Fantastical (mac)

Hello,

what do you think about Fantastical 2 on mac? Recently (after hearing to the new Automators podcast) I thought about me not using calendars enough. Partly because I find all the calendar apps just meh - they are somehow difficult to use, to enter and to get an overview. I am a user of fantastical on iOS, which is ok there - nothing brilliant about this app, but ok. I also was using fantastical on mac to entry the events, too until version 2 arrived.

I never understood why I should spend 50 € for Fantastical 2 on mac since I never found any functionality which would significantly differ from the build-in calendar. Yes, it looks a bit nicer, but thats all. Did I missed something on it? Currently I am using Calendar and Calendar 366 II which gives me the same overview in the menubar Fantastical once did. Are there maybe other Calendar apps you can recommend?

What I like about Fantastical are two things:

  1. The ability to enter new appointments using natural language. In combination with dictation, it is just great. Yes, I know that I could use Siri to enter stuff into Apple’s calendar without going to Fantastical, but I like the more granular control of Fantastical.

  2. I have not used Calendar 366 before, so I am not able to compare the menubar version. But I know that I absolutely love the appearance of Fantastical in the menubar and how it looks like in notifications.

Something different I can recommend is BusyCal. I have used it several years ago, it works fine and similarly to Fantastical. The price point is at about 50 USD/Euro and may be the reason, why Fantastical has increased their prices, too, when they released Fantastical 2. BusyCal is also part of the Setapp subscription model.

Well,

part of my considerations is that I have to use the corporate calendar. There is nothing wild about that per se - it is an exchange calendar, every calendar app these days can use it. But it has so many auto-generated entries that every calendar app I tested fails short to provide a proper overview. An interesting feature, for example, would be filtering, where you can create views with entries blended out on some patterns. BusyCal has something like that, but its filters are only inclusive, not exclusive. I have a feeling calendars these days are for light-medium users and more about bells&whistles.

P.S.: Have done some small research… So, mac calendar alternatives are something I would consider pretty useless for me over the combination of standard Calendars App and Outlook for managing meetings. However, things could be improved on iOS, where I find Fantastical underwhelming for providing overview. Went with calendars 5 by Riddle. :slight_smile: Here is the review I used: https://appleinsider.com/articles/17/03/26/head-to-head-the-best-calendar-apps-for-iphone-ipad-and-macos

Please do not consider it as spam: I think you are absolutely right given your use case.

Fortunately, I have a work calendar at work that I do not need to see at home. My calendar on my iOS devices and on the Mac only shows appointments that are not work-related. I am able to leave my Exchange work calendar at work and forget about it at home. A very nice situation to be in! :slight_smile:

I personally found Fantastical 2’s price to be a bit eye-watering as well, but given my usage of it, was worth it in the end.
That said, not a price I would be happy to pay annually, unless they come up with significant improvements in the next major update,

Why it is worth it to me, as mentioned, is the natural language input.

With a keyboard shortcut attached, I can input an appointment as quickly as I can type, and it is scarily accurate.
I also have a little KM macro, that I can trigger, which sees it run through the specific details-fields of a type of appointment that I schedule frequently each week.

So, whereas the person involved is often different, the category, location, alarms etc. are always the same, and using a combination of Fantastical’s natural language, a TE snippet here and there, and the KM macro, I can automate the bulk of what I need to put in.

Since Fantastical syncs with my work-related Outlook calendar, I can input into Fantastical, and have the appointment appear within seconds, over in my Outlook calendar.
AFAIK, I would not be able to do the same, trying to enter things via Outlook.

There might be other Calendar apps – mentioned above – that will allow one to do the same, but this is the major benefit to be had by me, and why I use it every day.

Similar to @BradG I use a combo of keyboard shortcuts and a KeyboardMaestro front end dialog that invokes and fills in the Fantastical 2 menu bar entry when the entries in the dialog have be captured and parsed. I use the dialog because my calendar entries need certain billing and client codes and it’s easier to use KM to enforce that. I rarely look at the Fantastical 2 app itself, just the menubar quick entry.

On the back end, I use Timetable 3 to grab the entries in a particular calendar, export to CSV, and then dump the billable hours I collected via the Fantastical data entry process day by day into my invoice process.

This sounds like a chain of kludges (because it is a chain of kludges) but with Fantastical, KM and Timetable I’ve got a billable hours data collector process that exactly matches my prime’s billing requirements.

I’ve been testing Hours as an alternate to my current house-made process, but am about to conclude that using Hours regularly would drive me insane – it is way too complicated.

@anon41602260 That is an interesting idea! Thanks for the pointer to Timetable3.

Quick question - my Outlook related appointments, are frequently input using the Outlook Categories field (that Fantastical supports/can ‘see’).

Do you have any idea if Timetable3 would be able to ‘see’ those Categories as well? Since I would then be able to extract groupings of calendar activities/appointments, based on their Categories, which would be particularly useful!

Sorry, I don’t know. I don’t use my Outlook calendar as the source so it doesn’t sync with Fantastical --> iCloud --> Timetable. You could ask Steven Riggs the dev on Timetable. He is very responsive to suggestions.

@anon41602260 Thanks - just downloaded the Trial,

It does not appear possible, but simply because macOS’s Calendar does not “see” Outlook categories.
However, it is able to filter via locations, and since the particular series of events I am interested in, always happens in a particular office/location, this is viable for past events.

Going forward, I could simply start adding ‘tags’ into my calendar entries – as in, unique snippets for each type of event – that way, a search of that tag/snippet inside Timetable3, would only yield those types of events, to then easily capture the hours spent!

Very useful. Think this is something I will jump into, since it appears to be a bit less friction that a specific ‘time-tracking’ app.

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One feature I really like about Fantastical 2 is calendar groups. I maintain and subscribe to a lot of different calendars. I don’t need to see them all the time, especially since some of them represent things that I am not going to personally attend: such as calendars of sports teams I follow, a local food truck group, etc. And when I’m trying to schedule an appointment with my student, I don’t like showing them my personal events on the screen at the same time.

I have a calendar group called “just me” that represents only the things I need to attend, and another that shows those plus a few others that I might need to schedule around, and yet another for only things related to my university teaching.

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One thing to consider, if you use drafts, is this amazing parser:


You could easily get away without Fantastical in your life, while gaining the advantage of natural language. Pretty cool.

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Is this through KM or just a quick entry shortcut?

I agree! I have Fantastical on my iPhone & iPad, but cannot justified $50.00 for it on my Mac.

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Happened years ago… But, I still hold a grudge. Bought and liked Fantastical. It felt like a few moments after my purchase a new version was marketed. Fantastical’s owners set a steep upgrade price. Bellowing in disgust, I found alternate solutions.

Back to my forgiveness meditation…

The quick entry shortcut.

I could probably roll all I do into a single KM macro, but the appointment type that sees me use my KM/TE macros and snippets, does not happen frequently enough to warrant it – doing it step by step, still saves me time, and doesn’t interfere with any other ‘standard’ appointments I enter.

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I love the calendar sets and wish they had that on iOS as well.

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YES! What I wouldn’t give for those calendar groups on my phone! When screen space is at a premium, it seems they would be even more valuable, right?