This post was originally written in early October 2018

I haven’t been able to get into personal information management (PIM) software since Lotus Organiser in high school. That program was such a delight to use, even looking back on it now when it’s trendy to hate skeuomorphic interfaces. Lotus Agenda was before my time, but I’ve heard that was even better.

Thesedays the world largely organises itself around Outlook’s calendar, which for whatever reason I can’t get into. Ditto the otherwise excellent Lightning plugin for Thunderbird, or the KDE PIM suite, or Xfce’s Orage, or Apple Calendar and Reminders. My brain just doesn’t work like that.

For tasks, I realised I’d been using OmniFocus as a dumping ground, and had long since abandoned assigning Getting Things Done-style contexts. Almost everything I do is online and can be done anywhere — a blessing and a curse — other than groceries which I use plain lists for. It’s great software, but overkill for what I do.

I gave some thought to how I organise my day, and realised I have a couple of different rituals.

  • I get to a coffee shop across the street from the office early in the morning to plan the day. This involves cracking open the laptop, checking my calendar for meetings, and converting emails to text file tasks where needed.

  • During the day, I delete the completed tasks in the text file. Unfinished ones are rolled over into a new file for the next day.

So! It’s in this context — glaven — that I’m finally getting around to reviewing BusyCal for Mac.

What it does better than any other PIM I’ve used since Organiser is reconcile tasks and calendar events. The calendar sits in the middle, and your task list is docked to the side, organised by calendar and due date. Tasks appear inline in your calendar, and roll over to the next day if not completed. It sound so simple, but it’s a game-changer for me.

Outlook kinda does something similar, but its not the same. It’s also superficially similar to Apple’s Calendar, but again, not the same.

What makes this a killer app from the techical side is support for CalDav tasks, which Outlook for Mac can’t do. Shame on you if you don’t use Fastmail, but if you do, BusyCal works great with it.

In five words: it’s expensive, but worth it.