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Personal Computing

New Apple Calendar?

Do you like the new iOS 14 Apple Calendar’s event creation UI? Well, there is a competent alternative, OneCalendar from a small Dutch company that provides the essentials in a smooth way.

Do you like the 2020 iOS 14 Unified Apple Calendar? Dismal Wizard does not. He decided to do something about it and found One Calendar by a couple of intrepid young Netherlands programmers. Read about DW’s gripes and OneCalendar after the break.

References

  1. https://appleid.apple.com/#!&page=signinhttps://www.onecalendar.nl/onecalendar/overview
  2. https://www.onecalendar.nl/onecalendar/features

Yet Another Calendar?

Just what the world needs, another calendar? Well, yes. One Calendar solves the problem of individuals having multiple sources of scheduling requests and scheduling records. If you are in a corporate environment you likely must use either MS Office calendar or Google Calendar for your day job. You likely have an iPhone or an Android phone, a Windows machine for work, and a Mac for home, well because you can pick your pain.

Unfortunately, I will not be looking at this aspect of OneCalendar because I’m no longer in corporate purgatory.

Apple Calendar UI and UX Change

One Calendar solves the problem of multiple data sources and data interchange formats. But that is not the problem at Dismal Manor. Here, Apple changed the event entry dialog to make the Calendar App UI work on both MacOS and iOS. Well surprise, there is no touch screen on 2020 Macs so the wonderful fidget spinners that set date and time had to go to be replaced by regular MacOS text boxes and drop downs. This is how event entry starts.

Start of 2020 Apple Calendar event creation sequence

So you type something like 6 PM October 11 and you go here.

Then you return to familiar ground

The change is that you can’t create an event by clicking a day tile like with the 2019 calendar. And this same sequence of dialogs appears on iPhone where it is completely foreign to the original iPhone fat finger event creation we’ve learned to love over 10 years. Or is it thirteen? At this point, I can set the correct event title, location, start and stop times, and notes.

DW was not happy. Apple prides itself on the Apple user experience (UX) so it was a bit of a shock to see, that in the service of unification, the Calendar UI and UX had taken a step backward on all three platforms. So he went looking at the App Store to see what was out there and discovered OneCalendar.

Introducing One Calendar

Two young Vikings developed One Calendar to provide a unified calendaring experience across Apple, Microsoft, and Google platforms and several calendaring service providers. The list is long but, if a major net service is the provider, OneCalendar can communicate with it.

OneCalendar also needed a UI that could be realized on MacOS, iOS, iPadOS, Windows, and Android. So they developed the main view that you see in the featured image. It looks very similar to the Apple view with the sidebar removed. Well, that’s the subject matter domain and a thousand years of calendar culture asserting itself. The home view can be selected to year, month, week, and day much as Apple Calendar can.

Event entry begins by clicking the plus button in the tool bar. This brings up an event entry form.

One Calendar Event Entry Form

You can create the event in the single form. There is no need to change the title or subject from a date-time to an actual subject and the time, location, and details can be quickly entered. On MacOS and iOS, OneCalendar and Apple Calendar share a common iCloud data source so both see all events. MacOS OneCalendar lets you set event times by dragging the hands of a clock face to the hour and minute. Cool. iOS continues to use the date and time fidget spinners but they are below the the entry boxes. You can type or you can slide.

OneCalendar lets you do time entry in time zones other than the local one. This is a bit daunting as many of the 24 basic time zones have national variants that account for local summer time rules and cultural preferences like those in Arizona. The consequences of this is that you can choose from all the timezones in tzdata.

So can iOS get to something similar?

Yes but it is context dependent depending upon the base view from which you start. OneCalendar plus button always takes you to the same place. I much prefer this consistency. Least astonishment UI design is good. Surprises are for parties.

OneCalendar has a widget!

Well not really. But when OneCalendar is running, a menu bar icon lets you summon OneCalendar to add an event.

What’s Missing?

  • Multiple alerts
  • Location lookup in Contacts
  • Travel time

So far, only one alert and no travel time. I’m always using 2 alerts, one to get ready and one to go. Travel times around here run longer than Apple or Google maps believe so I usually set them from memory for frequent trips. But that get ready alert is needed to ensure dogs have been to the loo or to load up dogs. It can take a half hour to do so, especially if they get excited.

Since OneCalendar and Apple Calendar share data through iCloud, Apple Calendar can be used to set the travel time, additional alerts, and look up the destination in Contacts. Apple Calendar will also create the reminders. I suggest OneCalendar reminders be off. Apple Calendar also handles Watch presentation of events.

So Why Use OneCalendar?

OneCalendar has a bit smoother event creation workflow on both MacOS and iOS. I see OneCalendar serving in the event creation role until Apple gets the universal application UI and UX sorted. This will take a while. I suspect we’ll see a big change when Big Sur ships later this month. Catalina is using an early incomplete version of the MacOS implementation of the iOS UI that works within the limitations of mouse and touchpad. The touchscreen centric features had to be sacrificed or worked around.

One Calendar shares with the native calendar

You can use OneCalendar to create events and let the native calendar drive reminders, alerts, and provide all of the missing things. The trick here is to set the OneCalendar data source to be the same as that of the native calendar. On MacOS, this can be the local iCal file or the iCloud synced data.

Other calendaring applications may offer features that are not universally supported so careful choice of OneCalendar’s database format is important to give the best multi-application compatibility. MS Office calendar, Google Calendar, and Apple Calendar and iCal have well understood data formats. MS calendar is a good choice if MS and Apple are in the mix. Apple has licensed the MS Exchange synchronization protocols and handles all MS data correctly.

OneCalendar is Free as in “free beer”

Our intrepid Vikings offer OneCalendar without cost. Just download it from the App Store or Google Play Shop. There are no in app purchases and no advertising so I suspect that OneCalendar is something they made for themselves and decided to distribute. The two have a software development company and may do contract work as the company has only the OneCalendar product about.