MacLife

Calendar Plus Review

Former iOS software chief Scott Forstall may have been defenestrated through a skeumorphically beautiful digital window, but that doesn't mean that real world-based GUI fluff isn't alive and hovering over his metaphorical body. Such electronic noise is apparent in the app Calendar Plus, whose primary appeal appears to be in its visuals rather than its functionality.

Calendar Plus Screen 620

To begin with, Calendar Plus has exactly one functional element. It stays up in your menu bar — since iCal doesn't — and provides you with a fast glimpse of what's on your calendar. Beyond that, Calendar Plus defaults to iCal (renamed Calendar in Mountain Lion, but we'll call it iCal here). 

Click the menu bar icon, and a large, brightly colored calendar opens with a list of events jutting out in a pane on the left, color-coded by which of your iCal or CalDAV calendars they appear in. Click a new day in the calendar to see that day's appointments, or double-click it to open it in iCal. Want to add a new event? Double-click the day, wait for iCal to open (at least it opens on the day you clicked), and enter the info there.

Calendar Plus automatically reads the same calendars and accounts you have set up in iCal, and you can also add Google Calendar and Facebook, even if you don't have those accounts linked to iCal. But they're read-only as well: If you click a Google Calendar event, it opens in www.google.com/calendar in your default browser.

The settings have some useful features — you can set a keyboard shortcut to open the app, and choose to have the weather displayed too. Calendar Plus seems to take great pride in letting you choose a theme and background picture for your calendar, but we found these distracting. Case in point: the "Calendar is attached by" settings lets you decide whether Calendar Plus's window just sits beneath the menu bar, or if it dangles a little bit lower, "attached" to the menu bar by bits of string or clothespins or chunks of glass. That's... nice?

The bottom line. Calendar Plus makes your iCal data a little more accessible than if you had to open iCal every time. But its inability to add or edit events is a shame, and the questionable appeal of the graphical extras doesn’t redeem that shortcoming. Fantastical ($19.99, www.flexbits.com) costs more but works much better.

 

Review Synopsis

Product: 

Calendar Plus 1.0

Company: 

Qbix

Contact: 

Price: 

$4.99

Requirements: 

OS X 10.6.6 or later

Positives: 

Fast. Does something iCal/Calendar should do natively.

Negatives: 

Doesn't do much. Overpriced for what it does do.

Score: 
2 Weak

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Business Smart MFC-J4510DW Review

On paper (heh), the Brother Business Smart has everything. The multifunction inkjet handles paper from 3.5x5 up to 11x17, in a footprint barely bigger than that, just 18.9 by 11.4 inches, and 7.3 inches high. It can be so compact even while holding 150 sheets of 8.5x11 paper because the paper is loaded, and printed, in landscape orientation, something we haven’t seen before. When not in use, it folds into an unassuming, completely closed rectangle. 

Brother Printer4578 620

The Business Smart connects to your Mac over Wi-Fi, USB, or 10/100 Ethernet, and printing from iOS is a cinch using AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, or the free Brother iPrint&Scan app for iPhone and iPad. The large, flip-out control panel has a touchscreen that lets you swipe between menus, as well as a touch panel that lights up whatever keys you need at the time. The inkjet tanks are giant, printing up to 1,200 pages, and they only cost about $25.

But using it just isn’t a pleasurable business. The paper tray in the front is clunky to install and remove, and the passthrough tray in the back only supports one sheet at a time. The touchscreen is responsive enough for a printer, but the error messages are unhelpful — more than once, it insisted we had a paper jam, tried to walk us through removing it (we followed the steps, but there was no paper jam), and refused to turn off until the nonexistent problem was fixed. We had to unplug it and plug it back in, when, surprise, it realized everything was fine. 

But even when it works (which is most of the time), the print quality is only so-so. Plain black text looks more like dark gray, and lacks smoothness, even for an inkjet. A four-page color PDF printed in duplex mode on plain paper came out feeling kind of soggy, with visible banding in the graphics. Photos are dull and lifeless on plain paper, and only a tiny bit brighter on photo paper. Scanning works well, but the auto feeder tops out at 20 sheets. Jobs you do frequently can be programmed in as presets, which are easy to set up and reliable. We didn’t test the fax capabilities, but it has them, and the design actually routes the fax, Ethernet, and USB cables through a common hole in the back to hidden ports under the printer’s hood. It looks nice, but we wonder if the newness of this printer’s design, including the interior ports and landscape paper-loading, will be improved with next year’s iteration — this version feels a little flimsy and first-generation.

The bottom line. While this is called Business Smart, it doesn’t have the paper capacity for a busy office, and no one’s going to want to feed 11x17 pages into the back one at a time. If you’re only printing spreadsheets and emails, the quality might not bug you, but for anything more than that, you might want to look to Epson or Canon instead.

 

Review Synopsis

Product: 

Business Smart MFC-J4510DW

Company: 

Brother

Price: 

$199

Requirements: 

Mac OS 10.5.8 or later

Positives: 

Easy setup. Small footprint. Can print from and scan to Flickr, Google Docs, and Picasa. AirPrint, Google Cloud print, and a dedicated iOS app. Ink tanks last forever. Print speed is decent. Inputs for SD card, MemoryStick, and USB thumb drives.

Negatives: 

So-so print quality with muddy text and dull images. Can’t used wired and wireless connections at once. Build quality feels flimsy. Passthrough slot only takes one sheet at a time. Unhelpful error messages.

Score: 
2.5 Okay

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