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Issue #89: I’ve been using Calendar for weeks, and I have thoughts 🗓

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How are you? Is your calendar as jam-packed as mine? I certainly hope not, it’s been nuts, and while I hope this week is the last crazy one, I’m starting to doubt it. These days, I put more and more things in my calendar, blocking time. That, in conjuncture with a to-do list app, keeps me organized.

You might remember that I’ve been going back to the default app to a certain extent. I’ve written about Reminders in Switch to iPad #85, the default to-do app, and extending it with Remind Me Faster (review here). I’m a dedicated Notes user, too. But Calendar, I just didn’t see it replacing Fantastical.

Now, Fantastical is a great app, but it comes with a yearly subscription if you want all the features. I don’t mind that, I’ve relied on it for a long time. However, a series of sync issues made me wonder if Fantastical was the culprit, and, in a weak moment, I deleted the app, and reverted to the default Calendar app.

Let’s just say that I’ve got thoughts.

Is Calendar more reliable?

I switched to Calendar because Fantastical didn’t properly update my Google calendars. Now, I wasn’t certain if this was a Google thing, or if it was Fantastical who had issues, but it was one of those annoying on-and-off issues.

And, the thing is, I haven’t had any sync issues with Google’s calendar since moving to Calendar. I’m uncertain if that means that Calendar is more reliable than Fantastical, when it comes to syncing Google calendars, but these past couple of weeks certainly implies that it could be so. Although, I’m more inclined to believe that this was a series of Google issues because I can’t recall experiencing the same thing with iCloud calendars. You know, apart from for actual outages, something that can happen to all providers.

But, all those features, then?

Fantastical has a more extensive feature set than the Calendar app. It’s a lot more clever when it comes to finding that dreaded video call link, for example. You’d think I’d miss natural language support, but most my meetings are written in Swedish, and it’s quite a mess mixing the languages. I just don’t think the input method works that much better than the Calendar app.

That said, there are three things that makes Calendar stumble in comparison.

First, there’s the utterly idiotic fact that the Calendar app only lets me input minutes in five-minute increments. If my train leaves at 09:02, I’ll have to add it as 09:00 in Calendar because the next option is 09:05, and I hate it. It’s so stupid, a UI decision to limit the number of inputs in the scrolling list, at the cost of actual crucial information. I mean, come on – appointment times are exact, not fuzzy.

Second, it’s the fact that dragging and dropping calendar events, to either move them or alter the length, in Calendar is, well, weird. At times, it just works, and other times, it’ll move but not let me change the duration. Or the other way around, I’m just not getting the hang of it. That means I’ll tap edit, and just type in the new time, but this isn’t something I found was such a big deal in Fantastical. If you’re doing a lot of time-blocking in your calendar, this’ll annoy you. If, you know, you’re coming from Fantastical.

Third, man, I miss having my reminders in the calendar. I know, it’s quite annoying too, but if you’re time-blocking, and you have smaller tasks, then getting them into the calendar view can help. Now, I’m not always a fan of this, and toggle it on and off, but the option is great. I care less for the to-do list view in Fantastical because it lacks some features from Reminders (and Todoist, if that’s your poison), but it’s nice that it’s there. The agenda view, however, is truly helpful. There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a great app combining to-do lists and time-blocking waiting to win me over, properly. It might even be TaskFox, if you remember that one – we’ll see when I revisit it later.

Apple tech bubble darling for a reason

Fantastical is the Apple tech bubble darling, and yes, there’s a good reason for this. It’s a well-designed app, and the subscription (from $40/year) isn’t that bad. I’d say it’s a better app than Calendar by all accounts, except the fact that it costs money and isn’t installed by default. Those are two key features by themselves, and after having gone back to Calendar for several weeks, I can’t say that I’m feeling the sort of withdrawal that you might expect from the lavish praise Fantastical’s got.

On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll stay with Calendar. That whole dragging and dropping weirdness mentioned is really annoying, and I update my calendar numerous times per day. I might very well go back to Fantastical – after all, I have a subscription – but then again, there are other calendar apps out there as well. Maybe it’s time to shop around a bit?

I’ll let you know.

My calendar says that I’m two hours late leaving the office. For some reason, swapping calendar apps hasn’t changed the fact that the world moves on, regardless of what I put on the books.

Oh well.

Thord D. Hedengren