Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tech Time ::: Fantastical2

A while back I recall stating that I didn't terribly mind the way Apple changed the Calendar app on iOS7. It did annoy me a little that I had to click the search function to see my list view, however, and I felt that was a strange functionality choice.  Now that a little time has passed, and I am trying to become more organized, those little quirks are really starting to make me look outside of the stock app and into something more, um, fantastic. 

The stock app functions fine, and would alert me fine. But it wasn't something I really used actively and with my goal of trying to get it together and get my schedule and life more "organized", it seems not using a calendar app and keeping it synced with my paper calendar is kind of stupid, counterintuitive. I mean, I carry this little gizmo everywhere, and with a built in scheduling device, I should use it. But to use it, I have to find it functional. And as time went by, I didn't find the stock app to be as functional. It didn't schedule things on the increments I wanted, it didn't set reminders how I wanted and it was a pain to change the calendar each event was specific to without it defaulting back before the event was set, requiring me to log in to the default account and correct it.

I would see articles about Fantastical on iMore, Engadget and 9to5Mac and it was consistently raved about both in their articles and on the forums for being both well designed, and very functional.  When they launched Fantastical2 recently, the reviews were even better.  Flexibits decided to release it "on sale" for $2.99, when regularly it's a $4.99 app. I took advantage of the sale price and decided to give it a try and see how I felt it compared to the stock Calendar App. And FYI, at least as of right post time, it is still on sale.

All photos by {accordingtoame}

I will admit, I downloaded it about 2 days before I started even messing with it. I had just gotten my gorgeous Day Designer, and frankly, that was sucking up all of my attention. But from the moment I started the app I was pleased and impressed with my investment. 

It is beautifully designed and has a really nice homescreen icon, though doesn't have the dynamic "date" on the homescreen icon that the stock Calendar app has, so if that feature is important to you, keep that in mind. That's not an oversight, that's something Apple doesn't allow third-party apps to do. 

When you open the app, you're met with a really beautifully laid out monthly view on top, with little colored dots indicating appointments on dates you have them scheduled, with a list view below.  It came with the "dark" view turned on, but you can toggle to the light view. I like it both ways, presently it's on light, and I can't make up my mind which I like better. The dark view is probably easier on the eyes with a dark phone, and the light with a light phone.

The first thing that popped up when the app started was a "allow Fantastical2 access to your Calendar?" which I said yes to, and it IMMEDIATELY populated my calendar with my GCal, GoogleApps calendar, my iCal and my Outlook calendars. I didn't have to enter anything in because it pulled everything from my settings on the phone. That was a really nice touch, because it saved time. It also asked for access to my Contacts, which I allowed as well, because it will work with invitations, the same way the stock Calendar app will, and between friends and family, we do send several of these out to set up events.  

I set up a test event through Google Calendar, just to see how it worked and invited myself and as you can see, at the top near the month in the left image, there's a little "inbox" with a number 1 icon indicating I have an event invitation. So I click that, and I am viewing my Invitations. I can click that invitation to accept, reply with a "maybe" or decline. 

To set up a new event, whether you're inviting someone or not, you click the plus sign to the right of the month there in the top right of the screen, and the New Event window pops up. From there you can type in specific time and information details, or say, like the example, Lunch at home on Friday. It knows when Friday is and adds the event. You can specify a time as well, such as "at eleven" and it adds it from there.  I like how well it understands that, vs iCal and GCal, and you can enter it more on the fly than a ten step entry.

You can set Notifications through SHOW DETAILS, and if you have gone in to Settings and set a default notification time, it will automatically have that set as well. 

In order to avoid any duplicate alerts, I turned off my notifications for the stock Calendar app in the settings on the phone, and turned them on for Fantastical. Notifications didn't immediately work for Fantastical when I set up that first test appointment, and it did require that I restart the phone--something I tried before I found that same answer in the FAQ section of Flexibit's website. I then set up a test event for an hour later, and went about my evening, making dinner, etc., and just as expected, the first set alert went off. The same tone I had set for Calendar in the phone's settings stayed intact. Because it was a GCal event, it sent me a text also, which is one of my settings for events.

Just yesterday (maybe over the weekend?) Flexibits put out an update that included a few more "toggles" and new alert sound options, as well as some new badge options, among others. 

One of the big selling features for this app, and one I will have to train myself to use, is the integration with the Reminders app, built into the phone, and allow you to get your To-Do list done as part of your calendar. I normally don't use the Reminders app, and I have no real explanation as to why, but this might be a good excuse to start. 

This app is..uh..Fantastic, and I would gladly even have paid the full $4.99 had it not been on sale. As of at least today, it's still on sale, so grab it now! They literally just released an update with a few bug fixes and little add-ons that are nice.

Do you use a third-party calendar app, or stick with the stock app? If you've gone third-party, have you tried Fantastical?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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