Calendars in some form have been around for as long as humans have walked the planet. From the ancient Egyptian’s “Sothic Cycle” to the Mayan civilisation’s “B’ak’tun” long-count calendar, understanding the passage of time to allow communities to organise events, farmers to monitor agricultural seasons, and religious followers to offer sacrifices to the gods has been a feature of civilisations for all eternity.
While most people in the western world no long make regular sacrifices to the gods, they do still need an effective way to manage appointments, meet deadlines, and remember birthdays and anniversaries.
Here we look at some of the best free calendar apps that are currently available on the Android system.
The most obvious starting point for any list of free calendar apps, Google Calendar comes pre-installed on all Nexus devices, and is available from the Play Store for everyone else. If you use Google’s other productivity services (such as Gmail or Keep) this should unquestionably be installed on your device.
It was revamped late last year to fit in with Android’s new “Material Design”, and although it now looks better, it also works more effectively than ever. Browsing the calendar from month to month is a simple swipe away, and it can now be set up to automatically pull events, such as hotels reservations, flights, and event tickets directly out of your inbox and add them to your schedule.
Finally, they also added a schedule view, which just shows you a continuous list of upcoming entries, rather than offering a daily or weekly display.
Don’t let the name fool you, this calendar is just as appropriate for students, retirees, and everyone else in-between as it is for business people.
The main selling point of Business Calendar is its alternative approach to usage and displays. Instead of the typical dropdown menu which gives access to day, week, and month views, the app uses an intuitive swipe and tap approach to navigation. For example, tapping on a particular day will present you with a small pop-up window with that day’s events, and from there you can swipe to an agenda view or even a year view to see that day in context. This feature also works well when comparing multiple days; in Google calendar, for example, you would need to open the 8th March, then open the 21st March in order to compare those two days. In Business Calendar you can open as many pop-up windows of individual days as you need.
There are also configurable widgets in for the month, week, agenda, and day view, and an integrated task-management tool for syncing with other apps like Google Tasks & Toodledo.
It certainly looks great thanks to a range of background images and a visual timeline, but its functionality can be confusing at times (for example, the way to navigation between months isn’t immediately obvious).
Given it is developed by the same people as the Any.Do app, it naturally syncs tasks between the two very well, but if you need a full-featured app that you rely on regularly, there are better options out there.
Jorte is another one of the big-hitters in the free calendar world and is one of the most popular downloads in the Play Store.
It stands out from some of its rivals thanks to its cloud-sync service that lets you manage calendars directly from the web. It biggest attraction, however, is its incredible levels of customisation. Things like colours, backgrounds, themes, and the size of widgets can all be altered, and there’s a store that lets you purchase additional backgrounds and a vast range of icons.
Further features include the ability to download sports teams’ fixture lists, a clickable location that takes you directly to a map app, and a more detailed day-by-day view than Google Calendar offers.
With better widgets than Google Calendar, more colours than Jorte, and easier navigation than Cal, aCalendar is yet other leading contender for the title.
One productivity feature that is particularly useful to power users is the fact that its day and week view both include small monthly views on the same page, meaning you can organise yourself more efficiently without the need to constantly hop between different screens. Swiping sideways on the phone allows you to quickly navigate between its monthly, daily and weekly planners, while flicking up and down moves you through the calendar in increments based on your current planner selection. This feature doesn’t seem quite as smooth as Google Calendar, and unfortunately it lacks the “tap to expand” feature of Business Calendar.
It can also sync photos from your address book for birthdays and anniversaries, and it features NFC sharing for quickly disseminating information between a larger group.
If you don’t want to use your calendar for productivity, this is a great alternative.
When you launch it for the first time, you will be asked what calendars you want to include — these include weather forecasts, lunar phases, sunrise and sunset times, zodiac predictions, and even a photo-reel (where photos you took on that day in previous years are displayed).
The downside of all these extra calendars is that it can become a bit cluttered, so it’s not great for business people or students who need a clear view of appointments and deadlines.
Which One is Best?
As with all these types of articles, it’s very difficult to choose one clear winner; it all depends on what you want your calendar app to do for you. I am hugely reliant on the Google suite of services, and as such, I use Google Calendar. There is no denying, however, that some of the other options are more feature-rich and less clunky.