Alarms: a Big Solution to a Little Problem

It’s amazing sometimes how a small application can solve such a big problem. In this case, I’m referring to setting up calendar reminders in iCal for events and tasks. The process is a pain. First off, you have to launch iCal, which feels like taking your car in for repairs, then type in the text fields—the name of the event, the time, and the alarm notification. It take likes eight clicks to get a simple task done, even if you use some sort of Automator hack to do it. It just really shouldn’t that difficult, especially when you want to set a reminder on the fly.

Well, I just discovered a few days ago a little Mac gem simply called, Alarms. The app is accessed in your Mac‘s menu bar, and when you click on it, you can had ToDo’s and alarms in a calendar timeline interface that runs across your desktop.

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What‘s so cool about it is you don’t have to input dates and times. To manually create a calendar event, you double-click on the date, input the name of the event in the text field.

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Then you drag the box to the left or right to set the time.

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But it gets easier. Say you want to set an alarm for an online webinar you want to attend (that is, link to). Instead of having to input a name and date of the event, you can simply drag the URL for the webinar into the Alarms calendar, and set the date and time from there. Absolutely no typing required. When the alarm goes off, you can click to open the designated web page.

alarms5.pngWith Alarms, however, you can’t set notifications for say 15 minutes before the event starts. So if your event starts at 3p.m., you would set the time for say 2:30p.m if you need to reach a certain place by 3:00.

The Alarms interface tucks away until you need it. It presents a simple Growl notification and specified sound for date and time notifications. If you need to check your calendar, simply click on the Alarms icon and the timeline calendar interface drops down for viewing. When you’re done, it slides back up. It’s very unobtrusive.

One big draw back to the application is you also can’t set recurring times in the Alarms calendar, as you can with iCal. And though the developer says Alarms syncs with iCal, it’s not clear how that works.

The features lacking in the program keep it from being a total iCal replacement, and thus its $15 price tag might not be something you’ll want to pay.

Alarms could use some additional features, but I plan to get a full license because it’s a little—pardon the pun—time saver and a lot less hassle to use than iCal. Alarms is the kind of application you wish were imbedded in the Mac OS X system.

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