Mountain Lion: Mail, Reminders and Notification Center

Dragging a message to Reminders instantly creates a reminder in Mountain Lion
Written by Erik Vlietinck

Using Mountain Lion’s Mail and Reminders, you can create a basic system that will alert you when something important happens. Throw the Mail plug-in MailTags 3.1.2 into the mix and you have yourself a complete task and project management system.

Reminders is Mountain Lion’s concept of what used to be tasks. Instead of integrating with Mail or iCal, it has become a separate app. If Mail is your central hub for managing communication around projects and tasks, Reminders will be your friend. By simply dragging a message heading to the Reminders window, you can easily create an aide-memoire with a link to the original message.

Dragging a message to Reminders instantly creates a reminder in Mountain Lion

If you want Reminders to notify you of an imminent task or deadline, then all you need to do is set a notification date and optionally a due date. You can also have Reminders alert when you leave or arrive at a location. For this to work, the system needs to know where you are, and on first use will ask you politely if it can set your location using your wired or wireless network.

When you set one of these events, Mountain Lion will use its Notification Center system to inform you of the event at the precise time you specified, or when you left or arrived at the location you entered in the dialog sheet.

It’s a good system for basic task management, but there are two drawbacks:

  • Your reminders and notifications always appear at the far right of the screen and stay visible for a non-customisable duration
  • You need to keep Reminders open and running for the system to work.

Especially the first drawback has seen quite some negative discussion on Apple’s forums, together with the inability to set your own snooze interval. Additionally, Notification Center can’t be customized. You can only set a different background, and even that requires hacking. On OS X Daily there’s a hack that enables you to remove Notification Center permanently.

Mountain Lion Notification Center: you can't customize it

All these hacks require the use of the Terminal and some digging in application bundles as there aren’t configuration files that you can easily change.

For those who find these negatives too annoying and Mountain Lion’s system too basic, there is a solution.

Improving on Mountain Lion’s task management: MailTags

A complete Mail driven task and project management system is available in the form of the MailTags 3.1.2 Mail plug-in. MailTags lets you handle all tasks, projects and reminders within Mail, and integrates seamlessly with iCal, Spotlight, OmniFocus and Think. It costs $29.95.

I think MailTags is at least as good as sliced bread. When MailTags is installed, Mail gets a whole bunch of extra conditions for creating Rules. For example, you can set up Smart Folders in Mail based on project or keyword tags. You can colorize messages depending on due date, project, keyword, and Tickle Date. An approaching Tickle Date will slowly colorize the message towards your chosen color, until the date expires. The color will then change to the overdue color you set in MailTags’ Preferences.

Compatible with Mountain Lion, MailTags offers complete task and project management

Setting up events and tasks in iCal is also possible. You can even change the message subject to something that makes more sense to you than the one that started the thread. MailTags doesn’t use Reminders, nor does it integrate with Mountain Lion’s Notification Center. It’s all done within Mail and by integrating with iCal.

And if you want to use MailTags’ Tickle Date feature and still have Mountain Lion’s Notification Center warn you a day before it expires, you can still create a Rule that will trigger Notification Center.

For, I’m Erik Vlietinck.

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