How To Add Reminders Quickly To iCal From Anywhere

iCal Icon

Using iCal for reminders on the Mac is a great way to keep track of all the little tasks that you need to complete, especially if you synchronise with other Apple devices using iCloud. Add a reminder on one device and it synchronises automatically with the Reminders app on the others.

However, wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to easily add new reminders to iCal from any application even if iCal is not running? Using the built-in Automator application, this can be accomplished in seconds. This tutorial shows you how to create a new Automator service that lets you add a new iCal reminder from just about anywhere.

Automator IconCreate a New Service With Automator

Automator makes it easy to create services and applications that can automate many common tasks. It’s an incredibly powerful application and once you start using it you’ll soon wonder how you ever did without it. Automator is essential for this task.

1. Open Automator from the Applications folder or from Spotlight

2. When prompted, select Service and then hit the Choose button

New Automator Service
Create a new service in Automator

3. From the lefthand Library section under Calendar, drag the New To Do Item into the main workflow window shown:

New To Do Item
Create a New To Do item in the workflow

4. Give the New To Do Item a temporary title such as New To Do Item – you’ll change it later when you use it within applications

5. Select a default calendar to add the item to – use the drop-down box next to the Add to field as shown in the screenshot below

6. At the bottom under Options, enable the checkbox Show this action when the workflow runs

7. Make sure the fields above the New To Do Item workflow are set to Service receives no input in any application. The new workflow should look just like this:

Edit To Do Details
Complete the relevant details in the New To Do item

8. To finish, choose Save from the File menu and name your new service such as New To Do Item, and then click Save

Note: your new service will be stored in the following location on your Mac’s hard disk:

Home Folder -> Library -> Services

If you want to subsequently remove the service you’ve just created, open this folder and delete the service and you’ll find that it no longer appears in the Services menu or in the keyboard shortcuts (see the next section).

Add a Keyboard Shortcut

In order to save time going to the Services menu all the time, it’s much quicker to add a new keyboard shortcut as follows:

1. Open up System Preferences and open the Keyboard item

2. In the Keyboard Shortcuts tab, click Services on the left and scroll down to the very bottom of the list to find your new item

Add Keyboard Shortcut
Assign a new keyboard shortcut to your service

3. Click the add shortcut button on the right and enter a new shortcut. I chose OptionShift + Command + T in this case

Shortcut Created
Your new shortcut has been created

4. Now just use any of your applications as normal, such as Finder and Mail. Either open the Services menu from within an application or use the keyboard shortcut to open the new reminder window. From Mail, the item in the Services menu looks like this:

Add New Item From Services
Open the services menu from any application to see your New To Do Item service

5. Whether chosen from Services or the shortcut, the New To Do Item pops up as shown below. Now just fill in the fields as appropriate (for example the title, calendar, priority and due date fields) and hit Continue

Select New To Do Item
Once you've selected the New To Do Item, this window pops up

6. Now open iCal to view your new reminder! That’s all there is to it…

New iCal To Do
The new reminder should be visible in iCal

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About the author

Roland Banks

I've been passionate about Apple ever since I bought my first iPod followed by a white polycarbonate MacBook in 2007. I currently own a MacBook Pro Retina, an iPad Mini Retina, and an iPhone 6.


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  • Nice explanation. With a little tinkering, it should be possible to automate this a little more by receiving as input whatever text is highlighted. That way you could highlight, say, the subject of an email or text within pretty much any document, and turn it into the title of the reminder.

  • Any guess why when I run the service exactly as you created it I get the following error?

    The action “New To Do Item” encountered an error.

    I was trying to use a selected section of an email in mail. I currently have lion installed and I am using iCloud.


  • Same problem as Brad D

    get error “The action “New To Do Item” encountered an error”

    what’s the fix ??