Capitan: My new favorite iPhone grocery list manager

In my household, I'm the person who makes up the menu for the next week and creates a shopping list for groceries. It's a rough job, but it's made easier by iOS apps that have come out to make list-making easier. The latest, though, has to be my favorite -- it's Capitan, a free iPhone and Apple Watch app that turns a chore into a pleasure.

Up to this time, I used Grocery IQ, a monster of an iPhone app that made it easy to add items to a list via a bar code scanner, but made using the list a real pain in the ass. To find items that I had entered previously, I ended up scrolling through a long list of items, back and forth, and it took forever.

Capitan not only looks like a modern iOS app (Grocery IQ is very dated looking), but it appears that the developers actually thought about what people do when they're putting together a grocery list. With the app, one can create any number of shopping lists for different stores or occasions. Once in a list, you simply tap a + button to add a new item. Enter in the first few characters, and Capitan guesses at what you're entering. For example, typing in "toi" results in an entry for "toilet paper" showing up - with a tap it's added to your list.

Any of the items that are already in the Capitan list of pre-entered items are pre-categorized; toilet paper shows up under Household, ground beef appears under Meat, and so on. Once an item is added to the list it can be sent to a different category, a note can be added, or it can be deleted, all through a swipe to the left. When you're shopping, a tap on the item adds a strikethrough so you can see that you've picked up the item in the store. This is wonderful, since the Grocery IQ app dumps the items back down into the list -- on occasion, I'd accidentally "check off" an item and not know since the item disappeared from the list. 

If the item isn't on the pre-entered list, you can add it easily by typing it in and then assigning it to a category. The notes are useful for entering quantities. Now once you're done with the list, you can manually sort the categories so that they match your usual path through the grocery store. To clear the entire list after you're done shopping, there's a "Clear Checked Items" button that does the job with a pair of taps. 

Capitan on the Apple Watch

Capitan on the Apple Watch

The companion Apple Watch app is a joy to use as well. With a tap on the app icon, you see a list of the shopping lists you've created. Tap on one of them, and the list appears with items sorted in the category list you created before. Scrolling through the list is as easy as rolling the Digital Crown. As you pick up an item, glance at the Watch and tap the item to cross it off. My only complaint here is that the Apple Watch app doesn't have a way to display any notes that you've added -- I'd like to see the developers add the capability of Force Touching a list item to see the notes.

One other feature missing is a way to create or edit categories. For example, the list included "Sausages" -- not a big area in my grocery stores -- but left out "Deli". I checked the app settings to see if there was a help file and instead I found a wonderful treat! The developers use Intercom for an almost-realtime feedback mechanism, and I had a response in seconds. The comment was that they'll probably add the category add/edit capability in a future update. 

Is there anything else I'd like to see? Yeah, I kinda miss the ability to scan an item with the iPhone camera to add it to a list, but then again, Grocery IQ missed most of the products I tried adding. 

Oh, one more great feature. You can share a list with other iPhone users who have the app. Let's say that you're in charge of picking up office supplies once a week for the people at your business. You could give everyone the app, share a list with them, and they can add items to your list. It's also useful for those situations where your spouse or kids want to add other items to the list after you've headed to the grocery store. Capitan also uses geolocation to determine when you're getting near a store and will remind you -- and the others in your shared group -- that you're getting close to the store. 

Capitan is fast, sleek, and works great on the Apple Watch and iPhone. The few shortcomings I've found (which will probably be resolved soon) shouldn't keep you from picking up this wonderful app.