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Mobile App Review: Calendar Apps, Part 1 – iOS
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Mobile App Review: Calendar Apps, Part 1 – iOS - Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Calendar Apps, Part 1 – iOS

Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Calendar Apps, Part 1 – iOS

Every mobile device comes with a built-in calendar app. For a lot of hit-and-run uses, these prepackaged apps work fine. What day of the week is the fifteenth? Who’s got a birthday this month? A quick app launch and a few swipes, and you’ve got your info. Skimming the surface has its time and place, but for true calendar deep-dives, you need flexibility and all kinds of nice features. When you want to take full advantage of the mobile lifestyle for managing your time, it’s time to explore your other options, of which there are an overwhelming number. We examined many reviews for iOS calendar apps, whittled the list to the best-reviewed, and tried them out ourselves to offer you these as a starting point, with the usual caveat that different users have different needs, so filter what we offer here through your own preferences.

The big must-have features for the app itself—in addition to the features that have now become standard, such as alerts, recurring events such as birthdays or monthly appointments, and multiple views— are sharing, syncing, integration with other favorite apps, and a pleasant user interface. Ideally, syncing isn’t limited to coordination between phone and tablet, but it also works with a desktop environment, either as a standalone app or a web app, because few interruptions to workflow are more annoying than taking hands off keys in order to unlock a phone and open an app.

Just about everyone in a working environment is familiar with at least one of three system-integrated calendars: Google Calendar, Apple Calendar (formerly iCal), and Microsoft Outlook. In platform-specific workplaces, one of these three probably lives with your office email, and each is linked to that platform’s calendar and contacts. They are all pretty terrific, and each offers its own quirks, good and bad. The biggest plus for each of them is the integration with multiple other platform apps, making it easy to add an event communicated in email, for example, directly to a calendar, or to set up a meeting in a calendar and immediately share it in email with those who need to be aware. All three make it very easy to add office-related use to existing personal use on a personal device, which can be both a plus and a minus. Chances are, you are only playing with very basic features, so spend some time looking up neat tricks that might make your life neater, such as adding calendar events automatically to a running spreadsheet, each meeting adding a new line of relevant info to whatever you’re keeping track of.

Next-level calendar diving for iOS always leads to Fantastical 2. Fantastical’s admirers are surpassed in fervor only by Crossfit devotees, Oprah worshippers, and fans of those leggings everyone’s trying to get everyone else to buy lately, and one wonders if the steep price ($4.99 for iPhone and Apple Watch; $9.99 for iPad, and $49.99 for the Mac) doesn’t somehow contribute to its cult-like popularity, as in “I paid a lot for this thing, so it must be great.” While it is pricey, it feels more worth it the more you use it. Especially pleasant is the real-language input for new events, so that “meeting at 2 p.m. with David and Janet” creates the event and populates the relevant fields with impressive ease and accuracy. Beginning an item with “remind me to” sets up an alert. Rolling to-do lists are nice, but they’re tricky to master—we still don’t think we’re using them as efficiently as we could—and syncing with Google Calendar means you can wait for that Mac desktop app to go on sale and still have desktop access via the web. The iPad app is especially pleasant to engage with, and one huge benefit of the price tag is that you’re paying for regular updates and added features responsive to each devices new features, so when the new iPhones does THIS, the new Fantastical makes use of it THIS way. Integration with other apps is limited (no Evernote, for example), but there are workarounds involving Google Calendar as an intermediary. There’s also a lot of community out there, sharing tips and spreading the love for this app, which always helps with discovering new uses or tweaks. And thankfully, the different versions of this app do go on sale, so the more price-conscious may just keep an eye on the App Store for bargain opportunities.

If you’re the sort to use multiple colors, stickers, and doodles in your physical day-planner, Awesome Calendar is probably where you want to go first. Not only can the look be customizable and color-coded, but stickers—some of them part of in-app purchase packs—add visual cues (cakes for birthdays, or sad faces for unpleasant events) and personal flair to the boring stacks of boxes that define calendars. Other in-app purchases give you television schedules, professional sports schedules, or moon phases. You can use it creatively for all sorts of date-related tasks, including journaling, a function that can come in handy for tracking mileage, spending, footsteps, or calories. Lots of photo integration combines with sharing and syncing to create fun and possibilities (we like it for storing receipts). This app feels like a mega-souped-up three-ring day planner with all kinds of inserts and hidden compartments. It’s highly recommended for power users who’ve integrated their calendar into almost every breath of their daily lives, but also for more casual users who like to prettify their schedules.

We’ve all used our smartphones and asked, “Why can’t it do ______?” The nice thing in this world of app development is that if someone else has asked the same question, the solution may be out there. Take a step away from the on-board apps, and swim around in the different approaches developers have taken to the same tasks. You may find something that you’ve wanted but never thought to ask for. Today’s the day to explore calendar apps: mark it on your you-know-what.


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Mobile App Review: Calendar Apps, Part 1 – iOS - Executive Leadership Articles

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