Task.fm: SMS and Email Alerts With Natural Language Input

taskfmlogoThere are plenty of great apps out there vying to help the forgetful, from dedicated to-do list and reminder apps like WWD favorite Remember the Milk, to the task and calendar systems in Google Docs (s goog) and MS Office (s msft). New alerts and reminders app task.fm, launching into beta today, aims to be different by providing natural language, semantic text input as a quick way to enter tasks (for example, “dentist appointment at noon tomorrow”). It claims to support alerts sent via email, SMS and phone (through automated text-to-speech technology).

The web site is nicely designed and registering for it is straightforward. While registering, you set up defaults for your alerts — how you’d like to be reminded (email, SMS or both) and how far in advance of each task you’d like to be reminded.taskfmshot

You have two choices for entering tasks: natural language input and “Advanced” (manual input). The default is natural language input, which is fast and works pretty well if you stick to simple sentences and follow the format provided in the example. Unfortunately, once you stray a little from the example format, it falls down, and you have to go in and edit the task. For example, if you try to enter “meeting with Dave in 30 minutes”, it sets a task of “meeting with Dave in 0 minutes” for 3 a.m. on the current day. Natural language processing like this is a really tricky thing to get right, and Task.fm is still only in beta, but having to switch to manual input to re-enter tasks would get annoying fast. It’s also somewhat limiting to have to enter your reminders through the web app. With natural language input, I would like to be able to set reminders on the go through email, SMS or even voice input.

Once your reminders are set, it’s easy to manage and edit them. SMS and email alerts are timely and work just as you would expect, but I couldn’t find a way to set up phone call alerts.

Email reminders are free, but SMS and phone alerts cost 1 credit each. The cost of a credit varies depending on how many you buy, starting at 20 credits for $2. New accounts come with 10 credits, so you can try the SMS reminders for free.

Task.fm shows some promise with its simple, easy-to-use interface, but until the natural language input can deal with everything its users are likely to throw at it, I don’t believe it’s ready for widespread use (I Want Sandy — unfortunately now shuttered — was a great example of simple sematic input done right). I’ll be sticking with Google Calendar for my alerts.

What reminders app do you use?