BusyCal, an iCal Replacement, is not quite busy enough

Last week I installed and then de-installed BusyCal, a new and hotly touted iCal replacement.

It was the product of the development team that created David Pogue’s favorite calendar, Now Up-to-Date, and I thought it promising since there really is not another iCal replacement package out there unless you adopt Entourage which means being outside the Apple suite of apps with all their interconnected goodness.

What I liked about BusyCalc was its integration with iCal. It uses the same calendar data files so transition back and forth from applications, or to and from iPhone apps is seamless. Someone is finally taking data integrity seriously.

I also liked the big text box access to notes. I like putting notes in appointments and the tinny little box on iCal is always frustrating (but can be dealt with by using tools like WriteRoom when you install the free QuickCursor add-on) BusyCal presents a Huge text editing area for notes, but bizarrely does not let you strip the editing ruler away as on TextEdit or Bean. There are little design oversights like this all over BusyCal.

Supposedly the core of the app’s functionality comes from group calendaring, something I don’t really use. The interface shows many options for group vs local notes, which would be useful to keep colleagues away from your secret agenda for next week’s staff meeting, or your girl friend clueless about the surprise anniversary diner you are planning for her. If I used group calendaring extensively these would be very valuable features.

But for all its group functionality the application has a very clunky design, it is not as attractive as the slick interface of iCal, (the colors are not quite right, the fonts look cheep and ill sized, the faux 3M stickie note is annoyingly in the way all the time…) and it does not address the major deficiencies of iCal for the single user, which is additional calendar views.

Missing from iCal is a rolling 4 week view, which you can understand best when trying to schedule items at the end of one month and the beginning of another. Also missing is a two, three, or more day view, that allows for user defined groupings of days. Both these features have been standard on Outlook and Thunderbird for years (even on Lotus Notes for gosh sakes), and are practically required for paper based systems. BusyCal only has the standard iCal views plus a two week at a time view that because of the design issues noted above, is almost unusable.

The other view that is missing in all calendar apps, except for paper ones, is a year at a glance view. Why there is not one that works on a Mac is just amazing. With all this computing power at hand it really is time to have a system that is better designed than it’s analogue predecessor.

So I’ll watch BusyCal develop, but without enhancements to its graphics or the addition of new views I’m afraid the price tag, at $40, is a bit high.

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4 Comments

  1. Justin Noel
    Posted January 28, 10 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Did you ever find a good iCal alternative? I can’t stand iCal for one major issue. The snooze options are useless. Sorry, Apple, but I like more than a few measley snooze options. I’ve been using BusyCal for about 2 months now. I’m not liking it much either. It does not work with Exchange. I seem to mysteriously lose reminders. The snooze options are great – except… They are so hard to use. You simply can’t adjust the snooze options for each reminder without mousing and keying all over the place.

    I need something better!

  2. Justin Noel
    Posted January 28, 10 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Oh yes, BusyCal is expensive. $40 now (I THINK I paid $49???). That’s a lot of money for something that doesn’t quite work for me.

  3. Posted January 28, 10 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    No. I didn’t. I think we’re kind of stuck. There is very limited development activity going on in this space (perhaps because of the proprietary nature of the ical data set???) However it was interesting to see the changes made to calendar for the iPad. Perhaps there is hope…

  4. elmo stegmire
    Posted October 29, 12 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    BusyCal has now just released a version 2.0 which may have fixed some of what disappointed you. Probably won’t save the day for you.

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