Easy Access to Your Calendar With 3 Menu Bar Calendar Apps

Over the past year, I’ve really upped my freelance work. That means I’m spending my time on my personal computer, rather than a work computer that I can’t customize. As such, I’ve been moving away from relying completely on web apps, and begun to explore more apps made for my mac.

One thing that I’ve been looking for was an app that would allow me to access my calendar without loading up a dedicated calendar app or using the Google Calendar web app. When I started searching for the perfect app, I knew I wanted a menu bar app, even if I didn’t know exactly what functionality I needed. I found and tried a ton of different applications. I chose three plus a bonus app to share with you, so stick with me after the jump to find the perfect menu bar calendar app to fit your needs.


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Calendar

First up is Calendar. This app offers the least functionality … But it’s also the only free one I’ve found that’s really worth including. Calendar is a menu bar app which incorporates any data you have entered into iCal. If you use a different calendar client, just connect it with iCal before setting up Calendar and you will be good to go.

Clicking on the menu bar icon brings up a calendar for whatever month it currently is. Hovering over a specific date brings up a panel to the left of the main calendar. The panel then shows a list of the events that you have planned for that date. I really like this set-up a lot. It’s intuitive, conserves screen space and looks pretty great at the same time.

Hovering over a date in Calendar.

Calendar is, unfortunately, a read-only app. I just mean that from within the app you can view your calendar but can’t make any changes. Clicking on a specific event opens up iCal where you can edit or add events. This is the app with the least functionality, but it’s well designed and I like the way it’s set up to show a calendar and only shows the details when you hover over a specific date. If you simply want a way to view upcoming events, this is a great way to do so.

Score: 9/10
Price: Free in the App Store

Calendar Bar

Next up is Calendar Bar. The app costs 3 bucks, but you get some additional functionality for your dollars. While Calendar works only with iCal, Calendar Bar works directly with both iCal and Google Calendar. Social network lovers will really appreciate the next bit – in addition to the above services, Calendar Bar can also show your upcoming Facebook events.

The app itself consists simply of a list of events with the source symbol shown next to the event (e.g. the Google g next to my events, indicating that they came from my Google Calendar). The event listing is simple. It lists just the date, time and name of the event. It’s an easy to read list, though I do wish there was a calendar view as well, similar to the way Calendar is set up.

My list of events in Calendar Bar.

Like Calendar, Calendar Bar is also a read-only app. The list of events cannot be modified in any way, nor can individual events. Clicking on an event opens up the appropriate app to edit the event, whether it’s your web browser or iCal. A final feature worth noting is the ability to set up notifications in Growl. The programs play well together, ensuring a notification whenever you have an upcoming event. I appreciate the way Calendar Bar integrates other programs – but I’m really not a huge fan of the interface and setup. Even with its unique integration features, Calendar Bar ends up at the bottom of my list.

Score: 7/10
Price: $2.99 in the App Store

Fantastical

Last but not least is Fantastical, which we’ve reviewed previously. It’s the app with the most features (and the highest price tag). Unlike the other apps, Fantastical is not a read-only app. Within Fantastical you can add and edit events, which I’ve come to realize is important to me in a menu bar calendar app.

When you open up Fantastical you are greeted with a simultaneous of both a full calendar and your upcoming events. Clicking on an event brings up event details, as well as the option to edit the event.

Checking out my Fantastical calendar.

Adding a new event to Fantastical is pretty fun, thanks to the way Fantastical interprets sentences you write in the create event field. You can include the date and time in the sentence you write and Fantastical will automatically edit the event details. If you include someone in your contact’s name, the option to email them an event invite/reminder comes up within the app.

Editing an event’s basic details from within Fantastical.

Fantastical definitely does more than any of the other programs, but it’s solidly on the pricey side. It’s also missing a few features. These missing features are just little things, like the ability to create repeating events or at least duplicate events easily. Things I would expect to see in a dedicated calendar app with Fantastical’s price tag. All in all, though, it’s the best looking app with the most intuitive interface and the most features. I’m just not quite sure it’s worth the price.

Score: 8/10
Price: $19.99 in the App Store

Day-O

I’ve also included a sort of “bonus” app. Unlike the other apps I included, Day-O doesn’t allow you direct access to your personal calendar. Instead, Day-O is a simple replacement for Apple’s menu bar clock. Day-O shows the date and time in the menu bar, just like Apple. The difference, however, is that when you click on the time it pulls up a calendar of the current month. If this was something you were missing in your Mac, hop on over and pick up Day-O for free.

View a monthly calendar by clicking on the menu bar icon in this bonus app.

So there you have it – 3 ways to access your personal calendar from the menu bar, plus a little bonus. The apps vary greatly, from an iCal only, read only app to an app which allows you to view, create and edit events from within the app. Once you decide what functionality you need, I hope I’ve helped to make your decision a bit easier.

So which one will you choose? Do you have an alternative app that you prefer? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


  • Tim

    Fantastical: $20 for an app that displays information from a free app and just sits in your menu bar?
    No thanks.

    • Heather Weaver

      To be fair, part of the reason that I included Fantastical is that it doesn’t just display information. You’re able to add/edit events from within the app, eliminating the need to open up anything more than a simple menu bar app.

      It’s also on sale right now, 50% off if you’re interested.

    • http://collegeinfogeek.com Thomas Frank

      Fantasical is actually pretty awesome. I much prefer using its method of entry (natural speech – i.e. “Lunch with friends on October 3 at 12:00pm at Clyde’s”) rather than filling out a GCal form.

  • Jean-Pierre Nelson

    I use the widget Calendar that comes with every Mac

  • Jay

    What about Calendar Plus. It’s $4.99 on the app store (or free right now as part of MacHeist 4)?

  • Lauren

    Fantastical does repeating events… you just say “Lunch every _____” and that’s it. Can also do like every other, every third, etc.

    • Heather Weaver

      Ah, well thank you very much. I must have overlooked that sentence structure.

  • Brandon Butler

    I used Day-O but it has some weird quirks in mountain lion. If its been fixed I would go back in a heartbeat…

  • http://am0.co.uk Alex Moyler

    Fantastical is my choice of menu bar calendar. It’s so much more than just an app that displays your latest events. It does help that it’s fantastically (I promise I’m not getting paid for this) designed and displays my calendars really nicely, but its method of adding events is just incredible. Type in what you want added as if you were speaking it and it does a great job of recognising dates and times etc.
    Admittedly I did get it while it was half price. Not sure I would at $20.

    • Heather Weaver

      Yeah, I was able to grab it at half price. Much more worth it at 10 bucks … not so sure I would have been so keen to try it if it were 20 bucks at the time.

  • Lucas

    Fantastical does allow the creation of repeating events. You simply type a phrase like “Sales Meeting at Office every two weeks on Mondays at 9am” and Fantastical schedules exactly that. An event with the title “Sales Meeting” is scheduled every other Monday at 9am with location set to “Office”. The software will understand similar phrases like “every other Monday”, too.

    A selector for editing the pattern of repetition reveals itself as soon as you type the phrase indicating repetition, but is otherwise hidden.

  • The Fantastic Mr. Fox

    Don’t forget SmartDay. It does the same thing as Fantastical, but consumes FAR less resources – using Fantastical always caused by processor usage to spike.

  • http://macintoshprograms.com joe

    Mac built-in calendar it’s enough for me, but let me try free calendar app on the first one

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