Complete: Apple Reminders User Guide for Beginners (iPad)

FAQs

How can I get Apple Reminders on Windows?

Apple Reminders has a web app that you can access on Windows using a web browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, etc.). However, the web app does not have all the features you get in the app on other devices (iPhone, iPad, and Mac).

Apple Reminders is a get-things-done app for the iPad, Mac, and iPhone. This guide will help you master how to use it on your iPad.

Supported OS

Apple Reminders requires iOS/iPadOS 10.0 or later, watchOS 2.2 or later, and on the Mac. It’s not available on non-Apple platforms but has a web app.

Alternatives

AppsiOS/iPadOSmacOSWindowsAndroidWeb
Microsoft To Do
Google TasksWeb Extension
Todoist
Alternatives that are available on other platforms

Orientation

Apple Reminders is a minimalist GTD app that is divided into two columns: a small left column for your lists and tags, and a large right one for your tasks or to-dos. This guide will use tasks and to-dos interchangeably. The right column further divides into three distinct sections. Starting from the top, it has your smart lists, lists from different accounts, and Tags.

At the top of the right column, you have a customisable toolbar for quick actions. The homepage of the app is also its workspace. To help you understand what that means, let’s look at Noteful. Noteful has a homepage for organising your notes. But when you open a notebook to start taking notes, you go to an entirely different user interface with different tools. This is called a workspace. Now back to Apple Reminders: We don’t have a separate homepage and workspace. This is a typical setup with most GTD apps.

Simple lists and tasks

Before you can start creating tasks, you need to create a list. Tap Add List (bottom of the sidebar), name your list, pick a colour and icon for it, and tap Done to save the list. Apple Reminders adds your new list to the sidebar under My Lists. To start adding items to the new list, go to New Reminder (bottom of the right column), name your task, and tap the Return key to add another task. That is the simplest to-do list you can create in Apple Reminders. As you tick off the items on your list, they disappear from the list.

Date-based reminders

To add a date to your task, tap on it and then the calendar icon on the top toolbar. You can add dates for Today (if this is a task you need to do today, for example, call Mom about Mauritius today). I can choose to call her Tomorrow, Next Week, or This Weekend. Or choose Custom to pick a specific date and time.

There are those tasks that you need to do multiple times, though. Creating a new reminder for each time is not very practical. So, for my travel plans, I need to do research on Mauritius. The activities that we can do and the accommodation options. That’s something I can create a reminder for once, and it keeps repeating. The easiest way to do that is just to write it out (on Sunday every two weeks, at 16:00 hrs). Apple calls this natural language. It works great for simple repeats that are straightforward.

You also have preset repeat options in Apple Reminders for Hourly, Daily, Weekdays, Weekends repeats, etc. and if these don’t work for you, you can use Custom repeats that support Hourly, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly repeats. To give you examples, I could choose to go on holiday every two years. A student could practise Maths every 3 days and a professional could check emails every eight hours. You can also decide when to End (the) Repeat. For my holiday, it’s not something I want to end, so that will Repeat Forever. A student might revise math until the day of the test, which will be a specific date (March 29). Each time you make changes to your time, you must tap Apply to save them.

Just a quick recap. You can add dates with natural language when creating your tasks in Apple Reminders. For example, “Go to Nancy’s chess game next week Thursday at 1400hrs”. You can also repeat your tasks and choose when to end the repeat. For example, I could schedule to study Noteful every day for two weeks and then end the repeat.

Adding items to your reminder

Notes

Sometimes, dates are not enough, especially when planning a complex project. You might need notes to add important details to your tasks. To get started, go to the “i” icon > Notes, or start typing right below your task name. The keyboard toolbar has some basic formatting options. Select the notes you want to format to make them Bold, Italic, or Underlined. On the popup menu, go to Format for more formatting options to add a Bulleted List, Dashed List, and Numbered List. Formatting helps add structure to very long notes, which can only have a maximum limit of 4000 characters (about 500 to 1300 words).

