Fantastical 2 Improves On the Original

I don’t know about you, but when I’m thinking about something that I have to do, the thoughts floating about my head don’t appear in logically placed chunks of data. Usually, it’s something like, “Oh crap, I have to meet Tom at 8:15 tonight to watch the game,” and not “Meet Tom. 8:15pm. 10/30/13.” It’s a hurdle that I have to cross every time I type a new entry into my calendar; a little brain tweak that causes the slightest bit of friction in my day — or it did, anyway.

Fantastical 2 — the sequel to the amazing Fantastical — uses natural language parsing to create your calendar entries. Meaning, you can write what you think and Fantastical 2 sorts it out for you. Last year, I reviewed Fantastical and gave it a 10/10. Will the latest version live up to the hype?

Spoiler alert: Yup.

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Pick a Date

Calendar apps seem to fall into the same category as weather apps for me. They’re things that I collect, try out for a bit and then dump into a folder somewhere I’ll never be able to find it again. But the original Fantastical was different. After writing my review, I moved it into my dock and there it stayed until the release of iOS 7. Once we had all the fancy new features on tap, Fantastical started to look a bit dated, so I gave the stock Calendar app a try. Boy, was that a mistake.

The instructions are clear and easy to figure out.

The instructions are clear and easy to figure out.

Apple’s loss is the industry’s gain. The Calendar app is difficult to use, counterintuitive and a pain in the butt — two weeks after moving it back onto the dock, I wanted to chuck my iPhone through a window. I remember standing at my barber shop with a fresh haircut, attempting to schedule my next appointment, and turning into an 80-year-old man while trying to figure out how to get the data in there. Forget Calendar, I needed a new option.

Fantastical Plus One

Which brings us full circle to the original Fantastical, which fit more into the iOS 5 scheme of things, what with the virtual staples at the top of the monthly calendar and so on. Fantastical 2 changes all that and then some. Although familiar, the interface is much improved and easier to use. For example, when you turn your iPhone on its side, a weekly view pops up onto the screen. Since this is the way I most often refer to my calendar, it’s a much appreciated addition. Or there’s the integrated maps for appointments that come with an address attached. And then there’s the fact that the whole thing just looks much cleaner. That’s enough reason to step up your game.

Integrated Maps and an additional row of keys on the keyboard make an already great app better.

Integrated Maps and an additional row of keys on the keyboard make an already great app better.

Fantastical 2 wouldn’t be great if it broke the features that made the original such a popular app. Fortunately, the Flexibits team realized that, and didn’t subtract from the good stuff, and added on instead. For example, the previous version of Fantastical defaulted to listing your daily events with a black background, which is something that not everyone enjoys. Now there’s a light version of the view, and that’s a more subtle look that I now use regularly. And there’s also iOS Reminders integration, so if you use that app frequently, now you can see everything right ahead of you in Fantastical 2. This is good stuff.

Real-World Use

Now what about using the app out in the field — does it perform well and quickly? Ultimately, your calendar app needs to allow you to make and check your appointments as fast as possible. A few improvements in Fantastical 2 make that even better than it was before.

Week view? Yes, please.

Week view? Yes, please.

You start with the date. Now you can slide the calendar bar at the top of the screen down to get to a monthly view, then tap and hold on the date you want. If that’s not fast enough, hit the plus button and you’re taken to the Add Event screen. Type in your info using your natural language, and Fantastical 2 sorts it all out for you — or speak it using the Dictation button on the keyboard, and it’ll do the same thing. That’s fancy.

Dark theme, light theme. Both excellent choices.

Dark theme, light theme. Both excellent choices.

Two key additions to this system make the process faster than it was before. In what’s become a bit of a standard feature for iOS writing apps: there’s an additional line on the top of the keyboard. In Fantastical 2’s case, these are numbers, a forward slash and a colon, all of which make entering your data super fast. But if you want to use Fantastical 2 as a hub for your reminders as well, the process is exactly the same as adding an appointment. The only difference is you slide the tab just below the text field to a checkmark, and you’re golden.

At the End of the Day

A few days ago I decided to treat myself, so I added a straight-razor shave to the usual haircut I get every few weeks. As I pop up out of the chair, refreshed and invigorated, I followed my usual routine: pay my amazing barber with the accent that’s a combination of Russian and Brooklyn, and then get out my iPhone to schedule the next appointment. I tapped Fantastical 2’s icon, entered in my info and whammy, I was done. No muss, no fuss, no messing around with settings. I shook my barber’s hand and went on my way.

The purpose of any app’s use should be to help improve your life in one way or another, be it providing enjoyment for a brief period of time with a game, or just reducing the friction it takes to manage your time. Fantastical 2 not only improves upon the original, it makes my life easier in the process. That makes it the best calendar app I’ve used on the iPhone by far.

Back into the dock Fantastical goes.


Summary

Fantastical 2 improves on a winning formula by adding new views, Reminders integration and a cleaner design.

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