Today: Your Daily Schedule at a Glance

Sometime last year, frustrated by the complexities of the majority of task-tracking and GTD apps on the Mac (I’m looking at you, OmniFocus), I spent some time exploring the software that’s already built into OS X. That is: To Dos and Notes in Mail.app, and those same To Dos in iCal.

I turned more of my information into Events in iCal. Deadlines and reminders, which in the past had been undated items linked to particular Projects in OmniFocus or Things, now became dated To Dos or Events.

This worked quite well for me, but I found that I wanted to have easier access to my calendar, without needing to keep iCal open all the time. I tried using Bjango’s excellent Organized), but in general I don’t use Dashboard, so an ordinary app suited me better.

I considered a few options, and the one I liked most was Second Gear Software’s Today. Read on for a walkthrough of the basic feature set.

What It Is

Today is a focused display of a single day’s calendar events and tasks:

To Do, Today

To Do, Today

By default, as the name suggests, Today is oriented to the current day. Despite that, the mini-calendar at top left can be used to navigate to any particular date, and the arrow controls at top right allow you to scroll back and forward from day to day.

How It Works

Events are displayed in the colours of the calendars they are associated with in iCal, so it’s easy to work out a system to let you know at a glance what Project a particular event is linked to.

You can also filter which calendars are displayed in Today – just open the app’s Preferences and switch to the Calendars tab:

Selecting Calendars

Selecting Calendars

That’s really handy if you’re syncing your iCal via Google Calendar or MobileMe, and you only want to see your Home schedule when you’re at home and your Work meetings at the office.

The first and second buttons at the bottom of the main window allow you to add Events or Tasks via simple windows:

Adding Information

Adding Information

Today also allows you to set a keyboard shortcut so that it’s easy to create Tasks or Events without needing to lift your hands from the keyboard.

And the remaining two buttons toggle display of Tasks, and open a menu from which you can access Today’s help features and Preferences, or print a daily agenda.

New in the recent upgrade to Today 2 is the ability to see the future – specifically, calendar events for tomorrow:

Tomorrow!

Tomorrow!

Nice Touches, and Some Frustrations

Because Today uses Snow Leopard’s CalendarStore framework, it links directly with iCal, so there’s no delay at all in updating changes made either in iCal or Today – as soon as you add an Event or Task in Today, it’ll appear in iCal, and vice-versa.

If you’re using BusyCal instead of iCal (and why wouldn’t you?), because it uses the same framework, it’ll also work seamlessly. If BusyCal is set as your default calendar app, then double-clicking an Event in Today will open it in BusyCal.

Mousing over any Event changes the display to show the location, if one is set. This has proved useful recently, as my schedule’s become much more complicated – to find out where I am, my wife need only call up Today and hold the mouse over the listed event and she’ll know.

You can personalise and tweak Today’s Alarms to suit your needs – the preferences you set here will appear in the Alarm selection menu when you create a new Task or Event.

Alarms

Alarms

It would be nice to be able to set more than one of these at a time, such as an email a day in advance of a major deadline, followed by a pop-up message six hours before the paper is due. You can do this in iCal and in BusyCal, but not in Today.

I was frustrated that Today seemed to have reverted to a read only calendar as the default, until I figured out that this had to do with the arrangement of my calendars in iCal – reordering them there immediately fixed the problem.

It’s worth spending a few minutes in iCal making sure you have things set up in exactly the order you need them, since Today is going to reflect this arrangement precisely.

One thing that I particularly like about Today is the ability to set it to display in the menu bar, rather than in the Dock. Then you need only click on the small ‘sun’ icon to display your day’s To Dos and meetings.

In Conclusion

On the whole, my reversion to using OS X’s built-in tools as my main organising hub worked well for a while, with a few provisos. For some reason, Apple hasn’t worked in repeating To Dos, and this turned out to be more of a drag than I would have anticipated.

BusyCal addresses this lack, but repeating tasks created there won’t show up in iCal or Today (and don’t sync to any of the iPhone apps that can work with your iCal To Dos).

