Fantastical eases calendar event entry

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For me, the hardest part of having a calendar is keeping it updated. Somehow, I always end up sighing, thinking about how many other things I could be doing with the time it takes me to add an event. But Flexibits is out to change that with its new release, Fantastical, which aims to make entering calendar events a breeze.

Fantastical lives in your menu bar; click on it and you’ll get a view of the month’s calendar, along with a list of upcoming events. Hovering over any event will highlight the day it takes place on (and, in a neat touch, the highlight is in the color of the calendar the event belongs to). Click any day on the calendar, and you’ll get a list of the events for that day. There’s even a search field where you can enter a term and scroll through a list of every matching event.

For those who rely on Google and Yahoo for their calendar needs, you can get access to your events there by hooking them into iCal. Once you start using Fantastical, there’s very little need to launch your full calendaring application.

All well and good, but nothing other programs haven’t offered before. Fantastical’s fantastic-ness really comes into play with the text box at the top of the window. When you want to enter a new event on your calendar, just click Fantastical’s menu button or summon it with a keyboard shortcut of your choice.

In that handy text field, type the event’s details in plain English: “Dinner with John at Le Bistro on Wednesday, 7pm.” Fantastical will parse what you mean and automatically insert each of the pieces of information—date, time, location—in the correct place in the event; type a name, and it’ll even recognize the name and offer a list of Johns in your address book along with the option to invite them to the event. And Fantastical’s language skills are truly sharp—it can figure out recurring events, concepts like “in two weeks,” and even holidays. I’ve been beta testing Fantastical for some time and, while I've been able to confuse it on some occasions, that’s really only when I’ve gone out of my way to word things ambiguously.

On top of all that, Fantastical is a sleek-looking app that you won’t be ashamed to be seen with in public.

Available in the Mac App Store and from Flexibits itself, Fantastical will cost $15 as an introductory rate until June 1, and requires Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later. It’s compatible with iCal, Outlook, or Entourage. You can grab a free trial from Flexibits's Website.

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