Until recently, there were few options for fully cross-platform calendar apps, with Google Calendar leading the way. But Sunrise Calendar, an iOS favorite, recently released new Android and desktop versions, making it a serious contender for the title of best cross-platform calendar.
But does it take the crown?
Finding a calendar that you like and is available on all of your devices is surprisingly hard. Both the $7 Calendars 5 app (which is worth the high price) and the $5 Fantastical, which made it into our Best iPhone Apps list, are iOS-only on mobile — though Fantastical’s desktop version is great. A quick scan of the Best Android Apps list reveals no calendars at all, and the only alternative to Google Calendar that I’ve heard mentioned more than few times is Business Calendar, which works quite well, but has a feature-packed and complicated interface.
This is why Sunrise’s Android and desktop releases are so great. The iOS interface is much nicer than Apple’s standard calendar app thanks to a simpler interface, muted colors, and well-designed icons. The Android version of Sunrise (shown below on the left) similarly eclipses the standard Android calendar (below on the right) in terms of design.
And the desktop version, which we’ll go over in a moment, is also quite nice-looking.
Of course, using the same calendar app to access your calendars on a variety of different systems isn’t a necessity — you could make do using iCal on your Mac at home, Google Calendar in your browser at work, Fantastical on your iPad, and Business Calendar on your phone. Plus, there are plenty of ways to sync iCloud with an Android device if you happen to have that particular mix of Apple and Google products. But if you value great design (or consistent app experiences), Sunrise can’t be topped.
So it looks great, but what’s it like to use?
Making The Mobile To Desktop Transition
When it comes to using the mobile app, Sunrise is quite similar to Google Calendar: tap the “+” to add a new event, enter the details, and hit save. That’s really all there is to it. There some nice touches, though, like using an analog clock face to choose the time for your event. Overall, it’s a minimalist experience, which is refreshing in today’s ultra-powerful, featured-packed app ecosystem.
Sunrise supports integration with Google Calendar, iCloud, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and will soon be able to link up with Microsoft Exchange as well. You can even connect it to Producteev, which is a solid task management app, to display your tasks, and we can only hope that we see more task management app support in the future.
As far as mobile apps go, it’s a pretty simple one. There aren’t tons of features, it’s easy to learn, and it uses an uncluttered interface. But what about as a desktop app? Users often ask more of their desktop apps, and with more screen real estate, an easier-to-use keyboard, and a bigger processor, they usually deliver.
The first interesting thing to note about Sunrise for the desktop is that it’s offered in two formats: browser-based and as a Chrome app. On a visual level, they’re almost exactly the same. If you download the Chrome app, you’ll have to use the Chrome App Launcher, which took me a few minutes to figure out how to use (if you’re on a Mac and can’t find it, here’s a tip: it’s not in Macintosh HD > Applications, it’s in Macintosh HD > Users > [you] > Applications). Once you get it launched, though, it’s just like using any other desktop app.
Click-and-drag to create a new event, choose which accounts you want to display, click the button in the top-right corner to toggle a monthly view, and click the button in the top-left corner to collapse the sidebar. Pretty simple. I found that using it with the sidebar collapsed was preferable, as keeping it open makes the calendar feel a bit crowded.
I was slightly disappointed to find that I didn’t like the desktop interface as much as the mobile. It took me quite a while to figure out what the problem was, but I think the fact that all of the sections of the calendar are very similar in color is what bothers me. The days are white, separated by light gray lines, the sidebar is on a light gray background, and the top bar is almost white.
I’m not a huge fan of Apple’s Calendar, but at least it has the steel gray at the top to anchor the whole app (as you can see in the comparison image above where Sunrise is on the left). Though Sunrise’s larger month view in the left sidebar is really nice.
Is Sunrise the Best Cross-Platform Calendar?
In a previous article, one of our authors called Sunrise the best iOS calendar. And despite a couple of shortcomings, the new platform releases are great. Because it’s one of the very few third-party apps that works on iOS, Android, and desktop, it certainly does take the title of best cross-platform calendar.
If you use Microsoft Exchange, you might want to wait a bit to adopt Sunrise as your calendar of choice, as it doesn’t yet have support for this format. However, if you’re using Google or iCloud, Sunrise is definitely the way to go.
Do you use Sunrise? Do you have another cross-platform calendar app that you like to use? Or are you not bothered by using different apps? Sound off below!