Mac app: High Priority

Every once in a while, an application/utility comes along that hits a sweet spot. Something for which I’ve been looking, but haven’t been able to find. I’m a list-maker. Especially to-do lists. For more than a year, I’ve been wanting a simple to-do list manager that I can call up from the Mac OS X menu bar. Something simple, light-weight, nicely designed, and above all else, reads and writes to pre-existing data in iCal.

Icon: High Priority Earlier this month, clever designer/developer, Aram Kudurshian, released High Priority, causing the end of my search. High Priority is exactly what I’ve been looking for. No more. No less. It even incorporates flexibility I didn’t know I wanted, but I appreciate now. From Kudurshian’s description:

Leveraging the power and simplicity of iCal, Apple’s calendar software bundled with Mac OS X, High Priority allows you to create, edit, and remove your To Do items directly from the menu bar, without having to have iCal open.

I found High Priority (HP) at the 1.01 release on MacUpdate. I read HP’s description, and without hesitation, had it downloaded and installed in seconds. Brilliant. It’s unobtrusive, elegantly designed, and I loved that I didn’t need iCal running to check (or check off) items on my to-do list.

From my perspective, only one small feature was missing in version 1.01: the ability to invoke the HP menu with a (user-definable) global keyboard shortcut. I contacted Kudurshian, complimented and thanked him for creating HP, and suggested the keyboard shortcut. With such simple software, I’m very hesitant to suggest anything be added in for fear of treading down Bloat Road. But one little keyboard shortcut, and HP would be perfect… Within a week, I see HP 1.1 released, with a nice little set of bug fixes and feature additions. One of them: “New: Ability to assign a global modifier key to open the menu.” All is right with the world.

I’ll mention that I’ve tried, for good lengths of time, other various task managers. Burnout Menu, iDo, iTasks. I also tried using 37signals’ Backpack and its interfacing Backpack Dashboard widget. I even thought I could get by with the read-only task view in MenuCalendarClock (which I still recommend as a highly useful utility for its configurable menu bar clock and quick access to calendar dates). Some of these task-list managers integrate with iCal, some of them had a portion of what I wanted. But none of them did everything as simply and as beautifully as HP.

Why is iCal integration important? Because other apps and peripherals also read and sync with iCal. I sync my data with a Palm device. I use PHP iCalendar to publish my calendar and to-dos on the web. Using iCal as a base ensures I can maintain and sync my data in multiple locations, and they all work together.

Technically, High Priority runs as a Preference Pane in System Preferences, using very little overhead. Even down to the four tabs of the pane, HP nails a very Mac-like and friendly design. Sort tasks by Calendar, Due Date, Priority, Status, or Title. Display of status or priority icons, hiding tasks n days after completion, and modifier keys to toggle status of, or delete to-do items. It even lets you choose from several blue or grayscale icons to appear in the menu bar. High Priority is what I’d expect to come from Apple if they offered menu bar integration for iCal’s To Do list.

I’ll stop here, and let you try High Priority for yourself, if you’re so inclined. I have no association with Aram Kudurshian, other than the thank-you/suggestion email I sent him after I found HP. Kudurshian’s personal license fee is a steal at US$6. Make sure you contribute if HP fits your bill like it did mine. Support software designers and developers that create useful software, no matter how small or large. Thanks for HP, Aram.


  1. Matt Turner

    Oh yeah! This is the missing link for me! I use KGTD ( for Omni Outliner (, which syncs with iCal, but i never really want either app open ALL of the time.

    This is a great little helper just to check out where i’m up too. I think $6 is a very reasonable price too.

  2. Brady J. Frey

    I have a distaste for iCal now. It’s become clunky and slow – for users who need real office collaboration and interaction, it’s just a pure drag now a days. We tried to look at going back to Entourage (eek) and setting up Kerio as our server, as a Mac OS X exchange, but that was pure ugly. I’ve been testing out Daylite 3 as an alternative so far, and it looks promising, but it’s still in beta.

    In short, I don’t know how you guys can survive using it with work; even some at Apple Co. admit they don’t use it for collaboration, because of it’s lack of industrial-ness.

  3. derek

    I had this thing downloaded faster than you could say “to-do list manager.” Excellent, and goodbye BurnoutMenu.

  4. Sean Hoyt

    His site seems to be done for the moment, but I found an alternative download link on VersionTracker:

  5. Douglas Bowman

    Brady (2): I definitely understand the concern over iCal. When I first started using iCal a little over a year ago, I struggled with its lack of features, and how slow it seemed (compared with Palm Desktop and Entourage). Now, I find myself wishing Apple would just address what a snail it is to launch and add events. If iCal were a zippy-fast app for viewing/storing events, it would improve tenfold.

    That’s why I find myself resorting to other third-party apps, like HP and MenuCalendarClock, that let me access/edit the base iCal data. As I’ve said, keeping iCal as a base for the data seems to be working well for me. It’s still slower than I’d like, sometimes painful too. But apps like HP make quick-viewing of and working with the base data much faster.

  6. Jonathan

    As a Windows user (for now… a new MacBook Pro is on my wish list), I’ve been on the lookout for an iCal like program for Windows. I had high hopes for Mozilla’s Sunbird project, but development seems to be moving along at a crawling pace. For now, it’s Outlook for me, but only because it syncs with the iPod.

    Doug, I share your distaste for bloated software that takes a long time to load. Sometimes you just want something that you can check in a half second.

    If anyone knows of some decent apps for the PC, I’m all ears.

