QuickCal has been one of my favorite ways to add items to iCal. It started with a Dashboard widget that let me use natural language to add calendar events. I loved it (actually wrote about it back in '09). Then it became an iOS app, QuickCal Mobile, and I was able to add entries with blazing speed while on-the-go, as well as view all of my upcoming appointments within the app. It currently has a place on my iPhone dock for instant access. Now, QuickCal is a desktop application, available in the Mac App Store, and it has some cool new capabilities.
The natural language engine is pretty smart to begin with. You can type things like "Dr. appt 4p" and an event is created for today at 4:00pm titled "Dr. appt." You can also get more verbose, adding locations and start and end times. It does todo items, too. "todo - Get something done by wed" will add a task to iCal with a due date. That's not working for me in the current version, but I've seen video of it working splendidly in the upcoming 2.3 release.
You set a default calendar to add to, but you can change the target calendar by typing part of the calendar's name in the entry box. It can run menubar only, dock only or both. You can also set it up to launch directly to entry mode and quit after you finish one event or todo. That's perfect if you just want to run it from Quicksilver or LaunchBar and not have it running permanently.
The menubar offers a dropdown showing all of your upcoming appointments and todo items. You can click an entry to open it in iCal, but you don't really need to. You can see everything you need to -- and in the upcoming version you can also check off tasks and see priorities and days until due -- from that little icon up there. Once the new version is approved by Apple, it will actually turn iCal into a much handier todo list than it normally would be.
Smart reminders automatically set alarms based on the distance away an event is, and the duration of the event. If you set a day long event for a month away, you'll get reminders at configurable intervals up to the date. If your new event starts in an hour, you can automatically set just a 15 minute alarm. You can turn this off, but it makes setting reminders a breeze.
Sound good? Grab it fast, it's only US$.99 while the upcoming version is in review with Apple. It could be days, it could be hours ... who knows? But it's cheap right now, and handy for anyone who uses iCal.