Tagged: calendar

Finding a better iOS calendar: Peek

Peek calendar app iconPeek Calendar by Square Mountains might be the most original calendar app I’ve found for iOS. It wasn’t originally on my radar when I started my quest, but it was a welcome surprise. Peek’s design and interactions make it pleasing to the eye and easy to use (after you get over the slight learning curve). There aren’t many buttons, but swipes, taps and long-presses let you navigate through your events with ease.

It makes more sense when you see it in action, so here’s their promo video.

Supported calendars

Peek works with your local calendars. If you’re using a calendar in the built-in app, Peek should be able to handle it. There’s not a lot of settings to the app, and I didn’t come across any way to add calendars or other services within the app.

It’s worth noting when I first installed Peek it did not recognize my calendars. I had to delete and re-install the app. After doing so, everything was in place. I imagine this is a bug, and may have already been fixed.

Views

Right away you’ll notice Peek is quite different from a standard calendar app. The standard view uses bold colors to display a list of days. The left side of each day displays the day of the week and date, while the middle will say “today” and “tomorrow” followed by the day of the week for the rest of the days. Tapping on a day will expand out (with a nice folding effect) a list of your events. Tapping an event expands it giving more details and allowing you to edit it. It’s a very clean, very simple and fairly intuitive way to see your calendar’s information.

There’s a second view, a month view, which can be accessed by pulling down from the top (above today). It’s again very simple in design, but gives you a somewhat familiar-looking month view. A nice touch here is a sort of bar graph on each day. The more events on a particular day, the taller the bar. Tapping a day will unfold the related events.

As I mentioned, the interface is extremely clean and minimalistic. If you’ve ever used Clear, think of this as the calendar counterpart. The simplicity is refreshing aesthetically, but it also doesn’t offer you a lot of flexibility for viewing your calendar like some other apps. I’d like to see a way to view a list of upcoming events without having to tap each day.

Adding events

Screenshots of Peek CalendarTo add an event, you hold down on the day your event is to take place. It then unfolds options (title, time, location, alerts, ability to make it recurring). Like everything else in the app it’s simple and pretty.

I like the time selector. You hold on the time and a slick slide menu fades in, letting you scroll to the right hour and minute of your event.

I do wish the location field would auto-populate with some database (maybe Foursquare or Google?). Perhaps then you could easily link that place and make it open your favorite navigation app for directions. This isn’t huge, but something I’m seeing in a lot of other apps that I’ve started to really find useful.

Conclusion

I like the look and feel of Peek. I applaud the restraint in their interface design, but I think Peek might be too simple for me. The quick swipes, presses and taps make for a quick and fun way to interact with your calendar, but the lack of view options make it fall short of what I’m really looking for. Peek Calendar by Square Mountains is available in the App Store for $1.99. If you’re looking for something very simple, with a great design, Peek is for you. What do you think? Have you given Peek a try? Let me know in the comments.

Finding a better iOS calendar app: Sunrise

Sunrise Calendar App IconIn case you missed it, I’m trying to find a better iOS calendar app. Next up, is Sunrise Calendar by Sunrise Atelier, Inc.

I first discovered Sunrise when I heard a designer from Foursquare (one of my favorite apps) had left for a new project. Sunrise was the new project. In the beginning Sunrise only offered integration with Google calendars, so I initially wrote it off as not for me.

Fast forward a few months and they updated the app to work with iCloud calendars. I decided it was time to take another look. I’m glad I did. The app has a great look. It’s simple, but not overly simple like the built-in calendar. If you’ve tried Sunrise in the past, but not recently, give it another go.

Supported calendars

It integrates with plenty of services, such as Facebook, Google, iCloud, LinkedIn and Foursquare. This is a unique feature, as it will automatically pull your Facebook and LinkedIn events right into your calendar. A nice Facebook tie-in will even let you RSVP to events right in Sunrise. The Foursquare integration is pretty cool too. it will add your check-ins, so if you can’t remember where you were yesterday for lunch, you can go back a day on your calendar and find out. It’s all easy to set up and covers more than I was even looking for.

Views

There’s two main views in Sunrise. The default view shows two weeks of a “month” view on top, with a list of your upcoming events below. If you swipe down on the two weeks, it turns into a full month. Each day can be tapped to jump to that day in the list view. There’s a handy button in the bottom left of the screen that jumps you back to the current day and time.

The list part of this view is clean and has a colored dot denoting which calendar it came from. In the case of Foursquare check-ins, those dots become larger and include the icon of the venue type. Birthdays have a present icon and if your event’s name is something like “party” or “meeting” other icons are automatically put in place. It’s kind of a nice little touch. If they’re looking for new features, I’d love to be able to add those icons to events manually when they don’t detect one (or rarely, choose the wrong one). In addition to your events, Sunrise also adds in weather forecasts into the list. A simple icon (sunny, cloudy, rain, etc) and the expected temperature for the morning and evening are added to each day. It’s another small detail that makes Sunrise stand out.

Tapping the three lines button at the top of the screen will take you to view two. This is a more standard “week” look. This can be nice if you’re looking to see how your time actually lines up throughout a day. For some reason this only works in portrait mode, meaning you only see three days at a time. I think it’d be a nice addition to add a landscape mode with a full week (or at least five days). Overall, I hardly use this view. It doesn’t offer much the default view can’t.

Adding events

Sunrise calendar app screenshots for adding events

The event add screen is pretty standard. You can add a location that is auto completed by Google’s database. That makes it easy to set the place you actually want, which later means easily getting directions with the Google Maps integration.

