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Today is a useful, lightweight calendar app for the Mac

today second gear softwareToday from Second Gear Software is a lightweight calendar app for the Mac that focuses on simplicity and speed. It's not an alternative to iCal, but rather a tidy front end. With some configuration, you'll be using Today to create events, tasks and more, all with custom keyboard shortcuts. I've spent a few days using Today. Here is my review.

Note: yesterday I reviewed Fantastical from Flexibits, and tomorrow I'll post a head-to-head shootout between the two. Don't miss it. Additionally, I'll have a brief bonus comparison to Quick Cal from Smelly Puppy. For now, on with the review.

UI

Today's main window is a small rectangle by default, and it can be minimized even smaller or stretched to fill your screen. Appointment descriptions are presented against a field of color that matches the corresponding iCal calendar. Tasks appear below the appointment list, and they can be hidden by dragging the title bar labeled "Tasks" to the bottom of the main window.

The toolbar is quite handy and neatly arranged. On the left is a calendar icon. When clicked, a sheet drops down that lets you quickly jump to any date. The current date is listed in the center, and on the far right three buttons let you jump back a day, ahead a day or return to the current day. They're small, and their purpose is clear.

Four buttons across the bottom of the main window let you create a new appointment, create a new task, hide or display the task list and finally open the app's preferences, print, send feedback to the developer and browse help information.

Additional windows (more on that later) have the same silver-and-grey color scheme as the parent window and will remember their placement once closed.

My only complaint about Today's look is that it's dated. Today was launched in 2008, and it feels three years old to me. Perhaps it's the grey windows, menu drop-downs, etc. This may not matter you, and it doesn't affect the app's performance at all, but it stood out to me.

Use

An app alternative is only useful if it's superior in some way to the target app. In this case, I'm using Today to act as a front-end to iCal. I can manually add an appointment to iCal rather quickly. First, I tap Command-Space to call up Alfred, then I type "i" and hit Return. iCal launches, then I enter the appointment on the appropriate date, filling in details as necessary.

Today offers similar if not equal simplicity. In fact, there are several ways to launch it. You can go the traditional route and click its icon or a Dock item. Alternatively, you can opt for a Menu Bar item or create a hotkey combination. That latter is my preference, as there are three options: one to show the app, one to create a new appointment and another to create a new task. Now I'm a simple Command-Comma away from entering a new appointment.

Finally, you can click the Menu Bar item to reveal Today's main window.

Creating Appointments and Tasks

Ah, the heart of any calendar. As I said, I can create a new appointment in iCal fairly quickly. The process in Today is similar. Not better or worse, but similar.

Getting started will depend on how you've got things set up. You can create a new appointment by hitting a hotkey combination, by calling the app forward and hitting Command-N or by clicking the New Appointment button at the base of the main window. All methods bring up the new appointment window.

This window hovers in front of the main window and consists of several fields. Get started by entering the appointment's title, location and appropriate calendar (you can set the default calendar in the preferences). Next add a start and stop time and set repeating and alarm options. Finally, you can add any notes you might need or a related URL.

Frankly, the amount of time I spend creating an appointment with Today is equal to time spent doing the same with iCal. The process is improved a bit by creating a hotkey combination for creating new appointments, as it saves a few steps when using iCal manually.

Creating a new task works much the same way. Launch Today and pull up the new task window via your preferred method (key combination, button or the File Menu). A new window appears, into which you can enter the task's title, assigned calendar, due date, priority and alarm options. Finally, you can include notes or a relevant URL.

Browsing Appointments and Tasks

The reason we feed our to-dos to calendars is so that we'll be reminded to do them on time. Today's window offers a tidy, color-coded list of what must be done for today and tomorrow. A quick glance in the morning lets me know what's been scheduled for the next 48 hours, and the color-coding reminds me which calendar (work, home, etc.) each item belongs to. Again, I can quickly jump to a future date via the navigation buttons or the drop-down calendar.

A Few Bummers

One biggie is the lack of support for plain language. I can't write, for example, "Meet Janie for lunch tomorrow at 12:30 PM." Instead, that appointment requires a lot of time-consuming clicking. Not more than iCal requires, mind you, but that goes back to my previous statement that alternative apps must be superior in order to maintain my attention.

I'm also disappointed that the furthest I can look "into the future" is 48 hours (though it is fun to select a checkbox labeled "The Future" in the app's preferences). If I'm on the phone trying to schedule an event 6 days out, Today won't help me. I'll have to call up iCal.

Finally, I can't edit existing events with Today. Instead, a double-click brings up the event in iCal.

Conclusion

This will sound odd, but I can recommend Today for those who don't have a whole lot to do (perhaps "modest calendaring needs" sounds better). It works very well, but I found myself opening iCal over and over again, indicating that Today was insufficient. If you can live with a 48-hour view of your forthcoming appointments and don't mind spending a few extra seconds entering appointments and tasks, give Today a shot.

Today requires Mac OS X 10.5 and costs US$24.95 for a single license.



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Today from Second Gear Software is a lightweight calendar app for the Mac that focuses on simplicity and speed. It's not an alternative...