The first thing you'll notice about Fantastical 2 for iPad is that it refuses to abide by conventional notions of how a calendar should look.
Common desk calendars introduced month views that let you scribble events into large date boxes. Datebooks offered a more portable way to see your week at a glance. The Palm Pilot and later the iPhone popularized "list view" calendars that act as much like to-do lists as they do datebooks. Fantastical 2 for iPad bundles them all into one view so you're always on top of your events — however you want to look at them.
After years of calendaring one way or the other, Fantastical 2's "dashboard view" is a bit overwhelming at first. When you tap on a day inside month view, for example, day view and week view snap into place. The effect is jarring, but the more I used the app, the more its core philosophy came into focus. Whereas most calendar apps like Sunrise or Calendars 5 ask you to hop between views — one for long-term planning, and one for day-to-day planning — Fantastical 2 lets you do them both at the same time.
"It's so important for developers to know that the iPad is not just a blown-up iPhone," Fantastical developer Michael Simmons says. "You need to take advantage of the screen in a way that you're not just enlarging things." One way Simmons comes through on this is by introducing Windows 8-esque edge swipes that let you drag in a Reminders pane from the left side of the screen and a search pane from the right. The functionality is particularly useful if you're a thumb-typist like Simmons, who holds his iPad in portrait mode and swipes in his to-do's with his left thumb as he's working. Event detail pages also slide in from the side of the screen instead of covering your screen with a dialogue box.
"It's so important for developers to know that the iPad is not just a blown-up iPhone."
"We were going to use pop-overs — when you tap an event in the list, details pop up — but it felt clunky," Simmons says. "They seemed heavy, like these things hanging over your screen, drawing your attention away." Fantastical 2's slide-in event pages feel natural, since you can still check dates and browse around while editing an event — something no other calendar app on iOS can offer. But for some, Fantastical 2 could end up being frustrating since it crams so much into one single screen, and since the app's month view doesn't show detailed events for each day. Others might refuse to pay the price of admission for Fantastical 2 for iPad, which retails for $9.99 and is a separate app from its iPhone counterpart. But Simmons isn't dissuaded from his vision.
"Calendar's traditional month view has been done. There's already an app for that," says Simmons. "The whole point was to change and be innovative. The goal of Fantastical is to make a different calendar app." Flexibits has succeeded in that, and in much more. While Fantastical 2 for iPad's creative interface and price tag could intimidate some, there's no better tablet calendar app for power users. Fantastical for Mac and iPhone challenged software developers to understand our words, and not just our taps. The company's thoughtful new design could inspire the next wave of iPad apps to think outside the (dialogue) box.
Fantastical 2 for iPad goes on sale today for $9.99. At a later date, Flexibits will raise the price to $14.99.