Fantastical: Menu Bar iCal Events in Plain English

It is a rare but welcome occasion when an app is developed to do something I’ve always wanted an app to do. Fantastical is precisely that app. Often, when adding an event to iCal, getting frustrated with date and time fields, and giving up on adding any details but the name, I’ve pondered “shouldn’t there be another way?”

The developers of Fantastical have endeavoured to answer this plea with a menu-bar iCal tie-in promising the ability to quickly add events in natural language.

Upon further research, I learned that Fantastical wasn’t the first app to offer such a handy feature, apps like the cheaper QuickCal promise the same features. So, is Fantastical fantastic enough to justify the price?

Interface

Fantastical sits happily in the menu bar whether your chosen calendar app is open or not. Fantastical features a beautiful interface with a detailed month calendar view with the current day circled and dots under days with events, much like iCal for iPhone.

Beneath the calendar is a list of upcoming events which display details when clicked and highlights the date when hovered over.

A handy feature of Fantastical is the “anchor” button which keeps the interface open and pins it in front of other windows.

Fantastical Main Interface

Fantastical Main Interface

Using Fantastical

Fantastical gives you the option to sync with iCal, Entourage or Outlook, and supports iCal delegates, an essential feature for those of us syncing with Google Calendar.

To enter a task, simply enter the event in natural language in the text field, for example, “Dinner with Rhiannon tomorrow 7pm at New Gen Sushi”. Fantastical picks out the date, time and location and instantly adds it to your calendar.

You can also select which calendar you’d like the entry to appear in, by using /calendar – another great touch that rounds off the different entry information.

One possibility for the future: though I don’t use the tasks feature in iCal, I’m sure those who do would appreciate if Fantastical could be used to add tasks too – perhaps by prefacing an entry with “todo:”. That might even get me to switch to using iCal for tasks…

Features and Options

Fantastical includes all the useful features you’d expect from a well-excecuted app, including custom system-wide keyboard shortcuts, customizable sounds and search.

You can select how many upcoming events you’d like to see, or how far into the future you want to see, decide what happens when a date is clicked (open in iCal vs. create new event)

Preferences Panel

Preferences Panel

Alarms

Fantastical gives you the option to set up reminders and alarms for both timed and all-day events. For example, you may want to receive an alert one hour before a dentist’s appointment, or an email a day before an important meeting.

You can customize the alarms for both types of events, and set the alarm to sound, message, sound and message, email or even to open a file. I’m too paranoid and constantly aware of upcoming events to need alarms, but I know some people will love this feature.

Alarm customization

Alarm customization

Conclusion

I have to say, I love this app. Fantastical works well, and does so effectively and beautifully. No, it’s not the only app to offer this functionality, and at $14.99, it’s certainly not the cheapest.

I’ve tried out QuickCal as well, and Fantastical’s main advantages are the ability to use delegate calendars (absolutely essential for me) and the slick, visual interface.

Is that difference worth $14? Personally I absolutely think so, and can’t recommend it highly enough.

Fantastical is priced at $14 until the 1st June, after which the price will increase.


Summary

Fantastical extracts event info from text entered in plain english and adds it to iCal, Entourage or Outlook.

9
  • http://www.appforthat.de Julia Altermann

    Well, that was fast. The app JUST came out, guys!

    Anyway, great review, Tessa. I completely agree with you, especially with being able to specify a calendar where events should go to (hope that will be implemented soon) and since I’m one of those people using iCal for tasks, I’d love to be able to add tasks via that interface as well.

    As it is, Fantastical is already very promising, especially the “natural way” of entering the information about an event. I could get used to this, I think :)

  • Ben

    Thanks for the nice review. This is indeed a good looking application with lots of potential and some energetic developers.

    I was very excited for this app to come out because of the hype around it and the promise it held to make iCal usable again on the desktop. Nothing annoys me more in my workflow than having to open up iCal to see what I have due on a given date and then have to navigate through those cumbersome entry boxes.

    Fantistical is indeed a nice app, but it falls short for me in a few ways. I like to have just a quick entry box that will come up when I need to put something into my calendar. I won’t necessarily want the whole app visible but just enough space to enter my data into it. I also like having the window unobtrusive enough to be open most of the time so that I can peak at it if need be.

    Currently I use Today from Second Gear Software, and it gives me QE options, and I can keep the window itself open to look at it. The UI, though, is a bit dated.

