BusyCal 2 - Not A Skeuomorph In Sight

12/27/2012 6:16:56 PM

It would be unfair to suggest that Ap­ple’s Calendar app divides opinion. In fact, nobody likes it. But convincing alternatives remain scarce. Menu bar tools such as Fantastical ( are a help, but BusyCal is arguably the only fully featured standalone competitor.

Even if BusyCal 2 looks similar to Calen­dar, it comes with a few notable differences. To those tired of Calendar’s skeuomorphic livery, BusyCal’s simpler interface alone will be a relief. But it isn’t afraid of adding a bit of colour of its own: the Daily, Weekly and Monthly calendar views incorporate a live weather forecast and moon phases, for exam­ple. We’d be tempted to dismiss this as almost as gimmicky as Calendar’s faux leather, if it didn’t turn out to be so functional: when you’re planning a weekend away, a glance at the up­coming weather conditions proves genuinely useful.

BusyCal 2

BusyCal 2

The Graphics palette, on the other hand, which lets you drag little graphical icons onto calendar events, certainly belongs more in the ‘quirky’ category.

There are other differences from Apple’s approach. BusyCal sacrifices some screen space to include an integrated Edit pane in most calendar views. It’s a price worth paying, as it makes editing appointments much quicker.

Like Calendar, BusyCal lists calendars in a pane on the left, but for those with particu­larly packed agendas, it offers event filtering. BusyCal’s Smart Filter stores calendar views that match specified criteria, so in a couple of seconds you can create a filter to list those events across your calendars that, say, take place on a particular day of the week or include certain keywords. The filters can be stored as toolbar buttons above the calendar view, so it’s easy to switch between them.

BusyCal is more customisable in other ways, too, even enabling you to change the number of days in Week view or weeks in Month view. List view is also sortable accord­ing to multiple criteria, including duration. Used in tandem with a Smart Filter, that feature could be useful for small businesses when calculating billable hours.

Like Calendar, BusyCal lists calendars in a pane on the left, but for those with particu¬larly packed agendas, it offers event filtering

Like Calendar, BusyCal lists calendars in a pane on the left, but for those with particu­larly packed agendas, it offers event filtering

BusyCal also offers anewmenubar listing upcoming events and offering a field to add new ones using natural language text input. The menu is neither as good-looking nor as functional as Fantastical - it lacks a built-in mini-calendar view and a Search field - but text entry works well, despite being poorly documented. It allows you to create a task by prefixing an entry with a hyphen, and this is automatically synced with the Reminders app in Mountain Lion or iOS.

Existing BusyCal users may be irritated by some changes. As part of its adoption of Mountain Lion technologies - it requires OS X 10.8 - version 2 has simplified how it syncs calendars, dropping support for Apple’s Sync Services framework. So while it will work with hosted iCloud and Google calendars, syncing with apps that use Sync Services - whether Microsoft’s Outlook or via iTunes to iOS devices - isn’t possible. Local syncing has gone as well: you can’t publish locally created calendars to Google.

BusyCal is better than Calendar overall, but it’s only worth the price if you need its customisable features or menu input. If you’re already using BusyCal, the removal of Sync Services isn’t the only thing that may deter you from upgrading. Now on sale only through the Mac App Store, the new version offers no upgrade pricing and will appeal to fewer users than it should.

Life in pictures

Life in pictures

BusyCal’s interface is more restrained, until you get busy with icons from the Graphics palette

It’s a date

It’s a date

The app’s Smart Filters make it possible to manage multiple calendars without losing the plot


·         Price: $32 inc VAT

·         From: Mac App Store

·         Info:

·         Needs: OS X 10.8

·         Pro: More customisable than Calendar * Menu bar menu

·         Con: Loss of syncing options * No upgrade pricing * Won’t work on OS X10.7 or earlier


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