Like Mail 1.0 and Address Book 1.0 before it, iCal 1.0 shows potential but lacks many of the features and refinements found in its competitors. Although not exactly half-baked, iCal 1.0 is certainly underdone.
iCal’s potential is reflected in its integration with Mail, Address Book, and the .Mac service. It’s convenient to be able to publish a calendar on the Web and send out announcements about its publication to anyone listed in OS X’s Address Book. And the ability to view multiple calendars in a single window is a welcome innovation. But much work remains to be done — starting with performance.
Slow Performance —
Compared with applications such as Microsoft’s Entourage, Now Software’s Now Up-to-Date, and Palm’s Palm Desktop, iCal is slow. While you can swiftly move between daily, weekly, and monthly views in these competing applications, there’s a noticeable pause when switching views in iCal, even on a fast Power Mac G4. Importing a large number of Entourage events can take an hour or more — with no visible feedback other than a spinning beach-ball cursor to show that either iCal or Entourage is engaged in productive activity.
Poor Relations —
Although Apple has integrated iCal with its own applications reasonably well, it could do more to establish better relations with other programs. iCal can import files in the iCalendar (.ics) and vCalendar (.vcs) formats (standards used in many calendar apps), as well as calendars created in Entourage. However, it can’t directly import data from Now Up-to-Date. You can drag supported calendar files (such as those exported by Palm Desktop) into iCal — where they’re integrated into the selected calendar — but you can’t drag events or calendars out of iCal. The program limits you to exporting files in the .ics format only — a problem if another calendar program doesn’t support this format.
The links generated in iCal announcements don’t work in all browsers. When you send an e-mail invitation, the message asks the reader to click on a link in the message’s body to view the event information. That link appears only when the recipient uses Mail. Other e-mail clients include the event as an attached .ics file, which is likely to confound the majority of computer users, who don’t use Mail. Although there are ways to make other browsers and e-mail clients work correctly with iCal — using tools such as Monkey Food Software’s free More Internet or Vince (www.monkeyfood.com) — it’s up to you to tell recipients how to use these tools.
Insecure Information —
Security is another concern. You can’t secure the information in a calendar published via the default .Mac setting. If someone knew your .Mac account name, it’d be no trouble to find out that you and your loved ones planned to be on vacation for two weeks (leaving your home an enticing target for ne’er-do-wells) — because you’d unwarily published that information in your Home calendar.
And then there are the little things: you can’t create a multiday event by dragging across multiple dates, you can’t determine whether an event includes a note unless you open the Event Info window and click on the Note tab, and you can’t select multiple events and delete them.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
iCal is a promising — if wobbly — first step. If you demand little from a calendar application or find iCal’s integration with other OS X applications and .Mac enticing, download iCal with our blessing. We, on the other hand, will stick with free competitors such as Palm Desktop until we see what iCal 2.0 holds in store.