We must admit that macOS ships with almost every utility a regular user would need. It means you do not have to download a browser, Word processor, or email app to get started. This collection also contains a calendar app, which is called Apple Calendar.
While Apple Calendar offers its share of benefits, such as better continuity within the Apple ecosystem, it is far from the best calendar app for Mac. However, BusyCal, a third-party calendar app for Mac, has enjoyed this position for years. So, we wanted to test it out.
We have been using BusyCal as our default Calendar app for the past three months. In this BusyCal review, we will share the good, the bad, and the best parts of our experience with BusyCal.
Note: We’ve tested the latest version BusyCal 4.1 and its features using a MacBook Air M2 13-inch. The device is running the latest version of macOS Sonoma with the patches installed.
BusyCal: Key Takeaways
- BusyCal for macOS calls itself the most powerful, flexible, heavily customizable, and reliable calendar app for macOS. According to most reviews, including ours, say that BusyCal lives up to expectations.
- The calendar app ships with all the standard features you would expect in one, but there are more options to explore. It is impressive that BusyCal leaves ample room for customization.
- BusyCal is an easy recommendation for those who need better control and features to manage many calendars from the convenience of a single place.
The app comes from Busy Apps, which also develops BusyCal for iOS and BusyContacts for macOS. Because these two apps work great with BusyCal, we will mention them once or twice in this review. But the focus is on how BusyCal offers a better calendar experience than its competitors, including Apple’s Calendar app and Fantastical. In particular, we will see whether people should invest in BusyCal instead of using the built-in Calendar app on macOS.
User Interface and Design
It is pretty straightforward to get started with BusyCal on macOS. As soon as you install the application from the official source or Setapp, you can see an installation and setup wizard, which will help you organize how your calendar looks and works.
So, you have many options to get started with. One, you can easily integrate Apple Calendar that you have already been using. But BusyCal also works with various calendar services and existing apps. Therefore, if you want to connect your Google Calendar account and import all the different calendars.
However, syncing Apple Calendar (iCloud calendar) with BusyCal is a little tricky. You have to create an app-specific password and use it to log in to iCloud calendar. It is part of the many methods Apple follows to keep security tight.
- Overview of the User Interface
The overall design of BusyCal is pretty minimal if you ask me. I might have liked it a bit more if there were a better colorful palette, but that is a personal choice. On the bright side, it leaves plenty of room for customization.
Therefore, if you want to make your calendar look a bit more interesting, you can do that with the help of stickers and sticky notes. In particular, I am a fan of how the month view works across macOS and iOS. You have an option to quickly keep an eye on how your month looks like.
Otherwise, the main elements of the UI can be tucked in through two sidebars. You can disable or enable these sidebars depending on the screen real estate you have. We believe that these different viewing options and the customizability of the user interface is very helpful when you want to use the calendar from different instances.
The right sidebar is known as the Information panel because it shows information about specific events. As you can guess, these panels are highly customizable. You can use the info panel to keep track of your tasks, reminders, and other lists.
As we said earlier, almost every aspect of BusyCal is customizable. It means you don’t have to worry about how the user interface looks. There will be an option to minimize a particular element or increase the options as you wish.
We also noticed that BusyCal app for macOS is pretty intuitive in the sense that it can detect the types of events you have and add separate elements as you would need them. In most cases, you get to access the customization options from the control-click menu.
The intuitiveness of the BusyCal UI is demonstrated in various ways. For example, you don’t always have to open separate event icons to make changes. Instead, you can simply drag and drop the event item to adjust its duration. Similarly, you can easily move events between different dates or months. Additionally, the quick-access sidebar on the left side allows you to easily manage active and inactive calendars.
- Visual Appeal and Theme Options
Unlike other calendar apps, BusyCal keeps a minimal design philosophy across the User Interface. However, it remains visually appealing for the most part. But, if you need a calendar that always catches your eye, you will need to work on customization options. Fortunately, you can find an “Appearance” section in the Preferences menu.
This section allows you to customize almost every aspect of the calendar, such as the color of the elements, the behavior of banners, and the handling of different types of events. Additionally, you can modify the fonts and other settings for the mini calendar.
However, we couldn’t find support for themes, which may disappoint some users. Nevertheless, you can make up for this limitation with the available customization options.
