My epic Leopard review continues. At this rate I’ll have to give it its own blog category.
Today I’ll take a look at iCal, the calendar/task manager app that ships with Mac OS X.
I’ve bitched about Tiger iCal’s hideous user interface before – particularly its heinous lack of keyboard shortcuts for basic tasks. So does Leopard’s iCal mark an improvement over Tiger’s?
Well, yes and no. The iCal interface has had a makeover, and definitely looks and feels slicker than Tiger’s iCal. In addition, as with the new Mail, the interface feels more responsive, too.
Unfortunately, the interface, despite its makeover, still sucks like a fleet of Hoovers. In fact – and Apple have had to try really hard here – the new interface is even less usable than Tiger’s.
First off: Still no keyboard shortcut to switch between the Calendars pane, the day/week/month pane, and the To Do pane. This effectively makes it impossible to edit To Dos via the keyboard, unless you already happen to be in the To Do pane.
Unbelievably – considering Apple have had years to fix it – there’s still the bug whereby if you scroll down the To Do pane when it doesn’t have focus, then try to click a To Do, the stupid thing jumps back to the top of the list, selecting a completely different To Do.
At least you can now just about set the calendar of a new To Do via the keyboard (Command-K, type title, hit Return, Command-I, Tab, Tab, Tab, Tab, down arrow). This was impossible with the old iCal.
Bubble of doom
But here’s where Apple have made iCal even worse. In Tiger’s iCal, you had a side drawer that constantly showed you the current To Do’s “Note” field (as well as other info). In Leopard, they’ve done away with the drawer. Now you have to hit Command-I (or double-click a To Do) to pop up a stupid “bubble” thing, just to read its “Note” field (or indeed, to see if it has a note attached at all). So as you move down your list of To Dos, you have to press Down arrow, Command-I, Escape – Down arrow, Command-I, Escape – Down arrow, Command-I, Escape – to even see if each To Do has a note attached, let alone read the note.
My Palm manages to be more usable than this – on a 320×320-pixel screen.
If, like me, you’re a Getting Things Done follower who stores their projects – with their attendant notes – as To Do items, you can imagine the pain. Searching around, I’m not the only one grumpy about this either.
Related to the above horror, Apple have inexplicably removed the little icons within events that showed you whether the event has a note, or whether it’s a repeating event. Again, you now have to hit Command-I in order to see this precious info. Which, incidentally, also displays the event’s note (if any), but can you edit the note there? Oh no. You can select it, but can’t edit it. You have to click an Edit button if you want to do that. Yet you can edit a To Do note in place. No consistency. Very confusing.
Ah, but at least the iCal Dock icon now shows the correct date, even when iCal’s not running. Woo-hoo.
Lots of fun stuff I’ll never use
To be fair, there are a lot of great new iCal features – such as CalDAV scheduling, Auto Pick, and room reservations – that are no doubt fantastic if you happen to work in a big team in an office. But for a home/individual user like me, they’re about as useful as a chocolate teapot. (One thing I do like is the little red bar in day/week view that shows you the current time. A nice touch.)
Overall, I’m very disappointed with iCal. Apple have had years to turn it into something decent, but with Leopard they’ve actually made iCal even less usable than before. I was really hoping Leopard’s iCal would be a big improvement, too. Shame.
Anyone know of any decent third-party to-do/notes apps that will sync with Missing Sync and the Palm?