Given what a cracking product iCal on the Mac is, we’ve always been a bit disappointed with Apple’s underpowered iPhone calendar app, with its missing week view and equally AWOL to-do list. Fortunately, plenty of other companies have stepped up to the plate and there’s lots of choice when it comes to staying organised. Here’s our pick of the best calendars, to-do lists, PIMs and time managers.
APP OF THE MONTH: Week Calendar
PRICE: £1.19 inc. VAT
This is the calendar that Apple should have included with the iPhone. There, we said it. Week Calendar (£1.19) pulls in all your appointments from the standard calendar (and anything else it’s synced with, like Google Calendar) and displays it in a lovely, easy-to-read, 3D weekly display that works in portrait and landscape.
There are several other views, too – Day, Month, Year and Agenda – and overall, this is one of the most flexible calendars we’ve seen. You can add appointments with a quick tap-and-hold, assign them a time slot, alarm and colour, set a repeat, associate them with a contact (associated phone numbers become live diallable links) double-tap to zoom in, drag and drop them into another position (a bit like re-positioning app icons on the phone itself), or share them with other calendar users vial e-mail. Appointments you make all the time (rehearsals, meetings, lunch) can be saved as templates and re-used, and you cal also you can assign specific colours to appointments based on their title (i.e. coffee break will always appear in yellow). We’d love to see tasks added to Week Calendar but really for the price, this is oustanding.
Google Tasks may not be the most sophisticated task manager in town, but the way it integrates with Google Mail and Calendar makes it indispensable for some people.
You can run the mobile version of Google Tasks on your iPhone, but it’s no great shakes (and no oil painting either) – but why bother, when you can get GoTasks for free? It works just like Google Tasks, supports multiple to-do lists, has a lovely OmniFocus-style drag and drop way of re-ordering tasks, and syncs sweetly and automatically with the Google original. In fact the only thing we don’t rate is the way you add new tasks on the iPhone, which are placed by default in the first available slot – even if that contains an unfinished to-do from two weeks ago – and then have to be re-scheduled manually.
You can also add new tasks by pinching open with two fingers in the correct slot but this is neither easy nor intuitive. That aside, this is still a great little app for anyone who uses Google Tasks, and it has found its way onto our home page.
PRICE: £2.39 inc. VAT
Where to start? Awesome Note (£2.39) is, of course, a stylish note-taking app with a range of sumptuous custom backgrounds and built-in sync with both Google Docs and Evernote; but it’s more than that. Once you’ve created a note, entered some text, perhaps added a picture, you can also turn it into a task, a diary entry, an anniversary, or leave it as a plain note.
Notes are saved automatically, and can be organised into the folders which appear on the home screen. Open a folder and you can view the notes inside in various ways – as thumbnails, a list, a task list (complete with due dates, priority ratings and tick boxes) a detailed list, diary-style view and a photo view. In addition, notes can be sorted by the date they were modified or created, alphabetically, by due date (for tasks) or priority (set this by tapping the stars at the top of each note).
Once you’re inside a folder, you can also call up a calendar view of its contents, so you can see your notes in the context of when they were created. Aside from the gorgeousness of the interface (the iPad version is even better) Awesome Note deserves its place here because of the flexibility it offers when arranging and viewing your notes and because of the way it blurs the lines between note-taking and time management. We like.
PRICE: £FREE; £.059 in-app upgrade
When you open your calendar it’s nearly always to see if you’re available for that meeting, or lunch date, or drink after work – in other words, you’re checking to see if you’re free. Free Time (FREE; 0.59p in-app upgrade) does the same thing.
Free Time asks for basic information, like when you wake up and go to bed, when you start and finish work, when you have breakfast, lunch or dinner (and how long for), and then watches your main calendar to see when you’ve got free time. So, when someone asks if you’re available for a lunch meeting, load up Free Time and the main screen will display whether you’ve got any spare slots, one week at a time.
You can use Free Time’s filters individually to specify particular kinds of appointment (so for example, only when you’re available for breakfast) or time slot lengths (so only two-hour spaces are displayed), or even days of the week, so you can see which Thursdays are free over the coming month – or combine them to display those times you’re available for a 30 minute breakfast meeting on a Wednesday or Friday.
The paid-for version of the app frees up the sharing options that let you tell other people when you’re free via text message, email or by bumping your iPhone with someone else who’s also running Free Time. It’s an innovative take on time management, and a terrific companion product to a conventional calendar app.
PRICE: £1.79 inc. VAT
We thought long and hard about including Calvetica (£1.79), but in the end felt it was worth considering because of the way it isn’t afraid to take liberties with the supposed conventions of app design. Bid farewell then, pseudo-3D buttons, tabs and dialogues and instead say hello to Helvetica, white space and clean, flat colours.
Calvetica displays all the appointments from the iPhone’s calendar (and anything else it’s synchronised with, and displays it in day, week, agenda and month view. Use finger slides to set the basics like appointment start and end times, alarms and so on – as well as for accessing the controls for editing, moving and deleting appointments.
Elsewhere, there are handy filter controls to alter the day view so you can see day-long appointments, or only those that occur in or outside the working day. Turning the phone on its side switches to the weekly calendar landscape view, and tapping the corner key flips the screen to the weekly agenda. It’s not always quite as intuitive as it thinks it is, but in a world where every other calendar is trying so hard to look like Google, it’s a breath of fresh air.
Put Things Off
PRICE: £1.79 inc. VAT
For a start, you’ve got to love that name – and once you’ve used this neat little app, you’ll love the design too, because rather than weighing you down with all kinds of high-falutin GTD ways, Put Things Off (£1.79) keeps everything very simple.
When you create a new task, Put Things Off sits on your inbox while you decide what to do with it. You have two choices: you can either do it today or put it off, either by the default number of days (three) or until a specific date. That’s it. Other tasks are either sitting in the inbox waiting to be assigned, or in the Done box, wiating to be deleted.
Put Things Off comes with a companion web-based service (free for 30 days, thereafter 0.59p for 30 days or £2.99 for 180 days) that lets you add tasks from any browser-enabled device and it can handle sub tasks (just create the main task and then drag subsequent tasks onto it with your finger). But that’s not really where Put Things Off excels, and we love this for the design and for the way it recognises that people aren’t all on top of everything they need to do and that sometimes, we all just want to put things off.
All apps available from the Apple iTunes Store.