Review: Clear for iPhone Brings Simplicity and Beauty to Your Tasks

As promised last month, Realmac Software, Impending, and Milen have released Clear, a unique to do app that features a streamlined interface that is completely gesture-driven and lacks virtual buttons. Clear debuted in the App Store earlier this week on Tuesday and quickly rocketed to the #1 spot on the Paid iPhone Apps list where it still sits at the time of this post.

Clear’s interface is fluid and beautifully-designed. Unlike almost every other app out there, Clear has no virtual buttons for navigation or to create and delete tasks. The only buttons you will see will be on the native iOS keyboard when you go to enter a task. Aside from typing text to populate a list, you use swiping and pinching gestures to create a new list, re-order items, delete items, and even access the main menu.

If you haven’t already seen it, the Clear demo video that was released last month does a good job of showing off this gesture-driven interface:


A few tutorial screens walk you through the most common gestures when you first open Clear. The most important screen here is the one that explains the three navigation levels of Clear. The topmost level is the main menu, the second is the lists view and the third are the items in each individual list. Pinching closes the current navigation level and takes you to the next higher level. Spreading your fingers creates a new list or new item depending on the navigation level you’re on.

As with other apps, swiping from right to left deletes an item or list. Swiping from left to right marks an item as completed. Tapping and holding lets you pick up an item to change its location on a list.

Once you get used to the gestures, using Clear feels more effortless than any other to do app I’ve tried. It’s also lovely to look at with a straightforward color coding scheme where higher priority items at the top of a list are a darker shade to reflect their “hotness.” There are a few other color themes to choose from as well that change the look of the entire interface. Some themes are Easter egg-like in that they can be unlocked with certain actions. For example, following Phil Ryu on Twitter via the main menu unlocks a special Tweetbot theme if you have Tweetbot installed on your iPhone.

Other neat design elements include random quotes shown in between some transitions.

However, as beautiful and fluid as Clear is, it’s not a robust tasks app.

First, there’s a limit of about 28 characters for each item, forcing a level of brevity in describing tasks that some may find difficult. In touting Clear as an app designed with “simplicity and flexibility in mind” this limit isn’t terribly surprising but it could still be too restrictive for many.

Second, there’s no Dropbox or other synchronization or sharing for Clear, so your lists live only on your iPhone and aren’t accessible on any other device.

Third, there are no priorities, alarms, automatic sorting, or other traditional task app features, which makes Clear unsuitable for those who like a little more organization for their tasks and to receive reminders via alerts.

The New York Times spoke to Phil Ryu of Impending about the lack of alarms:

Scheduled reminders were definitely consciously one of the features we decided to do away with,” said Phillip Ryu, one of Clear’s creators. “Early on, mockups for the app had recurring tasks, scheduling, and also a navigation bar, add button, and so forth. But wiping the slate clean and saying no to a lot of features, at least for now, really enabled us to do some amazing things.

I like Clear. It’s lovely to look at and a joy to use. But I don’t see myself choosing it over even a basic tasks app like Apple’s Reminders since I need alerts and some synchronization capability so that I can access my lists on other devices. If your task tracking needs are less demanding than mine, I definitely recommend Clear.

Clear is currently available for $.99 in the App Store, which is a special release price though we don’t know what its regular price will be after this sale is over. It’s compatible with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S, 3rd-generation iPod touch and higher, and the iPad and iPad 2 (though it’s not optimized for the iPad’s larger screen). It requires iOS 5.0 or higher.


Clear Todos

Last Changed: 14 months ago
Rating: 4.00 (251)
Version: 1.7.8
iOS Universal

Every other todo app piles on features, fields to fill out, and extra decisions to make in an attempt to make you feel more productive… and ends up creating even more noise and distractions in your...



If you’re looking for something like this is a well designed / streamlined “to do” app without much fluff (I have a few others that I don’t use b/c of that) take a look at teuxdeux as well . It’s really slick and has a web app that ties in with it so you can use it anywhere (stays sync-ed, etc). It’s great stuff & was just what I was looking for.


Just tested it out of curiosity. It’s nice to interact with, but this app is so very basic it’s a shame. It gives you a bunch of ordered lists. And you have 28 characters per entry. This last sentence was 36 characters.

So if you have more than just shopping to do, Clear will probably underwhelm you. If you shop for stuff that requires some description, it will probably underwhelm you, too.

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