BusyCal vs Fantastical 2 (especially multi-calendar support)

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by chekk, Mar 25, 2015.

  1. chekk macrumors newbie

    Jun 17, 2011
    As a mostly-satisfied BusyCal user on Mac since 2012, and a devoted Fantastical user on iOS, I was very interested to take the new Fantastical 2 for Mac (F2) for a spin. I have them both open side-by-side right now.

    I was particularly excited about the new 'Calendar Sets' feature in F2, since I use about 50 shared Google Calendars. (At my workplace each piece of shared equipment is booked on its own calendar, as is each conference room. I also have the usual shared family calendars, holiday schedules, etc.)

    Multi-calendar support in BusyCal

    BusyCal makes calendar organization and selection a first-class experience:
    • There is a dedicated sidebar where you can drag to reorder and organize calendars into folders (called 'Calendar Groups' in BusyCal).
    • You can rename calendars within BusyCal (which helps if the calendar owner gave it a dumb/long/ambiguous name).
    • You can unsubscribe from (and hide) calendars that you never look at, but don't want to delete from Google.
    • You can toggle visibility for individual calendars or whole groups of calendars from the sidebar.
    • The sidebar also acts as a legend for the event color.

    You can also create named sets of calendars, using BusyCal's 'Smart Filters'. Each filter gets a slim button across the top of the window which can be used to switch to that view. (Smart Filters are even more powerful, but I only use them for calendar sets). Once viewing a particular set, you can also toggle visibility of individual calendars manually.

    Calendar sets in F2
    I was hoping that Fantastical 2 might offer some of this same functionality along with its trademark beautiful design and awesome natural-language parsing, but I have found that their 'Calendar Sets' feature is much more limited. You can go into the app's preferences and define named sets of calendars, and then toggle between them using a dropdown menu, but that's it.

    While actually using the app, you can't see a list of the visible calendars with corresponding names/colors, and you can't manually toggle visibility of a calendar without going back into the app's preferences (there is a shortcut to the preferences within the Calendar Set drop-down).

    I'm a little baffled by this--Google Calendar, the native OS X Calendar, Outlook, BusyCal, pretty much every multi-calendar app I've ever used, has given over some UI space to the list of calendars. So it seems to be a deliberate decision, but it really compromises usability for me.

    I guess they did it to make space for the very Fantastical-on-iOS scrolling list of events, but frankly this feels kind of odd and redundant to me. The vertically-scrolling events view was an awesome solution to the problem of how to present a user's calendar timeline on an iPhone screen (or in a menubar applet), but it feels kind of 'bolted on' and unjustified on the large-screen Mac app.

    Week/Month/Year Views
    F2 does not have true multi-week or multi-day views. By default, 'Month' view always shows 6 weeks starting at the beginning of a calendar month. So on, say, March 25th, most of the screen is given over to events that are in the past. If you try to scroll by a couple weeks so that you can see a little more of the future, Fantastical snaps to the next calendar month.

    The OS X Calendar.app handles this much better: It snaps to the start of the month initially, but it allows you to scroll by smaller increments. BusyCal doesn't have the buttery-smooth scrolling of Fantastical or Calendar.app, but it does allow you to define 'Month' view as a multi-week period starting in the current week. It also allows you to scroll by smaller increments using on-screen buttons.

    The same problem is there in Week view: Fantastical snaps to the start of the week (Sunday by default), even if you are clearly trying to just scroll forward or back by a couple days. Again Calendar.app and BusyCal handle this better.

    Fantastical's year view is pretty nice: it shows a heatmap based on how busy each day is, and shows that day's events on hover. BusyCal also has a nice year view, with small colored bubbles representing individual events.

    Adding events using natural language
    Fantastical's ability to add events using natural language is just as kick-ass in the Mac app, as far as I can tell (I especially love the syntax that allows me to add an event to a particular calendar by ending the event with '/' followed by a substring from the shared calendar name).

    BusyCal tried to build a natural-language processing engine and menubar applet in a recent revision, but I found both to be very underwhelming, requiring very specific phrasing. Thankfully, it's reasonably easy to create events the old-fashioned way when I'm at the computer.

    Fantastical for Mac feels to me like a hybrid between the iOS app, and Calendar.app, but with a few more rough edges. It is beautiful, but it doesn't have the 'power user' features that BusyCal does, so I think it will have a harder time commanding the premium price that BusyCal does.

    Since both apps use the same backing store (i.e. they can both sync with Google), I will continue my hybrid, best-of-both worlds existence, using BusyCal on Mac and Fantastical on iOS.

    For the next 14 days (until my Fantastical trial expires) I will have access to both apps side-by-side; happy to answer questions if anyone has any.
  2. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    I'm likely not a customer of the new desktop app

    I haven't read all of the early reviews, but I did read one (http://www.wired.com/2015/03/fantastical-2-crazy-powerful-calendar-app-mac/) and bookmarked a few others for later.

    Thank you so much for your evaluation, this and the Wired review killed it for me, and I do appreciate it.

    The second-to-last paragraph in the Wired article was the killing blow for me - and I'm the one who makes purchasing decisions for my company. I'm a user of Fantastical on the Mac and Fantastical 2 on my iOS devices, but my impression is that Flexibits is out for a money grab and out of tune with the market. Here's why...

    One user is spending $65, all in, on their Mac/iOS devices, which Wired put out.

    For just under $70 (from Amazon), I can get one year of Office 365 with 5 installations which includes unlimited storage for 5 users, calendaring via Outlook and the iOS Outlook app, Word/Excel/PowerPoint/Outlook/Win Access/Win Publisher for 5 users, and other perks.