On your list, the app displays some of the notes, but not all of them. So, you have to tap them as though you’re editing if you want to see them fully. Instead of notes, you can add web links to the notes section of your task (as many as you like). Apple Reminders also has a dedicated slot for a web link (go to the inspection icon and look for a URL slot). This slot only accommodates one link. It’s ideal for adding the main website you visit often for that task. Tapping a web link opens it in your default web browser. Long-pressing a link in your notes or right-clicking it gives you options to Open Link, Copy Link or Share it.

Long-pressing a link, the web link in your URL slot, or right-clicking it lets you Copy, Share and also change the size of your thumbnail. It can either be a small or large thumbnail. Web links look better when you add them to the URL slot instead of your notes. You can also Delete the thumbnail. One thing you get with long-pressing but not with right-clicking a web link is a preview of the website. You can choose to hide it if you want; tap Hide preview (top right corner of the preview window) and Tap to show preview to bring it back up.

Images

Images can be useful when added to your reminders. In Apple Reminders, you can add images from the Photos library or your iPad camera. Tap the task > then the inspection icon > scroll all the way down to Add Image. You can Take Photo with the iPad camera. You can turn on the flashlight if you want, but some iPads don’t have this feature. You can also flip the camera. Retake the image if you don’t like it, or Use Photo to add it to your task.

You can Scan Document using the iPadOS scanning feature. We will cover this feature in a different video. You can then adjust the edges of your scan before you Keep Scan to save it. You also have the option to Retake scans you’re not happy with. Unlike with your photos, Apple Reminders temporarily saves all your scans. You can, therefore, scan many pages at once. Save to add them after you finish scanning all the papers you need to scan.

The third and final way to add photos to your task is from the Photo Library. You can only add one picture at a time, though. Apple Reminders can handle 14 images without a problem, but after that, it starts glitching. To delete some images, tap the red icon in front of the image. Tap Done to save the images to your task. Apple Reminders displays your images below your task as big thumbnails or as small ones. Long-press any image to change the size of your thumbnail. You can also long-press an image to Delete it.

Tags

There are several ways to add tags to your to-dos in Apple Reminders: To tag your task, tap the notes section and start typing the hashtag. Apple Reminders will show you some suggestions on your keyboard toolbar for tags you’re already using. You can pick it up from the toolbar or continue to write yours if it is new > tap space to add the new tag. Under the “i” icon, you can also add Tags from the ones displayed, or you can Add New Tag > the space bar or return key will save the new tag.

When all your tags are listed, you can easily select and deselect the ones you want for your task. Taping on the tag lets you deselect it, so you can decide the tags you want and select them to add to the task > tap Done to save. The top toolbar also has a tag icon that you can use to tag your tasks. Tap on it, pick the tags you want to use, or Edit Tags, and Add New Tag to create a new one. When you have added your new tag, tap Apply to save the changes.

Flags

Another way to organise your to-dos is to flag them, and there are two ways you can do that. The fastest and easiest way is to swipe to the left and tap Flag. You can also easily unflag a task the same way. You can flag your tasks in Apple Reminders: under the “i” icon, go to Flag and turn it on, and then tap Done to save the changes. An orange flag appears on the far right side of your task to show that it has been flagged.

Priorities

The priority feature adds exclamation marks before your task, which will immediately grab your attention when you’re going through your to-dos. To add some, tap the task to bring up the “i” icon, go to Priority and select the priority level you want: Low, Medium, or High. Tap Done to save the changes.

Location-based reminders

Sometimes you might not want date-based reminders. You might need a notification when you arrive at a certain place or when you’re messaging someone. You can set a location-based reminder in three ways. Select the reminder you want to work with, go to the location icon on the top of the toolbar. You can be notified when Getting in/out of Car. Custom lets you enter a location, then choose to be notified when Arriving or Leaving that location and tap Done to save your changes.

You can tap the reminder to bring up the “i” icon, turn on Location, then choose the similar options you get as mentioned above: getting in/out of the car and Custom for when Arriving or Leaving your chosen location > Details > Done. Lastly, you can ask Siri to set a location-based reminder for you.

Message-based reminders

You can make Apple Reminders notify you of a task when you’re messaging someone. Tap the reminder to bring up the “i” icon, go to and turn on When Messaging and Choose Person from your contacts. Tap Done to save the changes. Apple Reminders will send you a notification when you chat with that person in the Messages app.

