48: Leaving Fantastical for Mac

For a couple of months I've been using Fantastical for Mac to manage my home and work calendars. Fantastical has been my calendar app of choice on the iPhone for years — I particularly prefer its information-dense widget. But on the desktop it never did much for me, and this past week we had an ugly breakup.

I couldn't even consider Fantastical on the desktop until version 2.2 was released, featuring Exchange support — necessary for my work appointments. At first, it handled many aspects of scheduling work meetings with invitees and room reservations better than Calendar.app. The "View Availability" window is larger and more functional (Calendar.app has a maddening bug that makes it occasionally fail to show scheduling conflicts). And of course I benefited from Fantastical's natural language syntax for event creation, although I never was able to invite Exchange contacts without separately editing the invitees field.

That, however, is where the positive differences ended. The week view — which I spend most time in — continually puzzled me. The main part of the window looks identical to Calendar.app, down to the minimalist styling of the event blocks. Then there's the sidebar, which adds two more views of the same data (month and list). It's information overload, and the sidebar can't be hidden. That means that even in fullscreen on a small laptop monitor, ordinary event names often get truncated in week view.

Worst of all were the errors. Random, persistent, fatal Exchange errors. Errors so bad that I didn't know that they were silently breaking my Exchange account setup even on other clients. When my trial period expired, I opened Calendar.app to find that I could no longer create events or respond to invitations. At one point during troubleshooting, I had mucked about with Calendar.app's cache files to the point that all of my calendars vanished, both Exchange and iCloud. I hadn't planned on paying to register Fantastical, but I had a moment of considering putting up the $49 on the off chance that it would ransom my data.

Itsycal's minimalist interface

Itsycal's minimalist interface

Others considering Fantastical will also have to wrestle with the price tag. I'm not beyond paying around $50 for truly useful desktop software — PDFpen, Hazel, and the like. The fact is that those $50 would buy me so little with Fantastical. I have natural language entry in Fantastical for iPhone ($5) or Fantastical 1, which still runs on El Capitan. The menubar-docked miniature view can be replaced by the free Itsycal, which I find to be an improvement for its smaller size and the readability of its light color scheme. So while Fantastical for Mac hasn't met my calendaring needs, fortunately other apps have, including Apple's own.