A Five Minute Overview of iOS 13 Reminders

This article has been cross-posted to LinkedIn and Medium.

Personally, I found the Reminders app in previous versions of iOS a little frustrating to use. Frustrating enough that I switched to CultureCode’s Things app for Getting Things Done. I like Things. It still has some features that Reminders doesn’t have, but the makeover for Reminders in iOS 13 and iPadOS make it a contender again.

My biggest complaint in previous versions was how difficult it was to see what was due today, and what activities were coming due in the next few days.

Part of that has been solved in Reminders for iOS 13.

New Features

Aside from the Today view, Reminders now has smart lists, better integration with Siri, and a new Toolbar among other things. These new features require an upgrade to the Reminders database. Both of my iPads are now running iPadOS (albeit still in public beta), but my iPhone is still running iOS 12, so I haven’t upgraded yet.

When you first start Reminders, or when you press that upgrade button, Reminders tells you the upgrade must be done, but any devices which have not been upgraded to iOS 13 or MacOS Catalina will not be able to access those Reminders through the app itself, although they will be able to see them through the iCloud.com website.


The Reminders view now has a Today view, a Scheduled view, and an All View. These views show you everything due Today, the Scheduled reminders coming up and all of the tasks in all of your lists.

There is also better identification of what tasks are in which account, if you have more than one account that supports reminders.

Quick Toolbar

Previously, we could assign a date or a location to a reminder when we created it, or later using the reminder details view. The Quick Toolbar allows us to easily access these or to add an image or flag to the reminder as well.

We can easily add a time and date for the reminder, a location, or also add a picture from the camera or photo library and tag the reminder.

Smart Lists

There are 3 or 4 “tiles” for Today, Scheduled, All and Flagged tasks which are the Smart Lists. These allow you to quickly access the tasks which are selected by the smart list to display. My view doesn’t include the Flagged tile, because I have not yet upgraded my Reminders database (but I will have by the completion of this article).

After I upgraded the database, the tiles view looks like this:

List Customization

Like the previous versions of Reminders, you can customize the list color, but after upgrading you can also choose to change the icon for the list as well.

To do this, select the list and click on the “…” icon in the top left of the screen. This opens the list details view, where you can change the name and appearance.

You can opt to change the color or change the icon to something else from the list.

Once you are done with your edits, click the “Done” button to apply them.

If we want to share the list with someone, we can also do this through the list details view, by clicking on the “…” icon, and choosing to list or add people.

List and Task Management

This is an area with big changes, which makes it hard for me to keep my third party task applications. Task grouping, or organizing similar or related tasks into a “project” or folder, and sub-tasks were the big deal breakers for me in previous versions of Reminders (I don’t need a full fledged project management tool like OmniPlan, just something to group related items together).

Task Groups

We can also group tasks together, which we could not do in earlier versions, which oddly enough are called “Groups”. This is really useful if you have a lot of lists which can be grouped together. This means the Group is visible, but the sub-lists can be hidden. For example, I have multiple lists for writing projects I am working on. While there is some commonality in the tasks, there are usually some significant differences.

I want to create a group called “Writing Projects” I can put these separate lists in. This way, I can see the lists when I need to without cluttering up the list view.

There are two ways to create the group. The simplest is to drag one list onto another, which opens the same view, as if you had pressed “Edit” above the toolbar, and then clicked on “Create Group” at the bottom of the section.

In either case, you have to specify a name for the group, and possibly select the lists to add to the group.

Once you have specified the lists to add to the group, click the done button and the group is added to the list on the left.


Tasks also can now have sub-tasks. This is another big addition. You can make a task a sub-task of another by dragging the task onto another task, or by clicking on the parent task and selecting to add sub-tasks from the details view.

Task Images

Tasks can also now have an image associated with it, either captured with your camera at the time, or retrieved from your photo library. You can add an image for the task through the details view.

URL Previews

We can also associate a URL with a reminder. For example, if we are creating a reminder to do something online, like check on the status of something at a vendor, we can attach a URL to the reminder which is inserted and available for us to click on. This is again done through the task details view.

In this case, I also added a note to the task as well as the URL. I can immediately access the URL just by clicking on it.


In previous versions of Reminders, we could assign a priority to the reminder, which added a “!”, “!!”, or “!!!” to the reminder, but there was no way to easily see them. We can still assign priorities to the reminder, but flagging is now available.

By flagging the task, it is added to the Flagged tile, which means we can easily access these tasks.

Smart Suggestions

Like other applications, as we are typing information into our reminder, the Smart Suggestions will provide hints to improve the reminder.

In this case, I typed a due date, which hinted at adding a due date for the reminder.


Improved integrations with the Messages app and Siri have surfaced as well.

Messages and Contact Tagging

When we are creating a reminder, we can tag a person from our Contacts if they are involved with the task in some way.

When you tag a person and later message them, a banner pops up telling you that since you are messaging them, maybe check on the reminder.


The Reminders app in iOS 13 has seen some significant improvements, enough to make me think seriously about using it as my reminders and task manager again. As a side note, there is integration potential between the Shortcuts app and Reminders — if there isn’t already a shortcut that does what you want, you can easily create one specifically for your needs, and even associate it with Siri.

About the Author

Chris is a highly skilled Information Technology, AWS Cloud, Training and Security Professional bringing cloud, security, training and process engineering leadership to simplify and deliver high quality products. He is the co-author of seven books and author of more than 70 articles and book chapters in technical, management and information security publications. His extensive technology, information security and training experience, makes him a key resource who can help companies through technical challenges.

Copyright 2019, Chris Hare

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Chris is the co-author of seven books and author of more than 70 articles and book chapters in technical, management, and information security publications.

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