After first debuting on the Mac then joining iOS with the iPhone, Fantastical is finally ready to replace the calendar on your iPad, too. With Fantastical for iPad, Flexibits has brought the same, streamlined design and natural language parsing for quick event and reminder entry to the iPad. I’ve been using Fantastical for iPad for a few weeks now, so let’s take a look at how it compares to Apple’s calendar app…
If you’re not familiar with the Fantastical software, it’s major feature is natural language input. What that means is you can type a phrase like “Golf with Bob on Saturday at 10 am” and Fantastical will schedule it; you don’t have to program each line of the event in the detailed event editor. Fantastical works your existing calendar service, so you can still use iCloud or Google. It’s just an alternative way to view and manage your existing calendar service.
Aside from its natural language input for scheduling events, Fantastical is also very streamlined as it focuses on presenting your events in a simple list view. The Mac app (which is opened in the top menu bar) and iPhone app resemble one another in shape and dimension (although the iPhone app does support landscape orientation and has more dynamic views), but the iPad app is a much different canvas with both portrait and landscape orientation needing to be presented as equally primary views.
What Flexibits has come up with is a first for Fantastical’s design as it has much more screen real estate of which to take advantage, and my first guess is the iPad’s app design could spill over into a future version of the Mac app (maybe as a dock app rather than a menu bar app).
At a glance, Fantastical is divided into three sections on the iPad: the list view with your events, the day ticker with for an upcoming perspective, and a full month calendar view.
The left section presents individual appoints in chronological order on a scrollable, vertical list view. Because Fantastical also supports reminders, this list view unifies appointments and to-do items.
The top bar is the day ticker which shows relevant upcoming days in a a scrollable, horizontal segmented view. This can be toggled to show all upcoming dates, or only dates on which items have been scheduled.
And exclusive to the iPad design is a full month’s calendar view on the right side. You can swipe through to other months and tap on specific dates to see appointments scheduled. This includes both calendar events and reminder events.
If you land too far in the future (or past) at any point from any view, tapping the month and year at the top of the app (just below the current time) will carry you back to the current date in Fantastical.
Adding an event or reminder is easy in Fantastical. The top right of the app features a + button which prompts the keyboard and a text input box. Just type in your event details like “Breakfast at Taco Bell tomorrow from 7 to 11 am” and Fantastical shows you in the preview view that it has scheduled your event.
If you juggle multiple calendars, adding “/w” will move it to your Work calendar, for example. If you have multiple calendars with the same first letter, you can type slash followed by the full name of the calendar to assign it appropriately. Otherwise, an event will land on your default calendar (which you can assign).
Fantastical also interprets phrases like “alert 1 hour before” and “last weekday of the month” to include alerts and repeating events to events during input.
This also works with reminders. Including “todo”, “reminder”, “remind me to”, or “task” to the beginning of a line will let Fantastical know that you are entering a reminder and not a calendar event.
The keyboard features a manual toggle between events and reminders as well as a Details view for manual input. The keyboard is also optimized for managing a calendar with a dedicated row for numbers, colon, and forward slash.
On the Mac, Fantastical is a single view made of the day ticket and list view of events. On the iPhone, Fantastical’s day ticker pulls down to become a full month calendar, and rotating Fantastical toggles to a week view. Fantastical for iPad has enough space to show a full month calendar from the day ticker view and needs to support the day ticker view from both portrait and landscape orientations, so pulling the day ticker down from either orientation will toggle to week view.
Drag down the day ticker once and you enter a sort of hybrid week view with the full month calendar and list view of events still visible. Drag the half-screen week view down again and you enter a dedicated week viewer.
Fantastical for iPad also includes two gestures for quickly accessing search and reminders. Swiping in from the right edge of your iPad brings over the search view which can drill down by title, location, people invited to events, or an all view. There is also an icon for bringing this view if you aren’t aware of the gesture.
Swiping in from the left edge of your iPad reveals your list of reminders. Tapping on the name of a reminders list shows you the list of items on that specific list.
As you will see in the next section, Fantastical is probably priced higher than a lot of other iPad apps on the App Store, but one of my first impressions from using Fantastical for iPad a few weeks ago was that having the app I already use on my Mac and iPhone optimized for my iPad added value to using my iPad.
For me, it’s value is in two areas: ease of skimming and understanding upcoming events and ability to quickly input event details before I lose the thought. In my use, the latter part has almost become a race with myself to see how fast I can translate a thought in my head to a scheduled event on my calendar.
If you don’t use your calendar out of lack of need, I’m not sure that Fantastical is worth your money; it’s well designed software that solves a specific problem. If you’ve been disappointed with Apple’s calendar and prefer to keep dates on paper or some other way, I recommend you explore Fantastical as an alternative.
As a more technical user, I prefer Fantastical because the software impresses me. I have found, though, that less savvy calendar software users find Fantastical more approachable and easier to use than Apple’s calendar.
As you’ve seen in various screenshots above, Fantastical offers different ways to customize the app as well.
You can toggle between the default dark theme and the optional light theme. I prefer the light theme most of the time, but I’d love to see a two finger swipe gesture to easily change without using the menu like Tweetbot 3 has on iPhone.
Fantastical for iPad also takes advantage of Apple’s Dynamic Type feature introduced with iOS 7. If you change your system font in the Settings app on iOS, Fantastical for iPad will adjust accordingly.
It also supports opening links in 1Password, the unique password managing software and TextExpander support for expanding text snippets into phrases for users with workflows invested in those services.
Finally, one of my favorite features in Fantastical involves birthdays. Fantastical has a special, animated view for its users on their friends’ birthdays. This view includes falling confetti and shortcuts for telling your friend “🎈 Happy birthday!” on their special day with Twitter, Facebook, email, and messaging based on your contact information for that person. This feature has made me a better friend, and I really love it.
Availability & Pricing
Flexibits is selling Fantastical for iPad as a new app on the App Store. Fantastical for iPad will go for $14.99 (the Mac app is $19.99 and the iPhone app is $4.99), but you can buy it for $9.99 at its special launch price.
If you want to try out the Mac version, Flexibits offers a free trial on its site (the App Store does not support trials).
While that pricing is probably higher than most iPad apps on the App Store, Fantastical is an app I can recommend to anyone who wants to leverage their iPad as a better calendar.
Your iPad already comes with a calendar app, but Fantastical builds on that experience and improves it with intuitive natural language input, its streamlined design, and support for other services not supported by Apple’s offering. If you’re a calendar user and like better alternatives to built-in apps, I think you’ll like it.