Posts tagged with "calendar"

Why Are Calendar Apps Dumb?

Smart piece by Jason Snell.

There are two key factors involved here: old interface patterns and constant data collection. New designs can be experimented with; parsing data introduces layers of complexity that go deeper than providing a new month view.

Google is working on this kind of technology with Now. It's plausible to assume Apple is, too.


Fantastical 1.1 Brings Clipboard Detection, Multiple Alerts, Calendar Improvements



Fantastical is my favorite calendar app for iPhone. From my review of the first version:

Fantastical for iPhone gets many things right without cluttering the interface or forcing me to learn a new set of rules and menus. Like Tweetbot's tap & hold actions, Instapaper's footnotes, or Launch Center's presentation of shortcuts, Fantastical's DayTicker and natural language support made me ask myself: Why hasn't anyone else done this before?

Fantastical was already a part of my daily workflow on the Mac; with the iPhone app, I've found myself using the app even more thanks to its beautiful and easy to use interface that makes it super simple to get a quick overview of a day's events. Combined with my OmniFocus-to-Calendar system, I wouldn't be able to go back to Apple's Calendar app after using Fantastical.

Fantastical 1.1, released today on the App Store, adds a series of improvements that make the app even better to use.

In terms of UI tweaks, there are new options in the Settings to highlight weekend days and dim past events for the current day. Both changes are welcome as they make it easier to quickly “read” the calendar; weekend days are dimmed both in DayTicker and calendar view. Another option that has been added in 1.1 – but which I don't use – is the possibility to hide empty days from the DayTicker. The Dock icon can now show a badge indicating the current day of the month or remaining events for the current day (I prefer day of the month).

For calendar management and event creation, Fantastical 1.1 comes with new features that I really like. Events can be moved or duplicated by tapping & holding them and choosing Duplicate or Move from a popup menu; the same tap & hold gesture can be performed on the title bar (where the date is shown) to bring up a beautiful date picker that uses the same “loupe” effect of the DayTicker (shown above). If you don't want to manually pick a date, you can now scroll the entire event list instead of being limited to the current month; scrolling will also automatically scroll the DayTicker or calendar views.



Alongside time zone support, pending invitations management, and multiple alerts (I managed to add 20 alerts to a single event, more than Week Calendar), Fantastical now has a smart clipboard detection tool that will look for date strings in your clipboard and offer you to quickly create a new event. For me, this has been particularly useful for dates of app releases or Skype calls that I frequently receive via email; I can copy the date, open Fantastical, and the app will parse it, letting me type the name of the event and save it.

Fantastical 1.1 is a solid update to my go-to calendar app for iPhone, and it's available on the App Store.

Week Calendar HD Review



Week Calendar has always been a calendar app for power users. I remember taking my first look at the iPhone version in March 2011, calling it a “powerful iCal alternative for iPhone”; two months later, I covered the release of the iPad client, which was then given a new theme to better differentiate it from Apple's own Calendar app.1 After a long absence on the App Store, Week Calendar for iPad is back today as Week Calendar HD, which I have been testing for the past few months.

Just like its predecessors, Week Calendar is a calendar app for power users. You will find dozens of options and settings to tweak, perhaps even too many if you don't like the idea of tweaking every font size, calendar behavior, or menu to your liking. The compromise of using a feature-rich app as Week Calendar is that there is an initial learning curve – not too steep, but definitely something worth keeping in mind if you want to get the most out of the app.

Therefore, instead of listing every single feature in detail, I'll try to focus on the ones that I have been using on a daily basis.2

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Horizon Integrates Weather With Your Calendar

Horizon Integrates Weather With Your Calendar



My wish for a better iPhone calendar app was granted by Flexibits with Fantastical, but Horizon, a new app by Kyle Rosenbluth, is worth a mention. Horizon integrates weather information with your calendar, providing an elegant overview of events and weather forecasts in a clean interface.

Horizon’s main screen shows a list of the next few days in your calendar; you can swipe down on the month’s name in the title bar to bring up a 30-day overview of the current month. In month view, “today” has a gray indicator, and events are shown as thin colored lines: a day with only one event will have one line, while busier days will have multiple lines. You can tap & hold a day to quickly create an event, and you can swipe horizontally to switch to the previous or next month.

The core aspect of Horizon is how it mixes weather with event information. When creating a new event, the app uses Google location data (which I found to be the best provider here in Italy) to show a list of suggestions in a bar above the keyboard; once you’ve chosen a location, Horizon will fetch a weather forecast (up to 14 days out). The app was created for people who deal with appointments in multiple locations on a daily basis: by entering a single day’s view, you’ll see a list of all your upcoming events alongside their respective locations and weather forecasts. A colored bar at the top can be swiped to show more weather information for each event (a weather icon, temperature, and chance of rain).

