iCal 3.0: Much too hard to figure out the exact time for an appointment

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
November 15th, 2007 • 11:13 am

There is apparently a growing discussion about the demise of the information drawer in iCal.

I had my own qualms about the drawer and, like some, I am not sure I want it back. But surely there must be something better than the current interface.

This new “information bubble” in iCal 3.0 is wrong for a variety of reasons. But one of the obvious ones for me is that, when you are looking at an existing event in one of your iCal calendars, especially in month view, without the information drawer (or inspector) open on the side of the main iCal window, it is impossible to tell what time the event is scheduled for.

For any given day, in month view, the events are simply listed in chronological order in the square for the day. But there is no indication of time. If you want to know what time the event is, you not only have to select the event, but you also have to double-click on it to bring up the bubble.

The month view is my preferred view, and because of the changes introduced by Apple, this view is now less useful.

And things are made even worse by the fact that, if you miss your target with the double-click and click on the empty space above the event in month view (the line where the day’s date appears), then iCal switches you to day view for that day. And of course if you miss your target with the double-click and click on the empty space below the event in month view, iCal… creates another new event.

So you really cannot afford to miss your target with your mouse, unless you have a masochistic taste for additional UI frustration.

It’s one thing to force the user to use the mouse more than he would like. But it is quite another to additionally punish him for making mistakes with his mouse and not clicking exactly on the intended target.

It looks to me as if Apple’s engineers simply did not bother to try using iCal in month view under normal circumstances. (They also still have not fixed the bug in the text wrap that causes some words in the event title to be disappear depending on the exact size of the iCal window!)

I will probably learn to live with the new iCal, just like I have learned to live with the previous versions, with all their bugs and flaws, because I really am not a heavy iCal user. I don’t have that many appointments to manage. But if I were a heavy iCal user, I would be very frustrated right now.

10 Responses to “iCal 3.0: Much too hard to figure out the exact time for an appointment”

  1. mricart says:

    Pierre, Displaying time in month view can be enabled in the iCal preferences: “General” tab, “Show time in month time” (this was there already in Tiger). Hope this helps.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Oops. I guess that does help a lot. Thanks!

    I still think we’re missing some kind of information pane/window that would show more details about the currently selected event without requiring this extra-accurate double-click, but being able to see the exact time in month view certainly helps a lot.

  3. mricart says:

    Also, cmd-E allows to enter/leave even editing, and Escape to close the “bubble”. Personally (and I think my level of demand is almost as high than yours :-)), I’m ok with the new iCal. It’s a change from the previous version, but in my opinion it’s workable.

  4. AlanY says:

    I agree with you, I’m ambivalent about the drawer leaving. My one related gripe is that the highlight color for todos in Mail messages is always yellow… it’s not the calendar color, which would have been nice.

    But other than that, the whole unified tasks system in Leopard is fantastic… I can now create a task in a note (or right on a received email message) in Mail, view it in iCal, and see it in my time tracking software (TimeLog 4) simultaneously, with no syncing required. This alone is worth the upgrade for me. I can’t wait until other programs pick up support for the unified task database. For instance, when OmniOutliner supports attaching tasks to rows (or column cells), I’ll be very happy.

  5. Pierre Igot says:

    The funny thing about all this task-management stuff is that it has taken so long for our OS to finally come with some decent architecture that I suspect that many users, like me, have developed alternative ways of managing their tasks with the existing tools. And we’re so used to our own techniques that it hardly seems worth the trouble to try and use Apple’s own flavour instead.

    Of course, I am glad that it’s finally there and that some people will find it useful. But I just don’t see myself completely changing my work habits and task-management techniques just because some Apple engineer is enamoured with Marker Felt at the moment :).

    That said, I really do not have that many tasks to manage—or maybe it’s just that I still have enough brain cells to manage without the aid of a computerized approach. (I do need iCal for various reminders, though!)

    In other words, I am probably just not the best person to discuss task-management issues with. My focus is more on the basic UI of the software tools. The fact that Apple keeps changing the interface shows that it’s still very much a work-in-progress and I somehow doubt that the “information bubble” is the panacea.

  6. blackant says:

    It almost seems like the iCal team was feeling some pressure from the online calendars (Google Calendar, etc.) and added UI “enhancements” that make for a more web-like experience. Some of those constructs work in the context of a web app, but are an annoyance in a desktop app.

  7. AlanY says:

    Thankfully the Marker Felt font preference is changeable in Mail :)

  8. Pierre Igot says:

    Yes, the font is changeable, but not the colour scheme :-/.

    blackant: I have no experience with online solutions (my connection is not fast enough for this kind of thing), so I cannot comment. But the ugly blue underline links in the iCal UI (and in some parts of Mail for that matter) would tend to confirm such a theory, unfortunately.

  9. AlanY says:

    I think the web links are more related to iCal coming in line with CalDAV. Everything in Mail for instance now has a URL. So you can embed a reference to a mail message or a todo directly in any application that supports URLs, including any app that uses the underlying Cocoa text system. For instance, a todo has this syntax: “mailitem://CD396B20-253F-4980-9B87-E505422514C6″… then it’s possible to add modifiers to control how the todo is presented when Mail is invoked, e.g.: “mailitem://CD396B20-253F-4980-9B87-E505422514C6?
    -9bf6-a84e37406b90”. The type=todo thing as far as I can tell doesn’t actually control the underlying representation, it just controls the window style Mail uses. For instance, depending on how you open a note stored in mail, it may have the yellow legal pad style with a dotted top line and rounded lower corners, or it may have the mail message style with squared lower corners.

  10. Pierre Igot says:

    I am fine with iCal and Mail getting more web-based features, but that does not mean they have to embrace the web “aesthetic,” especially one that is so dated. With today’s web, we are way past the stage where “active link” was synonymous with “blue with underline.”

    In addition, Mail uses blue links in contexts that really have nothing to do with the web, such as the “Show In Mailbox” link when viewing a message that’s part of a list of search results.

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