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« New Version Available: Creating Reminders From Mail.app | Main | There is no better time than now (via Xkcd) »
Wednesday
Jan182012

Creating Reminders from Mail.app (or any other app) #apple #gtd #productivity

When Apple updated OS X to Lion and introduced iCloud, several updates were made to iCal, Mail.app, etc. One of these "updates" is moving To-Do functionality into iCal, which before was managed in mail.app. Add the introduction of iCloud and the iOS reminders app to the mix, suddenly tasks/todos/reminders become much more useful as an Apple user. With the time I spend in email and browsing the internet, I need a simple way to create reminders without having to switch to iCal (which runs as fullscreen app) and typing or copy/pasting information. I am a big Automator and services fan, the stock Automator action to create reminders is limited though - e.g. I use notes extensively - so I created my own:

  • Preset basic information in your Automator workflow
  • When text is passed into the action, it is used as the title of the reminder
  • A popup window will allow overriding these settings
  • Add notes to the reminder
  • Add URL to the reminder
  • iCal-like input/text fields
  • Creating the reminder can be aborted
  • Outputs an iCal Todo object that can be further used in your Automator action

I've been testing and tweaking over the last week and feel it works good enough to share. I'd love your get input/feedback, as I want to continue to make it better. Please see below TODO's for known limitations and issues. As I make updates, I will post them on my blog. So make sure to check back regularly. If you have any questions, comments or issues please drop me an email.

This Automator action is provided on an AS-IS basis, which means I am not liable if anything goes wrong with or because of it. Here is the long version of the disclaimer.

With that out of the way :-), here is what you need to do:

Step 1
Download the action here

Step 2
Unzip the downloaded file if needed. Double click the unzipped file and follow the dialogs to install the action

Step 3
Open Automator

Step 4
Create a new Service


Step 5
From the left hand panel select Calendar

Step 6
From the middle panel select "New iCal Reminder" and drag it to the right hand panel

Step 7
Adjust any of the settings on the screen. Note: Not all calendars will accept reminders. If you are an iCloud user you most likely should choose "Reminders"

Step 8
Save the service with a telling name, like "Create new Reminder"


Head over to any app, select some text and right click. You should see your new service (maybe in the Services sub-menu). If you are using iCloud, these reminders will be sync with your subscribed iOS devices.

TODO:

  • Fix issue when iCal is not running. If you receive an error message, please start iCal manually an try again.
  • Pasting into the notes field on the popup only works with right-click (or control-click) mouse
  • Show only calendars that can actually store reminders
  • Drag and Drop to Title, Notes and URL text fields
  • Popup UI needs some (serious) work
  • Add the ability to include URLs in reminders
  • Error handling and logging needs improvement
  • Tweak and optimize
  • Add popout tray with existing reminders for selected calendar
  • Add alarms?

References (3)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Creating Reminders from Mail.app (or any other app) #apple #gtd #productivity - Dave's Blog on Architecture ... and random Stuff - Dave's Blog on Architecture ... and random stuff
  • Related
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Reader Comments (7)

This is really nice. Love the work. One thing that would make this a great solution... In Evernote, they now use "Copy Note Links" and have clean url's.

Problem is when I paste the "Copy Note Link" it won't save the Reminder. I am guessing that the clean url is giving the workflow problems of some kind.

Please tell me this is fixable. This would be so amazing and a well thought out workflow for actually using reminders again (since Snow Leopard).

Again, thanks for the great use of Automator.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDean Holmes

Thanks Dean. I will take a look at this right now and post back what I have found. Evernote is one of the Apps I actually did not test with.

-Dave

March 1, 2012 | Registered CommenterDavid Smith

hey, I so want this to work! my download v5.1 gives a "The action “New iCal Reminder Action” could not be loaded because its executable is not loadable." have tried a few times, clearly I seem like the only one. oh well.

May 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkurt

What version of OS X are you running?

May 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterDavid Smith

ah! good point. I am running 10.6.8 so a bit behind the times. would that be it?
you would think being able to make a reminder out of an email, while looking at it, would not be so hard. so got excited when I found your post.
thanks for the response

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkurt

This action is for Lion only. That said, prior to Lion Reminders (or ToDo's) are saved in Mail in Snow Leopard. If memory serves, you should be able to create a ToDo from an email fairly simply.

May 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterDavid Smith

I realize this post is quite old, but does anyone know if all of the above will work in Mavericks? Or is there perhaps a similar built-in function for this now? (<-- I suspect not since lately Apple seems to be moving backwards in the progress arena, if you know what I mean...) Also, I agree with a previous comment or that this is an awesome baby step into Automator fun... Is anyone able to point me in the direction of a clean & simple beginners guide to this? I'm fairly tech-savvy, but have attempted my standard 'explore&fiddle around' method of self-instruction with Automator once or twice in the past, but with the heavy use of programming jargon, I didn't invest much effort before tiring of it. Any/all input on any of the above would be greatly appreciated! Or perhaps our OP might kindly consider a 2014 edition of this article? Hopefully, thanks in advance!

February 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKrista

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