You’ve just returned from running errands: you went to the supermarket, picked up the dry cleaning, even stopped for coffee — but crap, you forgot to stop by the post office right next to the coffee shop. Location-aware to-do service ReQall makes sure that won’t happen again.
Like any other to-do app, ReQall helps you stay on top of projects and to-dos, but it also brings your tasks to you at the right time, including when you’re near the place you need to do something. Think of ReQall as your personal assistant that knows where you are and what you have to do there, what you have coming up, and when to remind you that your work is due.
ReQall is a great web service that can help you keep your to-dos, appointments and projects organised. Since we first mentioned it, the service has grown, updated their mobile apps for iOS and Android, launched a beta app for Android that briefs you on important news, events and to-dos over the course of the day, and still keeps you informed of your to-dos based on where you are and when they need to be complete.
ReQall certainly isn’t the only tool out there to help you organise your to-dos. What makes ReQall special is the emphasis it places on keeping your proactively aware of what you have to do and what’s on your plate. It may not be the most feature-rich to-do list manager, but it’s definitely one of the smartest and most proactive personal assistant services we’ve ever seen. Here’s how to set it up to be your personal assistant.
Set Up ReQall
The first thing you’ll need is a ReQall account. You’ll be able to do most of the things we describe here with the Standard account, but the Pro account offers some advanced features like integration with Evernote, direct integration with Google Calendar or Outlook for events, and push notifications of to-dos in specific places via GPS. Standard accounts are free, and you get a 15-day trial of ReQall Pro. ReQall Pro will set you back $US24.99/year or $US2.99/month once your 30-day trial if over.
The basic web services and many proactive alerts are free however, so there’s no need to sign up or a paid account if you don’t want to. However, since ReQall offers new users that trial of the pro features, it’s worth signing up, seeing if you make heavy use of them, and then deciding whether you want to pay for it. If not, do nothing and ReQall will automatically bump your trial Pro account to Standard.
Once your account is created, you’ll want to go download the ReQall mobile app for your iOS or Android device. Install it, and log in to your ReQall account there as well. Having the app on your mobile device extends your ability to check in on your to-dos when you’re on the go, and to have those to-dos alert you when it’s time to do them. Even if you don’t have a smartphone, you can still make use of ReQall’s SMS alerts.
Finally, add ReQall’s toll-free number (you’ll get it once you’ve associated your phone with your account) to your address book or contacts on any type of phone to make use of the service’s transcription features. You can always call the voice entry number to add to-dos and appointments by voice, whether you have a standard or a pro account. The difference is that pro accounts have the option for human transcription of their voice messages. Smartphone users can use the mobile app or the phone number for voice entry.
Set up To-Dos and Shopping Lists with Alerts
Once your account is all set up and you have the mobile apps installed, now it’s time to enter some to-dos, appointments or deadlines. You can enter and manage tasks from the web app or the mobile apps, or call the toll-free number to enter tasks (although the voice-to-text is spotty without human transcription). ReQall supports common language for dates, so you can either speak or type in your to-dos on the web or by phone and say things like “Submit project schedule next Tuesday” and ReQall will add an item to your to-dos with the same name and set the due date to the following Tuesday.
Best of all, ReQall will automatically set an alert for that item for a half-hour before the time you entered the item on the due date. For example, if I enter a task to “Visit the market this Saturday” at 10am, it’ll add the task to my to-dos for Saturday, and set a reminder for me to go out at 9.30am to remind me to do it. Pro account holders can also get SMS alerts, and smartphone users will get push notifications from their iOS or Android app that they have a task due in the next half-hour. If you dislike the notifications or email/SMS alerts, you can turn them off.
ReQall isn’t just for to-dos or projects. You can also manage your shopping list using the app. Just as with to-dos, you can add items to your shopping list with due dates, so you can say “Buy milk and eggs on Tuesday”, and the item will be added to your shopping list with a due date of next Tuesday. You’ll get the same kind of alerts to buy milk and eggs on Tuesday along with all of your other to-do items.
Whether you’re using the web app or the mobile app, you can add items, edit them, change their due dates, or toggle alerts on or off. You can also add notes: just thoughts that don’t correspond to tasks or shopping list items, or you can set up recurring tasks that have to be done on a regular schedule like maintenance on your car, backups for your computer, or household chores. Everything about entering tasks and toggling alerts is easy, and meant to give you a way to be reminded of your to-dos without having to remember to go look at your organiser or to-do app. This is all standard fare for most to-do managers; what’s next is where ReQall really shines.
Set Up and Tag Locations
If you have a pro account and a smartphone, you get a real benefit here because you can save locations to your phone via GPS. For example, when considering new bookshelves for my apartment, I added “Buy bookshelves for the living room” to my shopping list, and tagged the item with my local IKEA’s address.
