Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Calendar Apps

Having a calendar with you on the phone or tablet is great - makes it easy to add, check or change. We used to use Groupwise & there was a pretty pitiful client for the iPhone (which this post is based on) but things got better when we moved to Google apps. It links to the built in calendar, but I was never really happy with that for the reason of the first app.

I haven't tried many apps - I get hints from reviews and notices, and have three which I use for various reasons. I would note I am not a power user - don't share calendars, invite people or use a number of different ones. They are for me!

week cal
Itunes web link

This was the first calendar I got and I still use it. As an academic, during semester time week view is my main visual handle on my timetable - it changes from week to week and a good visualisation is essential. Week Cal's raison d'ĂȘtre is the week view (day and month views are available). Entering new events is straightforward using the normal touchdate/time, make selection about length from the tumbler etc. All the usual features expected of a calendar are there too - location, link to contacts, repeat, different calendars.

I was happy with it, but then read some reviews of other with different tweaks, and I now use 2 of them.

Fantastical 2
Itunes web link

The first thing is that this integrates calendar and reminders, so it is a nice integration, especially if you keep trying to get todo lists - at least they are together here.

Second, it uses 'natural language' item creation. Tap the + button and you get a text entry line and as you type it in the program makes its interpretations - meet student at 2 will start to create a meeting at 2 today, add tomorrow and it will shift the draft to tomorrow. Start the typing a todo and it will be a reminder (there is also a sliding button which will toggle between appointment and reminder. If it looks OK hit add, if not you can look at the details and fine tune it and add the regular stuff.

The next difference is the look. When you open it you get a ticker tape of days across the top (not showing sequences of more than 3 days without a meeting) with bars representing meetings for the day. Below is the current reminders and then a list of meetings.(Tap for more detail). As you scroll the list, the ticker tape slides across.

Drag down on the ticker tape and it changes into the month view with dots for meetings and also a search function.

I would use this as my main calendar except that the week view is available only when you rotate from portrait to landscape. As my phone is locked in portrait, that is a nuisance and effectively no use (one cal app I looked at had a button that shifted the view from day to week - much better - but it didn't add a lot more.
Who has their phone on rotation? As I say, mine is locked for  two reasons.
1. there is no consistency about whether the app will rotate (on the iphone the  iOS doesn't but it  does on the iPad)  . Browsers rotate, weather doesn't ; guardian rotates, ABC doesn't;  Music app does, ecoute doesn't). so you don't know what will happen
2. It makes me feel sick. I don't mind the parallax, but screens rotating and unrotating, doing strange things if you are lying in bed, - all too much for me.
However, with the iPad I use the  manual lock to change screen rotation & in fact tend to have it in free rotation - more programs rotate and I use it less, but in more defined places.

And finally, one with a very different interface which is breaking new ground.


I like this because it is looking at calendars a different way.

When you open the app you get a list of days as a series of horizontal tabs, a bit like some email. These are the days of the week view - so it is each day until saturday or sunday (depending on when your week starts) and there is a simple statement of date (small) day (bigger) and a bar indicating how much time is booked for that day. Tap on a day and a folding paper unfolds down with the list of appointments. Tap for details. tap again for it to fold away.

Below the week we get the rest of the month view, with a small bar histogram again giving you the time booked for each day (tap etc). the months are colour coded for season (so there are three month blocks) with a subtle (northern hemisphere [they're working on it]) icon for it.

This is all nice block colours (only 2 schemes at present, but I hope they don't offer too many options or it could get ugly).

The next innovation is the mechanism in adding events. long hold on the day and the event portal opens. Name ok. Press the start time and the whole screen opens to a bespoke time entry system - hours listed on the left, minutes right & you slide a marker up or down to select the start, am/pm below and then tick or cross to accept/change your mind.

then when we get to duration, hold your finger on and you are touching a histogram (note a trend) which you can slide up or down to give you the length, or convert it into a day event. Then there are options for repeat location etc. A very different interface which is more touch friendly, layer-operated than apples dials. And works exceedingly well.

2 other innovations. If you shake the phone you can get a 'wellness' reminder (just did & I got 'do what you love' which you can reject or get scheduled randomly soon. The other is more useful - if you cover the screen with your hand, or turn the phone upside down, it sense the shade and shows the time in nice big numbers. Very helpful if you keep the phone in calendar mode.

At the moment I am using all three because they have different advantages and fun (Peek) and would only go down to 2 when Fantastical can replace Week Cal.

But, for any big appointment entry work - like all my classes for the semester - the desktop is the only way. Thanks Google Calendar (I'm on PC).