  7. Robert Canales

    Just thought I’d share this little gem of an app which I discovered just the other day. It’s not the quite the simplistic fit that douglas describes and it is in beta, given all of that it has been a surprisingly helpful little app. It does integrate with iCal and my favorite feature is the ability to manage both “to-do” items as well as entire design projects because of its ability to link to local “resources” or files on you machine. It’s worth a download, and is as simple or complex as you’d like it to be. I am not affiliated in any way with this app or it’s makers, I was just as happy to finally find a “to-do / GTD” solution that matched my picky needs.

  8. Faruk Ates

    Oh wow, excellent find, Douglas! I’ve been wanting this kind of app for as long as I’ve had a mac! The only reason I don’t use To-Do from iCal much is because I don’t open iCal enough for it to be really useful. With this, that’s certain to change, and I’m sure it’ll aid my workflow.

    Thanks :-)

  9. Patrick Hunt

    Jumsoft Process looks very interesting.

    I have two main requirements for my list management needs: 1) hierarchical; and 2) Palm sync. I love Omni, but wish they had native Palm sync (I use my Treo 650 religiously). If Process had Palm sync, I’d likely be all over it.

    I ended up buying LifeBalance (, which has a Mac desktop app, native Palm conduit (which I use with the MissingSync), and a Palm app. It only syncs one desktop file, but otherwise works great. It does sync to iCal, but I’ve not used this feature and it appears to be a bit buggy. The whole LifeBalance thing seems a bit cheesey and self-helpish to me, but the app works really well.


  10. Grant

    Thanks Doug – I took your advice previously and tried out Burnout Menu, which /almost/ does what I need – but I find the redraw of the menu way too slow, and its .mac syncing leaves a lot to be desired.

    This looks like the perfect solution – as I already run personal and work calendars at work and home (using .mac) this looks ideal.

  11. Jeff Hartman

    Hey Doug,

    I am using TimeLog which does what High Priority does (iCal’s To-Do lists), but it’s main functionality is keeping a running timer for billing/projects. It still leaves some to be desired (QuickBooks integration for one!), but it’s a nice little app. $20 vs. $6 though, but more functionality.


  12. andrew

    i’m glad to read that somebody has actually used and thoughtfully evaluated a 37 signals product before blindly kissing various feet and inflating already massive egos. sometimes they work, sometimes there are better ideas and products, if the blogosphere can swallow that.

  13. Jason

    Having just got into the “Getting things done” area I was looking for some app that would serve me just as well on my work pc and my home mac. I didn’t really find any ideal app but I did come across rememberthemilk ( . It is an on line to-do list manager with a great design. Worth a look if you are happy with things on-line.

  14. Amit Karmakar

    Gem of a tool!!

  15. Jauhari

    For this time my fave tool is Yahoo! Calendar and integarted with Yahoo! widgets, because I don’t have Mac machine yet :)

    I was try and this noce tools too

  16. Thalwil

    High Priority looks delicious! Just a shame it’s Tiger-only… any suggestions for a menu-bar to-do-list manager with iCal sync under Panther? Bunoutmenu seems to have vanished (was it that bad? where can i still get a copy?).

    Jason – thanks for the link to
    Looks like a candidate until i upgrade to Leopard…

  17. motherduce

    Great find! I’ve been using Entourage and iCal to see which one I prefer. While I do like Entourage’s interface and all-in-one package, it’s too bulky, and I’m not keen on some of the elements. I still haven’t decided to move to iCal/Mail combo, because I do need a project management tool. This list add-on will help if I decide to go with iCal. Merci beaucoup!

  18. Jeff Croft

    Great find, Doug. You’ve got me totally hooked on it. A must-download-and-register piece of shareware.

  19. charles


    try chandler (open source application foundation). it’s early in development but it seems like it’s moving faster than Sunbird. it’s quite iCal’ish.

  20. Rajiv Perera

    Thank you — this exactly what I needed. Great help! Fantastic Price! (If I can only catch up on all my to-ds’s!!)

  21. willo

    I’m late to this post, but happened upon it searching for something about iCal. This app looks cool. Very similar to the one I use (and love): To Do X. Especially now that they’ve added ToDo X to iPod Notes.

    Long time no see, Doug! Hope you’re well. xo

  22. Fernando Lins

    I’ve recently bought iTasks 1.5, but ended up replacing it with iCal. Just the fact that I can sync iCal calendars with my cell phone through iSync pays for the sluggish, badly designed iCal tasks interface. If more software had this sync capability I’d really switch from iCal.

  23. Ashe

    I had this thing downloaded while still reading the first paragraph on here. When I read “iCal integration” I was already clicking on the “Register” button. Thanks for letting me know about this! And you’re right, it does EXACTLY what it should do and nothing more. Perfect application and at $6 it’s definitely worth registering!

  24. mikulla

    Yea, I’m going to try this out. My current system is using skedit to create text files for a gtd system. I use skedit because of the drawer feature. I then drag a folder called notes that holds my .txt lists onto my ipod.

    If apple would just make ical seperate to do’s by calander on the ipod I would be good to go. Unfortunately, no matter how many calanders you create, all to dos from each calander are lumped in one to do folder.

  25. AL

    This is my first time here (therefore, I am casual person like you mentioned in the “it’s been 3 months” post). I linked from Blogger b/c I liked the templates you designed. This site is awesome – just wanted to let you to know (which I’m sure you know already – ha). Very creative, very!

  26. WOW I love this. I bought it right away!

  27. mulan

    there’s a free one that does this as well called checkoff

  28. red zebra

    This looks nice, i really need to buy a MAC.

  29. Rish

    Hey Doug, Amazing Tool! I’ve been wanting this kind of app for as long as I’ve had a mac!

  30. big dog

    “I had this thing downloaded faster than you could say “to-do list manager.” Excellent, and goodbye BurnoutMenu.” haaa.. so did I derek! :)

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