Mac Calendar App to Try: Fantastical

fantastical app screengrab
Fantastical’s “natural language” in action

The Mac calendar app, iCal, is fine. But it’s only fine: it could be a lot better. I actually prefer Outlook, but it’s not worth the trade-off to me to have to work on a PC. Fantastical is actually better than both.

Fantastical’s real advantage is in something they call the “natural language engine.” What that means from a practical perspective is that it can parse the general info entered into an event. In other words, you type in the basics of the event (Lunch with Mario at 53 Front Street at noon) into the main input area. Fantastical will use that info to complete the rest of the event’s fields, like date and time. It can even invite people from your contact list if you include them in the general info.

Other highlights include that you can incorporate all your calendars into one spot: Google, iCal, etc. It also lives conveniently in your menu bar for easy access. And it almost goes without saying, but of course there’s an iPhone app that goes with it.

I especially like that the app feels familiar, but the design aesthetic is nicer than iCal. There’s something about iCal that, in addition to being slightly counterintuitive, is also just kind of ugly. It feels dated. Fantastical is just better designed.

This is Mac desktop app, which means you can download it from the Mac app store. It’ll set you back $20, but you can try it free for two weeks. That should be enough time to figure out if Fantastical is right for you!

Check out Fantastical at the Flexibits website.

More Mac Rumors: New Mac Mini, 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display, iMac

retina display on macbook pro
Retina display on the 15″ MacBook Pro. Will there be a 13″ model announced next week?

The rumors are still flying about next week’s Apple event in Cupertino. In true Apple fashion, “there’s more” than just the new iPad-mini to look forward to: new computers. It makes sense that Apple’s share of the business and work computer market has been on the rise. Users rely on a seamless experiences between their phones, works machines, and tablets, and Apple has developed a reputation for offering the best software for this experience. So business Apple users should be excited for Tuesday’s announcement: supposedly we’ll be getting a new Mac Mini, a 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display, and maybe even a new iMac as well.

Let’s start with the one I’m the most excited about, the Mac Mini. Sure, it looks the most boring – we can’t talk about how thin or light it is, or any of that glamorous stuff. But if you run a server in your home or office and are a “Mac person,” the Mac Mini may be the best  $999 you can spend on office productivity. Plus the entry-level model is only $599, is powerful, comes with 500GB of storage and can be used with any monitor (or your laptop). And while you may not think about it that often, the Mac Mini is surprisingly portable: it weighs less than 3 pounds and is only 7″ by 7″ and 1.4″ deep. Try moving any other desktop that easily. And keep in mind, that’s the old Mac Mini, released in the summer of 2011. It’s due for an upgrade that will only improve its specs.

So now on to the more glamorous release: a 13″ MacBook Pro with retina display. Read More

The Latest Version of the Mac Operating System, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Is Now Available

Back at the beginning of June, we detailed some of the top new features in the next version of Apple’s operating system for Laptop and Desktop, OS X Mountain Lion, the 8th major revision to Apple’s wildly popular OS X system.

While the list of new features is far from staggering, neither is the price. While previous updates to OS X have cost as much as $129, you can buy Mountain Lion today from the Mac App Store for only $19.99. At that price, you have little to lose. Keep reading to find out what you get for your money. Read More

Video: Dual Monitors On The Go With AirDisplay


Speaking from personal experience, it is true that you’re more productive with multiple monitors. Now my setup at home is pretty dope, but there are times when I’m out an about and sure could use multiple screens to get things done, sans all the window switching.

An app that lets you use multiple mobile gadgets at the same time to be more productive is AirDisplay. Simply put, you can use your mobile device (iOS or Android) as a second screen for your desktop/laptop. (Mac or PC). Read More

Back to School for students; Laptops vs Netbooks, Discounts & laptop anti-theft

This morning on my weekly CNN segment (Saturdays 8:20am EDT) I shared some Back to School laptop vs. netbook shopping tips, anti-theft tips & 2 Sony devices. Unfortunately, due to breaking news we didn’t have a lot of time to cover all the content I was ready to share, so here’s the info:

1. Laptops vs Netbooks
Laptops cost more and in most cases (not all) they are heavier to carry from class to class. However, they will give the student much more commuting power, ability to run multiple programs, a dvd drive and oh yeah laptops are great for gaming and entertainment as well as preparing papers and doing research. The screen sizes range from 11 to 17inches. If the student is pursuing graphic design, multimedia or any computer majors I suggest taking a good look at the laptops over the notebooks.

Netbooks cost much less, some starting as low as $199. The screen sizes are much smaller than laptops and they are super lightweight. Carrying a netbook from class to class is a piece of cake. The small size also makes them easy to use in class in small workspaces. If you are thinking about buying a netbook make sure you try them out in the store and get a feel for them as the keyboard sizes are smaller and may take some getting used to & the screens are smaller so they may have to get used to doing alot of vertical scrolling. The netbook is not for the gamer or computer programmer they are best for internet surfing, word processing and email. Some come with a webcam too for those of you who want to video conference with your “away-from-home” students.

On the air I showed the size difference between a Sony VAIO laptop and Sony VAIO netbook (see photo). By the way I’m really digging these Sony devices the laptop is a totally stylish workhorse and the netbook is super lightweight, stylish and practical.

I also wanted to share some Back to School buying tips:
1. Check with the school 1st, they may have discounts with particular manufacturers.
2. When purchasing online or at stores make sure you look and ask specifically for student discounts (everyone has some type of discount or promotion for students). For example Microsoft is offering Microsoft Office Suite for $79 from the normal $149. MAC is offering a free iPodTouch with a student purchase of a MAC. Sony is offering “Backstage Pass” – this gives students a suite of services including; techs to help you customize your VAIO, tech support, they’ll migrate your data from an old computer to the new VAIO and there is online data backup included for a year.

Anti-Theft tips:
After making your decision on a laptop you need to protect the investment. There are hardware and software options out there:

1. For example, I recommend buying a Kensington Combosaver Combination Portable Notebook Lock. They start as low as $24.99, this way they can secure their device to a desk and I recommend the combo lock unit, this way you don’t have to worry about keeping track of keys.

2. Software like LoJackForLaptops – this costs about $35 bucks for 1 year or $80 for 3 years, but can be well worth it! If your computer is stolen and connects to the internet LoJackForLaptops can identify the location and work with police to recover it. Additionally, you can remote-wipe all or some of your data off of it.

Come back to the blog often, I’ll be sharing more tips here and on my twitter feed, follow along

Also, leave a comment if you have any Back to School tips that’s worked for you!