When I wrote about one of my favorite iPhone apps, Week Calendar, I mentioned that my issues working with calendars on OS X were solved by the “game-changing Fantastical”. I got some responses from folks asking if I’d write about what I think is so good about it. Considering it’s changed the way I use my Mac, I’d be happy to. I’m going to break this into short chunks, because there’s a lot to like about what on the surface seems like a very simple app.
The guys over at Flexibits are dedicated. I’ve talked about how this impacts my buying habits before, but what’s so impressive to me is that there’s only two guys on this team. They keep their customers informed whether through blog posts, Twitter, or email. The app is relatively young and was a very solid 1.0, yet they’ve pushed a number of incredibly meaningful updates that add both features and stability.
With that, let’s get to the app itself.
What is it?
Fantastical is an awesome little calendar management app that lives in your menubar with a few options on how it can be displayed. You can have it show you the day, month, or date in any combination. One of the great features of Fantastical is that it hooks right into iCal or BusyCal so there’s no reason to launch those apps. It works similar to Week Calendar on the iPhone. This is really valuable because you don’t ever have to worry whether Fantastical is syncing with your already established calendars, as it handles all of that in the background.
As you can see, the UI is simple and beautifully designed. On the top is the entry field and search bar. More on that later. Then you see the calendar beautifully presented with dates, week numbers, and the color code you defined in iCal. Then you get to the bottom, where we see the settings and anchor icons.
The anchor is a pretty cool feature that allows you to literally anchor the Fantastical window over all other apps on your desktop. I can’t say that I’ve used it, but I can definitely see value in having the option to do so.
The preferences are mostly what you would expect. This is where you set your default alert times for new events and you can also define how many days you want to see by default in the main Fantastical window.
What sets it apart from the rest?
Here’s where Fantastical shines. The definitive feature is how you enter events. Fantastical uses your natural language and turns that into a calendar event. It’s actually pretty amazing.
As you can see, it takes rather complex but natural sentences and turns them into events that make sense.
If you add someone’s name, Fantastical will look at your contacts and give you the option to invite them to the new event. I can’t explain how useful this is. While I’m at work, I can effortlessly invite team members to meetings extremely easily. Fantastical rarely falters when it comes to making sense of what you tell it. I’ve gotten pretty silly trying to fool it, and it almost always performs flawlessly.
There’s also a very powerful search tool built in. It works how you would want it to. Type any word, and Fantastical will find any event containing your search term.
I love it when developers give their users a peek at what’s coming down the pike. In the past, I’ve often complained that there isn’t a good Mac app other than iCal to sync reminders via iCloud. The Flexibits team answered the call and are working on solving that problem. In my opinion, this along with all the other great features makes Fantastical an absolute must-have for anyone who uses iCal or any other calendar app for the Mac. They’re adding features all the time and offer free updates.
Where do I get my hands on this?
If you’re tired of looking at the Corinthian leather of Lion’s version of iCal, head on over to the Flexibits store and pick up your copy of Fantastical for $19.99. You can try the app free for 14 days! If you’d rather buy your apps from the Mac App Store, Flexibits has you covered there too.
Yes, there’s more. I’ve contacted the guys at Flexibits, and they’re working on getting a giveaway together just for our readers. You read right. A free copy of Fantastical possibly delivered right to your email inbox. Here are the rules:
1. Follow @culturemilk on Twitter.
2. Tweet the reason you need, or what you like about Fantastical. Don’t forget to add the hashtag #culturemilk
That’s it. Next Tuesday (12/13), we’ll pick two winners at random. Once we have your contact info, the guys at Flexibits will send over your brand-spanking new Fantastical license.
Update: Congrats to the winners @JB_Bryant and @arthurlockman!
If you didn’t win, don’t fret. We’ll have more giveaways of great stuff soon.