I like how Horizon presents different data sets without cluttering the interface. The app comes with neat animations, a focus on current and future events (past days are hidden from the main list), and a night mode if you’re not into the default white color scheme. I highly recommend Horizon for people who wish to see calendar and weather information at a glance in a single screen. The app is $1.99 on the App Store.


Fantastical for iPhone Review

I wouldn’t call myself a calendar power-user.

Ever since I started organizing the things I have to do with a system I can trust, I’ve faced a workflow conundrum: is this a task or a calendar event?

I know that there’s a difference between so-called “actionable items” and time-based events. Maybe I’m not hooked up right, but I’ve been looking for a way to immediately visualize, in a single interface, all the things that I have to do on a specific day. Independently from their actionable (“you need to do this”) or time-based (“you need to be here”) status, I want a software that, like a personal assistant, tells me exactly what I need to get done.

I have found such system in displaying my OmniFocus items inside my calendar. And now, the system has been enriched by the addition of Fantastical for iPhone.

I’ve been a fan of Fantastical for Mac since I first tried it in May 2011. Replacing iCal’s overly complicated interface with a simple menubar overview of your upcoming events, not only did Fantastical show that a simpler way to access your calendar was possible, it also profoundly changed the third-party OS X development scene with its use of natural language input. Futuristic as a concept, in practice Flexibits managed to bundle a powerful language parser within Fantastical that would recognize commands like “Coffee with Chris tomorrow from 6 to 7” and deconstruct them as specific values for a calendar event. It’s not a fancy gimmick: rather than clicking buttons and menus, I constantly find myself invoking Fantastical on a daily basis, typing away like I’d normally do in a blog post or note, saving events in just a few seconds.

Fantastical is one of my must-have apps for OS X. But how could Flexibits ensure its soul wouldn’t get lost in the transition to iOS? Read more

OmniFocus and Calendar Notifications

I recently became tired with the fact that OmniFocus needs to be launched every once in a while in order to get the latest version of its synced database. For almost two years, I synced OmniFocus through The Omni Group's excellent (and free) Omni Sync Server service, but I switched to a manual WebDAV location hosted on my Macminicolo machine because I like to be in control of the app's sync sessions, and to fiddle around with ways to better automate the app's syncing system.

Over the past few months, however, I have found myself increasingly missing notifications for due items because I am not always using the same device to manage OmniFocus, and I tend to forget to launch the app and hit the Sync button. I may go a full week without using OmniFocus for Mac, but I'd still like to be reminded of important items even if I don't sync my iPhone and iPad all the time. Unfortunately, in the way OmniFocus is structured, the standard sync doesn't allow items to be "pushed" in the background.

I came up with a way to have OmniFocus' due reminders synced "in the cloud" and always up-to-date that enables me to keep using the app like I always have, yet staying assured I won't miss items because I forgot to sync or open the app. It uses OmniFocus' built-in calendar export functionality, and a mix of automation, Macminicolo hosting, and third-party apps to get the job done reliably and consistently. It's not perfect (mainly due to Apple's fault) and it's likely doable in some other way with some other hosting solution, but I found this method to work perfectly for me in my workflow. Read more

Fantastical 1.2 Adds International Languages To Event Parsing Engine

Flexibits' calendar companion app for Mac OS X, Fantastical, has been updated today to version 1.2 adding support for various languages that will allow international users to quickly write down new events in Italian, German, Spanish, and French.

I have been able to test Fantastical's natural language recognition (my original review) both in English and Italian, and the results are surprisingly well done. Whereas most apps that claim to feature "natural language input" fail miserably at parsing content from syntaxes other than plain English, Fantastical's support for Italian has, indeed, turned out to be pretty fantastic. An event called "App Journal ogni Venerdì alle 6 del pomeriggio" (App Journal every Friday at 6 PM) was correctly recognized, processed and synced back to iCloud directly within the app thanks to Fantastical's own calDAV engine. Without going into detail too much, I can say that Fantastical is able to recognize different variations of the same kind of input (such as "di mattina" and "di pomeriggio" for AM/PM switches) and definitely doesn't stop at standard expressions for entering events but tries to understand common, real-life ways of telling an app to do something at a certain point in time. I can't speak for French, German and Spanish support, but I assume it's equally well done.

