App of the Week: Clear

Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a weekly series in which MainStreet spotlights one new smartphone app that can help readers manage their money, shop better or improve their job search. Check back each week to find out how to make your smartphone even smarter!

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Even before the Clear app hit the iTunes store last week, it had been covered extensively on major tech blogs like Mashable and TechCrunch and inspired at least one knockoff application. That’s a lot of attention for any app, let alone one that focuses on something seemingly mundane like to-do lists, so what gives?

The secret to Clear’s success is its user interface. The app is entirely built around the common gestures that smartphone owners use, including tapping, swiping and pinching the screen. Rather than have a set of static buttons and a static layout, Clear does what its name implies and actually lets the user start with a blank screen. If you want to add an item to the list, just press your finger down and a tab will pop up. If you want to add a sub-item, just tap that tab with your finger. Once you’ve completed the task, just swipe across that tab from left to right and it will be checked off. Swipe across the tab in the opposite direction and it will be deleted for good.

There’s certainly no shortage of smartphone apps for managing tasks, but what differentiates Clear is its minimalism. Even the best to-do list apps like Orchestra often have cluttered screens and an abundance of features. Clear, on the other hand, does one thing, but does it very well. Add an item to your list. Check it off when you’re done. Start over with a blank slate. It’s the ultimate Zen experience for those who like making lists.

Of course, Clear is not for everyone. While the swipe and pinch gestures are intended to be intuitive for smartphone users, there is a bit of learning curve in figuring out which gesture corresponds to which action on the screen. To its credit, Clear offers comprehensive instructions and lets users practice the gestures, but for some users, that may just sound like one more chore to add to their to-do list.

The Clear app is available on the iPhone for 99 cents.

Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by e-mail at seth.fiegerman@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.

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