Fantastical for Mac Review.
If you've ever tried using a desktop calendar app to organise your day-to-day activities, you'll know what a pain they can be. Starting them up every time you want to check a single appointment, the tedium of inputting field after field of data as you add all your upcoming events. Fantastical by Flexibits is a solution to that inconvenience, and is the latest addition to a steadily growing line of mac menu-bar calendar apps.
At its core, Fantastical blends simple functionality with a beautiful design ethic. An icon sits in your menu bar which, when clicked, reveals a well-presented calendar and appointments list clad in a chic HUD-black. Every single element is meticulously arranged, with a level of detail that easily makes Fantastical one of the most stunning Mac apps around today.
One of Fantastical's most distinguishing features is its so-called "natural language engine". In human language, this means you just type your appointment into a text field (e.g. "Groceries 6pm to 7pm tomorrow at the supermarket") and Fantastical will fill out the event fields for you. No more field filling tedium. What's more, the words actually fly from the input box to the fields in which they belong. It's an ingenious way of letting you know exactly how your words are processed, and kudos to the developers at Flexibits for coming up with that. Although the text input works 95% of the time, it's not always that accurate at pulling out the relevant bits of information. For example, when I typed "make dinner 6pm til 6.30" Fantastical mistakenly pulled "til 6.30" as a location, I had to use either the word "until" or change the formatting of "6.30" to "6:30" for it to be interpreted correctly. Fantastical also had problems pulling event titles when they were end of whatever I'd typed (e.g. "6pm to 7pm tomorrow Groceries"), times where the digits and am/pm were separated by a space, and was puzzled by the use of the phrase "all-day". Although it's described as natural, you may find that you need to adapt in some situations.
Beyond looks and natural language input, Fantastical's other pull is its wide range of calendar sync options. The most popular desktop applications are supported, including iCal, BusyCal, Entourage, and Outlook, as well as cloud services from Apple, Google, and Yahoo. I found sync to be quick and efficient when Fantastical was paired with iCal and Google Calendar. However, several of the Appstore reviews indicate issues syncing with some of the other services, particularly BusyCal and Outlook. Without owning a copy of either of these apps I was unable to confirm these reports.
The remainder of Fantastical's features are fairly spartan and mundane. Search allows you to browse your upcoming and past events easily, and the settings section offers some minor interface tweaks together with the option to set default alarm and calendar options. There's not a lot here, and it's a reminder that Fantastical is a companion app and not a fully-fledged desktop calendar application.
So finally we come to the issue of value-for-money. At £13.99/$19.99 Fantastical is by no means cheap. Although what you get works really well, I have to wonder if it's not over reliant on aesthetics as a selling point. QuickCal for instance, has a little less flare but offers much the same functionality, including natural text input, and costs just £1.99/$2.99. Fantastical is a beautiful menu-bar calendar application, but at this price, it's tough to recommend.
Fantastical is available for £13.99/$19.99 at Flexibits.com and the Mac Appstore. A 14-day demo is also available.