Blogging superstar Jason Kottke recently noticed something interesting about iCal you might already know: If you create an appointment for "Lunch with Adam", iCal automatically puts the appointment at noon, for one hour. It turns out iCal recognises a few different mealtimes.
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Predicting the future is near impossible -- but that doesn‘t stop us all from having a red hot go. Human beings have been predicting the future since the beginning of history and the results range from the hilarious to the downright uncanny.
One thing all future predictions have in common: they‘re rooted in our current understanding of how the world works. It‘s difficult to escape that mindset. We have no idea how technology will evolve, so our ideas are connected to the technology of today.
Google Sync can keep your Google Calendar changes in sync with your brand-spanking-new iPad, but only through one primary calendar by default. You can switch on multiple calendars by emulating an iPhone browser and heading to Google Sync's mobile page.
Mac only: A few weeks ago we detailed how to add Facebook events to your Google Calendar, but if you're an iCal user, free utility EventSync is a good alternative, especially if you want to filter which events are synced.
Twistory is yet another free tool to back up online accounts, specifically Twitter posts. It goes beyond a simple data dump, though, by plotting your tweets in an easy-to-import iCal feed.
Mac OS X only: Most good calendars apps have some sort of natural language quick-add feature so you can type "dinner tomorrow w/jerry at 8" and expect semi-accurate results. QuickCal is like that, but much, much better. QuickCal integrates with iCal, so each time you enter a new event, it'll show up in its respective spot in iCal (and, if you're syncing Google Calendar with iCal, it'll go there, too). Probably the best thing about QuickCal is that it analyses the appointment as you type, so you get a preview of the accuracy of the natural language interpretation before you create the appointment. (I've run into a lot of natural language failures when creating events using other tools, but I never knew it until after the bum event hit my calendar.) Its translation—in my tests, at least—have been dead on, but it's nice to verify the outcome of your event before you create it.
If you're looking to combine all your iCal-feeding calendars—and you're not, say, a Google or Yahoo Calendar user—MashiCal could be your solution, as well as a way to separate your shared feeds from personal stuff. The site claims to be able to handle pretty much any feed or file you give it with the .ics extension, and it worked for at least two Google Calendar feeds and an exported ICS. If you're trapped using separate calendar services and want a combined view, or want to offer up a whole bunch of feeds to a group, MashiCal could surpass Google and Yahoo for the sign-up/setup/share hassle alone. Better still, MashiCal doesn't require a new sign-up, as it can log you in with your Google, Facebook, OpenID, and a few other credentials. MashiCal is free to use, requires a login with a third-party account to use. Check out a video demonstration of MashiCal combinations below:
Mac OS X (10.5.6) only: Instead of launching iCal and clicking on a date to add something to your calendar, Macworld details how to put together a one-click Automator action. With a simple New Event Automator app on your Dock (or accessible to your favourite keyboard launcher), you can add an iCal event or a new to-do in one shot, with the ability to add event details on the spot. If you've never used Automator before, don't worry, because putting together this one is a cinch. Apparently this tip didn't work in OS X 10.5.3 through 10.5.5, but yesterday's 10.5.6 Software Update fixed the bug and it works again. Here's what the new event dialog looks like when you launch the Automator applet:
Mac OS X only: Google announced CalDAV support in Google Calendar earlier this year, which meant that with a little know-how, you could sync iCal with Google Calendar. Now the Google Mac Blog has officially announced CalDAV support for iCal, and to go along with the announcement they've released a new iCal sync application called Calaboration. With Calaboration, you can quickly and easily set up bi-directional syncing between iCal and Google Calendar with just a few clicks of your mouse. It's quick, it's easy, and it works like a charm; just run it once to set up your calendar syncing and you shouldn't need to run it again until you need to add a different calendar. Calaboration is a free download, Mac OS X only. If you're not on a Mac, check out how you can sync Google Calendar to any desktop calendar you've got.Calaboration
Mac OS X only: Free preference pane application Fruux syncs Address Book, iCal, and tasks between different Macs. To use it, just install the preference pane and create a new account with Fruux. Once you've verified your account, go ahead and run your first synchronisation. Fruux uploads your contact and calendar information to the cloud so it's ready to sync to any of your other Macs. Just wash, rinse, and repeat with as many computers as you want to sync with. Fruux is smart, too, supporting sync conflict resolution when a record has been changed on both computers. You can already roll your own contact syncing with Address Book and Google Contacts or push contacts, and Google Calendar syncs with iCal without too much effort, but if you'd prefer a more streamlined alternative, Fruux provides a dead simple install-it-and-forget-it syncing setup.
Even better, the Fruux roadmap reveals more ambitious goals, including Safari bookmark syncing and—more importantly—preferences syncing. Essentially, then, Fruux is aiming toward building a homegrown MobileMe. If this app remains free, it's got crazy potential written all over it. Fruux is a free download, Mac OS X only.Fruux
Mac OS X only: Heavy iCal users who want to add a new event or new task at the press of a key combination want FlexCal. The System Preferences pane lets you set a hotkey that invokes a new to-do or new event entry prompt. Type in the details, press Enter, and FlexCal adds the item to iCal without launching the program. Here's what the entry form and preferences pane look like.
