New reQall offers location-based reminders

The best product I've ever used for reminders and personal productivity is a free service called reQall. Today, the company announced improvements to the free version, now called reQall Standard, plus an all-new Pro version that takes "memory jogging" to a whole new level. reQall Pro costs $2.99 per month or $24.99 per year. (The first year for existing users cost $19.99.)

If you're not familiar with reQall, the service lets you add reminders, action items, notes or whatever you want, which the reQall sorts for you. It will alert you about those items when you tell it to, and it will also occasionally "jog" your memory with well-timed reminders.

I use the voice-recognition feature mainly. I just launch the reQall app on my iPhone, press the "Add by voice" button, and start talking. If I say "talk to Kevin about upgrading my laptop," reQall transcribes my voice into text and adds my words to my "Today" list on the reQall web site and also on the phone itself. It's there when I go looking for it. But if I say "talk to Kevin about upgrading my laptop tomorrow at 10am," then my phone beeps tomorrow at 10am with my reminder.

reQall transforms even a forgetful, scatterbrained person like me into a highly organized guy who pretty much never forgets anything.

The most exciting and useful new feature announced today is location-based reminders. Brief Janet on upcoming budget meeting? reQall Pro reminds you at work. TiVo "Dancing with the Stars"? reQall Pro reminds you at home. Buy a loaf of bread? The reQall Pro app will remind you when you arrive at the store. You can even do crazy-cool stuff like telling it "Order the linguini" while sitting at a restaurant. As you arrive at that same restaurant a year later, your phone beeps with the reminder. "Pick up dry cleaning" alerts you as you're about to drive by the cleaners.

The reQall service can be used and accessed on the Web or via e-mail. But it's iPhones and BlackBerrys where location-based reminders shine. Pro uses the built-in GPS in the phones to know where you are when you add, and also when you need, your reminders.

Associating reminders with locations takes place in both active, user-controlled mode, and also passively in the background without user intervention. So, for example, when you add a reminder, you're presented with the option to associate it with a location. "Work" and "home" are default locations, but you can add as many as you like. But if you don't choose a location, reQall quietly checks your GPS and notes where you were when you added the item.

Later, items associated with locations are favored when you're in that location. But so are the items you added in that location. As you move around in the world, reQall constantly re-prioritizing your reminders according to location.

In order to add a location other than "work" and "home," you need to be at that location. Future versions should include the ability to add locations remotely, according to the company.

Location is just one of the criteria reQall Pro uses to maximize the timing and relevance of reminders. Another new feature is Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar support. If you tell it to, reQall will check your calendar to extract information about what to remind you of, and when. For example, if it sees that you're about to meet with Bill Jones, it will scoop up all the reminders you've added about Bill, and present you with all of them before your meeting.

The reQall team takes advantage of new human-memory research to optimize how and when to remind you of things. Today's announcement includes plenty of new user-accessible features, but also behind-the-scenes improvements such as a new and improved Memory Jogger

feature, which is now smarter about how and when it nudges you. The idea is to maximize your retention of and access to important facts, without bugging you too often or contributing to information overload.

Instead of giving you all information, reQall subtly "jogs" your memory, giving you just enough information to be fully reminded, but without hitting you with a wall of text.

The reQall Pro version is brand new today. But the free version has been improved as well. And all features in the free version are, of course, also available in Pro.

Both free and Pro versions of reQall now offer recurring reminders, so you can set it up to add tasks, daily, weekly, monthly and so on.

Both versions of reQall support e-mail. If you choose e-mail reminders in the Pro version, however, you can reply with commands like "Done," "Delete" or "Pending," which will make the appropriate changes to the status of those items. And you can now share reminders with non-reQall users via e-mail. Recipients of these messages will get a short pitch at the bottom of reQall e-mails to sign up.

reQall now supports Microsoft Outlook with a plug-in. The downloadable add-on integrates reQall items with your Outlook Calendar and Task list.

The new reQall also "activates" some items. For example, if your reminder says, "Call Mark," and if Mark is in your contacts, you can dial your cell phone with one click directly from the reminder or e-mail. You can similarly send e-mail or launch a Web page directly from reminders.

The company plans to continue offering a free version with at least the current feature set indefinitely, according to company representatives (minus SMS support for Standard and a little-used photo reminder feature, which has been removed from both versions).

reQall is a life-changing, potentially culture-shifting, almost science fiction-like service. It's like having some all-knowing, anal-retentive assistant with a headset and a clipboard following you around everywhere, taking notes, briefing, nudging and watching out for you. It's one of those rare products in technology — like the iPhone interface, Firefox plug-ins or Google search results — that users truly appreciate only when they experience it.

Though not associated with Paul Allen or the Getting Things Done (GTD) movement, reQall is fantastically compatible. The whole idea of GTD is to get "stuff" out of your head and into a "trusted system" so you can relax and focus on the big picture. I have never found a way to capture "stuff" that's easier than reQall. Push a button. Talk. Push another button. reQall does the rest. It automatically adds time and date information, prioritizes, files, informs others and, of course, makes sure you don't forget.

I tell everyone, and I'll tell you, you've got to try reQall. The Pro version is free for 30 days if you're new to reQall, and 45 days if you're an existing user.

Don't forget to try it!

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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