Blog Post

Small Biz Corner: BusyCal

This is another post in our Small Biz Corner series where each month we cover a specific topic specific to Small Businesses who use Macs.

If you need something more powerful than iCal, but don’t need Snow Leopard Server with CalDav, then BusyCal from BusyMac Software is the group calendaring tool for you.

Welcome to the second installment of Small Biz Corner. This month, we’re going to talk about an alternate calendar application for you to use in your SoHo (small office/home office) or Small Business (1-10 users) environment.

What makes BusyCal great is that it’s the iCal that Apple failed to make. You get so many more features that BusyMac’s label of “iCal Pro” makes sense.

Here is a list of some of those features (not included with iCal):

  • You can sync with Google Calendar for online access to your calendar from any computer, anywhere.
  • Your calendars can be password protected as read-write or read-only, and encrypted with SSL.
  • You can create repeating todos that display in the calendar view and carry-forward until completed.
  • The customizable list view lets you filter and sort events by date, event type, calendar, and more.
  • You can view live weather forecasts, sunrise/sunset times, and moon phases right in your calendar.
  • You can add virtual sticky notes to your calendar, and share/sync them with others in your network.

Show Me the Goods

Let’s take a look at what BusyCal displays for its Calendar, as there are multiple ways to view your information:

BusyCal Day View
BusyCal Week View with Banners and Sticky Notes
BusyCal Month View (sorry for the blurring, didn't want to bore you with my meetings)
BusyCal List View (more blurring)

Configuring BusyCal

Other than a drag-and-drop from the disk image to your applications folder, you’re pretty much up and running with only a little bit of configuration for sharing calendars among your peers.

By default, your calendar is automatically shared via Bonjour. Thus, everyone in the office is automatically sharing their calendar. The only work you need to do is to subscribe to another shared (Remote BusyCal) calendar to view their schedule.

This is a pretty simple exercise, as you click the gear icon in the lower left corner of the BusyCal window:

Subscribing to shared Calendars

Please note, I am explicitly not going into the other basic create appointments, tasks, etc. as they are very close to how iCal works. If you have any familiarity with iCal, you will pick-up BusyCal in about five minutes.

What else do I need to know?

The real value to BusyCal is its price. For $40, with a 20 percent discount for purchasing more than one copy, you have a real steal for setting up group calendaring within your business. Macworld gave BusyCal a 2009 Eddy Award and I am not surprised given the rich functionality combined with the simplicity that it provides.

Other items worth mentioning:

  • If you are running Snow Leopard, BusyCal is natively a 64-bit application. You gain the added speed and memory enhancements with this application.
  • BusyCal takes full advantage of MobileMe and Sync Services, so all of your calendar and task items are synced to both Apple Mail and iCal (in case you decide to stop using BusyCal).
  • The app isn’t flawless. Yes, I am not a big fan of the reminder window. iCal’s user interface is much prettier here and it looks like the BusyMac team just didn’t spend the effort to polish that dialog box.

A year ago, I wrote about different choices for syncing to Google Calendar. In that comparison review, I recommended BusySync (also from the folks at BusyMac) due to its simplicity and low overhead for getting the job done. If you are a registered user of BusySync, you can upgrade to BusyCal for $20 — an incredible bargain.

It’s clear that the developers at BusyMac understand how to build great software for a reasonable price. Finally, if you do run into any issues with BusyCal, there is excellent documentation and support available on the BusyMac website.

10 Responses to “Small Biz Corner: BusyCal”

  1. Leslie Godwin

    It looks like busycal is $49. not 40. But it looks like your comments are pretty current. Is there a discount (besides buying mult. copies or buying busysync?)

    • Alexandra

      I just started used BusyCal and so far so good although I don’t see a ton of upgrades from iCal since I don’t use Google calendars. I do like the layout slightly better and the moons/weathers but don’t think those alone are worth $49.
      $30 would be the perfect price — any coupons / discount codes out there?

  2. After giving up on iCal (the reminders/snooze options drove me crazy), Entourage (and it’s ever-corrupting 10gb database), and Sunbird (too buggy), I’m excited to try BusyCal. And so far, so good.

    I had basically decided to go to just using Google Calendar, but having a desktop app is preferable. So this app that can sync with Google Calendar seems like a perfect fit.

  3. Justin Noel

    I’ve been a BusyCal user for several months. I like it, but ….

    Complaints :
    No Exchange integration. If I get an Appointment via Mail (with Exchange), it doesn’t import into BusyCal. I have to open iCal first. Then, BusyCal will import it. What a pain.

    Snooze – My biggest complaint about iCal is the Snooze options – or lack thereof. BusyCal is a huge improvement. You can define any snooze period you like. However, you have to use 3 different actions to accomplish it.

    Example : 5 reminders pop up.

    To Snooze 5 days on one reminder : Click in the text field (you can’t use a key stroke to move focus to it), then click the selection box and choose days.

    To Snooze another reminder 30 mins, Click in the text field, type 30 mins, then click the select from and choose days, then click Snooze.

    The other 3 reminders, guess what. Do lots more clicking and typing.

    I’d much prefer having all these functions AND a simple drop down list with some default options. Click the drop down, choose a snooze and voila you’re on to the next reminder. FYI : That extra special drop down list MUST be configurable via preferences. I may want 1 Day, 2 Days, 20 mins, 45mins, 18 hours, etc. THAT is the biggest failure of iCal – the lack of customizing the drop down list.

    • Justin Noel

      I’ve given up on BusyCal. All of the issues I described above were just bothering me too much.

      However, I don’t know if it is really BusyCal’s fault. I don’t think it NOR iCal are really designed for the intense reminder functionality I’ve been using it for. In reality, I was just snoozing away dozens of tasks per day.

      Instead, I’ve completely gone away from the Reminders controlling my life workflow to more of the GTD methodology. I’m using “Things” on the Mac to manage my tasks. It’s been so refreshing. Now, I’m not dealing with reminders left and right. I’ve got a task list that I review throughout the day as I work. If I know something needs to be bumped, I just drag it to “Scheduled” and tell it how many days to postpone the task. I’m much more organized now.

      Now that I’m not dealing with the iCal pop-ups except for actual appointments, I don’t mind it so much.

      Things has really improved my workflow and productivity. There’s even an iPhone and a future iPad app.

  4. Let’s not forget that BusySync also lets you share your BusyCal calendars over a WAN as well as a LAN, and that if you don’t have access to the published calendars when you’re away from them, it will sync when they become available.

  5. Michael Spurlock

    I still can’t abide by the “iCal Pro” moniker until it can do everything iCal can do. Read/Write support for CalDAV is a must these days. I own BusySync and love it. I really want to buy BusyCal but it is useless without the CalDAV write feature. I refuse to use two calendar programs. Users have been asking BusyMac Software for this feature since BusyCal was released. They say they are considering it in the forums. Let’s all hope we get what we need.