There’s not natural language adding, but since you can use your iCloud calendars, Siri is still an option. Sunrise does have some autofill options when you’re adding an event. If you start typing “call” or “breakfast” they’ll show up. A time-saver, but not as great as other options.

Conclusion

Overall Sunrise is one of the prettiest calendar apps. It has a great look and feel, and is easy to use. The small details like automatic icons and integration with so many services are major pluses. If there’s one thing really lacking it’s an innovative way to add events. Maybe that’s not a deal breaker, as the rest of it is so nice. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the best part of this app yet… it’s FREE. Yes, this good-looking, easy-to-use app won’t cost you a penny. I feel almost guilty using a such a quality app for nothing. My recommendation? Give this one a try. It won’t cost you anything and it’s a big step up from the standard iOS calendar.

Have you tried Sunrise? What do you think? Tell me in the comments.

Finding a better iOS calendar app: Calendars 5

Calendars 5 iconEarly calendar apps from Readdle didn’t really wow me. When they released Calendars 5, I finally found something special. I’ve been using it off and on for a few months now and I’m definitely a fan. Here’s an intro video from Readdle.

Supported calendars

Calendars 5 easily plugs into your existing iCloud. When you start the app for the first time it asks for access to your calendars, contacts and to-do lists. It was extremely easy to set up. For those of you using Google Calendars, it can easily connect with those too.

Views

Calendars 5 screens

This is where Calendars 5 really stands out from other calendar apps. The app boasts views for tasks, list, day, week and month.

The list view has a continuous list of chronological events. You can easily scroll through your upcoming events with this view.

The day view focuses in on one day, displaying all hours of said day with events displayed over top. At the bottom of the screen you can easily select another day.

The week view, which displays the current day at the top and the next six days underneath, is a little different from a traditional week view. Instead of being a week-long version of the day view like most other apps, Calendars 5 displays each day’s events as colored blocks (the colors relating to the corresponding calendar). I find this view to be my favorite. It really gives you a good idea of your upcoming week. If you flip your phone into landscape mode, you will get the traditional “hourly” week view, which can also be helpful and is really nice that they included it.

Month view is pretty standard. It’s a traditional calendar view with color highlighted text of your events on each day’s square.

The only problem with the views is that it’s two taps to switch between them. I’d prefer they bar containing them was always present so I don’t have to tap an extra time. I know that’s picky, but all those taps add up over time.

Adding events

Adding events couldn’t be easier. You can type something like “Meet Jim at Starbucks” which brings up a listing of nearby Starbucks, which you can select from and it will auto-fill the location field. If you continue typing “…Saturday at noon” the date and time will be filled in. It’s very similar to the experience of Fantastical for Mac or how you would speak to Siri to add an event.

If you want to directly edit an event the information is displayed below and can be tapped to change. I really like the user interface used for changing times. When you tap the time, a custom keyboard pops up with common hours displayed with common “fractions” (:00, :15, :30, etc.) below. There’s also a date tab that brings up a mini-calendar view to set the right date. You can set the right time and date faster than using a traditional keyboard, and I really appreciate that.

After an event is created, you can add an alarm, change calendars, make it recurring, invite people and a description with another simple tap.

Auto-complete is a big theme in Calendars 5. It’s a useful and time-saving feature. This app really shines in the adding events category.

Conclusion

Basically Calendars 5 is great. I love the unique week view. It’s probably my favorite view of any app I’ve tried so far. Adding events is super easy (and with auto-complete, pretty fast). I highly recommend Calendars 5. It is truly a useful, well-designed, easy-to-use calendar replacement though. As a bonus, the app is universal and will work on iPhones as well as iPads. That might make the $6.99 price tag a little easier to swallow. That’s the downside. It’s a bit pricey (by App Store standards). Despite price, it’s still a great option, especially for power users.

Have you tried Calendars 5? What did you think? Sound off in the comments.

Finding a better iOS calendar app: part one

iPhone screenshot of calendar appsI’m not a big fan of the standard iOS calendar app. I’m glad they simplified the user interface in iOS 7, but it’s almost too simple now. It may be even a bit harder to see and use over earlier versions. I’ve been on a quest over the last couple months of testing new calendar options.

The criteria

There are a few things an app needs to do well for me to make the switch full-time. First, it needs to integrate with iCloud calendars. I’m already set up on them, and I don’t plan on re-creating my workflow (again, since I already did that a few years ago with the switch from Android and Google calendars). I currently have a number of iCloud calendars and I am subscribed to a handful of other standard iCal feeds. The setup works pretty well for me and allows easy synching between my phone, my iPad and my laptop. My new app will need to easily plug into these calendars. Integrating Facebook is a major plus, but not a necessity.

It’s also important for me to have multiple views. Sometimes I have a day with six events and the next might have only one. I’d like an easy way to see my busy days versus my free time. Sometimes it’s important to see a whole month at a time, but often a good week view is preferred. I need to be able to drill into a day too. Just having colors on a day doesn’t tell me what’s actually happening that day. Basically, I need options. No one view will work all the time.

Next, I’m looking for something with a simple way to add events. It needs to be easy to do on the go and maybe most importantly, it needs to work quickly. I hate being slowed down as an app catches up with me. On my laptop I use Fantastical. It’s amazing; very quick, responsive and always in my menu bar ready to work. I know iOS is used differently, so I won’t find the same thing. I’m just looking to find something that’s fast and easy to use. Converting plain English like Fantastical on the Mac does would be a good start.

So now what?

Over the next few weeks I’m going to write-up some reviews of various calendar apps. To start, I’m going to take a look at Calendars 5, Fantastical 2 and Sunrise. What do you use? Tell me why you like it, and maybe I’ll add it to my review list.