Minimal ToDo: Begin Review

These days, you can’t go anywhere on the AppStore without tripping over some sort of ToDo app.  To stand out, an app has to do more than just work, it has to enhance or alter the way you go about  organizing and checking off tasks on a list.  This has resulted in many flashy apps that do way more than I would ever need them to do.  Most feel bloated or distracting, making task management more, not less frustrating.  

Begin is one of the only ToDo apps I have stuck with for longer than a week.  It is a beautiful and minimalist ToDo app released to the world by the talented trinity of Kyle Rosenbluth, of Applause Code, Ben Brooks, of the Brooks Review, and David Lanham, of The Icon Factory.  

 
 

The app is minimalist in both design as well as functionality. Begin allows you to delegate tasks for today, or push tasks to tomorrow, but no further.  This isn’t an app that you load up with reminders and checklists many weeks in advance, rather, Begin is the sort of app you open first thing in the morning, think through your goals for the day, and only list the things you use plan on getting done, not the millions of things you would like to do.  

Begin uses a single view, where many alternative ToDo apps use layered panels and nested lists. The top half of the screen displays all the tasks you have entered for today, and darker panel below displays tasks that have been pushed to tomorrow.  Pulling down on the list reveals the task entry pane, and pulling up reveals uncompleted tasks from the past day.  

 
 

All of the gestures feel great.  I particularly like that navigation is restricted to vertical swipes, reducing confusion with the left and right horizontal actions used to mark tasks completed, or move them between today and tomorrow.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that the app is ridiculously gorgeous.  The free version includes two themes (light and dark), and three typefaces (including my favorite, Avenir Next).  Extending Begin with a $1 in app purchase adds six more themes, five more typefaces, additional reminder options, an app icon badge, and the option to remove the navigation bar, making the app full screen. This final option uses color of the add-task pane underneath iOS 7’s transparent status bars to add a slick bit of style to an already great looking app.  When you pull down to an item, the status bar seems to extend down, which looks great and feels very organic.

 
 

I enjoy using opinionated apps, as I have often found that a lack of options forces me to focus on using the tool rather than making it’s preference panel my job for the next hour.  I use Begin in addition to Reminders (within Fantastical), and have found it incredibly useful for keeping myself on track, without cluttering my calendar or project lists.  Every morning I received a Launch Center Pro notification that takes me to Begin, where I take the time to think through my day, and list out the things I would like to accomplish.  If I end up unable to complete a task, I simply push it to tomorrow.  It’s not a system that will appeal to everyone, but I have found it very helpful, if only to slow down and think through the day before I start working.

Begin is free in the App Store