I had also grown used to using Tags and/or Contexts to filter my task lists, and found that the simple Priority filtering in iCal just wasn’t flexible enough for me without some serious hacking. These limitations in the system of course impact the usefulness of an app like Today, which quite transparently interfaces with iCal’s framework.

At the moment I’ve moved to more of a hybrid system, including BusyCal, OmniFocus, and a paper notebook and diary. It’s imperfect, and there’s some duplication, but it works quite well. Today is the latest addition to this system, and so far it’s working well for me, though I only use it – as I only use iCal and BusyCal – for keeping track of Events.

For this use alone, I would recommend Today. But if you, like me, need more from your To Dos, you might find yourself better served by a more powerful solution. I’ve had to return to the behemoth that is OmniFocus – complicated as it is, I’ve not found anything that does the job better.

What do you think? Are iCal’s To Dos sufficient for your needs, or do you also need several apps working alongside one another to get everything done?


Summary

With Today you can keep track of what's on your plate for any given day without keeping iCal open all the time. Today syncs with iCal and your life's agenda so daily events & tasks are always available via one, convenient little interface.

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  • http://www.timstringer.com Tim Stringer

    Thanks for the review! I agree with you regarding the limitations of the built-in tools when it comes to time tracking. If you’re finding that OmniFocus is more complex than you need you might give Things a try. Things is my task manager of choice and I find it’s a joy to use. There’s plenty of functionality under the hood (including repeating tasks), and it never seems to get in the way.

  • http://www.timstringer.com Tim Stringer

    By “time tracking” I meant “task management”. Sorry for any confusion…

  • Jean Waucomont

    Nice, but I’ll stick with The Hit List.
    Great interface, task timing, tags etc.

  • http://meerzography.wordpress.com meerzography

    I like SimpleTask better !!

  • http://www.joshmormann.com Joshua Mormann

    The Hit List is the best for the desktop that there is IMHO. My only gripe is that there is nothing that it syncs to on the iPhone. And it’s not cloud-based.

    What I want, but doesn’t yet exist. Is The Hit List for iPhone, that syncs via the cloud. I don’t even care if what gets pushed to the iPhone is completely simple. I just want my todos to actually be in the cloud, but be viewable on my iPhone and The Hit List. Once you get used to the key commands for THL there really isn’t anything else like it. It handles repeating tasks better than anything else out there.

    • http://twitter.com/sulcalibur Suleiman Leadbitter

      I agree THL is the best out there and stamps all over the competition. Sadly the updates are borderline non-existent. I also agree with the iPhone and Cloud options. If it just synced with Toodledo it would solve all the problems and we could use an app such as Taska for the iPhone. Oh well, we can only hope.

  • http://benedictcohen.co.uk Benedict Cohen

    Clockwork is a simmilar app:

    http://electricmuffinkitchen.com/clockwork

  • Josh

    Or you could just sync iCal and Google Calendar and have google email you everyday with your items for the day for free. What’s the effort in opening iCal anyway ?

  • http://www.evokemedia.ca Mel

    I use Things, ical, Evernote and Basecamp.

    All my projects calendars in Basecamp sync to my ical, so I can see what’s coming up clearly.

    Things, for adding quick to-dos, recurring to-dos, and including personal stuff. You can even task other people with it!

    Evernote is my digital notebook. It has Cloud capabilities!

    iCal is simply to view my ongoing schedule, does it’s job great! (Used to be on PC… iCal blows the pants off Outlook Calendar that’s for sure!)

  • Mike Z

    I began using Calendar At-A-Glance on my iPhone. It works with the default calendar so I sync my iCal to it easily. It has a nice month at a glance view.

  • http://www.mutualmobile.com iphone app development

    The new version of iCal syncs flawlessly with both the iPhone 3 and iPhone 4, but as you stated, this wasn’t always the case. I’m happy that Apple got their Macbook software updated and improved to offer repeated To Do’s and a fully working sync feature. Now that Apple has their software issues worked out they stand a chance at knocking off Microsoft from the top of the laptop world if they could only work out their battery life issues. I hate that they have a set amount of “ticks” then they are no longer usable, even if they are still in perfect working order. This is a major fail on Apple’s part.

  • Pingback: Lusting After the Iphone 4.0 | Brain and Head Health

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