iDeskCal: iCal on your Desktop

If you use iCal to manage appointments and to-do items, you’ll already be enjoying access to them on your Mac, iPod and (in all likelihood) through some form of online service. Calendar data is easily accessible and can be viewed from a range of different locations.

iDeskCal doesn’t stray too far away from home, displaying a list of any upcoming appointments and to-do items right on your desktop. It’s possible to gain a quick overview of your schedule without needing to open iCal at all. This review will outline the functionality of iDeskCal, along with how to customize it to your heart’s content.


When opening the application you’ll be presented with a new menu bar icon, and a simple list of appointments and to-dos on your desktop:

iDeskCal in Action

iDeskCal in Action

Appointments are displayed by day, and show the time and name of each event. They’re accompanied by a small dot to help you recognize which iCal calendar they’re assigned to. The list of to-do items (something I don’t often use in iCal) is displayed to the right.

The menu bar icon offers a number of additional actions:

Menu Bar Options

Menu Bar Options

Notably it makes adding a new appointment (or to-do) a simple affair, allows you to turn off the display of to-dos, and provides access to the range of preferences available for the application. You can also manually refresh the desktop calendar to incorporate any changes you’ve made in iCal (this automatically happens every 15 minutes by default).

Clicking ‘Add Event’ will open a floating window requesting the event information – far more elegant that actually going into iCal itself.

Application & Display Preferences

The main selling point of iDeskCal lies in the range of customizable options. Firstly, we’ll take a look at those for adjusting the behavior of the app itself:

Application Preferences

Application Preferences

  • Generic: iDeskCal can display in your dock or menu bar, and if you really need the ability to drag and resize it, this can be set here (though it somewhat hinders the utility’s appearance)
  • Update Frequency: This controls how often iDeskCal will request data from iCal.
  • Hotkeys: A number of keyboard shortcuts allow you to show/hide to-dos, or add an event to iCal.

A range of settings also allow you to adjust the calendar style and general look-and-feel.

Display Preferences

Display Preferences

Adjusting the location of the floating calendar is simple, and the resulting changes display immediately. The “bezel” is a rounded frame surrounding the calendar information and can be turned on or off.

Color and font settings are available through the respective preference pane tabs. The “Calendar” tab allows you to show or hide the small calendar icon, and decide whether or not the color badges should be displayed.

After tweaking the settings on my Mac, I settled on a very minimalist look which fits in with the rest of my desktop:

My Minimal Calendar

My Minimal Calendar


Whilst already quite powerful, a few downsides exist to iDeskCal. Firstly, I’d welcome the ability to adjust font color and style for dates and appointments individually. This would help to differentiate between the two separate types of information.

An option to actually open an event in iCal after double clicking it would also be welcome, as I’d often like to quickly see further information about a particular event.

Finally, the price of $12.99 may be a little expensive for some readers. Personally, I don’t use iCal enough to justify paying for a desktop widget. If you’re a heavier user it may be worth every penny.

Other Options

If you’re happy to get a little more technical, another free solution for displaying information on your desktop is GeekTool. You’d need to use a script such as this one to achieve a similar result.

You could also settle for a simple Dashboard widget for displaying appointments. A number of great widgets are available, or you can use the default one bundled with OS X.

If you need to stay constantly on top of your iCal events, iDeskCal is definitely a good way to display all the relevant information directly on your desktop. It’s easy to customize, and can blend in very well with any desktop.

You can try out the fully functional trial for 14 days to decide whether you’d like to buy the full version.