Review: Fantastical for iPhone


I've used several different calendar apps on my iPhone (Agenda Calendar and Calvetica spring to mind) but haven't really found one I enjoy using.

Until today, that is.

Fantastical is an immensely popular menubar app for Mac that allows you to type out event titles using natural language. You can type "Lunch with Mom on Sunday" and it will brilliantly parse this information to create an event at noon on the nearest upcoming Sunday. Today, developer Flexibits is bringing this same functionality to the iPhone.

Simply Designed

Fantastical's lovely icon was designed by one of my favorite artists, David Lanham, and it has made the transition over to iPhone very nicely, although I could do without the staples at the top.

The staples also appear in the app itself:


These are the first of several mild skeuomorphisms seen throughout the app (another of which is the fake texture of the red bar). I mildly dislike the staples, not because of some irrational hatred of skeuomorphic design, but because I find them a little distracting. My eyes keep being drawn to them for some reason.

If you've been a user of Fantastical for Mac, you'll notice that the iPhone version isn't just the same interface being ported over. This app introduces a new feature called the DayTicker, which is the horizontally scrolling list of dates at the top. This can be swapped out for a month view at any time.

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Tap any visible date and the DayTicker will scroll there. No matter where you end up scrolling, you can simply tap the red menu bar above to return back to today's date. When appropriate, each date is filled with colored "blobs" that indicate events occurring that day.

The blobs actually correlate with the length and calendar-type of each event, making it easy to quickly scroll through the DayTicker and still have a concept of what's happening on a given day. This way, you don't need to see any event titles to know that Wednesday is pretty much booked, or that a bunch of bills are due Monday (if you have a 'Bills' calendar like I do, anyway). Very simple yet effective design.

Another nice touch is the "ripped paper" graphic that denotes any gaps between days on the DayTicker.

So Animated

Animations within the app are very well done.

As you scroll back and forth in the DayTicker, the list of events below scrolls with you. Scroll the event list instead, and the DayTicker follows. It's all very fluid and synchronous.

When creating events, as with the Mac app, you simply type an event the way you would say it out loud. As you type, your words will "float" down into the event preview pane and change things on-the-fly (no pun intended) as Fantastical parses the information.


I'm writing this review on a Thursday, so notice that when I typed "tomorrow night" it automatically moved the event to Friday at 8pm. How awesome is that?

You don't even have to type if you don't want. Bring up Siri from the keyboard, say something like you would to a person, and Fantastical will still parse it just like it would the text version. I'm finding myself dictating more events than typing just because it feels more natural.

[Side note: The 'Show Details' button you see on the New Event screen simply brings up advanced options like you'd see in the default iOS calendar app, so there's no real need to discuss it at length here. Just know that it's available when needed.]

When you've finished creating the event by tapping the 'Add' button, the page folds up and flies into the background, merging with the DayTicker on the appropriate date. Another skeuomorphic design, but I can't see why this would bother anyone.

So What's the Catch?

Actually, there are very few negatives I've come across so far. The biggest one involves the DayTicker/Calendar transition.

Pull down on the DayTicker, and a month view will slide down over it like a window shade. To switch back to the DayTicker, my natural impulse is to swipe back up on the month view to send it flying back up where it came from, but instead you must swipe down again and the month view slides down and flies behind the DayTicker, which has suddenly appeared back at the top.

It's hard to describe this animation, but trust me, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about when you use the app. Something about it just feels...wrong, although it's nothing I can't get used to.

Another weird thing: I changed the colors of all my calendars to what I wanted them to be, but the DayTicker and event list wouldn't reflect these changes until I force-quit the app and restarted it.

Finally, if you tap the 'Help' menu under 'Settings', the two available options ('Tips and Tricks', 'Frequently Asked Questions') take you to webpages that haven't been completed yet. Would be nice if they had taken care of that stuff before releasing the app. Not that these sections are particularly needed, since the app is so simple to use.

The only feature request I have would be a way to change the calendar type while creating the event, but without having to go into the 'Show Details' menu. Perhaps a hashtag system (ex: #personal #work #bills)? If this type of feature already exists, I haven't found it.

[Update: I've been informed that you can add '/calendar name' (ex: /personal) to the event and it will change accordingly.]

Wrap Up

Fantastical is a lovely, easy-to-use calendar app, and it has quickly become my new favorite. Since it's on sale for a limited time introductory price of $1.99, I recommend picking it up right now. I think you'll love it.