I have set this up -- it's pretty easy -- and is just brilliant technology. You call ReQall, tell it what you want, and it sends it to your calendar or your ReQall account and sends you a reminder by text, IM or Email. Fantastic.
Reminders From Out of the Blue
Positive economic news! Get your positive economic news here!
Yes, amid the smoking ruins of the financial system, some green shoots are popping forth. And one of them is called Reqall.
The service has been around for awhile, but it was just reintroduced with new features and a Pro version; more on this in a moment.
In a nutshell, Reqall is an effortless personal reminder system. You speed-dial its toll-free number (888-9REQALL) and dictate whatever it is you want to remember. “Meeting with Jacobs Monday at 5 o’clock.” “Buy frozen grape juice.” “Remind Shannon to pick up the kids early tomorrow.” “Anniversary present every Sept. 15.” “Idea for Act 2: Henderson turns out to be an android.”
(You can also create these reminders by e-mail, by typing them into a Firefox plug-in, or even by typing them into an instant-message program once you’ve set up Reqall as a buddy. But unless you live at your computer, using the cellphone is the real killer app.)
That’s it. You go through your life, dictating these little tidbits that would ordinarily be relegated to scraps of paper or the back of your mind — and therefore, probably, lost.
If your reminder included a date or time, Reqall recognizes it as a calendar event. It can shoot a reminder to your cellphone 30 minutes in advance.
Or, at your option, it can add these appointments to your Google calendar, your calendar in Microsoft Outlook, or any calendar program that can subscribe to Web calendars (like Apple’s iCal or Now Up-to-Date).
But wait, there’s more. If your utterance contains the word “buy,” then Reqall adds the transcript to a master shopping list.
The Help screen wryly urges you to be careful. “I don’t buy your argument” also lands on the shopping list. At any time, you can call in to hear your shopping list read back to you, or request to have it text-messaged to your cellphone — a great feature when you’re out on errands.
If your utterance begins with “remind,” “tell” or “ask,” Reqall can send the transcription to other people’s e-mail addresses or (if they’re Reqall members) cellphones. Great way to remind your spouse to do something so you can quit worrying about it.
Almost everything else you dictate winds up on a general to-do list. At any time, Reqall can play back your list over the phone, send it to your phone as a text message, or display it as a message in your chat program. or you can just check it online. These to-do items also show up in your Outlook task list.
You also get a daily summary, a beautifully formatted agenda and to-do list for the day (and the next few days), sent by e-mail. It looks like something a fancy executive secretary may have waiting on your desk each morning.
There are even free Reqall programs for the iPhone and BlackBerry. They make it simple to dictate new items and reminders; you just tap to record (instead of making a phone call). They continually display your up-to-date shopping lists and to-do lists, too.
Finally, they unlock a potentially amazing new feature of Reqall: location-based reminders. If your iPhone or BlackBerry has GPS, the Reqall program displays, at the top of the reminder list, items pertaining to your current location .
For example, your phone knows that you’re at the mall, so it displays all of the errands you’re supposed to take care of there. Similarly, you could be reminded to visit a client when you’re in the neighborhood, or to hand in a form to the teacher when you’re picking up your offspring after school.
In theory, this feature could be an astonishing time- and money-saver. In practice, it involves a fair amount of upfront work. For example, you have to begin by defining the Places in question, like Mall, Downtown, School and so on. Then you manually assign each to-do item to one of these Places. Finally, the Reqall program must be open and running on your smartphone.
So why does the new Reqall represent positive economic news? Because it gives you so much utility at so low a price.
Consider, for example, what happened to a rival service, Jott.com. It, too, transcribes to-do items that you dictate by phone. It, too, got a lot of people very excited, especially because it was free.
Then, last August, Jott gutted the free version, leaving the real goodies to the Pro service. Unhappy customers fled in droves. Last month, Jott closed down the free version altogether.
Reqall waited to see how this all played out and avoided making the same mistakes. Happily, the huge majority of its features remain free to everyone — including, importantly, unlimited voice transcriptions.
There is a Pro version, at $25 a year (or $3 a month). Some of its exclusive features aren’t deal-breakers: place-based (GPS) reminders; the ability to add new items (or mark them as done) by e-mail; the freedom to create new categories for your to-do items; and the ability to recall all Google Calendar appointments, not just those you’ve added in Reqall.
You might really miss getting your reminders as text messages on your cellphone, however; the free version provides them only by e-mail, iPhone, BlackBerry and Web page.
Thing is, those cellphone alerts are incredibly useful. Last weekend, for example, my wife was away, so I was operating solo with our three children. They had a particularly crammed schedule — four birthday parties, three classes, two playdates and a partridge in a pear tree — but Reqall’s text-message reminders, 30 minutes before each pickup or drop-off, kept me on schedule all weekend.
Even so, the free version still offers enormous value. Just being able to dictate appointments into your phone, and have them pop up on your calendar automatically, is a magic wand for corralling the chaos of your life.
There is room for improvement. There’s too much pausing in the various voice prompts and phone playback of lists. The transcriptions, provided by a combination of software and human typists, are good, but not 100 percent accurate; “Buy floor mats” turned into “Buy formats.” (Fortunately, the Web, iPhone, BlackBerry and e-mail reminders always offer a Play button so you can listen to the recorded audio of your original utterance.)
Above all, as you’ve probably concluded already, Reqall’s sprawl can get confusing. The features differ depending on how you’re accessing the service — iPhone, Web, whatever. Different calendars (Google Calendar, Outlook and so on) offer different degrees of integration. Three different features — Memory Boost, Memory Jogger and EureQa — are all intended to make Reqall more than a to-do list; they supposedly use artificial intelligence to display just what you need to know, when you need to know it. But good luck trying to tell them apart.
So what’s that positive economic news? First, that it’s still possible to find some truly useful, professional free tools on the Internet. (Even Reqall Pro is free for the first 45 days. And if you don’t explicitly state that you want to stick with the paid version, Reqall does the right thing and switches you to the free version at the end of that period.) And second, even the paid version is priced well: $25 a year.
Reqall is great for capturing brainstorms, reminding yourself of birthdays and anniversaries, recording appointments, creating to-do lists on the go, checking your calendar from the road and issuing written instructions to your spouse or other overlords.
The last time somebody offered so much value for so little money — well, I can’t reqall.