Version 1.2 comes with other bug fixes, performance and parsing improvements that make the app more stable and smoother in transitioning from text entry to event creation; the app can now automatically update subscribed calendars, and automatically hide calendars disabled in iCal. More importantly, Fantastical 1.2 brings better support for recurring events -- such as my example above -- and dims timed events that have already passed in "today" view. Those who often add URLs to events will appreciate the fact that Fantastical now correctly recognizes links and makes them clickable in event view.

Fantastical remains an amazingly lightweight yet powerful calendar companion that's gradually getting more functionalities without becoming cluttered and confusing. You can get the app at $19.99 on the Mac App Store.

QuickCal 3.1 Released with Improved Recognition Engine, iCloud Reminders, Autocomplete Feature

I love the start of a new year because it is a great time to revamp your productivity workflow. You can re-evaluate what tools you use and even buy new apps completely free of guilt. It is no secret that the cornerstone of any good system is the calendar but it can be difficult to force yourself to create calendar events on a regular basis. Well, the folks behind QuickCal have just released a great update to get you back in the routine of managing your calendar.

One major improvement in QuickCal 3.1 is the re-written recognition engine that the app uses to understand natural language input. QuickCal has no structured syntax for adding events and reminders which actually makes adding items extremely flexible. When typing in the event you no longer have to start with the event title, you actually have the option of starting with a time, duration, location, or title and QuickCal will almost always get it right. I have also noticed a dramatic improvement in QuickCal’s ability to correctly parse out event locations which is something I have had trouble with in previous versions. Regardless of the order in which you type out the information, QuickCal does an excellent job figuring out the details for you. Adding events to your calendar without worrying about correct syntax is incredibly powerful. The only way QuickCal could get any faster at creating calendar events is if it actually finished sentences for you.

oh, wait…

Have I mentioned their new autocomplete feature? Autocomplete does exactly what you expect it to do. As you are typing common words, QuickCal gives you suggestions of words it thinks you might be typing. To accept the autocompletion you can just hit the tab key and continue on typing. It will even pickup on your most frequently used words and auto-suggest them in the future. After only 3 or 4 reminders relating to my wife Leslie, QuickCal was finishing her name for me. It is awesome. In fact, I am finding it so useful that I am not sure how I had ever used QuickCal without this feature.

Perhaps the greatest improvement to QuickCal is its integration with iCloud Reminders. A reminder is now added to your default Reminders list and shows up in the iOS 5 Reminders app. If the reminder has a date or time then an alarm is also created. This alone is a neat feature but it wasn’t enough to pry me away from the Alfred extension I had created to quickly add simple iOS 5 Reminders. Although as I continued to use the new version of QuickCal, I realized that I could also add items to other lists by simply typing the name of the list. For example, my wife and I share a Groceries list. If I just start typing Gro… it suggests switching to my Groceries list so I can add an item to it. In true QuickCal fashion it does so very intuitively and without effort. It is a great feature that truly increases my dependency on QuickCal. The only drawback is still having to open iCal to trigger an iCloud sync. When CalDAV is supported and I no longer need that extra step, QuickCal will be my ideal iCal replacement.

Check out QuickCal 3.1 and all of its new features on the Mac App Store.

Calendr for iPhone: Fast and Elegant Event Creation

I've never been a dedicated user of calendar software on my Mac and iOS devices, but I've always been interested in checking out well-made applications capable of working with Google Calendar, MobileMe and, more recently, Apple's iCloud. Whereas Apple's Calendar app (iCal on the desktop) has taken quite the skeuomorphic turn with the latest iOS and Lion upgrades (in spite of the iPhone version still lacking the leather and stitches Apple seems to love so much), other utilities like the excellent Fantastical (our review), QuickCal, Week Calendar and Agenda have all offered their unique takes on event creation, quick reminders, access to multiple calendars, and more. I may not be entering events in my "Personal" iCloud calendar all day long, but I enjoy trusting a fine app when I need to schedule that Sony CES keynote or NBA game and don't want to even look at iCal. To me, calendar has always been a system I've wanted to use more -- perhaps the right app is key to this.

Chocomoko's Calendr, which I discovered in the App Store last week, is yet another iPhone client that comes with built-in integration with iOS calendars; unlike other apps that focus on supercharging the iPhone's native calendar experience with features (Week Calendar, QuickCal) or interface approaches (Agenda) different from Apple's, Calendr caught my attention because it doesn't come with hundreds of alternative functionalities, focusing instead on two key elements: navigation and touch-based event creation.

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