WeatherCal may be a one-trick pony, but it is one nice looking pony all the same. This $10 release from Bare Bones Software marries weather data and iCal in a very elegant utility.
In a nutshell, WeatherCal creates calendar events in iCal with the five-day forecast for any location around the world. It starts out by finding the location in your “Me” card in Address Book, but you can add more locations by typing in the city and state or zip code. For locations outside the United States, you use the city and country (or city and province in Canada). Once you’ve added the location to System Preferences, WeatherCal will create a new calendar in iCal for that location and then inserts events for the next five days that show the forecast.
Data is provided by Weather Underground and the calendar events include a link to get more details on the Weather Underground web site.
Weather data is refreshed every hour to keep the forecast up to date.
Pro Tip: When entering a new location, you can also use airport codes.
There is no limit on the number of locations, but there might be a practical limit as iCal seems to have refresh problems with more than 10 calendars or so.
Rich Siegel, founder of Bare Bones Software, said that the idea came from one of their developers, Steve Kalkwarf, who simply had a flash of inspiration to solve a problem of personal interest. They had a look at a prototype around the office and decided that it was actually pretty cool. Rich also said that Weather Underground was great to work with and provided WeatherCal with a worldwide feed so they could address the needs of customers outside the U.S., which was a design goal from the start.
Bare Bones Software took some extra steps to deal with non-English characters like å, ä, and ö. You can type in “Luleå” or “Lulea” (in Sweden) and WeatherCal will find it either way. In my own testing, I found that the Russian text “?????? ????????” is not recognized, but the strict English transliteration “Niznij Novgorod” does work. I am used to some other transliteration schemes for Russian, but it’s a quick matter to get used to the way the data is formatted by Weather Underground. Users outside the U.S. will have to learn the English spelling or transliteration for their locations, but since this is essentially a one-time task, I suspect it will not be too onerous. If you have questions about a particular city, you can always go to the wunderground.com and browse through their maps and city listings to see how it is listed there.
There are other solutions for getting weather info on your Mac (dashboard widgets, etc.), but there is a nice practical advantage in having this info in local iCal calendars. Subscription calendars in iCal do not sync to MobileMe, but local calendars do carry over. Because your five day forecast is in a local calendar, WeatherCal provides a way for you to see the weather you are interested in checking on all your desktops, iPhone, iPod touch, and online at me.com.
Another practical reason was outlined by beta tester Jan Moström of Sweden:
Although I have other weather forecast applications on my Mac I tend to use WeatherCal the most … since I already have my calendar open.
The license allows you to install WeatherCal on any Mac that you own, but if you are syncing iCal with MobileMe, it is probably best to install the utility on one machine and let MobileMe sync the iCal data to the other Macs.
Pro Tip: If you are tracking a few locations, in Leopard you can create a Calendar Group (I named mine “WeatherCal”), and place all your forecast calendars in there. That way you can turn all your forecasts on and off with one click.
If you’re a big iCal user, then this utility is a really nice solution to having the weather forecast handy. There is a real benefit to having the weather info right where you schedule outings and activities in iCal. I really like how it is implemented as a local calendar so that it can sync to MobileMe. For $10, WeatherCal solves a particular problem with the polish that one would expect from Bare Bones Software.