For all the functions that your BlackBerry brings you natively, sometimes it just doesn’t perform those tasks with vigor. For instance, many of the native apps are stripped down. For some, like Messages, that’s a thing of beauty. For others, though, users might seek an upgrade. For me, the Calendar is one native app I’d like to enhance. Yes, it works fine as is, and even integrates with my Google Calendar. But sometimes the extras make the app more usable. That’s what I found with Calendar Pro. It’s a powerful calendar app that helps you organize yourself in a way not completely possible with the stock calendar app.
How it works
While Calendar Pro is an app in itself, it essentially lays over your current Calendar and Tasks app. So, if for some reason you don’t have the Tasks app installed, you won’t be able to use the tasks aspect of Calendar Pro. This shouldn’t be a problem for most users, but it’s just a warning to those who have uninstalled some native applications. Otherwise, the application is a performance enhancer for your current apps. It allows you to further manipulate calendar events, and brings more functionality and accessibility to tasks. Ideally, this leads to a greater level of organization, helping you keep your life in tidier order.
When you boot up Calendar Pro you’ll go straight to the quadrant screen. From here you can select daily, weekly, or monthly view, plus tasks. You can also return to this screen at any time by pressing the menu button and selecting View. It’s a nice, easy way to start up the application, since it takes you to the essentials. Daily view provides you with an outlook of your current day. Here you can see each of your appointments for the day, plus your tasks. I’ll get more into tasks later on, but this is essentially a list of to-do items. It integrates with all calendar views, but is front and center in daily view. Weekly view displays a grid of the current week. If you have set color codes for your events (again, we’ll hit on this in a minute) you’ll see those colors noted on the grid. Even if you haven’t set a color, appointment times are noted in the grid. You can scroll through and click to see them, but you won’t see any text on the weekly view screen. Monthly view is your basic calendar layout, starting with the first and ending with the last day of the month. Again, you can see your appointments noted here, but with no text. You can, however, scroll over the day to see a list of appointments, which appear on the bottom of the screen. Tasks brings you to the master list of your tasks. These will be set in order you created them unless you set a priority. In that case you’ll see low priority items towards the bottom and high priority items atop the list.
Adding appointments to Calendar Pro is just as easy as adding an appointment to your normal BlackBerry calendar. In fact, you can add an event to your normal BlackBerry calendar and it will show up in Calendar Pro, and vice versa. This means that if you’re using Google Sync that your Google Calendar items will also show up. When you create your appointment you’ll see five tabs atop the screen. In addition to the normal details, you can also add notes the item, you can put it in a category, you can set a recurrence frequency, and you can add attendees. In the main details screen you can also set your status during the event to busy, tentative, free, or out of office. Even better, you can color code these. To change the colors for your status, go to Settings and then Colors. You’ll see all of those statuses listed. To edit a color scroll over the status, click the menu button, and select Change color. From there you can select from among 50 colors.
Since the integration of tasks is the most noticeable change from the native BlackBerry system I’ll take a few minutes to show how the function works with Calendar Pro. The idea of tasks is, of course, self-explanatory, so we’ll jump right into how they work. You can create a new task from any screen, by pressing menu and then selecting New Task. You’ll then see a screen with four tabs: details, notes, categories, recurrence. The first field in the details screen is for the task title. You can then set the task’s status as not started, completed, in progress, waiting, or deferred. Priority can be set to normal, high, or low, and then you can assign a due date to it. Just select By Date from the final drop-down box and you’ll get a few more fields that let you set the date and any notifications you’d like to go along with it. The next tab, notes, allows you to add any relevant information to the task. For instance, when I create a task for an article I have to write, I sometimes add hyperlinks to it. Or at least notes on where I can find more information. Really, it’s just a place to keep relevant ideas, so they’ll always be right along side the task itself. In the last tab you can set the task to recur daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or not at all. By default there is no recurrence, and for most recurring tasks you can just create a calendar entry. There is the option, though, if you’d like it. We skipped the third tab, categories, for good reason. It, too, deserves its own section.
Another feature that makes Calendar Pro stand out is its use of categories. These allow you to more easily scan your tasks and appointments, since you can create custom colors and icons for different categories. By default Calendar Pro comes with two categories, business and personal. You can add more by going into Settings and selecting Category Manager. When you click menu in that screen you can select Add category, which allows you to enter a new category name. When you click OK you’ll see it added to the list, with an X and a blank white box to its right. These two boxes represent the icon and color for the category. If you want to change the color or the icon for a category, roll over it with the trackball/trackpad and click the menu button. You’ll see options to change the category’s color, change the category’s icon, or remove the category’s icon. You can choose from among 50 colors and 15 icons. These will then show up on your calendar, making it easier to categorize your items. You can also rename and delete categories from this menu.
Calendar Pro allows you to control much with the interface and display. This includes the default view (I chose Day), the day the week starts, and the time the day starts and ends. You can also manipulate the way colors are displayed on the calendar. This includes whether you show the category colors and how they display (rectangle or in the background), whether to display category icons, and whether to color your appointments by status or by category. An option to color by DB also exists. This covers your different BlackBerry email addresses, and can be changed in the DB Colors option under settings. Finally, you have the option to enable or disable reminders. You can enable or disable them universally, or you can do it for appointments or tasks only. The program also allows you to change the snooze time on each reminder, ranging from one to 30 minutes.
Shortcuts can help you navigate a calendar faster, and Calendar Pro comes with a dozen of them. Better yet, it allows you to change the shortcut for each them. By default they go: View month – m
View week – w
View day – d
View tasks – l
New appointment – a
New task – t
Show previous date – b
Show today – c
Show next date – f
Show Go To date – g
Month preview scroll up – p
Month preview scroll down – n Again, you can change any of these to any of the 26 letters.
Getting Calendar Pro and giveaway
If you’d like to enhance the performance of your BlackBerry calendar, you can get Calendar Pro for $14.95. It also comes with a free trial, which is always good for applications like this. We’re going to make this a little interesting. Because I enjoyed this app so much we decided to do a giveaway on this. Just leave a comment on this post and we’ll select 15 winners at random for a free Calendar Pro license. The contest will run for a week, so we’ll select winners next Wednesday, August 4.