Create Reminders Ultra-Quickly – Mac Kung Fu, 2nd Edition

Tip 17Create Reminders Ultra-Quickly

Imagine the situation: you receive an email from a friend reminding you to pick up a book for him from the bookstore. Being a Mac OS X user, you know exactly how to handle the situation: you can add an entry in the Reminders app, which will then be shared with your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. No more forgetting!

There’s just one problem: starting Reminders and then creating the actual entry on the list is a lot of effort and far from the casual single-click we might expect of Apple technology.

There are two solutions to this terrible problem, as follows.

Dragging and Dropping to the Reminders App

If the mail you’ve received has as its subject line the nature of the reminder (e.g., “Don’t forget to pick up the book!”), you can drag and drop the email from the list within Mail to the Reminders icon on the Dock, or you can drag and drop the email on top of the Reminders program window if it’s open. This will instantly create a new reminder named after the subject of the mail, and you’ll even be provided with a link to the original email within the reminder (click Show in Mail).

If anybody has replied to the original email or if it’s part of a series received from the sender, then this trick needs a little modification—click the email in the list so it’s visible in the preview pane on the right side of the Mail window. Then move the mouse cursor over the left side of the email preview, near the Subject and Reply-To headings. The cursor will change to a hand grabber. You can then click and drag the mail to the Reminders app, as described earlier.

Adding a “Create Reminder” Entry to Right-Click Menus

As easy as drag and drop is, wouldn’t it be handy just to be able to select the text in the email (i.e., “pick up the book from the store”), then right-click, and select a menu option that will instantly create a Reminders entry—even if Reminders isn’t running? This function isn’t built into OS X but can be easily created and will work in almost any app. The following are the necessary steps, although there are actually two methods—the first will simply add a reminder without prompting you for any details, while the second will pop up a dialog box wherein you can select which Reminders list to use, the reminder’s priority, and its due date.

Creating a Simple Reminders Service

Here’s how to create the first of the options mentioned earlier—a simple right-click option that will instantly create a new reminder in the default list based on the text you select:

  1. Open Automator, which can be found in the Applications view of Finder. If the new file dialog doesn’t appear, click FileNew. In the Choose a Type For Your Document dialog box, select Service (the cog icon), and then click the Choose button.

  2. In the search field above the list of actions within the Automator program window, type New Reminders Item. Click and drag the only item in the list (which will also read New Reminders Item) to the right side of the Automator window, over the text Drag Actions or Files Here to Build Your Workflow.

  3. Leave everything blank. All you need to do is click FileSave and then type a name for your new service in the Save Service As dialog box. This is what’ll appear in the right-click menu, so something like Create Reminder is fine (there’s no need to choose somewhere to save the service because they’re automatically saved in the correct location). Then you can quit Automator.

You can try your new service straightaway. Just highlight some text, right-click it, and select Create Reminder (or ServicesCreate Reminder if there’s no Create Reminder option on the menu). If Reminders is running, you’ll see the entry has been added, but even if it isn’t, the entry is still added, as you’ll find when you next start the app.

Creating a Pop-up Dialog Box Service

Here’s how to create a service similar to the one earlier except when you select Create Reminder from the right-click menu, a dialog box will pop up each time to let you set options such as which reminder list will be used, its priority, and due date.

  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 earlier so that the basic New Reminders Item automator service is in place. However, click the Options link at the bottom of the service.

  2. Check the box Show This Action When The Workflow Runs; then check Show Only The Selected Items.

  3. You will now see a checkbox alongside each item of the service. Check everything, except the Title field. You should end up with something that looks like Figure 6, Creating a service to create new reminders. Now repeat the earlier step 4 to save the new action.


    Figure 6. Creating a service to create new reminders

Test our new service by highlighting some text, right-clicking it, and selecting Create Reminder (or ServicesCreate Reminder if there’s no Create Reminder option on the menu). A dialog box should appear letting you set various options, such as which of your Reminders lists to add the new reminder to. Select from them, and click the Continue button. (Note that, on my test Mac, the first time I used this new service, an additional dialog box popped up asking if the app could access my contacts; I assume this is a bug, but agreeing to it will do no harm.)

If Reminders is running, you’ll see the entry has been added—complete with the attributes you set—but even if it isn’t, the entry is still added, as you’ll find when you next start the app.

Removing the Menu Entry

To remove the service, should you want to, open Finder, and then hit Shift+Command+G. In the dialog box that appears, type ~/Library/Services, and hit Return. Then drag the service you created to the trash. Log out and back in again to complete the removal.