Organisation

Apple Reminders has groups that let you organise your lists. Lists in the app can be part of a group, or they can be independent (standalone). Lists are a collection of tasks (also called to-dos). You can then have subtasks under your tasks. Apple Reminders, therefore, has four levels of organisation:

  • Groups
    • Lists
      • Tasks/to-dos
        • Subtasks that are as detailed as tasks.

Groups

To add a group, go to the three-dots icon (top of the app) and then Edit Lists and tap Add Group (bottom left corner of the left sidebar). You can then name your group, Include the lists you want in the group (simply tap on them), go back to New Group and Create. To edit the lists in your group, go to the three-dots icon > Edit Lists > tap the inspection icon on the group you want to edit > go to Include > tap the plus icon to add a list and the minus icon to Remove them. You can also rearrange your lists (grab the three-bar icon and drag where you want it). Go to Group Info > tap Done to save your changes. It is faster to long-press the group > go to Show Group Info and start editing your lists.

On the sidebar, under My Lists, you can toggle to view or hide the lists in a group (tap the arrow on the right side of the group name). To move a list between groups, long-press it and drag it to the group you want it in. You can also drag it out to make it a standalone list. To delete a group, long-press it > tap Delete Group, > then choose to either Delete Group Only (and keep your lists) or Delete Group and Lists to delete everything.

Lists

Lists are a collection of to-dos or tasks in Apple Reminders that you can edit even after you have created them. To do that, go three dots icon > Show List Info then you can rename the list or change its colour and icon. Tap Done to save your changes. Sometimes, you need to edit several to-dos at once. Under the three-dots icon, go to Select Reminders and pick all the reminders you want to edit. You can then change the Date, Time, Repeat and End Repeat > tap Apply to save the changes. To move tasks to another list, tap the folder icon and choose a list to move the reminders to. You can also delete the selected to-dos. For more actions, go to the three-dots icon (bottom right corner) to Mark as Completed, You can also Mark as Incomplete if they’re completed. Add Tag or Flag all the selected tasks.

To arrange your tasks in the list, go to the three-dots icon > Sort By and choose from the available options to organise the list: Manual (to drag and rearrange the to-dos yourself), Deadline (from Earliest First or Latest First), Creation date (arranges your to-dos according to when you added them to the list, from the Oldest First or Newest First), Priority (from the Highest First or Lowest First), or Title (in Ascending or Descending order).

Apple Reminders can either show or hide your completed tasks. Three-dots icon > Show Completed if they are hidden or Hide Completed to declutter your list. When you Delete List (under the three-dots icon), it will delete all your to-dos in the list, as well as the list itself.

Subtasks

There are several ways to add subtasks in Apple Reminders. Tap on the task to bring up, and go to the “i” icon. Look for Subtasks (bottom of the popup window) and Add Reminder. You can then name your subtask and add several more if you want. Go back to save the changes (tap Done).

You can also convert normal tasks to subtasks. To do that, long-press a task in your list and Indent Reminder. A simpler way to turn a task into a subtask is to swipe to the right and Indent. In both cases, Apple Reminders adds the subtask to the task above it. An even faster gesture is to drag and drop the task into the main task of your choice. It gives you more control over where your subtask goes.
To revert subtasks to main tasks, long-press the subtask and Outdent Reminder, swipe to the right again and Outdent, or simply drag and drop it out of the main task.

Main tasks that contain subtasks stand out in two ways in Apple Reminders. They are bold and show the number of subtasks they contain (far right side of the screen). Toggle the arrow next to the number to show or hide the subtasks under your main task. Each subtask can have as much detail as the main task. To get started, bring up the “i” icon, and you can add all the details you want. Tap Done to save the changes.

iPadOS support

In Apple Reminders, you can multitask with multiple instances to open the app twice. You can also split view the app with other apps on your iPad that support multitasking. The app also supports slide over, which opens the app as a small window on the side of the screen.

Apple Reminders supports dark mode, which automatically converts all the colours in the app for low-light situations. Data detection recognises numbers and emails. It does not recognise addresses if they are in your notes, though. Apple Reminders has a widget that displays a list of your choice in three sizes. When you Add Widget you can tap on it to choose the List you want to see on your home screen. You can check off items on your list without opening the app. Widgets don’t display your subtasks, though.

