Thoughts on Checkmark 2

An idea most popular amongst the Apple nerd set with which I associate is the use of task management apps such as OmniFocus and Things on the Mac and iOS to get things done. These setups can be pretty elaborate, and while they're cool and all, such tediously-crafted workflows have never worked for me. For as proudly as I wave my nerd flag, apps like OmniFocus have long intimidated me, and, quite frankly, I neither have the time nor the desire to invest in learning all the ways in which you can tinker with them. More to the point, though, such setups are overkill for my spartan GTD needs. Instead, I've relied on a vastly simplier solution in the form of Kyle Rosenbluth's Begin app for iPhone. It's a beautiful, no-frills to-do app that allows a user to pull down to add a task, compiling each as a list. This piece isn't about Begin, but in a nut, what appeals most to me about Begin is that its simplicity meshes perfectly with how my brain works. It just presents a simple list of things that need to get done, and I can easily swipe to mark an item as completed or to move it to tomorrow. Easy. Over the last few months, however, I've been using Apple's Reminders app in conjuction with Begin to, as the name implies, remind me of the mission critical tasks that need my immediate attention. For the most part, Reminders works well, but I'm not a fan of the iOS 7 redesign and I'd prefer some enhanced features. With this in mind, I was excited (and privileged) to be given early access to Checkmark 2, the Reminders-on-steroids app for iPhone. I've been testing it for the last two or so weeks, and I'm very impressed by it. Checkmark 2 has earned a permanent place on my Home screen, and I find it to be a terrific complement to the aforementioned Begin.

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As with last month's Unread review, this review is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive --- rather, I'm going to discuss Checkmark 2 in accessibility terms. (To learn more about how Checkmark 2 works, check out Dan Moren's and/or Shawn Blanc's write-ups.) That said, my critiques will focus on really only two things: typeface and general readability, as I feel these are the two things that dominate the user experience for me.


Checkmark 2 uses my favorite font, Avenir, as its main font. I like Avenir so much because not only is it beautiful to look at, but it is readable to me. I've stated many times that I'm somewhat of a typography nerd, and good typographic choices in apps or on websites are of critical importance to me. Being visually impaired, a good font to me is one that is (a) pretty but also (b) easy to digest with as little eye strain as possible. The strain factor is, in fact, the biggest reason I turned on Bold Text in iOS 7.1. Having anything and everything system-wide appear in boldface may be worse aesthetically, but it's a major win functionally. Hence, that all text in 7.1 is in bold makes it stand out more, thereby relieving my eyes of the burden of straining to find a button or read something. In the case of Checkmark 2, that it uses a typeface that I already use in so many of the apps I use every day ---- Tweetbot being one ---- means there's instant feelings of comfort and familiarity with the interface. In other words, just the presence of Avenir in Checkmark 2 makes the app approachable and usable. The less eye strain I have, the more time I can spend using and enjoying Checkmark 2.


Naturally, a developer and/or user interface designer's typographic choices are going to influence the readability of an app or website. In Checkmark 2's case, as I previously stated, the app is very readable to me. I have no issues with navigating the app. If I had one quibble, it would be to perhaps tweak Avenir slightly so as to use a thicker weight. As it stands, the default weight is a bit light for my tastes, so I'd prefer a heavier one because that would make text stand out even more than it already does. The lighter weight by no means adversely affects my usage so much that I can't do what I need to do, but it could stand to be better. This applies as well to the Scheduled, Recurring, and Done icons in the toolbar and in the sidebar options. Even with the darker contrast of the sidebar and the button highlighting in the toolbar, the Avenir is still a tad light for me, which does add more strain that normal. Other than these quibbles, however, I have nothing else to nit pick. Checkmark 2 really is very well done.


Though I'm still not (nor will I likely ever be) a hardcore GTD power user, the fact is that Checkmark 2 is one of those simple yet powerful apps that I can wrap my brain around. It's made organizing and prioritizing my life a helluva lot easier, and it's pretty damn accessible for my use case (I didn't test VoiceOver because I don't use it). Ryan Cash and the Built By Snowman crew did a great job with 2.0, and I'm looking forward to seeing what's next.

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You can get Checkmark 2 for $2.99 on the App Store now. Get it.