BusyCal has long been a popular calendar app for Mac, but how does the new iOS version hold up for mobile users?
Size: 15.3 MB
Platform: iPhone / iPad
Developer: BusyCal LLC
The Mac version of BusyCal is regarded as one of the most complete, reliable calendar apps for OS X – but with a $49.99 price tag, it’s not exactly cheap. Luckily the new iOS version of BusyCal is a much more palatable $4.99 (£3.99).
The app is split into five main tabs: List, Day, Week, Month, and To Do. The List section shows all your upcoming events and to dos in a compact, chronological list and is the quickest way to glance over your plans without missing anything. Day, Week, and Month will be familiar to calendar users everywhere, and putting these views into distinct tabs is a big improvement on the slightly confusing hierarchy employed by the standard Calendar app. You can pinch-to-zoom to fit more or less detail on-screen at once, and events can be easily rearranged with a long tap and drag. Finally the To Do tab is a more focused version of the List tab with a bunch of boxes to tick off. Visually, the app is understated and – to the untrained eye – looks like it could be from Apple’s own design team. It’s functional, utilitarian, and uses plenty of white. If you prefer something with a little more flair this could be a turn-off, but many will welcome the focus on content above looks, and rest assured the layout is solid despite a slight lack of creativity.
It would be nice to be able to press a blank space in the calendar to create an event at that exact time. Instead, events are added in the more conventional manner – hit the ‘+’ icon and manually configure the finer details from a list. Luckily there’s a cooler, quicker way: natural language input. If filling in boxes is just too old-school for you to handle, there’s an option to type out your plans in more or less normal English and let the app create the event automatically. It’s a very cool feature (though the lack of autocorrect is a slightly irksome oddity,) but nothing entirely new; Fantastical et al have offered similar natural language features for a while now and are slightly ahead of the game in terms of usability.
BusyCal syncs with all the main calendar services including iCloud, Google Calendar, Exchange, Office 365, and you can add multiple accounts if you want easy access to separate work and personal calendars. Unlike some of its competitors, there’s no Today View widget and no Apple Watch support, though. Those exclusions are a shame, but certainly not relevant to all users. That said, BusyCal’s attention to detail is admirable: for example, setting defaults for new events can save a lot of manual work, and it’s nice to be able to sort your to do list by priority as well as its due date. The sheer number of configurations in Settings is unparalleled. BusyCal also has a neat Travel Time feature, plus a solid ten day weather forecast represented smartly by tiny icons next to each day. It also shows the cycles of the moon, if you’re into that.
If you’re one of the many who already uses BusyCal for Mac, this new companion app is a no-brainer. For the rest of us, it’s another very viable option alongside several other very good iOS calendar apps. It’s clear that the developers have leaned on years of experience with BusyCal for Mac, but its not without the loose ends you might expect from a first entry into the mobile market. We expect plenty of updates to keep improving things in future though. Ultimately this is a very competent calendar, but whether or not its right for you is really dependent on what you want out of a calendar app. If you dream about functionality and customization over all else – and you don’t have an Apple Watch – then look no further.