If you just started using macOS or are in the market for a good to-do list app with great features, then Reminders on Mac is a terrific tool. Not only does the app sync with your iPhone and iPad, but gives you just what you need, and then some, to keep up with all of your tasks.
So if you’re wondering what these awesome features are, how the app can keep you and your to-dos organized, or want more details on something specific, this basic user guide to Reminders on Mac is for you.
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Set up your Internet Accounts
The Internet Accounts that you set up on your Mac allow you to use apps like Mail, Calendar, Contacts, and Notes. And while not all types of Internet Accounts can use Reminders, you can use the app for iCloud (default), Exchange, Yahoo, and AOL accounts.
To use Reminders with your accounts, go to System Preferences > Internet Accounts. Then mark the box for Reminders for each of the accounts you want where the app is available.
Once you do this, each account that you pick will display in the sidebar of the Reminders app. If you’re only using Reminders for iCloud, that account will display simply as My Lists.
And, keep in mind that not all Reminders features are available for all types of accounts. For example, Groups are only available for iCloud account reminders
Show the Reminders sidebar
If you don’t see the sidebar, click View > Show Sidebar from the menu bar. You can resize the sidebar by placing your cursor on the divider and then dragging when the double-sided arrow appears.
The Reminders app seeks to make your tasks easier to manage with Smart Lists. These display in the Reminders sidebar as boxes at the top. You’ll see lists for Today, Scheduled, All, and Flagged.
- Today: Reminders due today and those that are overdue.
- Scheduled: Reminders that have a due date assigned, grouped by date.
- All: All reminders in all accounts, grouped by list.
- Flagged: Reminders that have a flag assigned.
Each Smart List is automatically created for you using the reminders (tasks or list items) you create. So for all reminders due today, you can simply click the Today Smart List to view them. Plus, you can see the number of reminders within each Smart List.
Below the Smart Lists you’ll see all of your accounts and Reminders lists. Each list here displays the number of reminders within the list, just like Smart Lists.
- View: To view a list, just click it and the reminders will display on the right. You can also open a list in its own window by double-clicking it.
- Add: To add a list, click Add List at the bottom of the sidebar and give your new list a name.
- Rearrange: To rearrange lists, select one, drag it to its new location, and release.
- Delete: To delete a list, right-click or click Edit from the menu bar and choose Delete.
- Customize: To customize a list’s color or icon, right-click or click View from the menu bar, then pick Show Info. Click the icon on the left and you can select a new color and icon. You can also rename the list here if you like. Click OK when you finish.
If you start to assemble many lists within your iCloud account, you can organize them easily using Groups. Groups are basically folders that contain lists.
For instance, you might create a Group for Family Stuff. Then, you can move your Shopping, Grocery, and Family lists into it to keep those related lists together.
Create a Group: To create a Group, click File > New Group from the menu bar. Give your Group a name and hit Return. (You’ll notice the icon for the Group looks like a folder.)
Add lists to a Group: You can a drag Reminder list into Group or right-click the list, pick Add to Group and pick the Group name. You can then collapse or expand that Group to view the lists in it when needed.
Rename or Delete a Group: To rename or delete a Group, right-click it in the sidebar and pick an option.
Groups give you a wonderful way to keep your lists organized and you can use them for both work and personal reminder lists.
Work with reminders
Now that you have the basics of Smart Lists, Reminder lists, and Groups, it’s time to move onto the actual reminders.
Create a reminder
Select a Reminder list from the sidebar. Then, click the plus sign button at the top of the window. Alternatively, you can click inside the reminder window below your last item.
Give your reminder a name and that’s it!
Add a due date, time, location, or flag
When you create a reminder, you can add a quick due date and time as well using the buttons below the name and notes.
Add a date: Click Add Date and you can pick Today, Tomorrow, or This Weekend. For a specific date, select Custom and choose a date.
Add a time: If you add a date, the Add Time button will then appear. Then select a time like morning, noon, afternoon, evening, or night. For a different time, just enter the numbers into the time field.
Add a location: You can also set up location-based reminders by clicking the Add Location button. Pick a suggestion like your current location or getting in or out of your car. To add an address, enter it inside the location field.
Add a flag: As mentioned above, there is a Smart List for Flagged reminders. This is convenient for reminders you want to highlight. So just click flag button to add one to your reminder.
Even though these nifty buttons give you fast ways to add a date, time, location, or flag to your reminder, you can add these later as well. Either click the name of the reminder to display the buttons or click the Info icon to the right of the name.
Use messaging alerts
Along with receiving alerts for dates, times, or locations, you can get a notification of a reminder when you’re messaging someone on your Mac. How handy is that?
Click the Info icon for the reminder and check the box for When Messaging a Person. Then click Add Contact and choose a contact from your list.
Now the next time you and that contact communicate via Messages on your Mac, you’ll receive a notification with the name of the reminder.
Set up a repeating reminder
Many people love the repeating reminder feature in a to-do list app and Reminders on Mac has it. If you add a due date to your reminder, the Repeat option will appear. Click the Info icon for the reminder and you’ll see Repeat.
