Expanding your app-titude

A monthly look at apps and websites that can make the CPA’s job and life better.
By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

It is a widely held opinion that the iPhone, iPad, and Mac native email and calendar programs simply aren't robust enough for business users. I agree wholeheartedly. If you agree, this column is for you. If you're happy with what you have (or you're "blissfully uninformed"), this column may also be for you.

A FANTASTICAL APPROACH TO A ONE-STOP CALENDAR APP

Fantastical 2 is a calendar app that runs on iPad, iPhone, and Macs. It syncs with iCloud, Exchange, Google, and IMAP accounts to import and combine all that information into one unified calendar. The app provides monthly, daily, weekly, or yearly views and features a daily event list with details on upcoming appointments, reminders, etc. Each platform (iPad, iPhone, and Mac) uses a separate app to view a common web-based data store.

Fantastical 2 allows you to create events that include dates, times, and locations by typing in natural language such as "Lunch with Bob at noon next Wednesday at Porky's BBQ." Fantastical will take it from there. I found the natural language feature so simple and easy that it was almost addictive, although I did stump it with the term "forever" when describing a recurring appointment. It also automatically links addresses to Apple or Google Maps.

All the platforms provide essentially the same features, and I found moving from iPhone to iPad to Mac to be quite intuitive. As you might expect, the experience gets richer as you move from iPhone up to iPad and even more so when moving to the Mac.

Fantastical 2 is a robust, full-featured calendar with many features that increase my productivity. Its pricing indicates a premium product, and I was not disappointed.

  • Website: flexibits.com
  • Cost (as of Aug. 18): Varies by platform: iPhone, $2.99; iPad, $4.99; Mac, $39.99
  • Operating systems: iOS, Mac OS X 10.10 or later


BRINGING A TOUCH OF CLOUDMAGIC TO EMAIL

CloudMagic is to email as Fantastical 2 is to calendars. Its name, like Fantastical, sort of tells a story—it's magic! It supports Gmail and Google Apps, iCloud, IMAP, Microsoft Exchange, Outlook, and Yahoo accounts. My favorite aspect of CloudMagic is the email composition screen. It's amazingly clean and simple. When compared to the Mac native email client or to Outlook, there's no question that CloudMagic was designed specifically to be clutter-free. The "Reply" button launches a separate window featuring a prominent headline-size subject line.

Third-party app integrations are a strong feature in CloudMagic for iPhone. You can select "smart cards" that handle integration with services such as Evernote, OneNote, Pocket, Salesforce, Todoist, Zendesk, etc. CloudMagic also allows you to save emails (and attachments) directly to Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and OneDrive. I expected to find these features in the paid Mac version and was surprised and disappointed when I didn't. But CloudMagic says they're "on the roadmap."

I was pleasantly surprised to find that establishing a CloudMagic account allowed me to share preferences such as signatures, etc., across multiple devices. Now, if we could just get the company to add full folder support so I could manage placing emails in my hundreds of nested folders, I'd be happy. Oh, and add a "Receipt Requested" button. Easy fixes could make a good email client a great one.

  • Website: cloudmagic.com
  • Cost (as of Aug. 18): iOS and Android, free; OS X, $19.99
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android, Mac OS X 10.10 or later

Greg LaFollette (greg.lafollette@hq.cpa.com) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA.

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