How to use MacOS Reminders (and why you should)

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MacOS is full of tools to help make your life easier. And the busier we are, the more tools we need. Such is the case with reminders. I don’t know about you, but without reminders, I’d be lucky to remember half the things I have to do.

With the latest iteration of Reminders (found at Mac OS is coming), there are new features, such as:

  • Organize reminders by time and date
  • pinned lists
  • Templates
  • Text format and lists
  • Completed section (for when you complete a task)
  • notifications
  • tags

I’ve used many reminder tools, and MacOS Reminders is hands down one of the most enjoyable to work with. Not only does it fit perfectly with the MacOS user interface, but it is also very easy to use and includes a slider sidebar widget. You can also use Reminders as a to-do tool. Even better, you can set notifications for a specific time or even a location. For example, you might have a shopping list for Target. You can set a reminder that will appear when you arrive at Target so that you remember to check your shopping list.

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Now that I’ve piqued your interest, let’s see how Reminders works.


All you need is a MacOS computer running MacOS 10.8 (Mountain Lion) or later. (Reminders is also available for iOS, but I don’t use Apple phones, so I’ll focus on the desktop version of the app.)

How to create a list

You can open Reminders from the Launchpad. Click the Launchpad icon, find the Reminders app, and click the launcher.

A list is not a reminder, although you can add reminders to list items. To create your first list, click the + (the plus sign) in the lower left corner of the Reminders window. In the resulting popup, give the list a name and select a color. Click OK when done.

The list names popup in MacOS Ventura.

Creating a new list in MacOS Reminders.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Once you’ve created the list, make sure to select it in the left pane. With the list selected, click the + in the upper right corner of the Reminders window to add your first item to the list. In the new bullet, type the list item and press Enter on your keyboard to add another bullet.

The main MacOS Reminders window showing a new list.

Add an entry to a list in MacOS Reminders.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Let’s say you have an item on your list that needs to be taken care of at a specific time. Hover over that item to reveal an i with a circle around it. Click i and a new popup will open, where you can add a note, set a date or location, and even set the priority of the item.

The MacOS Reminders popup window.

Add a reminder to a list item in MacOS Reminders.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

How to create a reminder

As the name suggests, you can also set reminders. Adding a reminder is very similar to adding a list. Select Reminders in the My Lists panel and click the + in the upper right corner of the Reminders window. This will add a new bullet, where you write your reminder. Once you’ve added a new reminder, you can click the associated i icon and add a note, a time or location-based reminder, and set the priority.

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As you add more reminders, you’ll see the four cards in the upper left corner fill up. You can click on any of those cards to see both the reminders and the lists. For example, click Scheduled and you’ll see all the lists and reminders that have a schedule associated with them.

Templates and smart lists

When I started using Reminders in Ventura, I noticed that the Templates and Smart Lists entries in the File menu were greyed out. To use those features, I first had to enable Reminders in iCloud. To do that, open Settings, go to iCloud, and set the ON/OFF slider for Reminders to the ON position. This will enable the Templates and Smart Lists features in Reminders.

The macOS Settings app open in iCloud.

Enabling reminders for iCloud.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

With the Templates option enabled, you can create a list, save it as a template, and then create a new list based on the template.

You can now convert a list to a smart list, which will automatically tag all entries in the list with a tag that is the same as the name of the list. Using Smart Lists is the only way to add labels to Reminders, so if that’s a feature you want to use, you’ll need to convert your lists to Smart Lists. To do this, select the list in question and click File > Convert to Smart List.

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Tags make it easy to find items when you have many lists and many entries in each list.

And that’s the gist of using the macOS Reminders app. If you’re looking for a simple way to keep lists and get reminded of things to do, this app should be at the top of your list to try.

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