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Every day, we wish iCal could do something that our Palm IIIx did in 1997. There’s a Palm calendar app called DateBk, and it has a feature called Floating Events. The idea is that incomplete to-do items would “float” to the next day, so if you forgot to do something, it wouldn’t get left behind on your calendar as the days marched on. The fact that BusyMac’s BusyCal brings that crucial feature to our calendar makes us do a little happy dance, and that’s only scratching the surface of this terrific app.
Why pay 40 bucks for a calendar when iCal is free? For Mac users who need to share calendars with coworkers, spouses, or roommates, iCal feels a bit like yesterday’s news. Sure, you can publish calendars to MobileMe, but that requires an annual $99 MobileMe subscription, and it can be clunky. BusyCal easily shares calendars and adds tons of new functionality that will appeal to highly scheduled types.
To share your calendar over your network, all you have to do is Control-Click on a calendar and select Publish To LAN. Shared calendars will show up in other BusyCal users’ sidebars, and they can display a shared calendar by ticking the checkbox next to the calendar name. Changes to shared calendars are reflected instantaneously on all users’ Macs, and thankfully, your privacy is respected--you can restrict calendars by setting separate passwords for read or write access.
BusyCal does almost everything iCal does and adds some crucial missing features. In a few short weeks, it's become our default calendar application.
BusyCal looks familiar, but it adds handy features like a menubar item that quickly displays today's events.
Calendar-sharing might be BusyCal’s marquee feature, but this app is hardly a one-trick pony. It improves upon iCal’s basic capabilities in a number of ways. Entering location data allows you to display weather data in your calendar. Dated To Do items can be displayed on their respective dates or off to the side in a To Do list (along with undated items). We like the Event Info panel, which can be displayed as a floating pane or embedded alongside your current view. BusyCal also does away with iCal’s annoying habit of making you click Edit before updating event info--double-clicking an event takes you directly into editing mode. BusyCal also adds a List view to your calendars, similar to the iPhone’s List view. Users who live in iCal’s Month view--like many journalists we know--will appreciate the ability to scroll the month view by weeks to show a rolling five-week view across calendar months.
BusyCal also supports Rich Text, which enables formatting for events. Sticky Notes and Journals are attached to specific dates and can be used to keep notes or other information without cluttering up your main calendar views. You can even add graphics to certain dates or events, which is great for reminding yourself of birthdays, baseball games, and other events that you need to make stand out. BusyCal also offers many more types of metadata that can be attached to events: for example, Tags provide greater organization, while personal alarms for events created by others let you remind yourself privately of upcoming obligations.
Frankly, BusyCal is such a vast improvement over iCal that we can’t imagine switching back. But even doing that is simple. BusyCal uses the same data that iCal does, meaning that you can easily switch back and forth between the two apps. BusyCal works seamlessly with MobileMe, including syncing to your iPhone. And since BusyCal can work in offline mode, you can update calendars without a network connection, and the changes will automatically propagate to other users the next time you connect to your network.