Fantastical lives in your Mac's menu bar and features a small window that can be invoked with a click or a custom key combination. It accepts natural language input ("Lunch with Janie Tuesday at 1:00 PM"), supports iCal, Google, Yahoo! and Outlook calendars and offers some spiffy animations. Color-coding allows for informative, at-a-glance review and alarm options make appointment creation even easier.
Today by Second Gear Software can live in the Menu Bar if you like, or behave as a typical app. Its no-frills main window offers a clear and highly legible overview of what's pending, and hotkey combinations can be created to call the app to the front, create an appointment or create a task.
Since each app excels in certain areas and fails in others, I've identified the "winners" across categories. Here they are.
UI -- This is subjective, but I'm giving it to Fantastical. Today's minimal, resizable window is supremely easy to read. The uncluttered toolbar is also very pleasant. However, it limits future dates to 48 hours, where Fantastical will let me see up 31 days at once. Plus, I must admit I'm falling for the animations and other UI goodies that Fantastical is packing.
Entering an appointment -- Both apps offer keyboard shortcuts, but
only Today features shortcuts for creating an event and creating a task (The current version of Fantastical fully supports event editing!). That's handy, but Fantastical's plain English support is the trump card. I can pull up Today's appointment editing window easily, but filling it out requires much mousing and clicking on drop-down menus. Fantastical is just faster.
Exact same results and reasoning as above.Wow, big oversight. Fantastical doesn't do To-Do's at all. So, a big score for Today.
At-a-glance reference: This one goes to Today. Fantastical is pretty, but there's a lot going on. Sure, Today is limited to 48 hours' worth of appointments and tasks, but it's supremely legible.
Editing tasks: Miss on both counts! Both apps require you to open iCal to edit an existing task.
Cost: Undetermined. Fantastical is currently available at an introductory price of US$14.95. I don't know what the retail price will be. Today sells for $24.95.
I admit that this is a nitpicky and nerdy post; nearly everyone uses a calendar, but only people like you and me obsess over software meant to improve the experience. Based on the above, this nerd is choosing Fantastical. Those less impressed by pretty and shiny and happy to view just a couple of days at a time should check out Today. But my choice has been made.