The next time I drove past my local IKEA, ReQall alerted me that I was nearby and told me that I’d meant to buy bookshelves there, without me having to fish for my phone and check, or try to remember if there was something I meant to get at IKEA. I’ve used the same trick for grocery stores and banks, to remind me to deposit cheques when I go out for lunch, or to pick up dinner on the way home from work. Save the locations you create for future shopping trips or to-dos, and you’ll be able to quickly tag other shopping list items with the location in the future.
You can save multiple locations, which is useful for location-based alerts around places you normally go. If you want to pick up bread and milk on the drive home but know you’ll forget in the middle of your commute, add the grocery store that you pass to ReQall, save break and milk in your shopping list, and when you pass the grocery store, you’ll get an alert that you meant to pull over and pick them up on your way home.
Keeping multiple locations stored is a big benefit. For example, when you do get home from your commute, you’ll be notified of any to-dos that you told yourself you would take care of when you arrived.
My family often asks me to help troubleshoot computer problems or other household issues when I come to visit, so I use ReQall to enter the to-dos, tag them with my family home, and then when I go visit, the app tells me that I meant to update their PC with the latest patches or run a speed test to find out why they’re dropping packets. That way I don’t have to remember that I promised to look into it weeks before I actually get around to visiting, and I don’t forget to do it while I’m there because they didn’t want to impose or I didn’t specifically think to open ReQall.
Let the To-Dos Come to You
Once you have some tasks and shopping list items entered, locations stored, and some alerts and due-dates set, sit back and let your work come to you. The beauty of an app that serves as a personal assistant is partially in how easy it is to enter apps, either by voice or by text, but also in the fact that you don’t have to remember what you have on your plate on a given day, your plate comes to you.
As you enter items into ReQall, keep an eye on when the alerts are set to go out. If you’re the type who likes to be notified right before something due, the app defaults to sending alerts a half-hour prior to the deadline. I like to enter most of my to-dos to alert me in a rush at the beginning of the day, around 8.30am. That way when I look at my phone or my inbox, I have alerts for every item I have to accomplish that day. As I work through them, I can check them off in the web app or on my phone to indicate the item is complete. Either way works, and both methods let you put the work out of your head until it’s necessary that you think about them. Choose the alerting method that works best for you.
Go a Step Further with ReQall Rover
We mentioned ReQall Rover when the beta launched as an invite-only affair. The app (Android only, unfortunately) uses connections to your Google account to pull down Google Calendar appointments, contacts, and actionable items from your Gmail messages. It uses your Facebook likes to personalise news for you, and your location to tell you what weather and traffic conditions are like in your area, and to alert you to local deals on shopping and nearby restaurants.
It sounds like a lot of personal information to centralize in one application, and it is”what you get back however is a morning, afternoon, and evening update from Rover on everything the service thinks you should know. ReQall Rover is still invite-only, but the beta is open and invite codes are given out to anyone who asks for one: ReQall just throttles them based on demand.
While Rover has come a long way since we first mentioned it, it’s still hit or miss depending on how heavily you use ReQall. For many users, the standard ReQall mobile apps are more than enough to automate your to-dos. However, if you’re a heavy user of Google Calendar and tasks, like to share your activities with friends on Twitter and Facebook, or just like the personal touch that comes with spoken to-dos every morning, afternoon, and evening, ReQall Rover is worth a look.
Rover has a way to go to fulfil it’s promise to automatically skim your Gmail messages for actionable items, or to give you more control over the news it reads to you, but the app has improved its local deal and restaurant recommendations and can find you a nice place to have lunch in between your to-dos. Rover is Android-only at the moment, and while it had its bugs, it was useful to get those regular “stuff you need to know” summaries over the course of the day, the same way I would get if I actually had a real personal assistant. Even so, many users on the Android market report issues, so your mileage may vary.
With a little time and some simple setup, ReQall is the best organisational tool I’ve ever used. It’s not perfect, but its proactive, “come to me when you brainstorm, I’ll come to you with your work” approach keeps me away from alternatives. While the focus here has been on setting up ReQall to bring your tasks and appointments to you without you having to think about them, the service has other features like task sharing with other people in your contacts, integration with Evernote for clippings, notes, and to-dos, integration with Goole Calendar, Outlook and iCal, and a Firefox extension that can all help you stay organised.
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the number of tools ReQall has to offer however. Sign up for an account, and get started with the web apps and the mobile apps first to see if it’s for you. After a few days or weeks of being reminded of the things you have to do when you have to do them, and entering them when you think about them, you’ll never have to think “was there something I was supposed to do today,” because ReQall will tell you — without forcing you to remember to look at it.