iPhone app review: Calvetica

Calvetica main screenIf you use the calendar on your iPhone or iPod Touch at all – and especially if, like me, you use it a lot – you soon run into the limitations of Apple’s built-in iCal app. And even if you don’t have any complaints with iCal, once you switch to Calvetica, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it. Like the rest of Apple’s built-in apps, iCal gets the job done. But then… you realize you can’t see all your daily events at once in Month view (my favourite), since the month grid fills so much of the screen. If you have more than a couple of events that day, you’re in for a lot of scrolling. Or you start to chafe at the many steps involved in simply adding a new event. It means tapping into window after window, and spinning those dials repeatedly (the fun factor of those one-arm-bandit style selectors dims somewhat after the 100th time). As the makers of Calvetica point out, there are 12 taps required in total to add a new event. They felt they could do better. And they did. Calvetica is a ground-up rethink of the entire calendar interface. Everything down to the tiniest detail has been thought through deeply, and it shows. The result is a much more compact and efficient user experience. Not a pixel of screen space is wasted, but there’s no clutter in sight – everything is clean and precise. Functions are spring-loaded into icons and clever use of gestures allows you to navigate around easily without the use of space-eating buttons. The only downside to this approach is that you do need to take a buzz through the FAQ and instructions. But once you do, getting around Calvetica is simple. There’s no need to re-enter any of your events since the app integrates with your existing events, alarms and calendars. It’s just a better-designed front end on the same data. For me, the ultimate testimony to the developers’ fanatical quest for perfection came in the most recent version: in a bold move, they redesigned the entire app. In their blog, they explain that they simply felt the first version wasn’t their best work. And it must be said, while the original Calvetica was definitely an improvement, the interface still had some awkward aspects. For example, adding a new event or changing the time of an existing one required you to be on the full-day view (showing every hour of the day), and involved swiping – usually a loooong way – to the desired time. Now, you set the day, time and details all in a single, logically compact window that’s summoned with a single tap. That’s only one of a multitude of changes and improvements – from a rudimentary but useful To-Do list area, to a selection of custom – and much louder – alert sounds. There’s much more than I could list here.

Calvetica Screen Shots

I did find a couple of minor bugs in the current version – the inability to add location data to an event, or to add invitees to an event (or edit an event to which invitees have been added). Calvetica’s support was quick to provide a fix for the first problem, and noted the second, which will hopefully be addressed in an update. (If you use the invite feature, you can still access it via iCal.) Bottom line, if you’re a serious i-device calendar user and you want something better than iCal, Calvetica is your answer. Click here to buy Calvetica on the App Store.

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