Mac user Adam Laiacano came up with a neat way to embed his iCal calendar on his desktop—in text, using our favourite text calendar, Remind. You've already seen how to keep your calendar in plain text with Remind, and embed it on your desktop using GeekTool. Laiacano came up with AppleScript that converts his iCal calendar into Remind-friendly files to get the best of both worlds—the pretty iCal GUI, and the GeekTool text heads-up display. After the jump, see Laiacano's desktop in full and get the script.
FuseCal is a web app that does something so useful, yet so seemingly rare, that it's hard to believe it's both free and easy to use. The app, currently in alpha, lets you add iCal-based calendars (and a few other formats) to a master calendar, then choose whether all those events, just the ones you pick, or events filtered by keyword will be synced to Outlook, Apple iCal, Google Calendar, or another program. I've only had time to test the Google Calendar->FuseCal->Outlook setup, and it seems to work. Those with web sites can also publish their combined FuseCals on their site. FuseCal is free to use; a sign-up lets you keep your calendars in sync.
Mac OS X only: AppleScripter John Maisey offers an iCal utility that deletes duplicate events in iCal calendars. If one too many sync operations left your calendars with multiple instances of the same event, the Delete iCal Duplicates script will clean those up for you. Now available for both Tiger and Leopard, the Delete iCal Duplicates script is a free download for Mac only, donations appreciated.Delete iCal Duplicates
Mac OS X only: Now that Leopard's got Cover Flow in Finder and a central calendar store, you can search for events and tasks and preview them all big and pretty-like right in Finder. The Mac OS X Hints blog details how. (The two tricks: make sure you use the kind:ical operator and that you include Spotlight items in your search critreria). Neat way for iCal/Mail to-do users to search that data without launching the apps.View iCal events in Cover Flow
Mac OS X only: Freeware, single-use application Do-It provides a quick and simple way to create new iCal appointments without the clicking frenzy required with iCal's default interface. Just launch it whenever you want to add a new appointment, fill out the details (the form is completely Tab-friendly), hit enter and go back to whatever you were doing. It's a simple but wonderful improvement to iCal if the default behaviour has ever gotten on your nerves. Do-It is a free download, Mac OS X only.Do-It 1.0
Leopard's new and improved iChat boasts two features that are sure to enhance both workplace productivity and friends and family tech support: screen sharing and document sharing. In a nutshell, iChat now makes it dead simple to review documents with one or multiple chat partners in what it calls iChat theatre (pictured) or share screens—either your screen or the screen of the person you're chatting with—VNC-style. That means that not only can you see what's going on with the other person's screen; you can also control it.
Virtual desktops have been popular amongst geeks for years, but they're just starting to catch on with the consumer desktop crowd; in Leopard, Spaces be thy name. Previously Mac users had an incredible virtual desktop application called Virtue Desktops as their desktop management option, but with the announcement of Spaces, development on Virtue Desktops was dropped. I'm a huge fan of Virtue Desktops, so in my eyes, Spaces has some pretty big shoes to fill. So how does Spaces stand up?
One thing that Windows and Outlook have always had up on the Mac's default email and calendar apps, Mail and iCal, is Outlook's integrated to-do manager. Today the game changes. Leopard's new Mail and iCal applications introduce their own take on the email- and calendar-integrated to-do list. So now the question is: Is it any good? The answer: Yes. And no. But probably yes. The To Do manager, at the moment, is a bit of a mishmash of some very good and a few bad—or at least unrealized—features.
The Mail.app To Do feature resides in the Reminders panel of the Mail sidebar below Notes. Mail to-dos can be organized by due date, priority (high, medium, low, or none), title, and calendar (that's right, they also integrate with iCal). You can create a new to-do in a couple of ways.
First, click the To Do button in the toolbar. You'll jump straight to the To Do window, where you can enter the details of a new item. Alternately, you can create your to-dos from Notes (another new feature in Mail). Once you've written a note, you can convert any line of the note or the entire note into one or several to-dos. The strange-yet-interesting thing about to-do notes is that the new to-do will appear in the To Do screen as well as the note, and you can check it off in either place. In fact, you can check off to-dos in a third place as well: iCal.
iCal's organisation of to-dos is much more convenient than Mail's To Do view, if only for its more prominent focus on due dates and priorities and its sidebar display (so you can view to-dos along with application content). To get a look at your to-do list within iCal, just click the thumb tack button on the bottom right of iCal. From there, you can check off your to-dos, re-prioritise, or change other information by double-clicking the item.
My biggest gripe about Mail's implementation of to-dos is that you can't create a new to-do from an email (or anything else, for that matter) via drag and drop. Also, the Notes integration is completely bizzare since Apple dropped the ball on supporting iPhone-to-Mail syncing of notes. As is, it comes off like a pointless appendage to Mail.app.
Another little bug I ran into: I couldn't change the due date of a to-do from Mail when iCal was open. Instead, I had to change the date inside iCal—though I would assume this will be fixed with an update.
In the end, to-do lovers have a promising addition to Apple's email and calendar apps, but considering the breadth of full-featured alternative to-do list managers that have popped up in the absence of one from Apple (including ones that integrate with iCal in one way or another), it's tough to say whether Leopard's To Do feature will catch on for the hardcore list keeper.