Last week I concentrated on the Camera app, and I have a confession to make: I don’t use any of the free camera apps I talked about. I had been using Gorillacam a while ago, and FrameXFrame briefly, but that’s pretty much it.
The reason is because when I take a photo on my iPhone I use Camera+ exclusively. It cost US$1.99 and is, in my opinion, the best iPhone camera app available. I have taken phenomenal shots with Camera+. It has allowed me to feel far more confident in using the iPhone as my second camera. (My primary workhorse is a Canon 40D).
This week, I’m focusing on the Calendar app, and I will say now that I don’t use either of the apps I’m going to mention. The reasons will become clear as I examine Calendar and the freebies a bit closer. So, lets get to it.
I have always be frustrated with Apple’s handling of calendars on all its platforms. Calendars are are not just some numbers on a page. A good calendar helps you plan events, remember important dates, reminds you of where you need to be, what you need to be doing, and when. A great calendar will even let you invite others to meetings and functions.
Over the course of the last several years Apple has slowly improved its Calendar offerings, and it is now a fairly decent product on all Apple platforms, but that latter feature I mentioned, the ability to send invitations, seems to be something that Apple can’t quite get right. I honestly don’t understand what so hard.
You have an event and you want to let others know about it. Why can’t Apple’s calendars let you send an email to those you want to alert of the event. That’s it! Nothing fancy. Just list the folks you want to send the info to and send it.
Instead, what Apple has done is attempt to be like Microsoft and tie invitations to the email service so that you can track who has responded and so on. Because of that, not every iPhone owner has the ability to send a calendar event invitation. If you have access to MobileMe or a Microsoft Exchange Server, or even Google Mail, you MAY be able to send invitations.
Frankly, I often don’t care who responds to my invitations. It would be nice to know, I’ll admit, but it’s not something I consider necessary. I just want to be able to send the invitations. Give me those other features if I do decide to tie myself to a particular email service.
As I mentioned, if you have MobileMe, you can send invitations of events you’ve scheduled on any of your calendars, be they on an iOS, Mac, or through the Web interface. Those of you who don’t have MobileMe, it’s not always obvious when this feature is available.
Add invitees and custom repeats at MobileMe. Get Tougher on your iDevice.
Here’s the deal: If your email server is either a Microsoft Exchange server or supports CalDav (a standard calendar server protocol) then you should be able to send an invitation. Those of us with Google Gmail accounts must turn this feature on, but it works.
Another annoying omission from iOS calendars is the ability to set custom recurring meetings.
This is silly: You can set up a custom meeting, like the first Saturday of every month, in MobileMe, and it will show up on your iOS devices, but you can’t create one on your iOS devices.
Apple, really? What’s the sense in that?
Even with these glaring omissions the Calendar app included with iOS is better than the free alternatives I’m going to tell you about because it does much of what you need a calendar to do.
So, why bother looking at other apps? Because other apps, in particular the two I’m going to tell you about in a moment, offers features Calendar does not. Choice, if you need to put a name on it. And if there’s one thing anyone can say about iOS is that all the apps there are definitely provide a lot to choose from.
So, without further ado, lets take a look at calendars, two. (Couldn’t resist the opportunity to rhyme.)
The first one you’ll either love or hate. PocketLife Calendar claims its easier to use than the built-in app, and offers customizable calendar backgrounds. I’m not so sure it’s easier, or faster. To enter a new event you have to deal with dials that have more options. For instance, you have an expanded list of event repeat options ( every three months, every five months, so on) that you can now pick from. Oddly, it, too, does not offer a way to schedule an even for the third Thursday of every month. (This must be really hard to do!)
I found the calendar backgrounds to be more annoying than decorative, but you may enjoy having a different background for each month. PocketLife Calendar does offer a means to change the color of the numbers to make dates easier (or harder) to read.
There are ads, so not entirely free.
Be aware that PocketLife Calendar apparently charges for use per year. Not sure why. But, there’s a free version so give it a try. Also, the free version is ad supported.
Nice customization though.
I like the second app a bit more. Calvetica Narrow is downright spartan when compare to PocketLife, and I think that can be a good thing. It is truly easier to enter an event; touch the date, then the time, type in a name, and set an alert. You’re done!
Sparse, but nice.
Calvetica Narrow does take minimalism a bit too far, though. You can only set an event to repeat daily or weekly, and once you’ve done so you can’t un-repeat it. Great for to-do task tracking, not so much for scheduling meetings. You also can’t add invitees, or create custom schedules. Frustrating!
Still I like its minimalistic approach. I can see using this as a handy reminder calendar. Calvetica Narrow is free, and I believe it’s worth a look.
OK, that’s a wrap for this week.
More free calendar apps below with direct links.