    Hopefully Fantastical will come out with such options soon for those of us who would like to unpin it from the menu bar (like we can with Delibar). If I could have it at the desktop level with quick entry options, that would be great. Right now, though, I’ve got an app that fits my needs, and I’ll watch this one develop with anticipation.

  • David Ferguson

    Everybody is getting all excited for a $15 app that does the exact same thing Quickcal does, for $1. Fantastical may be a little more polished, but I’m not paying 15x the price for pretty. Plus, as I mentioned elsewhere, Quickcal has AWESOME integration with Alfred, especially with the 2.5 update coming out soon.

    If you pay $15 for this, or more when the price goes up June 1, you obviously have more money than sense.

    • Ali

      Or, maybe you just have different preferences.
      I use Alfred, QuickCal and CalendarBar and the combo works for me, but I love the idea and will be trying out the demo of Fantastical.

    • Jay

      My thoughts exactly. Quickcal + Alfred = awesomeness. The real advantage I see here is the delegates which is user to user…

    • mark

      QuickCal is some boring, ugly stuff. Fantastical is simply beautiful.

  • Ben

    The selling point for me is that Fantastical can sync my calendar subscriptions in the background without me having to launch iCal to sync them.

  • http://thebird-feeder.com Ben Carlsen

    Two problems with it: One, the price, which has been mentioned. Two: No ability to edit calendar items with Fantastical after they have been created (at least none that I’ve found. Perhaps I’m missing something?).

    Other than that, though, I think it’s an amazing piece of software.

    • http://tessathornton.com Tessa Thornton

      Yeah, when you double-click on an event in Fantastical, it opens it up in iCal. But that does somewhat defeat the purpose of it working whether or not iCal is open.

    • Ed

      I agree this is annoying. But read the FAQs – they say they are aware and it will be changed in a free update.

      • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

        The ability to edit entries will definitely make for a fantastic update, and I expect we’ll see it soon…

  • Josh

    Been having a play with it and personally when compared to alternative options I don’t think it’s worth the premium even at the currently discounted price.

    I currently use CalendarBar and Remind me later but understand QuickCal can also do what Fantastical does at a fraction of the cost and also has Alfred integration.

    It’s a good piece of software and doesn’t use to much memory but I don’t feel it’s worth the $14 more than QuickCal. If the price drops further may pick it up.

  • http://twitter.com/jesse_stuart Jesse

    I discovered you can specify the calendar of an event by using the ‘@’ symbol: for example, to add an event to the “Work” calendar, you’d just type ‘@work’ in the event prompt. It works just as well and intuitively as the rest of the application!

    • http://tessathornton.com Tessa Thornton

      Awesome tip, thanks!

  • http://flexibits.com Michael

    Actually, use /work instead of the @ symbol… We’ll likely drop the @ symbol as a way to change calendars and standardize on /. This information is in our Help Book (accessible from the menu). :)

  • Jfen

    Does anyone know if there’s a way to add a note to an event? If so, I might be sold.

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  • http://quickcalapp.com/ Christian

    You should check back on Quickcal. (Google Calendar) delegates work since 2.5. And 2.5.1 has some nice touches too (mostly if you using an applaucher like Alfred or LaunchBar).

    One thing people tend to overlook is the smart reminder feature, which I love since Quickcals widget days. Its not only about the price.

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  • Joe

    Picked up QuickCal today after a trial of Fantastical. All I have to say is i’m very pleased with QC. The ability to make updates to ANY calendar (I have personal and work related ones) w/o having to have iCal open takes this app over the top. In order for you update Outlook based calendars in Fantastical, you have to have iCal open. This really defeats the purpose of having a minimalist, clean workflow.

    I

  • http://Quickcalapp.com Christian

    You may want to revisit QuickCal 3.0 and be supprised ;)

  • yangcenit

    I bought it… I kept thinking for a while! and then I was… I fantastical has it all. I was not completely happy with the other ones and as much as I tried to get it for free, I couldn’t! Not going to keep wasting time, time is money, might well just spend it on fantastical right away!

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  • NA

    I was going to get this but not at the price.
    The days of paying $15 for a tiny helper app are gone.
    Sorry chaps.

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  • bazza

    I’ve played with many different calendar apps and this is definitely my favorite. My only issue is that I can’t figure out how to sync the app on my computer with the app on my iphone. Can someone please shed some light if this is possible?

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