A huge range of websites seem to offer weather information, though until now there has been a fairly limited range of integration with desktop apps (other than through Dashboard). The idea of integrating a weather forecast with iCal is one which seems obvious, but has only recently been introduced in the form of WeatherCal.
WeatherCal is a $10 System Preferences app which adds a five day weather forecast into iCal for cities of your choice. Forecasts appear as all day events, and are easy to sync with your iPhone or iPod Touch. This review will provide an overview of WeatherCal as well as a couple of solutions which provide very similar functionality for free.
Setting up WeatherCal
Unlike many applications, WeatherCal sits within your System Preferences pane. Installing it will bring up a configuration window which allows you to add and edit the cities/regions it will download weather data for:
There’s nothing else to configure; once you’ve inputted your chosen cities, WeatherCal will automatically create the appropriate calendars in iCal and populate them with information.
Viewing Weather in iCal
When you next load up iCal, you’ll be greeted to a couple of new calendars and several additional all day events for the next few days:
Each calendar can be customized as any other in iCal, so you can alter the colour, name and description if desired. The forecast contains a short description of the weather (e.g. Party Cloudy, Chance of Rain), a tiny weather icon, and an estimate of the daily high/low in temperature.
Double clicking on a weather event brings up more information, which includes a link to a more detailed forecast:
Syncing the Weather
As you’d expect, it’s possible to synchronize the created calendars with your iPhone via iTunes. Weather appears in a nicely colour coded format, with the same tiny icons as on the desktop. I couldn’t seem to cause the calendars to sync via MobileMe, though that could simply be a bug at my end – you may have more luck.
A Free Solution
After digging around a little, it seems that it’s possible to recreate this functionality (more or less) for free. If you head over to Weather Underground and search for your local city, look for the iCal icon in the top right corner:
Clicking this will download an iCal file which you can import into the app, providing an integrated forecast. Whilst this is a good solution, it won’t update automatically (which defeats the point somewhat).
Another solution is to go to Smashin Weather, enter your details, and subscribe to the iCal link it provides. This will offer an automatically updated subscription, and works great on your desktop.
The main discussion created by WeatherCal is whether it really adds any value over the in-built weather Dashboard widget (or app for the iPhone). It offers the same five day forecast, a similar level of information, and a far less visually appealing interface.
The benefit lies in the convenience of not being required to swap between apps to see what the forecast is likely to be. Personally I rarely find myself venturing into the weather iPhone app, and don’t have the Dashboard widget open on my Mac. Being presented with this information automatically via my calendar is an attractive option, and something I would consider paying $10 for.
What are your thoughts? Do you see the appeal in having weather data in one place, or are you quite happy with flipping between applications?