Templates

If you use a list often, you can save it as a template. Go to the three-dots icon and Save as Template. You can then name your template and decide whether you want to Include Completed Reminders in it. By default, Apple Reminders copies all incomplete reminders to the template. Save (top right corner) your template to the template library.
To create a new list from a template, go to the stacked-squares icon and tap on the template. You can rename it if you want and Create. You can also access your templates when creating new lists on the Templates tab.

You can edit the templates in Apple Reminders. Go to the “i” icon on the template to Edit Template if you want to make some changes to it. You can change the details of tasks and subtasks. The three-dots icon lets you Show Template Info to edit the template name, colour, and icon. Create List from Template creates a new list from the template. Select Reminders lets you select multiple tasks for editing. You can add a New Section to your template and even arrange your tasks in the list (Sort By).

You can Share Template, which creates an iCloud link that you can share with others. For templates you’re sharing, you can Manage Link to Send Link or Stop Sharing the template. You can also access those features when you’re editing your list under the three-dots icon. Lastly, you can Delete Template

Smart lists

Apple Reminders has some default smart lists that organise tasks that are scheduled for Today, as well as those that are Flagged and Completed ones. Scheduled groups tasks that have future dates on them. Assigned to Me are all the tasks that others have assigned to you from lists you’re collaborating on. You can hide these list by going to the three-dots icon and Edit Lists.

Smart lists automatically organise your tasks according to the criteria you set. You can create them from scratch when creating new lists by choosing the Smart List type of list. You can then Edit Filters to include lists matching all or any of the filters you add. You have seven (7) filters that you can use for your smart list, and each has unique options. A smart list can group tasks with specific tags. It can contain Any Tag or Any Selected Tag in which case you must pick the specific tags you want. All Selected Tags will group only the tasks containing all the tags you pick. Your smart list can also not have tags (No Tags).

You can also group tasks scheduled for a specific Date. Apple Reminders has a few presets for the time period: Today, On a Date, Before a Date and After a Date. Specified Range lets you set a fixed period of time with fixed dates. Relative Range can be In The Next/Past; Hour(s), Day(s), Week(s), Month(s), or Year(s). You can also group tasks scheduled for a certain Time: Any, Morning, Afternoon, Evening, or Night

Apple Reminders can also group tasks with Location information. Specific gives you options to get group tasks with location information when Getting In/Out of a car. Custom gives you more options for when Arriving or Leaving a specific place. You can also group tasks with Flag, specific Priority, and Include/Exclude certain lists in your smart list.

Collaboration

Collaboration in Apple Reminders helps you work on simple projects or chores with other people. You can collaborate on lists by going to the share icon (top right corner), where you can send a link to the list via Messages. Every list you are sharing has a collaboration icon (person in a circle) where you can manage the permissions for the different people you’re working with. To get started, tap on it. To initiate a conversation with everyone involved in the collaboration by sending a message or making a video or audio call.

Go to Manage Shared List to see the list of people you’re collaborating with. Tapping on each person’s name lets you control their permission to add people (Can add people). You can also Share With more People to invite more people to the collaboration. Apple Reminders has options for the notifications you receive when you’re working with your team. You can choose to be notified when people are Adding Reminders, Completing Reminders, or both. Share Options controls whether or not Anyone can add people or Only you can add people. You can Copy Link and paste it anywhere, or Stop Sharing your list.

When collaborating in Apple Reminders, you can assign tasks to others. To get started, bring up the “i” icon, go to Assign Reminder, and choose the person you want to assign to. You can see all the tasks assigned to you in the Assigned smart list.

Settings

Access to location and Spotlight

The settings for Apple Reminders are in the system settings for your device. Go to your iPad settings and look for Reminders on the left sidebar. You can allow the app access to your Location, Siri & Search, and Notifications. For your Location, you can let the app access: Never, Ask Next Time or When I Share, or While Using the App. We recommend setting it for While Using the App if you don’t use the location features in the app a lot. You can also turn on Precise Location for better accuracy when creating location-based reminders. Turning on Siri & Search gives you the ability to search your app and its contents on the home screen of your iPad. If this is a feature you rely on, it’s best to turn it on. 