Features and Functionality
#1 Calendar Management
- Event Creation and Editing
Regardless of the calendar you are dealing with, BusyCal makes it easy to create and edit events. For starters, you can double-click on any date to create an event, type the name, and change specifics later. But there is a smarter way to do things.
You can click the + button and describe the event. For instance, if you have a meeting with Lisa on the 16th of the month, you can simply type the same. BusyCal will understand the key points and create the event. It is a great option when you want to schedule an entire month or so.
Similarly, you can edit an event by selecting the entry. But, if you simply would like to change the date, you can drag from either side of the entry.
- Integration with Other Apps and Services
We found that BusyCal works great with other apps and services. It is important to talk about compatibility in general here. For instance, you will not have trouble setting up different types of calendars, such as web calendars, to-do lists, and even meeting-based calendars.
The iOS version of BusyCal also works great, syncing everything you would want to. It is impressive that you do not have to set up things on multiple devices. Instead, managing calendars from your Mac and iPhone is an easy task.
- Task Management and To-Do Lists
We told you that BusyCal offers built-in support for task management and to-do lists. You can go about these features in two ways. One, you can use the built-in interface to take care of tasks, which also get powerful reminder options. Two, you can use a third-party to-do list app and keep everything in sync.
As someone who wants to keep multiple deadlines alive, the combined interface of BusyCal is impressive in many ways. For instance, I can easily start a timed or untimed task and cross them off as I go about the day. The Task Management module of BusyCal comes with well-designed sorting options as well.
#2 Scheduling and Time Management
- Smart Filters and Search Options
As one would expect, BusyCal offers smart filters and search options. Both are great for organizing all your calendars from a single space. Since I use multiple types of calendars for professional and personal needs, it makes sense to arrange the content and filter them.
The best part is how BusyCal arranges these filters for later access. You can enable your favorite filters from the top part of the interface. So, if I instantly want to focus only on work-related events, a single click will be enough.
The search function is also quick and effective. Once again, you can use natural language to search for events across all those calendars you have enabled. When combined with smart filters, it felt easy to find whatever you are looking for within BusyCal.
- Recurring Events and Reminders
You also get plenty of control over recurring events and reminders. These were pretty handy while managing meeting entries from multiple platforms. As long as you have connected the respective calendar accounts, you will get on-time reminders on all connected devices.
We should also mention the built-in module for alarms. If you spend most of your time in front of your Mac, you may want to use this feature. Finally, recurring events are also easy to manage while using BusyCal. It is time-saving that you can manage all the recurring events from a single place.
If you work with people in a different time zone, you will love the multiple time zone support feature from BusyCal. It lets you set up your preferences for different time zones and easily consider them while creating or modifying events.
For instance, let’s say that you are in Japan but want to plan an event according to someone from the US. It is easy with BusyCal to shift to the US time zone and schedule the event. In a click, you can turn back to your time zone and the calendar will do all the calculations.
I always keep the different time zones I work with in the Preferences pane. So, all it takes would be just one click.
#3 Collaboration and Sharing
The collaboration experience with BusyCal is quite impressive in that you can seamlessly work with sharing-based calendars. So, whenever you make changes to a shared calendar, the syncing process is quick, and you don’t have to worry about what happens in the backend.
As a result, you can focus more on the content and scheduling than whether it works. It is important to mention the integration aspect a little because you can integrate BusyCal with some of the CRM solutions or the other contact management app that you may have.
Together, we love using BusyCal for collaborative scheduling and other instances where you would need to share information with other people.
Integration and Compatibility
One of the reasons why BusyCal is one of the most popular calendar apps for macOS is how well it works with different calendar platforms and applications. For starters, you can connect almost every kind of calendar app with the service. It means you don’t have to worry about the type of calendar.
You get support for calendars such as Reminders, iCloud, Google Calendar, Office 365, Exchange, and others. But if your company uses a CalDAV servers such as FastMail or Zimbra, you can easily set it up as well. And depending on the mail server, the reminder and task list facility would also be set up rapidly.
The unified syncing system makes sure that the changes you make are reflected as earlier as possible. Now, when it comes to integration, BusyCal is known for how well it works with busy contacts, an app from the same developer. So, if you use the calendar app for work-based needs, you can use BusyContacts for CRM, which is beneficial while setting up meetings and other engagements.