The nice thing about this feature in Reminders is that it gives you extensive options. You can apply a simple repeat for every day, week, month, or year. But you can take it up a few levels if you need to.
Click Custom in the Repeat drop-down box. Then pick the Frequency from Hourly, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly. The options beneath will change depending on the frequency you select.
Here is just a handful of examples you can set up for repeating reminders:
- Hourly: Get a reminder every six hours.
- Daily: Get a reminder every 28 days.
- Weekly: Get a reminder every other week on Saturday and Sunday only.
- Monthly: Get a reminder on the second, third, and fourth of every month.
- Yearly: Get a reminder every year on the first Sunday in the months of April, May, and June.
As you can see here and will appreciate when you give the repeating reminders a try yourself, the flexibility is awesome. Just keep in mind that the repeating reminder will be based off of the due date (and time) you give it.
Attach items to reminders
You can add notes, images, URLs, and a priority to reminders. This is handy for many types of reminders, especially if you use the app for work or school.
Click the Info icon to the right of the reminder and add one or all of the following:
- Notes: Click Notes under the reminder name and type in your notes.
- Priority: Choose from low, medium, or high in the Priority drop-down box.
- Images: Click the Add Image button to attach a photo or scan.
- URLs: Enter or paste a link into the URL
You can sort the reminders in your lists a handful of ways. This can make those lists containing a ton of reminders easier to keep up with or help make sure you get the most crucial reminders taken care of first by having them at the top.
Select the list you want to sort in the sidebar and then click View > Sort By from the menu bar. You can pick manual, due date, priority, creation date, or title.
Create sub-reminders (subtasks)
If you use Reminders for projects, whether at home or work, you can create sub-reminders which are basically subtasks. Reminders lets you indent to one level for these.
- Create a reminder as you normally would below the reminder you want to be the parent.
- Right-click the reminder and select Indent Reminder.
- You’ll see that sub-reminder indent and the name of the parent above it turn bold.
Next to the parent reminder, you’ll also see a number and arrow. The number shows how many sub-reminders are beneath it and the arrow lets you expand and collapse the sub-reminders.
Keep in mind when using sub-reminders that if you mark the parent as complete, the sub-reminders will automatically be marked as complete too. However, if you mark all sub-reminders complete, the parent will not be marked complete until you mark it as such.
If you have a reminder indented that you don’t want as a sub-reminder, right-click it and pick Outdent Reminder.
Complete your reminders
When you complete a reminder on your list, simply click the circle to mark it as done. It will vanish from the list so that you can concentrate on the rest.
But don’t worry, you can view all of your completed reminders if you like.
Swipe down slightly on the reminders side of the window and you’ll see the number of completed reminders and a link for Show. Click Show and you’ll see all completed items.
You can keep the completed reminders in view or click Hide at the top to remove them from view.
And if one of your completed reminders is something that you want to do again, you can simply unmark the circle. It will then be back in the queue for you to do!
Share a reminder list
The Reminders app isn’t just great for your own to-dos, it works well for family ones too! For families or households who split up the housework, you can share the lists of chores with iCloud and each mark off those you complete
- Right-click a list in the sidebar and pick Add People. Or put your cursor over it and click the person icon.
- Choose how you’d like to share the list such as Mail, Messages, or AirDrop.
- Click Share and then follow the prompts to send an invitation to the list to your contact(s).
Once your recipient accepts the invitation, you’ll have a permanent person icon next to that list so that you know it’s being shared. You’ll also see that you’re sharing the list at the top of the reminders.
View, add, or stop sharing
After you share a list, you can see those you’ve shared it with, add more people, or stop sharing the list.
Click the person icon next to the list in the sidebar. You’ll see everyone who is sharing the list.
- Add people: Click Add People to share with another person.
- Remove people: To remove access from one person, select them and click the More Options icon to the right of their name. Choose Remove Access.
- Stop sharing: To Stop Sharing the list with everyone, click the Stop Sharing
Respond to reminder notifications
If you use banners or alerts for the Reminders app on Mac, you’ll see a notification pop up alerting you of a reminder.
- Complete: To mark it as done, click Complete.
- Snooze: To be reminded again later, click Later and choose the amount of time.
- Ignore: To not be notified again until you complete the reminder, click Later and choose Ignore. The only times you’ll see a notification again are when you wake your Mac, log out and back in, or restart your Mac.
To view the reminder and its details when you receive a notification, click the reminder’s name and the app will open to that item.
Note: You have these same options if you use the messages alerts and see a notification when texting someone in Messages.
Your guide for how to use Reminders on Mac
Hopefully this user guide for how to use Apple Reminders on Mac will help you get off to a terrific start with the app. And for Notes, check out our user guide for the Notes app on Mac too.
Let us know if you’re going to begin using Reminders on your Mac now. And if you run into trouble or have a question, feel free to comment below!
Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a project manager, department manager, and PMO Lead. She then decided to follow her dream and now writes about technology full-time. Sandy holds a Bachelors of Science in Information Technology.
She loves technology– specifically – terrific games and apps for iOS, software that makes your life easier, and productivity tools that you can use every day, in both work and home environments.
Her articles have regularly been featured at MakeUseOf, iDownloadBlog and many other leading tech publications.