I’m a calendar junkie. The way some people collect to-do apps, I tend to have lots of different calendars all over my iPhone, iPad and Mac, and very few stick. I’ll use one for a month or two, then off to the next or back to an old favorite. I have lots of different options.
But one that has stuck on my Mac is Fantastical. Not only is it quick and easy to use, but it’s just so natural. When I was contacted by the developers and given a sneak peek at the app, well I just had to jump on it. Will the magic transfer to my iPhone or is Fantastical a Mac-only purchase? Let’s find out after the jump.
Navigating the App
Firing up the app for the first time gives you a brief tutorial on the app, how it works and so on. The general controls are pretty straightforward. There is a cool bar up top named the DayTicker, which shows you the days around the current date, with today being in the middle. Swipe down and you’ll get a full calendar of the month, then you can swipe left to right to go to different months. Swipe down again, and you’re back to the DayTicker. Pretty easy.
Below the full calendar and that bar are a list of your appointments for the day, known as the event list. If you’re using the DayTicker, then you can scroll up or down in the event list and the DayTicker changes to the appropriate date as you pass it by. If you’re in Calendar view, the only things you’ll see are the highlighted day’s appointments.
DayTicker or Calendar?
Right out of the box, the DayTicker is the standard default view. I found this to be my favorite way to work, because I could just flick through my events quickly, and see at a glance how my day or upcoming days look. Plus, I like the DayTicker’s appearance, and find it preferential to the Calendar view. (You can select your default view preference in the Settings section of the app.)
Speaking of, let’s talk about the Calendar view. On my iPhone 5, it takes up just less than half the screen, maybe 3/8 or so. As a result, each day in that month is pretty tiny. If you color code your calendars like I do, you’ll see little dots representing the tasks you have for each day, and for me, that just means that I have a pretty calendar. Without tapping on each day, those dots don’t really mean much from my perspective, it’s just a bunch of dots.
Note that there is no Week view, nor any landscape support for the app at all. The landscape support doesn’t really bother me, but I do use Week view all the time on my Mac, and I’d like to do the same on my iPhone. Granted, there’s no Week view in Fantastical on the Mac either, but I think it’s more important to me on the go.
What Makes it Special
Alright, let’s take a moment to talk about why Fantastical stands out on the Mac, and now, on the iPhone. Let’s say that you have an appointment that you want to add to your calendar. With normal apps, you have to navigate to the date, hit the + symbol, enter the details, scroll through times, etc. It’s a time consuming process, ironic as that may be.
Fantastical uses a natural language processor, meaning that you can just type your appointment out using the same words you’d use normally, and the app will parse out the details for you. For example, I could type “Write AppStorm post this Wednesday night from 7 pm to 8 pm” and I would get something like this:
Want to specify which calendar your entry goes to? At the beginning or end of any entry, type the / and then the first letter of the calendar you want to use. If you have multiple calendars with the same first letter, just type out the name and it will sort itself out.
With each word you type, little details fly into the calendar listing below, that way you know that the app is working. The more you enter, the more specific the listing gets, adding locations, times, people or dates. It’s pretty cool, and if you have an Internet connection, this also means that you can dictate your entries, just like you would in Siri — minus the headaches. That’s handy.
In the few days that I had to experience the app, I wondered aloud about why this was such a momentous event for my iPhone. It quickly changed the way I made appointments, and completely blew Calendar off of my home screen. But why? What makes it so special?
Fantastical thinks like I do. I don’t think to myself, “Go to Tom’s House. 5:30 pm. 6:30 pm. Home calendar.” I think, “Go to Tom’s house tomorrow at 5:30 pm for an hour.” Because Fantastical works off of natural language, I can just say what I want to do and not have to go through so many steps to figure it all out. It’s like it thinks for me, instead of making me think. That absolutely makes the app for me, and I can’t express strongly enough how great that is.
Bottom line here, Fantastical is my new calendar app, and I anticipate it will live in my dock as long as it’s lived in the menu bar on my Mac. It’s easy to use, intuitive and looks great, which means it fits all my requirements. My hunt for the best calendar app is over, and that feels great.