The default Calendar app on iOS and macOS does a pretty decent job for most people but power users definitely want more. The stock Calendar app’s natural language processing could use improvements for things such as repeated events, and its rudimentary widget isn’t good enough for many. It also lacks a menu bar icon, which can provide easy access to many features.
Fantastical 2 is a calendar app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, made by the indie developer Flexibits and it claims to be a superior alternative to the stock Calendar app. We used it for over a month to see what it has to offer.
Fantastical 2 for Mac
Our job doesn’t require us to do advanced tasks with calendar apps so we never bothered to use the stock Calendar app much. We’re more into to-do apps such as Cultured Code’s Things 3, but during the course of the review period we found quite a lot of use for calendar apps as well. Things 3 shows all entries you add to your calendar, so the combination worked well for us. To give us points of reference, we tried out Apple’s Calendar app, BusyCal, and Google Calendar simultaneously, and we also looked at alternatives such as Outlook’s built-in calendar app (which includes features from Sunrise Calendar that was acquired by Microsoft) and InstaCal, which is just a simple, menu bar app if that’s all you want.
We began using Fantastical 2 to keep track of interviews, sports events, holidays, and even found a way to make the app display results of recently concluded sports matches. Fantastical 2 also has a neat menu bar app, which shows you all your calendar entries for any day, apart from the calendar in month view, and lets you add entries to the calendar as well.
The best thing about Fantastical 2 is natural language processing – it’s not a unique feature, but it’s very well implemented. You can add events by tapping the + button and typing: “Record Orbital Podcast at NDTV office at 7.30 pm every Wednesday calendar Work alert 15 minutes before”. The app will then schedule the event for Wednesday every week, and it even picks up the location of the office and marks it on a map. It will alert you 15 minutes before the event and add this event to your Work calendar. Instead of selecting from a bunch of toggles, you can just type the way you talk and Fantastical will do the rest. This is better than the natural language processing on Apple’s Calendar app, which wouldn’t pick up cues for repeating events among other things; we had a similar issue when testing this phrase with Google Calendar as well. One thing we did miss here is that Fantastical 2 doesn’t integrate with contacts, so it can’t pick up people from your natural language entries.
Most of the other calendar apps we tried couldn’t process natural language cues for repeating events, or adding entries to a particular calendar from your list of calendars. Google Calendar was the closest to recognising what we typed, but it chose its own 10-minute alert instead of the 15 minutes we asked for.
Fantastical 2 for Mac also supports ‘Time to Leave’ alerts, which will send a notification when it’s time to leave for your meeting just like Apple’s Calendar app. It bases this data on traffic information gleaned from Apple Maps, as long as you add the location of the event. Unfortunately, Apple Maps doesn’t support navigation in India, so this feature didn’t work for us in either Fantastical 2, or Apple Calendar. This is where Google Calendar is so much more useful, but its Chrome app for the desktop looks outright ugly, and doesn’t allow you to sync non-Google calendars.
Fantastical 2, on the other hand, looks really good on macOS. The app icon is really nice, the overall UI is really good, and it’s great at displaying events in the month and year view. The day and week views tend to get a bit cluttered and required us to scroll down to see all events, which we didn’t like that much. However, we spent the most amount of time in month and year view, so that didn’t bother a lot.