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Calendar App Is a Fantastic Time Manager

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jan 8, 2013 5:00 AM PT

Fantastical is a Mac app by Flexibits, and is available at the Mac App Store for US $14.99.

Calendar App Is a Fantastic Time Manager

Fantastical appointment search view
(click image to enlarge)

In a game of word association, it's unlikely that "fantastical" will produce "calendar" in most players' minds -- unless they've used the dandy time management program for Mac OS X of that name.

Apple includes calendar software with OS X. It gets the job done. It's nicely integrated with other calendar programs that use the CalDAV protocol, notably Google Calendar.

Users can create multiple calendars within Apple Calendar, too. You can have a calendar for work-related events, for example, and another for after business hours activities.

It also has a nice search function. Type in a search term and a nice list of relevant items will pop up beside the calendar.

Apple Calendar, though, doesn't make the best use of screen real estate -- a drawback if you're using it on smaller Mac models like a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Also absent from Apple Calendar is the kind of artificial intelligence that programs like Microsoft Outlook have been using for years to make creating new events and reminders easier.

Breezy Setup

Fantastical improves on what Calendar has to offer and does it in a compact, quickly accessible package.

It doesn't ignore Calendar, however, but works with it. It shares information between the programs, including how items are colored.

Setting up Fantastical is painless. When you launch it for the first time, it asks your permission to access your Internet Accounts Access Group -- something it needs to do to maintain your calendar -- and whether you want Fantastical to load automatically when you log in to your computer.

One shortcoming Calendar users may find with Fantastical is it only has one view -- monthly. Calendar has day, week, month and year views. However, Fantastical will display a list of upcoming events and reminders below its graphical monthly calendar.

What appears in that list can be customized through Fantastical's preferences menu, available by clicking the gear icon found at the bottom right of the program's main window.

With those preferences, you can define how events appear in the list. You can see seven, 14 or 31 days of events, or display five, 10 or 20 events at a time.

Similarly, you can display, along with your events, five, 10, 20 or 50 reminders, and choose how you want them sorted in the list -- by priority, due date, title or calendar.

Natural Language Input

Fantastical can be quickly accessed by clicking its icon, which appears on the Apple menu bar, or with the shortcut key combination control-option-space.

You can create new events and reminders by typing them into a box located above the monthly calendar located at the top of the Fantastical window. Beside the event field is box for searching through your calendar database.

Events and reminders can be created by using natural language. You can type in a fragment such as "meet Lynn next Tuesday in Providence at 3 p.m." and Fantastical will take the information from your statement and place it in the appropriate fields in a record in your calendar database.

As soon as you type a character in the new event box, the record for the event appears below the box so you can make changes to it immediately. You may want to alter the length of the event, add an alarm or note to it or invite other folks to it.

Because Fantastical is hooked into the contact app on your Mac, when you type a name into an event, the software will suggest in a pull down menu next to the name an email address for the contact so you can send an invite to them about the event.

Worthwhile Tool

Toggling between making a new calendar item either an event or a reminder is a cinch. There's a slider control above the record you're creating to do that.

Event records contain fields for a location, all-day event, from date, to date, calendar choice, alarm, invitees and note. Reminder records contain a priority (low, medium and high), due date, calendar list choice and a note field.

On Fantastical's monthly calendar, a dot is placed below dates that contain events. When you click on a day with an event, the software jumps to the item in the event list displayed below the calendar.

Clicking the item will pop up a window with brief info about the event -- to and from dates and time, as well as which calendar the item is stored in. Double-clicking the item, or clicking the edit button in the brief info window, displays more detail about the item that can be edited.

Items can only be deleted from the edit item window. When you try to delete an item, the software asks you if you're sure about your intentions, a good safeguard.

As easy as Fantastical is to use, deleting items in the program is a bit clumsy. There also doesn't seem to be any way to create recurring appointments -- events that happen every month or every quarter.

Nevertheless, Fantastical's compact form and natural language abilities make it very convenient to use and a worthwhile tool for improving productivity.

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and former special correspondent for Government Security News.

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