I am BARRY HESS > Blog

Quick Alert

I frequently have the need jot off a reminder to myself. Pick up The Kid from school in two hours. Don’t forget to drop tax paperwork off at lunch. My desire was for a natural-language way to create these alerts quickly without interrupting my workflow.

You’re thinking “just make an event on your phone.” That is interruptive and slow. You say “don’t you have Siri?!” No, and where’d I set my phone again?

My first thought was to build a Ruby gem that allowed me to type into my console and schedule a text message to my phone. Alternatively it would schedule emails and even phone calls. I built the basics of the gem. Syntax:

> alert remember lunch in 30 days

Using chronic and a few tricks, that worked. Ah, but I needed a web service to receive the reminder, schedule it, and intermittently run jobs to notify me. I could share this with the world! And the world could share its requests, not to mention its downtime, with me!

Then I remembered iCloud exists. I dug around for a short time trying to figure out how to get my library to talk to iCal. That was frustrating. That’s when I found Fantastical and for $20 my workflow is now:

  1. Create an “alerts” calendar in iCal
  2. Make sure your calendar is syncing to your phone
  3. Set Fantastical to default to “alerts” calendar
  4. Set Fantastical to default alert “Message with Sound” 0 minutes before event
  5. Hit ctrl-option-space and type “remember lunch in 30 minutes”

Much better. Fantastical’s exceptional natural language processing takes over, iCloud gets the alert to my phone, and I’m back to work.