Fantastical 2 for Mac Review

When I think of iconic Mac apps, Fantastical is one of the first that comes to mind.

With Fantastical, Flexibits (the mastermind developers) made it easy to add new calendar events with their parsing engine, made it quicker to view your calendar with the menu-bar view, and now with Fantastical 2, they aimed to make the best calendar app, period.

As much as I loved the original Fantastical, I still needed to open iCal (or Calendar) to view my schedule from time to time. Everyone has a different approach to using a calendar, and for me, it's week view or bust.

With the release of Fantastical 2, Flexibits aimed to kill all other calendar apps by making Fantastical a full-fledged calendar app. It takes the old menu-bar app and transforms it into a fully-functional desktop calendar application. In fact, it's probably the biggest feature of Fantastical 2.

Fantastical 2 utilizes a clean, two-pane interface with a running agenda on the left and full calendar on the right. And since it syncs with the Reminders.app, you can also view your Reminders from within Fantastical.

This isn't all to say that the menu-bar style of Fantastical is dead and gone - far from it actually. Fantastical 2 features a redesigned menu-bar experience that allows you to view your entire calendar and create new events and reminders, all from your menu bar (accessible by a keyboard shortcut). The best part is, now with Fantastical 2, the menu-bar app is now detachable. That means you can now have the minimal-view of Fantastical anywhere on your screen.

If you've used Fantastical on either the iPhone or iPad, you'll feel right at home with the design of Fantastical 2. Flexibits kept their design similar across all platforms, without looking out of place on Yosemite. I personally love the colourful interface of Fantastical - it's the perfect example of how to adopt a design language, but still have a unique look.

One of the best new features of Fantastical is 'Calendar Sets.' Calendar Sets allows you to setup different versions of your calendar for various parts of your life. If you're anything like me, you  have 8 different colours on your calendar representing various parts of your life. Instead of simplifying your calendar, they end up creating a confusing, cluttered look.

With Calendar Sets, I was able to setup individual calendars for my home and work life, as well as separate calendars for my other projects. The best part? You can setup geo-locations associated with each calendar set which means Fantastical 2 will automatically switch to your work set when you arrive at the office and automatically change back to your home set when you return home.

Now that I've had a chance to setup and use Fantastical 2 on a daily basis, I love using it as my only calendar app on all platforms (iPhone, iPad and Mac). It's beautiful design makes using my calendar fun, and Calendar Sets allows me to stay better organized.

When it's all said and done, Fantastical 2 is the best calendar app available for Mac, bar none.

At $49.99 (or a limited-time launch price of $39.99), the price may turn some people off, but if you're like me and rely on your calendar to stay organized and efficient, it's a small price to pay.



Apple's Tim Cook Leads Different

I love reading these profiles of Tim Cook. This was one of my favourite parts:

To Cook, changing the world always has been higher on Apple’s agenda than making money. He plans to give away all his wealth, after providing for the college education of his 10-year-old nephew. There should be plenty left over to fund philanthropic projects. Cook’s net worth, based on his holdings of Apple stock, is currently about $120 million. He also holds restricted stock worth $665 million if it were to be fully vested. Cook says that he has already begun donating money quietly, but that he plans to take time to develop a systematic approach to philanthropy rather than simply writing checks.

Twitter's Periscope App Lets You Livestream Your World

On Monday morning, I watched the Today Show. Not on TV, though, and not standing and screaming alongside middle-aged Texans in the vicious cold outside the show’s Rockefeller Center digs. My view was from the middle of the set, between two hulking broadcast cameras, as the three anchors wrapped up a segment. I don’t remember what they were talking about, only that as soon as they threw to commercial, I was suddenly walking up to Al Roker, the show’s anchor and weatherman and all-around hilariously weird dude. Just as he bent over to grab something from underneath the set’s table, a voice I couldn’t see said, “hey Al, say hi to Periscope.”

Roker looked directly at me, and smiled. “Heyyy, Periscope. How ya doing, Periscope?”

I've played around with Periscope and I found it way more polished than Meerkat.

Best (Worst) Apple Watch Concepts

Now that we've seen the final design for the Apple Watch, it's fun to look back at some of the concepts that made their way onto the internet before the official unveiling.

