Cal (iOS) review: Elegant calendar with all the right features

Your daily agenda
Cal's greatest strength is organizing 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 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.

With a design feature that's unique to Cal on iOS, the app inserts "free time" slots between your calendar events. I understand the thinking behind this is to show you when you have open slots in your schedule, but it makes the agenda look cluttered and confusing.

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.

Each event has a full-screen page with time, location, and attendee details. You can tap on the map to get directions. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

It's easy to spot your tasks in your agenda; they have small blue check marks. If you tap one, your phone sends you to the app, where you can manage that task. I wish I could edit or check off those tasks from Cal, so hopefully that option will come in a later update.

When you select a calendar item, you'll see the previously mentioned event page, which includes time, location, attendees, and notes. If there's a specific location, you'll see a small map and address. You can expand the map and, from there, start turn-by-turn navigation to the destination.

You can also add or remove a reminder and set the event to repeat daily, weekly, or monthly. You can edit which kinds of notifications (banners, badges, etc.) you want to receive from Cal in your iPhone's notification center menu.

Setting your schedule
If you're familiar with adding a new event in Google Calendar, the process is very similar in Cal. Tap the plus sign at the top of the screen and enter the title. Start typing someone's name and Cal will search your phone's contacts so that you can send them an invitation via e-mail.

To add a location, type "at" plus the business or location name. As you start typing, Cal will search Google Maps for relevant results and you can pick the correct place from the drop-down list.

Just like with other calendar apps, you can edit the time and date or make it an all-day occasion. Once you've entered the basic details, you can add notes, invite attendees via e-mail, and edit your reminder settings (the default is 30 minutes before the start time). You can also e-mail or message all of the attendees at once to give them updates.

If you get an invite from any of your calendars, you'll see a small notification at the bottom of the screen. Tap that to see all of your pending invitations. If you reply yes or maybe, the event will show up in your calendar, if you decline, it won't. In my testing, the invites were a bit buggy, as they showed up when I first started using the app, but then stopped a day later even though I was sending new invites.

Cal's stunning design offers a unique alternative to the same old boring calendar that came with your phone. I feared that would sacrifice performance or features over design, but I'm happy that's not the case. You can easily manage your schedule, create new events, and invite your friends, which is all I ask of a calendar app.

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    Cal (iOS)

    Part Number: id648287824
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    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. UK specs are unavailable.

    • Category Office and productivity
    • Compatibility iOS