Update August 3, 2022
Flexibits has just released an updated feature set for Fantastical Openings that addresses many of my concerns here. When I get a chance to review the current Openings, I’ll write an update.
Thanks to Mark Gardner for the heads up on Twitter.
Fantastical Openings can’t replace Calendly for my scheduling needs yet, but it’s close.
The Rest Of The Story
I use Calendly so that folks can schedule me for appointments. I send people a Calendly link, and they choose an available time slot. Calendly creates calendar invitations and sends them to me and the requestor. Calendly also integrates with Zoom, so that an invite comes with a Zoom meeting already attached.
In my years of Calendly use, I’ve found it to be…
- Reliable. It just works.
- Flexible. The availability rules engine allows me to configure conditions such as “leave a gap of X minutes between appointments” that I rely on to keep my calendar sane.
- Expensive. $144/year for the features I need.
I also use Fantastical by Flexibits. In my few months as a Fantastical user, I’ve found it to be…
- Beautiful. It’s the best calendaring interface of anything I’ve tried.
- Integrated. I use Fantastical to integrate with multiple calendars, Zoom, and the Todoist task manager. I use Fantastical both on my Mac and iOS devices.
- A super power. Fantastical happens to be highly compatible with how I work. I am more productive with Fantastical.
- Affordable. $40/year for the features I need.
Flexibits announced the Fantastical Openings feature, offering a similar functionality to scheduling tools like Calendly. Ooh, interesting. Could I retire Calendly with Openings and spare the expense of Calendly? I gave Openings a good test, and it has not displaced Calendly for me. Not yet.
The initial release of Openings is solid–a good first effort. Lots to like. However, I found Openings buggy and lacking in some of the flexibility I’ve come to rely on Calendly for. Here are the shortcomings of Fantastical Openings when compared to Calendly I found in my testing.
- Calendar invitations don’t always arrive. I found this behavior unpredictable. I’d use an Openings landing page and schedule an appointment from a test email account. I’d receive a notification to the test account that I’d requested an appointment. I’d receive a notification in my Fantastical email that an appointment had been requested. I’d approve the request. Sometimes a calendar invitation would never come. In my testing, calendar invitations sent to Gmail-based addresses worked fine, but to iCloud did not. And yes, I looked in my iCloud spam folder for the missing calendar invites. Obviously, calendar invitations have to arrive every time, no questions asked. Ultimately, that’s what Openings is for.
- No availability rules engine. Openings allows you to set availability hours, but that’s it. Nothing beyond a basic working hours configuration. I like Calendly’s flexibility of being able to require gaps on other side of an appointment, as it keeps me from being over-scheduled on a given day.
- No Zoom integration with Openings. Fantastical has a well-done Zoom integration, but this integration does not extend to Openings. Therefore, when I receive an appointment request, I approve it either manually or automatically depending on how I configured the Opening. Either way, I have to edit the approved calendar item and add the Zoom meeting to the calendar item. This creates an updated calendar invitation that clutters up everyone’s mailbox.
- Clunky approval experience. When someone requests an appointment via Openings, I get notified via email. The email has a button to approve the request. Clicking the button opens the browser, which then redirects to Fantastical. Sorta ugly, but okay. That would be fine if it brought me to the Openings appointment request requiring approval, but it just brings me to Fantastical with…nothing to approve. There seems to be a disconnect between an appointment request being made in the Flexibits cloud and Fantastical on my desktop knowing about the request. If I restart the Fantastical app on my desktop, the request magically appears. Is this an issue on the Flexibits backend? With push notifications? With some inscrutable change Apple, who can’t seem to stop breaking things for third party developers from release to release of macOS, introduced? With something I have to configure in my Mac System Preferences? Who knows?
I suspect that over time, Flexibits adds the functionality to Openings that I’m looking for, and I’ll be able to retire Calendly. I’m looking forward to this. Openings is the right sort of feature for Fantastical to have.