When Fantastical was first released it brought with it a fresh take on the Mac's Calendar thanks to its easy to use drop down menu view and natural language event entry system. Where the original made a great addition to Apple's Calendar apps, Fantastical 2 is an excellent replacement and shows just how much power you can pack into a minimalist interface.
Fantastical 2 gets a fresh look and new features
Fantastical 2 still has the same familiar feel I'm used to from version 1, but with an updated look that fits well with OS X Yosemite. It's flatter and easier to read, plus you can choose from bright or dark interface styles. I quickly settled on the dark style because bright was just too bright for my eyes.
Version 2 includes a Notification Center widget, too, which is nice. That said, I found I rarely used it because everything I need to see is available from the menu bar.
Creating new events and tasks is still just as simple as it was in the original version. Natural phrases such as "Lunch with Kelly on Thursday" creates a new event on Thursday at noon. Since Fantastical uses the same database as Apple's own Calendar app, your appointments sync properly with your iPhone and iPad, and you can view your schedule in any app that supports the Calendar database.
That natural language control now supports alerts, too. Expanding on my lunch appointment, for example, "Lunch with Kelly on Thursday /per alert 1 hour" creates the same lunch event with an alert an hour before we're supposed to meet. The "/per" bit puts the event in my "personal" calendar.
Entering appointments uses natural language so you don't have to jump between fields
The need for supplemental calendar apps, however, is gone in Fantastical 2 because along with the familiar menu bar item for entry and viewing, you can now tear off the calendar and view it as a floating menu. Version 2 also includes full-on calendar window, which means I won't have to go back to Apple's Calendar app to see full week or month views any more.
Using the tear-off calendar view is easy; just click and drag on Fantastical's drop-down menu view to pull it free from the menu bar. Reattaching it wasn't quite as straight forward as I expected because simply dragging it back to the Fantastical menu bar icon didn't work. Instead, you'll have to make a trip to Fantastical's Preferences button and choose "Attach mini window."
That's where you'll find the option to view your schedule in a window, too. The window view includes week, month, and year views. With those views now available in Fantastical, I doubt I'll launch Apple's own Calendar app again for a very long time.
Fantastical 2 includes a new Calendar Sets feature that lets you group your calendars to create focused views on your schedule. You can build sets for work, family, recreation, projects, or anything else that needs your focused attention. This is a great way to tame overloaded schedules—or at least view just what needs your focus at any given time.
Adding tasks in Fantastical is easier now thanks to the same natural language interface you use for events. Telling Fantastical something is a task instead of an appointment requires an appropriate tag, such as "reminder," or "todo" during entry like this: reminder Pick up new LEGO Star Wars kit tomorrow.
I love how well Fantastical 2 fits in with Apple's own task tracking, but this is still the one place where I'm a little disappointed. I'd love to be able to choose which task management app Fantastical links to. I'm a big OmniFocus user, but I can't see any of my tasks in Fantastical because it doesn't use Apple's ToDo database. This won't be an issue for most people, but it's something that's tucked away on my wish list.
If you're a Notification Center fan, you can work around my complaint by enabling the Fantastical 2 and OmniFocus widgets. You get to see both in a slick list every time you glance at Notification Center.
Fantastical 2's new Yosemite Notification Center widget
Getting in Context
Fantastical 2 can take advantage of Yosemite's Location Services to give you more control over how you view your schedule. It can, for example, change your calendar set based on where you are. Imagine going to the office and seeing just your work-related schedule. When you get home, your personal schedule takes its place.
As long as your Mac can figure out exactly where it is, changing calendar sets automatically works surprisingly well. It's so good it almost felt creepy. It felt a lot like living in the future.
Handoff fans will be glad to know that Fantastical 2 has them covered. The feature works equally well if you use multiple Macs, or if you use a combination of Macs, iPhones, and iPads.
The Bottom Line
Where the original Fantastical was the first stop in keeping track of my schedule on my Mac, Fantastical 2 is the only stop. With its new window view I can see my weekly and monthly calendars without having to resort to Apple's Calendar app. In fact, I haven't launched Calendar once since I started testing Fantastical 2.
Fantastical's natural language system for creating events and tasks outshines Apple's and almost feels like something out of Star Trek. The app is there when you need it, but isn't in your way when you don't. It's as if the Flexibits team thought about how and why we use calendar apps before they wrote a single line of code.
I do wish Fantastical 2 could tie into alternate task management databases such as OmniFocus, but considering how much I'm getting out of the rest of the app I can't complain too loudly.
Fantastical has already replaced Calendar on my iPhone and iPad, and with Fantastical 2 available for the Mac, that cleansing process is complete. Goodbye, Apple Calendar and hello, Fantastical 2.