ReQall 2.0: Now somewhat smarter
You speak, it remembers.
Aide-memoire service ReQall, which I first , is getting a 2.0 update. New features will make this clever application more useful. Now, when you type or speak an item to remember, you can also help ReQall file it away for you by using certain keywords. For example, if you say, "Buy milk," the service will put that to-do on your "shopping list." The service also understands time: You can specify items for "tomorrow" or for specific dates. You can also share items by saying, for example, "Ask Joe to look into Megacorp." It helps if Joe then has a ReQall account; if he does, the item will appear in both your lists. (See also: BaseCamp.)
There are other to-do list products (such as RememberTheMilk) and even others that parse English (IWantSandy). What makes ReQall different is that it allows multiple inputs--not just text--and outputs for your lists. You can speak your items to the ReQall phone number, put them on the Web site or widget, or connect via text message or instant message (that's new). The service acts as both a storehouse for your items and as a reminder service. It will remind you via an IM or e-mail on items you need to remember. There's also a pretty new iPhone interface.
In my test of the beta, I found ReQall 2.0 easy to use but limited in its understanding of English. You have to know what keywords will set off its automatic categorizing and time-slotting. For example, when I entered the text, "Remind me in 10 minutes to prep" it did not seem to recognize what I was asking for.
There's another new feature with unrealized potential: Photographic Memory. You can now send pictures to your account from a Picasa Web account. That's kind of cool, but it'd be more useful, I think, if you could send camera-phone images to your account. For example, if you had a nice bottle of wine at a restaurant that you wanted to add to your shopping list, it'd be useful if you could record it via photo. The upcoming Evernote version may allow you to do just that, and with OCR of the label to boot.
ReQall's sexiest feature is still its speech-to-text capability. You call up the ReQall service and speak your reminder, and it adds it to your flow of notes. I'm still a bit freaked out that the service is human-assisted: If the automated speech-to-text engine doesn't work perfectly, someone might listen to your recording to transcribe it to your account. ReQall's Sunil Vemuri assures me that the transcribers don't get user account information alongside the audio they work with. However, you'd still be wise to remember that actual people might be hearing your words, and that clearly illegal voice notes will bubble up and get attention you don't want.
There's still no visible monetization scheme for ReQall. In the future, premium accounts may get more access to voice transcription services.
I really like all the super-clean, super-simple reminder products like ReQall--in theory. I have yet to adopt one, being a slave to my own hack of a method that involves index cards and OneNote. None of the services I've used so far blend both the quick-and-dirty, access-from-anywhere reminder service we all need, with a good system for recording long-form notes. Evernote may do that, but it's still in closed beta. We'll have a look at it shortly.