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On standardizing the use of Reminder App and Org mode

October 21, 2018

Since macOS Sierra, I found myself using the Reminder App more often than I did before. This is partly due to the fact that I cannot stand well organized when I rely on manual sticky notes, and it helps recording things I have to do along the week or for a project. On the one hand, the Reminder App is simple enough to meet the needs mentioned above; on the other hand, it lacks serious functionalities like being able to print items, synchronize with Calendar App, while it works pretty well with Fantastical, or a decent API to be used by other software.

Most importantly, it is available on iOS too. I use Reminder for various stuff. Beside simple TODO list and project management, I also make extensive use of Reminder to store web links via Apple Share Action menu. Here is what I currently have in my “Read it later” list:

Note that it also possible to send reminder from Apple Mail directly (although it is not obvious — you have to left-click on the title of a message to send it to the Reminder App). It is also interesting to remark that copy/pasting the above list yields the following plain text checklist:

[ ] ECON 626 Empirical Microeconometrics
[ ] Faster generalised linear models in largeish data
[ ] ECM is finally streaming, and I'm here to tell you what's good - Sound & Complete
[ ] Blogging with org-mode and ox-hugo // Shane Sveller

Interesting, but we loose important metadata (hyperlinks, due dates, notes)! While it is still possible to Get a Spreadsheet of Tasks into, using this handy AppleScript program,1 I found no easy way to go the other way around, that is to export Reminder tasks into another application. Now, I also use Emacs a lot, and as you may have already guessed, I manage various TODO lists with Org mode. The aforementioned action for web capture can easily be implemented in Emacs thanks to this Irreal gem. However, getting a proper way to import, or better, synchronize Reminder items with an Org TODO list seems a lot trickier. From the Apple Documentation Center, we know that Reminder data are stored in the same database than Calendar data, which is located under ~/Library/Calendars. It is easy to lookup specific task with grep or ack. For instance, the first item displayed in the above list reads in iCal format as follows:

PRODID:-//Apple Inc.//Mac OS X 10.13.3//EN
SUMMARY:ECON 626 Empirical Microeconometrics
DESCRIPTION:#readings \n

I guess it should not be too difficult to write a small Python script to process an Org file and write the corresponding VTODO items. However, I am still thinking about it. Wouldn’t it be better to use AppleScript as suggested above instead of bothering with hashing values and Apple internals?

  1. It was even possible at some point to use Drafts 4 to query a virtual folder in iOS Reminder. I didn’t check if it is still working with Drafts 5. ↩︎

apple emacs

See Also

» A text-based workflow for taking note » Why I am still using Emacs » Fixing some critical keyboard shortcuts in OS X terminal » A modular configuration for Emacs » Common Lisp on Mavericks