    In a year or so, Fantastical 3 likely will be out, for another $50, plus the cost for the new iOS apps they'll issue. For $20 more, I'll get another year of Office 365 for 5 users.

    My existing copy of Fantastical for my Mac works with my Exchange service, and it's paid for. Outlook does what Fantastical 2 does - and it's so much cost effective than Fantastical 2. Flexibits, IMO, needs to drop their price considerably before I bite. The same goes for BusyCal, which I almost purchased before Office 365 came out last year and I moved to that platform.
  3. chekk, Mar 25, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2015

    chekk thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 17, 2011
    Glad it was helpful!

    To be clear I am not complaining about the price--that's a business decision for them, and I think that for something as critical as calendaring there is huge value in having a solution you love and that solves your problems. I haven't regretted the money I spent buying BusyCal for a second, and will be happy to pay for Fantastical 2 if it offers a significant improvement on my current solution.

    The comparison with Office365 is not that useful in my case--Outlook doesn't solve my problems, no matter how much cloud storage space or how many cross-licensing deals get thrown in.

    I don't think we can expect Flexibits or BusyMac to try to compete with MS on price (or with Apple--Calendar.app is free and pre-installed after all). Instead they can offer unique, must-have features, extreme configurability, or a really beautiful user experience, and then charge what the market will bear.

    The other thing a $50 list price gives them is some price discrimination and a nice psychological 'anchor'. Six months from now they can offer F2 for a 'flash sale' at $20, capture a bunch of the more price-sensitive customers, who will be convinced they just got a great deal. The software business is weird, and I don't think envy those trying to navigate it.
  4. ScottNWDW macrumors 65816


    Jul 10, 2008
    Orlando, Florida
    Liked the review and I too am a happy BusyCal user for several years. I am also a happy user of Fantastical on my Mac and iOS devices. I loved BusyCal because it brought together the calendar and reminders app into one. Fantastical on the Mac to me was one of the little pop down apps up in the menu bar. Fantastical could add items to my calendar and all i had to do was type it out in plain english. To me Fantastical was a nice compliment to BusyCal and iCal.

    Fantastical 2 now offers (for me) all the things that BusyCal, and ical offer plus the ability to create events or tasks in plain english. It now has a large or full screen calendar and it does one thing I always hated about BusyCal, it has the location maps. I also appreciate the new calendar groups.

    I downloaded the trial of Fantastical 2 and used it most of the day yesterday instead of any of the other calendar software I normally would use on the Mac which besides BusyCal and iCal also includes Desktop Informant. After using and enjoying the experience of Fantastical for 1 day, I decided this morning to get the full license and I bought the app.
  5. GlenK macrumors 6502a


    Aug 1, 2013
    St. Augustine, FL
    Good work and saved me some analysis time. Sticking with BusyCal and the new BusyContacts which so far has also be awesome!!
  6. JuryDuty macrumors 6502


    Sep 22, 2014
    I was excited about this release as I love Fantastical on iOS and I've been using Fantastical 1 on the Mac ever since I got my Mac.

    Then I saw the price. $40?! And that's on sale?!

    That's a bit rich for a calendar app for my needs.
  7. jsgreen macrumors 6502

    Nov 27, 2007
    Thanks to the OP for starting this thread...nice job. After an admittedly short period of time using Fantastical 2, I agree with the OP that BusyCal is the better tool for "power users".

    While I'm a long time BusyCal user, I also use Fantastical 1 on my Mac for quick entry and Fantastical on iOS as my main calendar app.

    At work we use Exchange, and I'm often scheduling meetings with fellow employees as well as clients. One of the features I need is the ability to see my co-workers availability...I find BusyCal does this adequately, but couldn't find this in Fantastical 2 at all. I also found Fantastical 2 would not find other Exchange users when I typed in their name to add them to the invitee list (BusyCal does).

    Calendar Sets in Fantastical is a nice idea, but not original (BusyCal's custom views enable this, along with a lot more customization)...I think Fantastical did a decent job for their first version of a full-fledged calendar app, but it doesn't yet have the features to sway me away from BusyCal.

    Hopefully a little competition between Flexibits and BusyMac will be a good thing in the long run for all of us!
  8. tgara macrumors 6502a


    Jul 17, 2012
    Connecticut, USA
    Weak Exchange Support in the new Fantastical

    My biggest problem with the new Fantastical 2 is not the price. It's the weak support for Exchange. I downloaded the trial app last night, and as far as I can tell, the app does not have support for meeting invites (strange because the iOS app does), and I cannot change an Exchange entry to another calendar (i.e. iCloud -- again, strange because the iOS app allows you to do this). It seems like Exchange, the calendaring system used by many businesses, was an afterthought.

    Like you, my main calendar centers around Exchange, so it is critical that this functionality is supported fully. Since it is not, this is not the calendar for me. Pity, because it does look nice and works great otherwise. I would consider paying the $40-50 for it, but without better support for Exchange, it doesn't work for me, so no sale.
  9. applelover4u macrumors 6502

    Nov 6, 2012
    With any of these calendars is it a way to sync them with android because it seems they are os apps?
  10. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    Here are the sync services Fantastical2 will sync with. So all you need is a client app on Android that works with one of these. CalDAV is an open sync protocol and a quick Google search shows several CalDAV calendars for Android. That should get you going.

  11. pcryan5 macrumors newbie

    Jan 3, 2012

Share This Page

10 March 25, 2015