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The OS X Calendar (formerly iCal) has been a stable application ever since the operating system was released. Many Mac users were not been too happy with the latest design of replacement app Calendar, though the beta release of the OS X Mavericks version of Calendar includes several updates and a redesign of the application.
Many other Mac users have turned to an award winning third-party calendar called BusyCal ($29.99). This powerful productivity tool contains most all the features found in Calendar, but it also includes unique features like customizable calendar views, scrolling month and week views, event icons, live weather feeds and moon phases, and menu bar access to the application.
Who Is BusyCal For?
BusyCal is a bit pricey for a calendar application, so I would mostly recommend it for Mac users who are scheduling events, meetings, and activities on a regular basis, and for those who may happen to use more than one calendar application. BusyCal supports iCloud, Google Calendar, and other CalDAV servers, so you can easily sync data from other calendars.
BusyCal 2.5, which is now available for public beta, will also include Exchange support, including tasks, calendar sharing, and scheduling meetings. The Mavericks update of Calendar will include features not available in BusyCal, most notably integration with GPS map information (see image below.)
You can add calendar events and meetings in BusyCal just as you do in Calendar. BusyCal also includes Calendar’s Create Quick Event feature, and when you add events from your Mail app, those events will show up in BusyCal.
BusyCal can also be accessed from your menu bar, which is a feature still not available for Calendar. The menu bar view lists your upcoming scheduled events, to-dos, and meetings, and it provides a text box for quickly adding events. You can simply type, for example, “Meeting tomorrow with Kate, 9 a.m.” and BusyCal will set up the event for you.
BusyCal displays alarms in its own Alarm Window or in the Notification Center. You can set snooze alarms for any duration, and you can set default alarm intervals for new events, to-dos, birthdays, and so on.
As with Calendar, you can add different calendars in BusyCal that can be set to sync via iCloud with BusyCal installed on your other Macs. There’s no iOS version of BusyCal, but any dates you add will get synced with the iOS version of Calendar, and in turn will show up in third-party iOS apps like Fantastical.
You can use a two-finger gesture to scroll through the day, week, and month views of BusyCal, and there’s a convenient Today button in the menu bar to get you back where you started.
While I don’t use BusyCal as my daily to-do manager, a few of its advanced and unique features make it my default calendar application on my Mac. First off, I like how BusyCal allows you to set up customizable views of calendars, using what is called Smart Filters. Similar to iTunes’ Smart Playlists, you can set up rules based on the type of events, tags, dates, notes and so on.
Smart calendar views are especially great if your unfiltered calendar view is cluttered with lots of dates and you simply want to focus on selective data.
Unlike Calendar, BusyCal also includes a List view of events that can be displayed by day, week, month, and year. As with traditional calendar views, calendar lists can also be printed or saved as PDFs.
You can also add image icons from BusyCal’s Graphics Panel, which contains hundreds of keyword searchable images for all occasions. Some of the images are a little old fashioned, but they’re useful for viewing, locating, and navigating calendar events.
BusyCal’s Preferences offers advanced settings not available in Calendar. For instance, you get a lot more options for setting up default alarms for timed events, all-day events, to dos, birthdays and anniversaries.
You can also customize the font size of calendar numbers, event data, and banners. BusyCal, which includes a time zone feature that’s not unlike its counterpart in Calendar, will change the event times you previously created to reflect a new time zone. You also get the option to disable this time shift feature.
If you find Mac OS X’s default calendar application limiting, you should definitely download a trial version of BusyCal to see if it fits your needs for a Mac-based home office. I’ve made it my default Mac calendar, and I suspect that, in time, it will probably include the map integration feature in the forthcoming Mavericks version of Calendar.
Download: BusyCal ($29.99, trial available)
What do you think of BusyCal? What feature would you like to see in a calendar app? Add your thoughts, below.
Image credit: Vintage Perpetual Desk Calendar (Adelle & Justin)