and-swipe control.
February 29, 2012

The proliferation of smart phones led to a boom in all kinds of apps—among them, many designed to help you get organized. But as the traditional to-do list has gotten a high-tech makeover, it has also become more complicated.

To do: Clear relies heavily on touch gestures.

A new iPhone app called Clear aims to simplify things. Created by a group of developers in the U.K. and San Francisco, Clear offers refreshingly few functions and is controlled mainly by simple swipes and pinches on the smart phone’s touch screen. Its limitations and controls—combined with a bright, inviting layout—are appealing to the more than 350,000 users who have paid to download the app since its launch on February 15.

A video showcasing the app garnered hundreds of thousands of views weeks before the app was available. Its designation as Apple’s App of the Week right after its release surely helped, as did a limited-time price of $1.

Clear, which now costs $2, really is simple. Each task on your to-do list is limited to 28 characters, and you can’t do anything fancy like set alerts to remind you to do things.

To add a new item to a list of tasks, you swipe downward on the iPhone’s touch screen, and you can swipe with a little more force to see all of your existing lists at once (pull down once again and you can create another list). Swiping any single task to the right marks it as completed, while a leftward swipe will delete it. Spreading your fingers apart on a list will add a task, and pinching together will show you your master list view.

Nik Fletcher, product manager at Brighton, U.K.-based Realmac Software, which worked on the app, says simplicity, and taking advantage of the iPhone’s touch screen, were the main goals behind Clear.

The entire user interface was driven around removing extraneous features, says Fletcher, whose company built the app in collaboration with software engineer Milen Dzhumerov and San Francisco-based software company Impending. And making touch gestures the main way to interact with the device “just makes everything feel so much more fluid,” he says.

The app has some fun elements, too. When you mark a task as done, the app emits a pinging noise and a buzz; delete a task and it will swish out of the way. (If you find the noises and vibrations annoying, swipe down a couple times to get to Clear’s settings, where you can turn them off.) And a heat-map-style color scheme that shades the first item darker than succeeding tasks—various shades of red, orange, and yellow are the default theme—helps emphasize that the item at the top of the list is most important.

Fletcher thinks the reason people are so drawn to Clear is simple. “It’s got personality,” he says.

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