I need a calendar

by Michael Alderete on 5/12/2003

I was recently trying to give someone a date for an upcoming event, and I didn’t have a good way to put a calendar in front of my face while sitting at my computer here at home. While this blog has a reasonable calendar in the sidebar navigation, it’s not terribly useful in that it can’t look to the future. I don’t use iCal, because it doesn’t synchronize events with my Outlook schedule on Windows at work, making it essentially useless (more on this in a future post). For just a monthly calendar, it takes too long to launch.

I want something very small, with a clean, simple interface. I don’t need a scheduler, I just want a small, navigable monthly calendar. It needs to be omnipresent, which ideally means it’s available from the menu bar. On Mac OS 9, I had a perfect little application called SimpleCalendar, which brought up a calendar window less than two inches square, that could be easily maneuvered into the future or past. But this app doesn’t exist on Mac OS X, and isn’t a menu bar app, which I’ve decided I want (since menu bar items can be very stable under Mac OS X, unlike Mac OS 9).

A quick trip to VersionTracker.com and a search for “calendar” yielded about 8 suspects, which I downloaded and tried. Some were simply unsuitable, being application-only calendars. A few were too obtrusive, taking too much room in the menu bar, or shifting menu items around when toggling the display. And some tried to do too much.

MenuCalendar I finally settled on MenuCalendar. It puts a very small icon in the menu bar, at the far right, shifting everything else over to the left. It uses a NSStatusItem to put up the icon, which means it’s relatively supported and stable. And clicking it drops down a monthly calendar pane that is tremendously similar to the old SimpleCalendar window, which I loved.

There are a few things I’d like to see improved. For example, today should be highlighted with the system preference highlight color, or at least be user-changeable; it’s hard-coded right now. I’d also like to be able Command-drag the menu bar icon to be next to the clock. And most annoyingly, clicking to drop down the calendar seems to only register the mouse down event; when I move the mouse off of the icon, the other menu items will drop down as though I was holding down the mouse button, when I’m not.

Ultimately, I’d like for the calendar to drop down from the menu bar clock. There were a couple utilities that almost did this right (e.g., PTHClock), that I could have replaced the Apple clock with, but they had one or two minor things wrong. MenuCalendar seems like my best option right now, but I’ll keep looking.

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