Calendar apps on phones/computers/etc. suffer from a lot of problems. Most of which stem from trying to re-create a digital version of a physical (generally paper) calendar. Ben Brooks spills a lot of digital ink talking about calendar apps, and even took the time to make some suggestions about what the “optimal” view for a calendar would be. Obviously this concept varies from person to person, and determining what it is important depends on that person’s life (work, family, etc.).
I am one of these people that struggles finding the “right” calendar app, as indicated by this recent tweet:
Counting the stock iOS apps I currently have 7 weather apps and 5 calendar apps installed.— Berserk Hippo (@BerserkHippo) November 1, 2013
The perfect calendar app would focus on the following:
- What happened in the past doesn’t matter, only what is coming up
- The ability to quickly find out what is planned for a particular day (anytime in the future) is important. (In other words, “do I have plans on December 10th” should be quick to find out without scrolling through months).
- The ability to add events with natural language (“lunch with Chris Saturday 1 pm at Five Guys” should just work)
- Smart searching for free time. (In other words, “when is the next Saturday that I am free for dinner”)
Here is the breakdown of the five calendar apps installed and where they thrive, and struggle.
Calendar (stock iOS app)
The stock calendar app comes with the best integration into iOS since it’s the only app that events can be added to from pretty much any other place in iOS. It offers a monthly view that puts one dot on a day if there are any events at all, which is somewhat worthless since a quick glance gives no indication of what type of events or how many. Clicking on a day reveals a day view that shows about 7 hours or show on a 5s screen. Turning the phone into landscape view reveals a “week” view that shows 5 days buy only bout 5 hours.
Overall, the stock app is much too limited and lacks any sort of customization.
Week Calendar is one of the most customizable apps in existence. It seems to have a setting for every little thing in every part of the app. It offers 6 views. One is list of events with a search box at the top. One is a day view. One is an “agenda” view, which is just a snapshot of all appointments for the current week. One is a traditional week view (probably my favorite). Two different month views, one which shows each day with each even listed, and another that resembles the old iOS stock calendar, with colored dots on the days representing each event on that day. It also offers a view to jump to a specific day, but because it uses the iOS date picker, it’s not faster than just scrolling in the month view and clicking on a date.
The week view can be defaulted to start on the current date which is great for getting an idea of what is coming up over the next ‘x’ days without including past events. But it lacks natural language input and despite off the views offered, it doesn’t have any sort of “weekends only view”. It’s also badly in need of a UI update (one is supposedly on it’s way at some point).
Despite it’s shortcomings, it is and has been my goto calendar app for a while.
The iOS equivalent of my Mac calendar app of choice. Fantastical is the original app to offer “natural language” input. Version 2 was just released and is big improvement over version 1. Its a simple app that doesn’t offer much customization and offers just a couple of views. The main view is a side-scrolling view of 5 days with bars indicating the events for that day, although it only shows up to four bars, so a day with 4 events and one with 12 looks the same. This part of the view mostly seems useful for seeing how full the whole day is.
Below this view is a list of events starting with the day selected. This list can be scrolled, which adjust the side-scroller, or if a new game is selected on the side scroller this list adjust to that day. It lists the name of the event, the calendar dot color, the location, start and end time.
There is a month view that also shows up to four colored dots to indicate where events are. This is the only way to jump significantly far in the future.
Logacal is relatively new, and offers a very specific concept. It’s a straight list view that starts with the current day and just lists events going forward. After the next day, it lists things in relative terms, like “in 2 days”, “in a week”, etc. It’s high point is that it doesn’t even provide the ability to go back. The current day is the oldest events that can be viewed.
This app is very limited, and really just does one thing. If that endless scroll of upcoming events is preferred, this app does it well.
Weekender is a new app that I discovered searching the app store (seriously). Most people’s times is divided into weekdays and weekends. There are things that only apply to weekdays, like most people’s jobs, and many apps have views built-in for just viewing weekdays. Most calendars don’t include this same option for weekends though. Weekender is an app designed to be nothing but a view of upcoming weekends. It shows the next 12 weekends, and the events on those days. When trying to plan things that can only happen on weekends it’s much faster for finding open days and takes away other distractions.
The downside is that it’s so limited, there isn’t even a way to add events. It’s designed for one thing and that’s all it does.
This doesn’t even include Readdle’s Callendars 5 which I just recently removed from my iPhone. Week Calendar is probably the best around calendar app because it has so many views and is so customizable. Fantastical has a nice list view, but some of this functionality can be achieved with iOS’ built-in notification center. But other than QuickCal, which hasn’t been updated in 9 months, natural language input doesn’t exist other places. It seems odd that Apple hasn’t either purchased, or just incorporated themselves, this type of functionality. Weekender offers a very special unique view that can’t be find elsewhere so far. Those are the three apps that are the most useless currently to my own situation, unless someone can find a way to satisfy all the bullet points above with one app.