Editors' note: This review was updated on February 28, 2014, to cover new features added in the latest version of the app.
Given that the popular to-do list app Any.do has an elegant and polished design, it's no surprise that the company's new calendar app, Cal, would also be visually stunning. Cal uses Any.do's simple aesthetic, but adds a library of impressive photos to jazzy up your boring calendar.
If you're unfamiliar, Any.do is a to-do list app for iOS and Android with a clean, polished design and a ton of features. For instance, it knows when you miss a call and asks if you want to follow up and helps you schedule meetings from your e-mails.
In July 2013, Any.do unveiled Cal for iOS, with the Android app popping up a few months later in December. The app shows you a daily agenda complete with that date's happenings plus any to-do list items you need to accomplish, helping you stay on top of your schedule.
You'll need an Any.do account to start using Cal. If you don't already have one, you can sign up with an e-mail and password combo, or with your Facebook account.
Once you're signed in, setting up Cal for Android is nearly effortless, as the app finds the existing calendar feeds in your phone and pulls in that data automatically. That means any of the calendars from the Google Accounts you've synced to your phone, plus any of the local calendars from other apps show up.
As you add new events to the accounts synced with your phone, they will automatically show up in Cal. If you added a location or reminder in one of those calendars, that information will also appear.
There's an option to import your Facebook friends' birthdays, which only requires one tap to connect your account, so long as you already have the Facebook installed on your phone. Lastly, if you want your Any.do tasks to show up, just head over to settings and tap the box next to "connect with Any.do." You need to have the Any.do app installed on your phone for this to work. Any task that you've scheduled for today, tomorrow, or for a specific date and time in the future will appear in your calendar.
The first thing I noticed about Cal -- in fact, what originally piqued my interest in the app -- is that it has a beautiful, clean design; from the welcome screen with cheerful GIFs in the background, to the full-screen photos that act as backgrounds on most screens. I absolutely dig the design, as it's charming, uncluttered, and easy to navigate.
The photo backgrounds show up in two places in Cal, in the daily agenda and on each full-screen event page. As you swipe to a new day in your agenda, the picture changes. You can choose which photo themes you want to appear, including animals, food, and illustration.
Some of the photos are a bit odd — a girl posing in a designer outfit or a pink-and-gray clothing closet — but most of them are pleasing shots of delicious food or breathtaking landscapes. If you tap once on the picture, you can view it full-screen with the selected date at the bottom. There's also a link in the top right for the photo source in case you want it.
In addition to the pretty photo background, event pages also have an attractive layout, with individual cards for time, location, and other details. Everything is laid out clearly, which I really appreciate, because it makes it easy to read at a glance.
Your daily agenda
Cal's greatest strength is showing off your daily agenda -- basically all of the to-dos, meetings, and appointments you have on your plate on one given date. When you launch the app, it automatically jumps to today's agenda, which shows all of your events and Any.do tasks in a chronological list. This is different from other calendar apps, which show an hourly timeline with blocks of time shaded for each appointment. Whether Cal's layout works for you or not is a matter of personal preference, but I find it easy to use.
The current week's dates are at the top of the screen, from Sunday to Saturday, and you can tap them to jump to a different day. You can also swipe left or right to change the day. Swiping down on the screen reveals the month view, where you can see a small monthly calendar followed by the first two items for the day you've highlighted.
Birthdays show up at the bottom of your daily agenda with the person's picture and name. If you're friends with them on Facebook, you can wish them a happy birthday on their timeline without leaving Cal.
It's easy to spot Any.do tasks in your agenda, as they have small blue check marks. If you tap on a task, your phone will open the Any.do app, where you can mark it as done or edit it. Once you're finished, you'll need to go close the app if you want to return to Cal. I wish I could edit or check off those tasks from Cal, and hopefully that option will come in a later update.