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Review: Fantastical for iPad completes the improved calendar suite… and it’s pretty sweet

Fantastical for iPad

After first debuting on the Mac then joining iOS with the iPhone, Fantastical is finally ready to replace the calendar on your iPad, too. With Fantastical for iPad, Flexibits has brought the same, streamlined design and natural language parsing for quick event and reminder entry to the iPad. I’ve been using Fantastical for iPad for a few weeks now, so let’s take a look at how it compares to Apple’s calendar app…

What’s Fantastical?

If you’re not familiar with the Fantastical software, it’s major feature is natural language input. What that means is you can type a phrase like “Golf with Bob on Saturday at 10 am” and Fantastical will schedule it; you don’t have to program each line of the event in the detailed event editor. Fantastical works your existing calendar service, so you can still use iCloud or Google. It’s just an alternative way to view and manage your existing calendar service.

Aside from its natural language input for scheduling events, Fantastical is also very streamlined as it focuses on presenting your events in a simple list view. The Mac app (which is opened in the top menu bar) and iPhone app resemble one another in shape and dimension (although the iPhone app does support landscape orientation and has more dynamic views), but the iPad app is a much different canvas with both portrait and landscape orientation needing to be presented as equally primary views.

Design

What Flexibits has come up with is a first for Fantastical’s design as it has much more screen real estate of which to take advantage, and my first guess is the iPad’s app design could spill over into a future version of the Mac app (maybe as a dock app rather than a menu bar app).

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At a glance, Fantastical is divided into three sections on the iPad: the list view with your events, the day ticker with for an upcoming perspective, and a full month calendar view.

The left section presents individual appoints in chronological order on a scrollable, vertical list view. Because Fantastical also supports reminders, this list view unifies appointments and to-do items.

The top bar is the day ticker which shows relevant upcoming days in a a scrollable, horizontal segmented view. This can be toggled to show all upcoming dates, or only dates on which items have been scheduled.

And exclusive to the iPad design is a full month’s calendar view on the right side. You can swipe through to other months and tap on specific dates to see appointments scheduled. This includes both calendar events and reminder events.

If you land too far in the future (or past) at any point from any view, tapping the month and year at the top of the app (just below the current time) will carry you back to the current date in Fantastical.

Function

Adding an event or reminder is easy in Fantastical. The top right of the app features a + button which prompts the keyboard and a text input box. Just type in your event details like “Breakfast at Taco Bell tomorrow from 7 to 11 am” and Fantastical shows you in the preview view that it has scheduled your event.

If you juggle multiple calendars, adding “/w” will move it to your Work calendar, for example. If you have multiple calendars with the same first letter, you can type slash followed by the full name of the calendar to assign it appropriately. Otherwise, an event will land on your default calendar (which you can assign).

Fantastical also interprets phrases like “alert 1 hour before” and “last weekday of the month” to include alerts and repeating events to events during input.

This also works with reminders. Including “todo”, “reminder”, “remind me to”, or “task” to the beginning of a line will let Fantastical know that you are entering a reminder and not a calendar event.

The keyboard features a manual toggle between events and reminders as well as a Details view for manual input. The keyboard is also optimized for managing a calendar with a dedicated row for numbers, colon, and forward slash.

Week View

On the Mac, Fantastical is a single view made of the day ticket and list view of events. On the iPhone, Fantastical’s day ticker pulls down to become a full month calendar, and rotating Fantastical toggles to a week view. Fantastical for iPad has enough space to show a full month calendar from the day ticker view and needs to support the day ticker view from both portrait and landscape orientations, so pulling the day ticker down from either orientation will toggle to week view.

Drag down the day ticker once and you enter a sort of hybrid week view with the full month calendar and list view of events still visible. Drag the half-screen week view down again and you enter a dedicated week viewer.

In portrait…

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…and landscape.

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Fantastical for iPad also includes two gestures for quickly accessing search and reminders. Swiping in from the right edge of your iPad brings over the search view which can drill down by title, location, people invited to events, or an all view. There is also an icon for bringing this view if you aren’t aware of the gesture.

Swiping in from the left edge of your iPad reveals your list of reminders. Tapping on the name of a reminders list shows you the list of items on that specific list.

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Thoughts

As you will see in the next section, Fantastical is probably priced higher than a lot of other iPad apps on the App Store, but one of my first impressions from using Fantastical for iPad a few weeks ago was that having the app I already use on my Mac and iPhone optimized for my iPad added value to using my iPad.

For me, it’s value is in two areas: ease of skimming and understanding upcoming events and ability to quickly input event details before I lose the thought. In my use, the latter part has almost become a race with myself to see how fast I can translate a thought in my head to a scheduled event on my calendar.

If you don’t use your calendar out of lack of need, I’m not sure that Fantastical is worth your money; it’s well designed software that solves a specific problem. If you’ve been disappointed with Apple’s calendar and prefer to keep dates on paper or some other way, I recommend you explore Fantastical as an alternative.

As a more technical user, I prefer Fantastical because the software impresses me. I have found, though, that less savvy calendar software users find Fantastical more approachable and easier to use than Apple’s calendar.

As you’ve seen in various screenshots above, Fantastical offers different ways to customize the app as well.

