Rarely do I find software that is so wonderfully balanced between form and function that it becomes an instant favorite of mine. Recently, I’ve found three. Dropbox, which I’ve already written about, was first. The second was Burstn. Calvetica, an iPhone calendar, is the third such app. If you use an iPhone and you’re looking for an amazing calendar, I think you’re search ends with calvetica.
Typically, I’d be writing about this kind of “productivity app” at my other blog. But in this case, I want to dwell more on the design of the app – both its form and its function – than on just how it can help one be productive.
Calendars are tricky creatures. A good one can guide you through a hectic day like a lighthouse guides a sailor in a storm. A bad one… can be a perfect storm. I’ve used many calendar programs in my life – more than a dozen that I can name with little effort. There’s little doubt that calvetica is the best I’ve ever seen, because of its near-perfect balance of form and function.
The function of calvetica is obvious: it lets you manage your appointments, and does all the basic things one would expect from such an app. The elegant part of the functionality is that it syncs with the native iPhone calendar, which in turn you can sync with Google Calendar. It does so automatically and with no fuss at all – syncing is entirely ubiquitous. This means that you’ll not get distracted from whatever you’re doing by odd screen refreshes or dramatic pauses while the syncing is going on.
There’s nothing surprising about calvetica’s function except how smooth and transparent its operation is. This really underscores the developers’ attention to detail and development practices, which I think are outstanding.
Where calvetica really shines, though, is on its user interface, which is both staggeringly usable and awesomely attractive (if you’re into a clean and minimalist kind of user experience).
Here’s a couple of screenshots of calvetica. The one on the left shows the “month view.” The little dots you see in some of the day boxes represent the number of appointments for that day. The settings icon is at the top right. The TODAY item (bottom left) takes you directly to the current day’s display, and NOTIFICATIONS gives you a list of all upcoming appointments (for multiple days).
The image on the right shows a typical day screen. Tap a slot and add an appointment there. The day filters at the bottom will show you (a) a whole day (midmight to midnight), or (b) all timeslots during the “business day” (typically 8am to 6pm, but can be configured), or (c) only those timeslots with existent appointments. The arrows let you move forward and backward by day.
The next two screengrabs show off how discrete and consistent calvetica’s UI is. The left image indicates that different calendars are indicated by coloured dots, and that simple changes in font are enough to make other event information, such as duration, clearly evident.
The right image shows the mini-menubar that comes up when you swipe an appointment. Normally, swiping brings up at most an option to delete the item. Calvetica’s developers leveraged this design feature to provide a number of other functions, including moving events, editing their details, changing the calendars in which they’re defined, and of course deleting them. The icons are discrete but large enough that most users’ fingers can hit the right one easily. I’ve accurately targeted these icons even on a moving subway train.
This last pair of images shows calvetica’s alarm system and some bonus features. The left image shows how alarms are set. Each appointment has a grey alarm clock icon on the right. Touch it, and a slide-out with present alarm times shows up. Tap as many as you want. Once alarms are set, the clock changes colour (red by default) so you know that alarms are set for that event. The number of taps to set any number of alarms is the number of alarms plus two. I cannot imagine an easier way to do it. Again, this is all due to the attention to detail of the app’s designers, who clearly had to think through what a user would want to do. This is something not enough designers do.
I like the event-only view because it keeps most of my events all on the screen at once; no scrolling required. However, you can’t create new events from the events-only view; you have to change to one of the other two views. Still, I’ve found that there’s a net benefit to this approach.
In the right image, you can see what the event-only view is like, and that all-day events are accurately shown.
All-day appointments are supported, but here the interface gets a little clumsy. You have to set an event at some arbitrary time, then edit the event and turn on the “all-day” flag. I would suggest it should be possible to put the “all-day” flag on the main screen where you would select a specific start time for an event.
In any case, Calvetica is certainly one of the best-designed apps I’ve seen in a very long, and without doubt the best calendar app I’ve seen, ever. And at $2.99 CAD, it’s not going to hurt.