Agenda: The Calendar That Should Ship With Every iPad

You know that you’re the sort of person that reads (and writes for) the AppStorm when you find yourself getting excited about a calendar, of all things. This is the type of thing that people buy every year because they have to, a product that bookstores line their checkout aisles with.

Agenda changes that. Instead of trying to be a traditional calendar (which, to be honest, is boring) Agenda takes advantage of touch and the iPad’s big screen in a – dare I say it? – exciting way.

On the Default Calendar

Not to sound too hostile here, but the built-in calendar on the iPad is horrible. I’m generally torn on the ‘emulate real objects vs. create new interfaces’ debate, but in this instance the real-world interface was clearly a bad idea.

First, interaction with the app is just plain bad. Like, I wouldn’t expect this from anyone, let alone Apple bad. Instead of interacting with large pages, you ‘get’ to attempt to hit a tiny little scrubber.

You're so awful, Calendar.app!

You're so awful, Calendar.app!

Second are the bits of torn paper at the top of the navigation bar. This drives me nuts, and has a tendency of breaking my brain.

Admittedly, the second reason may be a highly personal one; I’m sure that there are some people that aren’t bothered by bits of torn virtual paper (generally referred to as ‘normal people’) but it still drove me away from the built-in Calendar and straight into Agenda’s waiting…er, pages.

Navigating the App

The first thing that you’ll notice about the app is how intuitive and modern it feels. Gone is the paper-and-leather visual metaphor, and in its place stands large, clean type with ample room and visual weight.

Agenda's modern, heavy-on-the-Helvetica year view.

Agenda's modern, heavy-on-the-Helvetica year view.

Navigating through the app is managed primarily through swipes; you can swipe up and down through the app, to the left and right, etc. This is the way that a calendar on the iPad should work, utilizing the display to its fullest, both with the viewing area and with the inclusion of touch.

I have one small gripe, and that is having to tap a button in order to choose whether you’d like to view the calendar as today’s calendar or see the week/month/year views. This is different from the way that the app behaves on the iPhone, and doesn’t mesh well with the gesture-driven focus of the app.

Today, This Week, Month, Year

I enjoy the sheer number of options available while using the app. Sometimes I want to check on what I need to do for the day, and so I’ll use the today view; simple enough.

Agenda's Week view, with extra priority given to the workday.

Agenda's Week view, with extra priority given to the workday.

What’s really useful is the week view. Instead of giving each day the same priority (via screen real estate) the app keeps the week/work-days large while relegating the weekends to a smaller portion of the screen. This is no doubt a result of the realization of the fact that most people leave their weekends open, while any given Monday can be jam-packed.

Agenda's full-screen month view.

Agenda's full-screen month view.

I also enjoy the monthly and yearly views, though not for any reason involving productivity. Generally what I’m trying to do is figure out when I get my paycheck versus when my bills are due, or finding out whether the day that my family is taking a trip is a day that I generally have off. The yearly view is similar to this with its birds-eye view of the year, allowing you to schedule vacations or holidays quickly and easily.

Make Me Look Pretty, Cap’n

One of my favorite (and relatively new) features are the themes offered by the app. There are the typical light/dark themes as well as themes that the creator modeled after several websites. You may be familiar with a few, but each is worth checking out just for the different coloring options.

And yes, I know how awful it is that there isn't an AppStorm theme.

And yes, I know how awful it is that there isn't an AppStorm theme.

Some of my favorite themes are the Shawn Blanc and Solarized (light and dark) themes. Each have a good balance of color, emphasizing readability without attacking your eyes with harsh white pixels.

The Shawn Blanc theme is my favorite, for its calm but readable coloring.

The Shawn Blanc theme is my favorite, for its calm but readable coloring.

Functionally the themes don’t do all that much, but they’re a nice touch that allow you to change the look of the app. It is possible to change the color of your event dots, giving you a small amount of direct control over how the app looks. I tend to schedule few events so this isn’t as bothersome to me, but your mileage may vary.

Options for Sync

A calendar is next to useless if it isn’t kept up to date; a great irony, but one that has frustrated many users. Luckily, Agenda is able to sync with the default calendar’s information, offering Google, iCloud, and Microsoft Exchange sync.

Through my tests I was able to check and make sure that everything was properly pulled through the native Calendar.app, and from what I was able to observe everything worked quickly and information transferred between calendars well. I tend to enter most events via my Mac and then let iCloud take care of the rest, so it’s nice to see that I can have something up and running with no effort on my part.

Conclusion

Agenda is the app that should ship with each new iPad. With an intuitive, readable interface and the ability to change the app’s appearance (albeit in a limited way) put it leagues ahead of Calendar.app. Definitely worth the investment, whether you need to use a calendar once a day or once a month.

I would like to see a few changes; the ability to create a custom theme is an absolute must. While the themes included do a good job of offering some sort of variety, there are people (like myself) that enjoy certain color schemes above others no matter how good the alternative is, and being able to create my perfect calendar would be nice. Being able to perform most everything via gestures would be nice – the button to switch views should be done away with immediately.

Those are tiny, nit-picky problems though. As a whole, Agenda is worthy of being your go-to calendar on the iPad.


Summary

Agenda is the replacement for Calendar.app with intuitive touch controls, a variety of themes, and an all-round good feeling for what a calendar app should do.

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