What third party calendar apps do you fine people use for planning/scheduling work?

I’m trying to find a good way to manage my workload, and Agenda is one piece of that puzzle, but I’m finding I need something a bit more than Apple calendar. I am a freelancer and use Harvest and Xero for my invoicing and accounting stuff, but the missing piece for me is some way to schedule my own time flexibly. I’ve found the Forecast app made by Harvest to be pretty good, but also very focused on teams (like almost every software solution seemingly).

I’ve tried fantastical and busy cal and readdle calendar, and found that they are all basically the same as Apple calendar, for my purposes at least.

My ideal solution would be something I can use to schedule and then re-schedule work easily, while also being able to see and edit my personal events and work meetings.

I use iCloud for my calendar and email.

Is there a magic bullet out there that will work for me?

You guys? Nothing?

I use BusyCal.

Longtime BusyCal user here. A few years ago, I abandoned it, tried a lot of other apps, among them Things, Google Calendar etc., but finally returned to BusyCal. I think it’s the best calendar app on the Mac, and it works with Agenda as if they were meant for each other.

(Another plus is the integration between BusyCal (to-dos, events, appointments) and BusyContacts (contact information) in a way you’ll find nowhere else.)

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@AndreasE: I agree, tried also many other but BusyCal is my favourite one.
I also like the way how it works with BusyContacts (which is a also a great piece of SW).

I can really recommend firstseed. Not famous yet but imho much better than most of the well known, and I tried most of them …

Not sure what you’re looking for that Fantastical and the usual suspects don’t do?

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What is it about BusyCal that works so well with Agenda?

I used Fantastical for several years before they moved to the subscription model. When I took another look, I found it didn’t work so well with Agenda because it didn’t use the underlying Calendar data - it synced via iCloud instead. This means that adding an event in Fantastical might take a few minutes for it to sync to iCloud, then for Calendar to sync it down from iCloud, for it to show up in Agenda. All that means that I never really trusted what Agenda showed me on the side. So I’ve stuck with Calendar.

I am curious about BusyCal though, and especially curious to know if it uses the underlying Calendar data the way Agenda does, or if it syncs via iCloud the way Fantastical does.

As far as I understand it, BusyCal uses the same database as Calendar and Reminders, but it handles events and tasks in the same schedule, which is far more intuitive (IMHO) than having it separated in two apps or even in two parts of the screen. I have a list of tasks at the side and can drag tasks to days or even to specific times in the calendar; I can even change tasks into events or vice versa.

I use Agenda primarily to manage my projects, which means, I mix notes and thoughts and ideas and, most important, tasks I have to do. When I decide that a certain task is ripe to be stuffed into my week’s schedule, I add a reminder to it, and voilà, it appears in BusyCal, complete with a backlink to Agenda!

If I mark it as done in BusyCal, it’s marked done in Agenda as well. Only if I push the task around a lot in BusyCal (“next week” … “I don’t know, let’s put it in the task list” …), Agenda sometimes loses the connection, but generally it does a good job of updating itself when I move the task to another date in BusyCal. Anyway, it’s no big deal if the connection is lost; the backlink still works.

I just gave it another look, and it seems like that’s true for Reminders, but not for Calendar. For iCloud calendars, it still requires adding an account - which limits calendar refreshes to every 5 minutes. Reminders on the other hand are updated via Push.

I remember investigating all this stuff a while back, and as I recall:

  • Calendar (which Agenda uses) will Push iCloud calendars, and Fetch other calendars
  • Fantastical (and evidently BusyCal) will Push Google Calendars, and Fetch iCloud calendars

It’s all super annoying.

I agree that the calendar interface is intuitive for scheduling tasks. The tradeoff is that to use these alternate calendar apps means having at best a 5-minute refresh interval for events. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for me it least it causes uncertainty of “is it not yet synced, or did I mess something up?"

Not 100% sure but as far as I remember BusyCal gets and sends changes in the calendar via push. So available on all devices more or less after a few seconds.
I had more problems wirh Reminders (Apple app), it took hours sometimes for receiving changes in Reminders, in particular creating new Reminders. Since then I use Things for reminders.

Just to give some insights why BusyCal, Fantastical etc all “bypass” Apple’s calendar system and force you to log in separately to your iCloud and Google accounts etc has to do with the way Apple has implemented and limited what they allow 3rd party developers to do. The three areas where they’re implementation is really lacking are:

  1. they don’t ensure each calendar event has a unique ID across devices, which makes syncing events and associated data in your app quite hard. We have had to rewrite Agenda’s implementation 3 times and still it’s not always 100% flawless due to this limitation.

  2. they offer only a subset of what’s possible in the Calendar and Reminder app through the APIs for developers, for example while it’s possible to read attachments and invitees, we can’t add those to events through the APIs. And let’s not talk about all the features the Reminders app has added of which none is made available through the APIs (tags, sublists, etc).

  3. while most calendar systems allow for this, Apple doesn’t allow you to set custom data field for an event (which would make it much easier to set up a unique ID or associate say a link to a note in agenda without having to use the notes field for example.

It means that if you are trying to make a calendar replacement app, you will have to go the route that these app have followed and talk directly to iCloud, Google etc. The good thing is that if you have these accounts also set up in the System Preferences/Settings app, the data will still sync, albeit indirectly, and arrive in Agenda, also if you use these apps.

I hear you saying, why doesn’t Agenda then follow the same route. Well unfortunately it’s still a hell of a lot of work to implement direct interaction with each of these services (login, implementing the correct protocols, etc etc), so also given our small team size, we’ve decided to stick with the limitations of Apple’s frameworks because we feel it’s still the right balance between benefits vs amount of work that we can spend on other features.

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Perhaps that’s the case for Google Calendar, but Push is not an option for iCloud calendar (at least not on BusyCal 2021.4.2 on MacOS 10.15.7):

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You don’t hear me saying that :slight_smile: I like that I can rely on parity between the data in Calendar and Agenda. That’s the main reason I use Calendar over BusyCal and Fantastical. “Has it just not synced yet or is there a problem with syncing” is one of the biggest headaches I have across any app. Agenda’s direct integration with Calendar minimizes that (although apparently it causes lots more headaches for you!).

I made a test with BusyCal. Created events for later today and after about 10, max. 20 seconds I could see the events also my other devices. Of course also in Calendar on the Mac.
I did not push a sync manually, just created an events.

Ah, I didn’t mean it literally, sorry for the confusion. What I meant to say is that there are legitimate reasons for us to go the same route as BusyCal and Fantastical went, there are big benefits to having direct access (the three points outlined above) and perhaps one day we’ll have to go that route if we want to have even deeper integration with the calendar. However, for now other things on our long list are simply a better investment of our time.