These are some of the Apple Watch concepts I'm glad Apple didn't design:

What Steve Jobs Taught Google’s Tony Fadell

Jobs insisted that his design team “stay beginner”: walk in the shoes of someone who has never experienced a product before. When a new Apple product came out, Fadell would wait in long lines at an Apple store, purchase it at the counter like everyone else, unbox it and try to get it working.

Though he may have been involved in every aspect of the iPod, taking the trek of the consumer taught him to notice the little frustrations that can destroy an otherwise good idea.

This kind of stuff is what makes Apple special.

 

The War Over Who Steve Jobs Was

In my view, Cook’s dismissal of Isaacson’s book as just a sloppy rehash is somewhat over the top. I came to Isaacson’s book with a lot of knowledge about Steve Jobs, yet I learned many new details from over 40 interviews Jobs gave to Isaacson, as well from some interviews Isaacson won because Jobs prevailed on people to cooperate with the book. No matter what one thinks of Isaacson’s book, it is absolutely permeated, as is appropriate, with the voice of its subject. In addition, no one is claiming that Isaacson fabricated material.

It's not that Isaacson's book was bad per se, it just felt like a squandered opportunity.

☆ Thoughts On A New Apple TV

Recent reports from Buzzfeed and Wall Street Journal have once again ignited discussion about the mythical new Apple TV.

Despite what's been said before, the future of Apple TV is not a television set - at least, I don't think it is. Instead, it's a new service integrated with an updated version of Apple TV's hardware including a redesigned user-interface and new, more functional remote control. While I don't know specifics on how the updated Apple TV hardware will look, I expect it to carry additional on-board storage and support for Siri.

It's easy to assume Apple has been close to this solution for a while. Virtually every television network has an iOS app that allows you to stream recent episodes of your favourite shows for free. It's been long speculated Apple will add an App Store and SDK to the Apple TV and form their version of the modern television.

A solution that simple has many drawbacks: unskippable commercials, no archive of content, and worst of all, no control for Apple.

Control is the only way Apple can make the television they truly want to make, but unfortunately, control doesn't come easily.

It all comes down to negotiating with networks. Apple TV has, and always will be, a 'network play.' The networks don't want to be 'screwed over' like the music industry was (even if iTunes may have saved the music industry from pirates) and therefore are hesitant to innovate.

HBO NOW was a huge catch, but there are many more to go.

I believe Apple's goal is to ultimately simplify the television experience. One way I see them doing this is by getting rid of bundling - everyone hates bundling. You have to pay for 5 channels just to get the one you want. It's supposed to save us money, but it rarely does.

What if, for example, Apple offered a flat-free subscription where everyone gets the same channels for the same price? And what if that subscription came in significantly cheaper than your current cable bill?

Of course, there would be optional 'premium' channels like HBO NOW and MLB.TV that are above and beyond the flat-fee subscription. 

It's a compelling offer, and I think that's what Apple has been going after. 

Apple has never been about the short-term. A quick look at the TV graveyard is indicative of how half-assed attempts at changing the TV industry go over like trying to topple a building with your two hands.

I think Apple is in a better position than anyone to make a change, and I don't think it's too far away.

The introduction of HBO NOW at the last keynote was only the beginning of Apple's long-term goal - to change the TV industry - and the price drop of the current Apple TV signifies they are getting close.



Strategies for Beats

Larry Sukernik with some interesting ideas on how Apple could make a play in the streaming business:

The music industry doesn’t want to make the same mistake as it did with iTunes, which allowed Apple to become a monopoly on music sales. The more competition exists, the more bargaining power the music labels have over steaming services. Since it is unlikely Apple will convince the labels to a lower price tier, Apple must find a different way to grow the Beats brand into the next iTunes. 

Something tells me we won't have to wait long to find out what they have up their sleeve.

Android Apps Now Reviewed By Google

The bulk of manual reviews are handled by the automated system without any human involvement, according to Recode. Google says it's able to automatically weed out other violations, too, like copyright infringement and apps that include sexual imagery. The company claims apps are still making it onto Play within a matter of hours, which is a bit speedier than the days-long wait iOS developers regularly endure.

As a comparison, Apple's review time right now is around 7 days.