Clear vs. Listary: Is There A Clear Winner?

One of the rules I often try and fail to stick to is to not look for a slightly better tool once I’ve found something that works. For creating and editing lists, that tool has always been Listary. I’ve been with the app for a while now and despite a “nothing special” user interface, Listary has been developed to the point where it does just about everything I want (except work with Launch Center, but apparently they are working on that). Since I’m weak-willed and want to know what all the other geeks are talking about, I decided to give the new kid on the block Clear a shot and now I’m torn… Before I get into the benefits of one application vs. the other, let me explain where Listary fits.

What About OmniFocus?

As anyone who has read this blog for more than a week likely knows, I’m a big OmniFocus fan. So why the hell would I need anything even slightly resembling a to-do list? Great question. The answer: as much as I try to keep as much of my life in OmniFocus as possible, there are certain things it just isn’t best or even meant for. It isn’t ideal for maintaining lists of book’s you’d like to read, movies you’d like to see or receiving disordered grocery lists that one’s wife may tend to text to him1. Don’t get me wrong, you could do all of this in OmniFocus, but it isn’t the best possible tool for the job.

Lots To Like About Listary!

Listary is tailor-made for exactly this kind of list making. It’s easy to add, check off and reorganize items. It syncs with Simplenote and nvALT, so I can seamlessly add items to any list through my Mac. Best of all, when my wife sends me a list of thirty completely disordered items from the supermarket, I can copy the text, paste it in one box and as long as she hit enter on her phone between ever item it parses every line as a unique entry. Within seconds of receiving her text, I can add and completely reorder the list based on where things are in the store (something she has deemed irrelevant). In the cases where she just sends me everything as one long paragraph, I can jump into Simplenote and add the line breaks myself. Either way, it’s far and away the fastest method I’ve found for turning text messages into task lists.

Clear Looks And Feels Great!

Now Clear has no syncing capability to speak of, no options for adding tasks on your other devices, no ability to share lists, yet I’m not going to lie, it’s a tempting application. The user interface is a pleasure, both to look at and to use. The team at Realmac Software, the makers of Clear, have focused on the features most of us would want to use… well, all except two: one that I consider to be essential and one that would-be nice. While it is far easier to add, remove and reorder single items on Clear than it is on Listary, it’s a pain to add the kind of large lists I’ve described above. For the moment, you have to go one at a time and a long grocery list would require me jumping back and forth between my text and the app. I would also love to see Launch Center integration so I can quickly add a line item into a specific list, but this is more a luxury than a necessity.

Update: While not list specific, it does appear that you can use Launch Center with Clear.

What’s The Bottom Line?

In truth, as much as I love the features of Listary, I rarely use all that many of them. My wife doesn’t want to use the app, so shared lists don’t matter to me. My phone is always with me, so adding things through Simplenote, while nice, isn’t necessary (except for turning paragraphs into tasks as I mentioned above). Clear, on the other hand, lacks such a basic feature in bulk entry that I’m not sure I can take it seriously, no matter how much of a pleasure it is to use. While there is no clear winner (sorry for the pun), the lack of bulk entry on Clear’s part is going to keep me steering clear (I can’t help myself) of an application that I’m really tempted to use.

Update: About 30 seconds after this post went live, I received the following tweets from the team at Listary:

Not only was it refreshing to see an acknowledgement of what Clear has created, it left me excited to see how the team at Listary will respond to the competition.

  1. Hypothetically speaking… []
  • John

    I’m like you and can’t leave a new to-do off my phone. So, I too looked at Clear and found it is a typical example where form trumps over function.

    Have never tried Listary (I will now), but so far I haven’t found anything that beast Zenbe Lists for me, but only for the kind of lists you describe. 

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      I don’t know if I’d go that far (although I agree form is the priority). They’ve clearly thought out every function that they added in. I just think they missed a few key features. Bulk entry being the biggest misstep.

  • John

    Just learned that Facebook bought Zenbe a while back. Since I don’t trust Facebook with my data, I will drop Zenbe.

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