BusyMac BusyCal 1.0 review

Apple’s iCal, included with OS X, is easy to use and its price can’t be beat. But it’s not especially powerful or flexible, and the improvements Apple has made to it in recent years have been fairly minor.

If you’ve been frustrated by iCal’s limitations or are looking for a scheduling program with a little more oomph, BusyMac’s BusyCal may be just what you need.

BusyCal builds on the foundation of the company’s well-regarded BusySync software, which lets you sync calendars between users (and not merely between the same user’s accounts on multiple Macs, as is the case with MobileMe).

But whereas BusySync relies on iCal for entry and display of calendar items, BusyCal replaces iCal with a program that has a familiar look and feel but a wide range of new features.

Indeed, BusyCal looks startlingly similar to iCal, and if you’re not paying careful attention, you may forget that you’re in a different program. At the same time, BusyCal's take on iCal’s user interface sports numerous subtle changes that, taken together, dramatically improve the experience of tracking one’s schedule.

For starters, when adding or editing an event in BusyCal, you don't need to open a separate window or double-click an event and then click an Edit button (as you do in iCal)—all the controls you need are immediately visible in a configurable Info panel at the side of the window when you select an event. In addition to details such as start and end times, alarms, notes, and attachments, events can include user-defined tags, graphics, and styled text.

The main calendar view can display not only a single day, a week, or a month at a time, but also a two-week period, an arbitrary seven-day or five-week period (say, from Wednesday through Tuesday or mid-November through mid-December), or a sortable, scrolling list of all events. In addition, in the week or month view, you can scroll through the items for any given day if there are more than can fit in the existing view. BusyCal includes built-in options to display a five-day weather forecast and moon phases on your calendar.

BusyCal’s Month view includes weather, moon phases, and sticky notes - plus a nonmodal Info panel.

To-do items in BusyCal vastly improve on iCal's. Tasks with due dates (either single or repeating items) can appear on the calendar itself as well as in their own list, and can carry forward to the next day automatically if not completed. BusyCal also offers new event types, such as sticky notes, banners, and journal entries—all of which can be shared with other users.

NEXT: Favourite improvement on iCal/h2>

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