Simplicity Is the Goal With Calendar Apps

/// Simplicity Is the Goal With Calendar Apps

September 5, 2013  |  Blog

My phone just pinged to remind me that next Thursday my son begins “big” school.

This is something I knew was coming, but if you had asked me about it … well, I would have been vague about the date. I’m terrible at keeping track of calendar events. Without calendar apps on my smartphone I’d miss important meetings and forget to plan for big dates like my son’s first day of school.

Of the many calendar apps available, one of the slickest and prettiest is Cal, which is free for iPhones. The app is unlike paper calendars and is visually appealing, with a simple and clearly readable display. The app shows a week’s dates at the top, with the current day highlighted.

Dragging a finger downward on this week exposes a view of the month. Tapping on a day in the calendar lists the events you have scheduled, and tapping on an event reveals more detailed information, like invitees and locations. You can also tap on icons beneath the event data to adjust the event’s specifics or add extras like a note.

Adding a new entry takes just a tap on the “+” icon, at which point the app gives you clear prompts to fill in the relevant details. This sort of intuitive gesture-and-tapping control runs through the app, accompanied by nice touches like animation as you move between days. There are also attractive background photos to make it feel less boring.

Cal is a breeze to use, and, perhaps oddly for a calendar app, it has enough character to be likable.

An Android app with the same kind of elegant design and simple visual appeal is the Agenda Calendar, which costs $2. This app’s main trick is its neat gesture control: swiping a finger left or right on the display takes you to summary pages for the whole year, month or day. Swiping vertically moves inside these pages, taking you to different weeks or days and so on.

Like Cal, this app is great to look at. The display makes it easy to spot coming events, which are shown as colored spots above the dates in the calendar view. Adding an event brings up a nicely organized page for entering event specifics, including space for notes and locations. The notes also include touches like tappable e-mail and Web addresses.

Although I like Agenda, I’ve found the interface for adding a new event to be a bit bothersome, because of the slightly awkward way it pops up menus to adjust settings like times and the on-screen keyboard for text.

Agenda is also available as a $1 iOS app with a slightly different design. The iOS version has the same gesture-controlled scrolling, but the display feels more cluttered than on Android and its control interfaces are different.

Where Agenda and Cal are attractive reimaginings of a traditional calendar, Pocket Informant is a much more businesslike beast, costing $7 on Android or $3 on iOS.

This app has a modern look, although its display packs in so much information that it seems busier than its rivals. Along with regular calendar events, you can use the app to keep track of to-do lists. Pocket Informant is powerful, letting you tweak all sorts of settings like the color of each type of calendar event and which day the week begins with.

But there are so many settings and pages of calendar data that it can be confusing to use, and it’s perhaps not the best for at-a-glance reckoning of your coming schedule. If your workdays are filled with a complex mix of meetings, presentations and so on, though, it might be ideal.

A more lighthearted app worth trying out is Sunrise Calendar, which is free on iOS. This app combines some of the simple gesture-controlled design of Cal and some of the complexity of Pocket Informant. It’s visually very pleasant and has nice touches like a display of the weather forecast in future days’ entries.

This app’s main feature is its social networking links. These can let you connect to LinkedIn, for example, so you can see photos or data about the people you’re meeting with. Sunrise is a little limited, however, because it connects to Google’s calendar service instead of the iPhone’s native calendar.

Other apps worth checking out include Fantastical ($5 on iOS), which lets you schedule events by typing things like “Dinner with Bob on Friday,” and Jorte (free on Android).

Most of these apps work in similar ways, like alerting you to coming events and syncing with calendars set up on Apple’s or Google’s services. But it’s worth experimenting with several apps, because they feel different to use and you may find that one or another aligns best with how you keep track of time.

Quick Call

The popular Evernote note-keeping app has been updated for Windows Phone devices and now includes support for Windows Phone 8. The update adds some new features, like multishot photos, so you can add several images to a note, and a speech-to-text mode, so you can dictate your notes. It’s free.

Link: Simplicity Is the Goal With Calendar Apps

The New York Times – Kit Eaton

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