What is the MacOS Reminders tool and how do you use it?

Wife works at night

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MacOS is filled with tools to make your life easier. And the busier we get, the more tools we need. This is the case with reminders. I don’t know about you, but without reminders I’d be lucky to remember half the things I need to get done.

With the latest iteration of Reminders (found in MacOS Ventura), there are new features, such as:

  • Organize reminders by time and date
  • Pinned lists
  • Templates
  • Text formatting and lists
  • Completed section (for when you complete a task)
  • Notice
  • Markers

I’ve used many reminder tools and MacOS Reminders is, hands down, one of the nicest to work with. Not only does it fit seamlessly into the MacOS UI, but it’s also very easy to use, and includes a slide-out sidebar widget. You can also use Reminders as a 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 you’ll remember to check your shopping list.

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Now that I’ve piqued your interest, let’s see how Memories work.


The only thing 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 on the Launchpad icon, find the Reminder app and click on the launcher.

A list is not a reminder, although you can add reminders to list items. To create your first list, click + (the plus sign) in the lower left corner of the Reminders window. Give the list a name and choose a color in the pop-up that appears. Click OK when you’re done.

The list name pop-up in MacOS Ventura.

Create a new list in MacOS Reminders.

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Once you’ve created the list, make sure to select it in the left panel. With the list selected, click + in the upper right corner of the Reminders window to add your first item to the list. On 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.

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Say you have an item on your list that needs to be taken care of at a specific time. Hover your cursor over that item to reveal a circle around it. Click the 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 reminder reminder popup.

Add a reminder to a list item in MacOS Reminders.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

How to create a memory

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 + in the upper right corner of the Reminders window. This will add a new bullet point, where you type your reminder. Once you’ve added a new reminder, you can click the associated i-icon and add a note, time- or location-based reminder, and set the priority.

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

Templates and smart lists

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

The MacOS Settings app is open for iCloud.

Enable 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 list name. Using Smart Lists is the only way to add tags to Reminders, so if this is a feature you want to take advantage of, 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.

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

And that’s the essence of using the MacOS Reminders app. If you’re looking for a simple way to keep lists and get reminders of things you need to get done, this app should be at the top of your list to try.


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