Combine Any.do and Your Calendar With Cal

Despite the fact that I’m not as busy as I like to think I am (read: I have no life), I have a fascination with calendar apps and task managers. My most recent search is for an app that combines both calendar tasks and my to-do list. That first led me to Agenda, but it’s not perfect. And I’m not one to settle for anything less than perfect.

My next stop is Cal, the calendar app from the folks behind Any.do. I was new to Any.do as well — I had tried it before, but never stuck with it. Because Any.do and Cal are seamlessly married to each other, I thought it was time to give them a shot. And after spending three weeks with Cal, I’m ready to share my thoughts on the app.

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Minimalist Design

As to be expected from the award-winning Any.do team, Cal is drop-dead gorgeous. Every animation feels absolutely handcrafted, and every layer of the app feels meticulously defined. Cal is beyond attractive — it looks like it’d fit right in with iOS 7. So it’s attractive and somewhat future-proof.

I love the app's minimalism. I also love how it automatically schedules free time.

I love the app’s minimalism. I also love how it automatically schedules free time.

Not unlike Any.do, the app is designed to be intuitive and as gesture-filled as possible. Instead of tapping a lot, I’m finding I spend a lot of time in the app swiping along the screen and watching the animations. (I’m a big fan of the transitions when moving from one day to the next.)

I'm also in love with the monthly planner. Some people might argue the grey text makes it difficult to read, but I didn't find it problematic.

I’m also in love with the monthly planner. Some people might argue the grey text makes it difficult to read, but I didn’t find it problematic.

Pulling down from the day’s view will give you quick access to the month. I love the implementation that Cal is using here. You can tell how busy a day is by looking at the width of the line beneath it. If there are no events on your calendar, there’s no line beneath the numbered date. If there are, the line’s width increases based on the amounts of events. It’s a beautiful system.

To Cal’s credit, it’s simply one of the most stunning calendars on the market.I could go on about it, but if looks were all that mattered, this would be a very short review.

Managing Your Calendar Events

This app is nothing if it can’t manage events properly. There’s no doubt in my mind that Fantastical and Horizon are the best in the game at this, but there’s no reason why another contender can’t pop up.

The thing is, Cal isn’t remotely close to being a contender.

This is a bit of a pain. A beautiful pain, but a pain nonetheless.

This is a bit of a pain. A beautiful pain, but a pain nonetheless.

Adding an event in Cal is different. There’s no natural language parsing or anything like that, so you’re left to manually enter the information you need. This is in stark difference to Horizon and Fantastical (and Agenda can integrate with Fantastical for NLP as well). I know I’ve been spoiled with natural language parsing, but even Siri has it for the built-in Calendar and I feel like it’s a must-have feature for any calendar app now.

Easy enough, but I wish it was more semantic.

Easy enough, but I wish it was more semantic.

I’m also irked by the fact that every calendar event in Cal is set for an alarm. Turning off the alarm when I create an event isn’t a big deal, but I’d prefer an in-app setting to turn them off by default. It would make things easier and faster for me. Eventually, the app caught on that I didn’t use the feature and intelligently turned it off on its own, but I would rather instruct the app than repeatedly have to train it.

Setting up an event is as beautiful as the rest of the app, which is, in some ways, infuriating. Its second-rate substance is wrapped up in a first-rate beautiful package. For those who appreciate beauty and don’t mind a flawed event planner, this could be a go-to.

Organizing Your To-Do List

When it comes to organizing your to-do list, Cal integrates with Any.do to get the job done (no pun intended). For the most part, this is how you marry a to-do list and a calendar.

On days when I have nothing planned, I still have things to do. It's nice that there's a Calendar app that acknowledges this.

On days when I have nothing planned, I still have things to do. It’s nice that there’s a Calendar app that acknowledges this.

Any.do is treated as a separate app, but you can see your todo list beneath events in Cal. My only gripe about the entire setup is that I can’t just cross things off the to-do list in Cal; tapping on a to-do opens it in Any.do and I have to take care of the rest from there. I also can’t add a to-do from Cal; that has to be done in Any.do.

But because the segregation is complete — items on your to-do list must be created and completed in a separate app — I don’t feel as irritated by that as I did with Agenda. In Agenda, you could add a to-do item within the app, but to mark it as complete, you had to use Reminders. That’s frustrating because it doesn’t feel like it should require two apps.

If I tap on the Unsung Sundays todo, it will take me straight to Any.do. The other events stay within Cal.

If I tap on the Unsung Sundays todo, it will take me straight to Any.do. The other events stay within Cal.

With Cal, the correct interpretation is that Any.do is a better task manager all-around, and should be used throughout the whole process. And that’s true. Any.do is a fantastic task manager for most people. I wouldn’t use it for groceries — Wunderlist is still better at that — but Any.do is better at task managing than most other solutions.

This is because of Any.do’s brilliant Any.do Moment. Every day, the moment allows you to plan out what you’re doing that day. It will show you your upcoming tasks and allow you to schedule them for that day, the next day, next week or simply snooze them. This morning, for example, I went through the Moment and I told Any.do which AppStorm reviews I needed to get done today. I chose two from my list of three as must-finish, and scheduled the third for tomorrow. When I opened Cal, the two that I selected for today were in my daily planner. The review for tomorrow is sitting in tomorrow’s schedule already.

This is genius. It means that Cal and Any.do are actually working together to help me plan my life properly, and adapt to any given day. It’s also a really easy way to start the day over my coffee. “Here’s what I need to do today.” Done. This is the sort of thing I wish Apple was doing with Reminders and Calendar.

Final Thoughts

Cal is a mixed bag. Although the app is beautiful and task management is blissful, it leaves a lot to be desired in the actual calendar department. Although I think it might be the most beautiful calendar app on the marketplace — it even has a different picture for the background every day based on your own interests — it’s also one of the most under-featured when it comes to managing your daily events.

However, its integration with Any.do is nearly flawless. On one level, it’s easy to say it should allow you to add and complete todos in the app, but from my perspective, its setup allows you to have a powerful task manager married to your average-but-beautiful calendar. It’s a shame the event planner isn’t as well-thought-out, and I’m hoping to see things like natural language parsing in a future update. Until then, I’m not sure Cal is for me.


Summary

Cal and Any.do is an amazing (and beautiful) partnership, but without natural language parsing, Cal feels like it's missing a crucial component of modern daily planning.

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