A Plethora of Calendaring Apps for the iPad; A Dearth of Really Good Ones

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IOS has some of the most innovative, refreshing and advanced apps on the market. However, when I say IOS, although I’m referring to the devices that use IOS, those being the iPhone and the iPad, they are not created equal. In many cases, what’s available on one platform is available on the other but not always. In the best of all worlds the good apps are not only available on both the iPhone and the iPad but also the Mac. In this case, all hopefully are talking to each other via some sync mechanism be it iCloud, Dropbox or some other service such as OmniPresence.

All Calendaring apps are Not Created Equal

Where it comes to calendaring, one of our most useful and essential tools there’s, in my view, an unusual disparity between the iPad and the rest of the Mac lineup. OSX for the Mac does include a calendar which also runs on both your iPad and iPhone. However, most consider this calendar adequate at best and some consider them rather ugly due to the faux leather boundaries. Although they’ll do in a pinch for both the Mac and the iPhone there are some very good calendars that can be used in place or in conjunction with the Apple provided apps.

In this case I said the Mac and the iPhone. However, if you go to the Apple app store although you’ll find dozens upon dozens of alternative calendaring apps for the iPad nothing really jumps out at you the way it does on the iPhone and the Mac.

The Mac

On the Mac there are two excellent alternate calendars one can choose from. Those are BusyCal and Fantastical. Although BusyCal is more representative of your standard calendar it has a nice look which is also very functional. It’s both easy to use yet much more powerful than that of Apple’s calendar.

Fantastical is a more unique calendaring app which is touted as one of the easiest yet most powerful. On the Mac, it is a menubar app that drops down to reveal a pleasant yet extremely powerful interface. It’s intuitive to use and you can enter your calendar entries using natural language such as Meeting with Peter at Joe’s diner tomorrow from 1pm to 2pm and to indicate which calendar to use you simply enter something like /d for dining. The added advantage of Fantastical is it runs on the iPhone using this same interface and entry syntax and Fantastical runs fully sync’d via iCloud.

I actually use both Fantastical and BusyCal and like them both for different reasons. I tend to make my calendar entries in Fantastical and quickly view my upcoming appointments in Fantastical. Yet, there are times I like the large layout view of a standard calendar which BusyCal provides. Since they are both very easy to use, I use them together nicely. Although BusyCal does provide a menubar applet much like Fantastical’s and uses a natural language input system, I still tend to use Fantastical’s as it is more advanced. However, the iPhone version of Fantastical really is the driver that steers me to Fantastical.

The iPhone

So from the above, we know Fantastical runs on the iPhone identically. It’s nice to use, fast and intuitive. I’d never use Apple’s own calendar on the iPhone.

However, there’s a broad array of calendaring apps for the iPhone some of which are extremely good. It seems like calendaring apps are being released for the iPhone weekly. Some of course are mediocre. However, others are not. As an example, Horizon is a well liked iPhone calendar app and it is unique in that it’s not only your calendar but tells you the weather forecasted for each day. It has a night mode which is quite stunning. Like Fantastical it too uses a natural language syntax for calendar entry.

Although I have Horizon plus one other calendar app on my iPhone, Agenda, it’s Fantastical I tend to always use. It really is the nicest of the bunch, comes highly recommended and you can’t beat that it runs on your Mac identically.

The iPad

Unlike the Mac and the iPhone that have excellent alternative calendaring apps the same cannot be said for the iPad. Although there is a multitude of calendaring apps in the app store none really stand out. In this quick overview Rene Ritchie “Compares iPad Calendar Apps at a Glance”. In my view, nothing really jumps out at you the way the Mac or iPhone apps I mentioned do. You’ll be hard pressed to find any reviewer rave over any of these or any calendaring apps for the iPad as they simply don’t exist. That is yet.

The iPad I think still presents fantastic ground for a BusyCal, a Fantastical or both to develop their apps for the iPad. For my purposes, of all these apps that I looked at, I chose Agenda as my alternate calendar to the included iPad app simply because I liked it’s very minimalistic approach to calendaring. However, I’m just as likely to use Apple’s included calendar as I am to use Agenda. There’s some things I like about one over the other.

This simply is not the case with the iPhone or the Mac. I only work in Fantastical on the iPhone and sometimes will open Horizon or Agenda and on the Mac I primarily work in Fantastical but will use BusyCal for those advanced views that I occasionally need.

Where it comes to my iPad, I’ll just wait and watch for that magical calendaring app to appear. Who knows, possibly the standard calendar that will come with IOS 7 will more than meet my needs. However, the iPad has a huge installed base now and represents a golden opportunity for someone to come a long and build something for it that would truly shine. Either a Fantastical or a BusyCal or both for the iPad would get my nod and I’d probably get them both and use each for their unique but advanced capabilities. For now though, I’ll just wait and watch.

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