Backpack Calendar. The Hard Landscape (That’s so easy to use!)

As I suspected it might, Backpack Calendar has become my full time calendar. I just don’t know how the guys at 37 Signals continue to do it but they have certainly done it again. How is it that they manage to do everything right and make it seem so effortless. It replaces Now Up-to-date and Contact which I have been using for well over 10 Years now. I even used to work for Now Software and was a member of the development team. Now Software is full of great people who are committed to great software. All of this is to say that Now Up-to-Date remains in my heart and is still, hands down, the best non web based calendar client I have ever used on any platform (Although “Dates” on the Newton MessagePad is a close second).

Let me count the ways they just plain get it with the Calendar:

The Hard Landscape (6 Weeks) – The default view in the calendar is “Next Six Weeks”. While I never would have thought of this on my own, it seems to be exactly the right timeframe I need to see what GTDers call “The hard landscape”. I can see what events are coming up in the maximum timeframe most things are planned for. The current week is always on top with the current day highlighted in yellow. Events for the current day are listed in a right hand sidebar – right above the “Event Box” where you add events. Everything just seems to fit where I would have expected them to be.

Time Display – Times are not displayed on the actual calendar view itself. Times are displayed for the days events displayed on the right hand sidebar. Why? First, it reduces clutter and for a calendar to be effective it should be free from clutter. Secondly, it keeps you focused on the only times that matter and are displayed – the ones happening today. If you want to see what time an event is on any other day without switching to that day, simply hover over the event with your mouse and a yellow tool-tip will pop up with the time. Brilliant.

Navigating and Input – I love the idea that you can use one box for both entering events and navigating the calendar. Want to see what you have going on in January? Just enter “January” or the three letter abbreviation “Jan” and you are taken to that month. Type in “1 March 2008” or “March 1, 2008“ and you are taken there. Want to enter an event on March 27th. Simply enter “March 27 Mom’s Birthday” or “Mar 27 Mom’s Birthday” or “3/27 Mom’s Birthday”. It is easy and natural.

SMS and E-mail – Alarms for events are sent via SMS and/or to the e-mail address of your choosing 30 minutes before the event. I wish you could set your own “ahead time”. I am betting that feature is coming in the future because it exists for Backpack’s existing “Reminders” feature (which is different from the calendar and should be separate but I will cover that in a future post). That being said, 30 minutes seems like a good compromise for now.

iCal Support – Any shared calendar using the iCal standard can be added as a calendar to the Backpack Calendar. That means a myriad of possibilities. More than just subscribing to a US Holiday calendar or your favorite reality TV show schedule, that also means you can subscribe to other calendars out there like 30 Boxes and Google Calendar. Therefore, if you want to share calendars with someone on another service, that is available to you. Of course, you can also share any of your calendars which means as well that they can be subscribed to in iCal if you are on a Mac for offline viewing (Yes, that means that I am, to a small extent, using iCal as my client app – Global warming has no effect on Hell).

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