You can toggle between the default dark theme and the optional light theme. I prefer the light theme most of the time, but I’d love to see a two finger swipe gesture to easily change without using the menu like Tweetbot 3 has on iPhone.

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Fantastical for iPad also takes advantage of Apple’s Dynamic Type feature introduced with iOS 7. If you change your system font in the Settings app on iOS, Fantastical for iPad will adjust accordingly.

It also supports opening links in 1Password, the unique password managing software and TextExpander support for expanding text snippets into phrases for users with workflows invested in those services.

Finally, one of my favorite features in Fantastical involves birthdays. Fantastical has a special, animated view for its users on their friends’ birthdays. This view includes falling confetti and shortcuts for telling your friend “

UpTo calendar app relaunches with a renewed, balanced focus on what matters

When UpTo originally launched, it focused on being what it described as “half-social, half-calendar.” Unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well as the social side and the calendar side fought for dominance, resulting in an app that felt like it didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grew up.

Today the company behind UpTo is re-launching the app with a new design and a new focus: rather than trying to turn calendars into a social network, the app is now focused entirely on being the best calendar app it can be. That being said, the new version of the app is not entirely devoid of social features.

Keep reading to find out how the developers finally figured out how to balance these two sides to the software.

A familiar face

The new UpTo looks like the built-in iOS Calendar app, to a certain degree.

At the top of the main screen is a month view. At the bottom is a list of events. Unlike the default app, this list of events isn’t limited to one day, though. You can scroll the bottom half of the app through as many days as you want, and the month view at the top will simply follow along. Or you can navigate using the month view, and the list at the bottom will follow. Another nice touch: an icon on the right side of the daily headers shows you the weather for each of the next seven days.

Swiping up on the month will collapse it into a week view. The only real advantage to this view is that you’ll have much more space at the bottom of the screen for your list of events. Capping off the similarities with the stock app on this screen are a “today” button that takes you to the current day, and an “inbox” button for managing events you’ve been invited to.

Creating a new event is as easy in UpTo as it is in the stock app. Rather than a custom design, the app uses an event creation screen identical to that of the built-in Calendar application.

Under the hood

The biggest differentiator between the stock Calendar software and UpTo is the latter’s ability to find and subscribe to a wide variety of community-created calendars for everything imaginable, from sports team schedules to the official White House schedule.

Finding a calendar to subscribe to is easy. Tapping the back button on the calendar’s main interface takes you to a screen with various settings. A “discover” button leads to a list of categories and featured calendars. You can choose from things like TV and movie schedules, holidays, music releases, and even local schedules for concert venues, performing arts centers, college sports, and more.

You can also find your Facebook friends or contacts from your address book and subscribe to public calendars they’ve created.

You can view upcoming events on any of these public calendars, search for a specific list to subscribe to, or add single events from those to one of your own personal calendars.

Subscribing to one of these lists doesn’t add those events to your main calendar or mix them in with your own created events. Instead, subscribed calendars are added to a new “layer” of the interface. When looking at the list beneath the month view, you’ll notice light blue lines on certain days. Those light blue lines represent events on subscribed calendars. To see those events in the list, just expand the list with a pinch gesture.

Once you’ve expanded the view, all of your subscribed events will be visible. You can swipe on an event to add it to your main calendar. Another pinch gesture will collapse the view again, leaving only your own calendars showing (along with an subscribed events you’ve added to them).

This is a really handy way to insert stuff you wouldn’t normally want on your calendar into the interface. For example, I wouldn’t normally clutter up my personal calendar with the schedules for TV shows like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” or “Arrow,” but UpTo allows me to subscribe to those lists (and about a dozen other calendars I liked) without having to worry about them dominating my events.

Wrap-up

UpTo may have launched with a misplaced focus, but today’s revamped release finally strikes a balance between a calendar and a social app. The “layers” paradigm allows you to subscribe to a whole host of events without having to worry about mucking up your own calendar. The interface feels just native enough to be easily discoverable while adding new touches that allow for an overall fantastic experience.

You can get UpTo on the iOS App Store free for a limited time.


Filed under: Apps, Reviews Tagged: calendar, sharing, social, upto

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Flexibits teases iPad version of popular ‘Fantastical’ calendar app

Flexbits-Fantastical-iPad-01 Flexbits-Fantastical-iPad-02

Flexibits, makers of the popular Fantastical calendar apps for Mac and iPhone, today teased an upcoming iPad version of the app on its website.

Fantastical 2 for iPad is “coming soon,” and the company is taking sign ups for those interested in learning more, but it hasn’t yet revealed any other details on the app. The company did confirm in the tweet below that the iPad version would be a separate download and not introduced as a new universal app for both iPhone & iPad. The iPhone version of Fantastical 2 sells for $4.99 on the App Store.

We’ve reviewed previous version of the app and are big fans, so we’ll definitely be bringing you a full review of the app when it officially launches. Until then, check out our latest review of Fantastical 2 for iPhone.

You can sign up to learn more about the app on the Flexibits website here.


Filed under: Apps Tagged: calendar, calendar apps, Fantastical, Flexibits, iPad apps, productivity apps

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