Review: Business Calendar
When it comes to calendar applications, we Symbian users have had little choice in recent years. In fact, the last convincing replacement for Calendar was Papyrus for S60 3rd Edition, reviewed by us back in 2006! That is why Business Calendar caught my eye, to my knowledge it's the first serious attempt at a replacement for Calendar on touch screen driven Symbian phones. Is it up to the task? Can it work harmoniously beside Symbian's own Calendar? Read on to find out!
Version Reviewed: 1.00
Symbian's Calendar application already covers the basics, but is certainly limited. There's a day view, which lists your daily agenda, but there's no agenda view for multiple days. One could argue that is what the Calendar widget is for, but the widget shows so few entries that it probably shows less than a day full for the average person's schedule. The week view is rather constrained, and it is bad at representing multiple full day events, just see the stripy mess below! Until we get Symbian Anna (coming soon), the month view lacks a split screen view for showing the contents of a selected date. Finally, Calendar isn't designed for touch screens, it could just as easily be running on a button driven device. Lastly, there's no contact integration, for reminding or inviting guests to upcoming meetings. On the plus side, Calendar integrates with the Task List and supports Symbian^3's multiple calendars.
Symbian's less than optimal implementation of Calendar
The conclusion to take away is that any replacement for Calendar should have: a better week view, have a long term agenda view, a split screen month view, contact integration, and a more touch-friendly user interface.
Now that we've established what we're looking for, let's take a point by point approach with Business Calendar…
The month view of Business Calendar looks much closer to what I'd like to see. However, neither is it that far from the Calendar revamp in Symbian Anna, compare these screen shots:
Business Calendar's month view
Symbian Anna's Calendar revamp, demoed on the C7-00. Image credit: Nokia France
As you can see, they are very similar, but Business Calendar manages to edge ahead, thanks to two things. First, it has much better use of colour, making it easier to find what you're looking for in such a 'high altitude' view. Secondly, compare the event markers. Symbian Calendar just puts a single coloured marker to say where there's 'one or more' entries. Whereas Business Calendar puts a number of marks signifying how much there is to do on each day.
Week and day views
As you can see in these side by side comparisons, Business Calendar has a much cleaner looking week view than Symbian Calendar. However, I would have much preferred to see a dedicated top row for all day events, rather than having them stretch the length of the whole day.
Portrait week views: Business Calendar can become rather cramped, but still conveys meaningful visual data. Meanwhile, Symbian Calendar fails to handle overlapping all-day events.
Business Calendar's week view, benefiting from the extra width of landscape mode
Symbian Calendar's week view doesn't take advantage of landscape to better represent your schedule
Business Calendar's day view is shown in the same bar-chart format as the week view
The week view in Business Calendar is where the touch interface really comes into its own. As you can see, event time slots are represented by semi-transparent blocks; a long press allows them to be dragged to a new start time. This is very handy for performing rapid rescheduling. While this is clearly light years ahead of what is offered from Symbian Calendar, it is far from perfect. The touch interaction does not extend to altering the duration of an event. More importantly though, the long-press duration isn't long enough. On several occasions, I found myself accidentally moving an event in the day view to a new time while dragging to scroll. If you synchronise via Mail for Exchange (MfE), this leads to another complication which I'll return to below.
The agenda view of Business Calendar is sadly inferior to the equivalent in Symbian Calendar. The nearest to an agenda view in Symbian Calendar is the day view, which gives a list of all that day's events, but not for multiple days. The same is true of Business Calendar, the agenda view is simply a list of today's items. However, it always reports that I have no events on for 'today', when every other view says otherwise. One has to assume that there is a bug here. What's more, Business Calendar has no homescreen widget.
Business Calendar's 'Today' view
Symbian Calendar's day view
On first glance, Symbian Calendar has the cleaner looking edit/creation interface. I think the Symbian take on this is actually more usable. The start and end times in Business Calendar's event edit page have up and down arrows keys, which only seem to change the calendar date of the event. If you try to tap on the time it launches into an editing screen before you can use the arrow keys.
Editing an event in Symbian Calendar
Editing an event in Business Calendar
An added functionality offered by Business Calendar is the option to add a contact to the event. Within the editing screen there are buttons to call, SMS, or email the contact. This is great, but it seems like an incomplete feature. For example, when tapping the email button, one might expect that the event details would be copied into the message body. e.g. to invite them to the meeting. This doesn't happen though, so you would have to type in the event details from memory. Furthermore, this is limited to one contact. All very disappointing.
With Symbian^3, we finally had multiple calendar support. This meant that users could categorise and colour code their calendar entries. Events synchronised from a MfE account are given their own calendar.
Business Calendar can 'see' events from all calendars in the Calendar application, apart from the Task List. However, when creating an event there's no choice of which Symbian calendar they should be added to, it always defaults to the 'Personal' calendar. Neither can you create a task. This is rather confusing because you can create different types of events in Business Calendar, and colour code them. However, these attributes are local to Business Calendar, they are nothing to do with the native calendars. Business Calendar's biggest shortcoming with multiple calendars is that when editing MfE events, they are moved into the 'Personal' calendar of the phone, and therefore not will not get synchronised back to the MfE server.
Infotech deserve full marks for effort with Business Calendar. If you're only using the Ovi Suite or Ovi cloud, or another SyncML server, or not synchronising at all, Business Calendar is worth a look. It doesn't offer a great deal more functionality than Symbian Calendar, while lacking a task list and a homescreen widget, but it does offer a fresh user interface, albeit a bit rough around the edges.
David Gilson for All About Symbian, 8th June 2011.
Business Calendar has been updated to version 1.1, since this review was written. With this update many of the complaints I had have been addressed.
Version 1.1 event editor
Multiple calendars are now supported, which allows for updating Mail for Exchange calendars.
The long press duration has been extended so that accidental selections don't occur.
There is now a continuous agenda view, surpassing the single day view of Symbian Calendar.
There is an improved event editor which allows for faster date and time input.
Events can be sent via email (text or VCS attachment) from the event editor view.
Event editor and emailing event details
In the original review, I complained that all day events were stretched over the full length of the day and week charts, rather than being a fixed row at the top of each day. Unfortunately, this hasn't been updated, so days with full day events still take up an entire column.
You can see more at Business Calendar's website.
Multiple calendars and the new agenda view.
The real question is that with these new updates, would I consider making Business Calendar a full time replacement for Symbian Calendar. At the end of the version 1.0 review, the answer was definitely not. However, drag and drop editing, a slick user interface, without all the v1.0 bugs, means that Business Calendar (v1.1) is a far more compelling product, which I am now prepared to try out as my calendar replacement.
As such, I've awarded 10% to the score to reflect these changes (64% to 74%)
David Gilson for All About Symbian, 3rd August 2011.
Reviewed by David Gilson at