Performance and Responsiveness
When you are using a calendar app for multiple occasions and multiple requirements, you don’t want to compromise in terms of performance or responsiveness. In our experience, BusyCal has been quite fast and because it runs native on Apple Silicon, everything is as quick as things can be.
For instance, even when you put a lot of pressure on the system with tens of calendars, it can handle all the tasks very efficiently. At the end of the day, you just have to make sure that there is a stable internet connection that can keep everything synced.
Security and Privacy
BusyCal comes with many features that are designed to protect your privacy and security. In terms of data security, there is an option to create backups and store them in a place of your choice. Similarly, there are ways to make sure that your information is safe through authenticating the servers and making sure that the links are secure.
Support and Documentation
There are two things that make BusyCal a better option in terms of support and documentation.
One, the app has been active in the industry for quite some time, which means it has acquired quite a huge user base. You can rely on this community when you have to deal with common issues or your queries. You can also find many tutorials on YouTube and other platforms.
Two, BusyCal is also pretty great at updating and maintaining a set of documentation. This documentation is very helpful when you want to navigate through all the features and make sure that you are getting the best calendar management experience using this app.
We should also mention regular updates when listing the support system of BC-Cal. The developers are known for releasing frequent updates that address specific issues as well as feature improvements. For instance, the last update ensures that the notifications make use of the latest features on macOS Sonoma.
Pricing and Availability
BusyCal is available for macOS and iOS, and it has complete support for Apple Silicon. Rest assured, you should be able to run this application if you have a Mac with macOS 10.15 or later. Even if you have an older version of macOS, you may be able to find an older version of BusyCal that works with your Mac.
As far as the pricing goes, when compared to Fantastical subscription, you can get BusyCal for macOS by paying a one-time fee of $49.99. But like the many apps we recommend, BusyCal is also available through a Setapp subscription. It means you can enjoy all the benefits of this application and the future upgrades by paying only $10 a month.
For those who want to try all the features before committing, there is a 30-day free trial that you can use.
Pros and Cons
- Highly customizable
- Incredible compatibility
- Works with Mac and iPhone
- Regular updates and support
- Intuitive UI
- It lacks support for themes
- It could use an AI upgrade
- The design could be rudimentary for some
BusyCal vs. Other Calendar Apps
There is no scarcity for calendar apps available for macOS, and it is important to see where BusyCal stands in terms of a fair comparison.
We should mention that BusyCal is not the most colorful calendar app out there, which means you may not have the best appearance while managing tasks. However, it has been designed to work like a charm in terms of functionality. On the other hand, it also means that you should look for something like Fantastical or Calendars if you are looking for a more colorful option to manage your schedule.
But, when we consider the usefulness of features, BusyCal doesn’t disappoint at all. Instead, you get better control over how you can control the different calendars. More so, features like multiple time zone support add more value to the overall experience. The multiple purchase options from BusyCal are also great when you need a budget-friendly option.
BusyCal for iOS Review
BusyCal for iOS is a great option for those who want the same amount of control on their calendars when using their iPhone. Of course, you cannot expect this to have all the features that you have seen on the desktop version, but it is not going to be an issue when comparing the same with Apple Calendar.
For instance, you can still benefit from different viewing options, travel time support, weather support, the ability to deal with tags and the option to use natural language for creating and managing events. So, if you want to add multiple events and seamlessly manage them, the iOS version of BusyCal will not disappoint. In case you have not guessed, BusyCal for iOS is also known for its compatibility.
It means you can connect an incredible variety of calendar accounts on both your Mac and iPhone. Because everything is in sync, you will have actionable information on everyone’s availability and status.
Final Thoughts on BusyCal for Mac
After rigorous testing for more than few weeks, we are pretty much impressed by what BusyCal has to offer, especially on a Mac.
Compared to Apple Calendar, BusyCal is a genuine upgrade for most people. And we recommend buying this app instead of compromising your productivity with subpar solutions. In our case, BusyCal has helped us in saving a lot of time, which would otherwise be spent on figuring things out.
Therefore, considering that you can get a free trial for 30 days, we highly recommend that you check out what BusyCal has to offer. And we are sure you will never would want to go back to Apple Calendar.