App Wars:Clash Of The Calendars

in Productivity

google calendarIt must be about a year since Sunrise Calendar announced it had been bought out by Microsoft for integration into Outlook Mail and to be discontinued for use by non-Outlook users. Like tens of thousands of Sunrise users who rated it very highly, I was unhappy, to say the least. After the inevitable wailing, gnashing of teeth and being thrashed with chilli-infused razor wire (that was a joke by the way) I started to look at alternatives.  As you would expect there as many calendar apps as there are to do and note taking apps.  Some of them were just appalling and could not have served any other purpose than to provide coding practice to the person who created them!

But there were some very good calendar apps out there and I have narrowed it down to two – Today Calendar and aCalendar. Some of the alternatives fell by the wayside because there was no seamless integration with Google Calendar, an imperative in my book as it saves time and numb fingers to create appointments on the desktop and watch them pop up seconds later on my smartphone/tablet.

Here I compare the two together with an appraisal against Sunrise (still operating as of May 2016) and I was surprised at what I found.

Sunrise Calendar

sunrise calendarThose familiar with Sunrise will know that its key plus point was its integration with numerous third-party apps and services.  These include Facebook, Tripit, Asana, Todoist, Evernote, Wunderlist – the list just goes on and on.  It is also usable across multiple platforms, although there is some inconsistency between views on my Android smartphone and tablet.  On the Moto X Style I have the choice of agenda and week view. On the tablet I have the option of week or month!  There is also a desktop app which replaces Google Calendar if you are not a fan of the Big G.

Sunrise’s integration with other services is simple and avoids duplication of tasks.  For example, if I create a meeting note in Evernote I can allocate that note with a reminder with a date and time and it appears in Sunrise.  If I click on the reminder in Sunrise Calendar I am given the opportunity to click a link and go to the note in  Evernote.

The reminder does not appear in Google Calendar. Any event created in Sunrise also becomes a note in Evernote and if you delete the Evernote note the event stays in the calendar.

When Sunrise first appeared this functionality was powerful and novel. Now we have the likes of If This Then That (ITTT) Zapier, not forgetting TaskClone, so these results can be achieved through other channels.

Pros: Strong integration with a range of third party apps and services.

Cons: Limited number of calendar views and uncertain future.

Edited to add. Sunrise has announced it will shut down the standalone service atthe end of August. Read the blog here.

aCalendar

acalendaraCalendar has a crisp, clean interface and a wealth of customisation options including themes, colours for today and weekends, font size changes, show days without events, location, and even lunar phases.  The events take their colours from Google Calendar and are very vivid. This may not be important when you have eyes sharp enough for an outhouse rat but when you sink into Old Fartdom and the eyesight deteriorates, you need all the help you can get!

If you do not want a task manager running separately, aCalendar has its own built-in offering with syncs with Google Tasks.  If you do use a third party task manager like Todoist or Wunderlist then if they are incorporated into Google Calendar then they will appear on aCalendar.

One neat feature is a mini calendar that you can configure to appear to appear in a variety of views. You can see this bottom right in the graphic and it provides a good instant reminder when you have events in your diary.

Getting to different calendar views is simply carried out by swiping. In week view, swipe up or down to see last or next week#s events. Swiping left takes you to the today view and swiping left again takes you to the month view.  An agenda view is also available from the options menu.

Pros: A good solid calendar with clean looks and intuitive feel. You will be up and running like a pro in minutes.

Cons: Nothing to speak of.

Today Calendar

today calendarThe first thing that hits you is that on the home screen the Today Calendar icon gives you today’s date. Not an earth shattering feature but one that gives you an idea how the developer put the app together. Customisation is king, again, and you have the option of light or dark themes plus primary and secondary colours.  Unlike Sunrise, you have the choice of calendar views – agenda, day, week and month.  There is also a neat split view which shows the calendar month at the top and tapping on a date shows you what is scheduled in a lower panel (see left). Also, the colours are not a vivid as in aCalendar, but more pastel and softer.

What makes Today Calendar unique  and makes it stand out from other calendars is that it uses Natural Language Processing. If you, on a Wednesday, tap the + for a new event and input “Ring Barak For Interview tomorrow” it will allocate the event to the next day , Thursday.

When creating  an event Today Calendar will automatically colour itself with the default GCal colour but if you want to make it stand out you can make the event a different colour from a pop-up palette.

Pros: Clean, fresh interface with soft, muted colours and Natural Language Processing.

Cons: None.

Conclusion:  Two years ago I would have sworn I was a Sunrise user for life. Microsoft has screwed that up but I am now pretty relaxed and sanguine about it. Both aCalendar and Today Calendar are strong contenders for the crown.  Sunrise’s ability to work with third party apps and services has been eroded thanks to ITTT and Zapier.  The gap between Today Calendar and aCalendar is too close to call and I will be keeping an eye on how each developer pushes their product further.

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