Notifications

Under Notifications, you can Allow Notifications. Turn on Time-Sensitive Notifications if you don’t want to miss any important alerts. You can then choose how your notifications are delivered to your iPad; Lock Screen, Notification Centre, and, or Banners. You can choose any combination you like. For your Banner Style, it can be Temporary or Persistent (will need you to manually dismiss it). You can also choose the Sounds for your notifications. Turning on Badges displays the number of scheduled tasks on the app’s icon on your iPad’s home screen. If you don’t want to see that number, simply turn Badges off.

You can determine how the app Show Previews of your notifications. The default setting is that you can see them all the time (Always). But you can choose to see them  when your iPad is locked (When Locked) or Never. Notification Grouping bundles up your notifications together automatically (Automatic), By App of you can turn grouping Off altogether.

A bit further down the page, you get to determine how you get notifications for your all-day tasks. Tasks that don’t have a set time or duration. Turn on Today Notifications to get started. Then choose a Time when you will receive notifications every day. You can turn on Include Due Today to add those tasks to your badge count on the home screen. Lastly, you can choose to Mute Notifications for reminders that are signed to you, in the lists you’re collaborating on.

Other settings

Under Language, you can choose your default language. If you don’t set this, the app will just use the first language listed under Language & Region in your General settings. 

Accounts lists all the accounts on your iPad that have access to Apple Reminders. Not all accounts support Apple Reminders. To see if an account supports Apple Reminders, tap on it and turn on Reminders if the option is available. You can then choose your Default List from the ones you’ve already created in the account. When you don’t pick a list for a new task, it is automatically added to the list you choose here.

When creating reminders, you can let the app Show Suggestions (bottom of the screen). Reset Categories clears your custom categories that the app learns when you’re moving items around for your shopping lists. Use it with caution, because once reset, you have to start teaching the app your categories all over again.

iPadOS 17 updates

Sections 

You can now add sections to lists in Apple Reminders. To do that, go to the three-dots icon (top left corner of the app) > Add Section. Name the section, and then start adding tasks to it by either moving existing ones or adding new ones. You can add as many sections as you like: three-dots icon > Manage Sections > Add Sections. To toggle the to-dos under your sections, use the down-facing arrow.

Lists are the default view for the section in your lists. But you can change that to the column view by going to the three-dots icon > View as Columns. Tapping the three-dots icon (right side of a column) lets you Rename, or Delete the column. Deleting a column also deletes all your tasks under it.

Long-pressing your columns and sections lets you rearrange them. You can also toggle your subtasks in both views. In the column view, to-dos that don’t belong to any column are all listed under the Others column. On the list view, they are listed at the bottom of your list, without any section. Under the three-dots icon, you can manage both columns and sections: Manage Columns/Sections > Edit Columns/Sections. This lets you rename or rearrange them.

When creating or editing tasks, you can now choose a column or section for them. Go to the “i” icon > Column/Section and choose where you want the to-do > tap Done to save the changes. You can also create a new column or section for a task by tapping on the New Column/Section with Selection tab > tap Done to save the changes.

Shopping list

Apple also added a new list type for shopping. To add it, go to Add List (bottom left corner) > List Type > Shopping. You can then name your list, pick a colour and icon, and tap Done to save it. Like you do with other lists. Adding items is the same as with any other list in the app; only the app automatically organises your grocery items into different categories (which are effectively sections or columns depending on your view). To help improve the accuracy of your shopping list, you can rename the sections and move your items to the right sections.

Early reminders

You can now set early reminders for your date-based reminders, under the inspection icon > go to Early Reminders. For tasks that only have a date (without time), you can set an early reminder from the daily, weekly and monthly presets: 1 day before, 2 days before, 1 week before, 2 weeks before, 1 month before, 3 months before, and 6 months before. Under Custom, you can get early reminders Minute(s), Hour(s), Day(s), Week(s), Month(s) (and all range from 1 to 200) before your event.

For tasks with a date and time, you can set early reminders from minute and hourly presets as well: 5 minutes before, 15 minutes before, 30 minutes before, 1 hour before, 2 hours before, 1 day before, 2 days before, 1 week before, and 1 month before. But Custom options are the same.

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