Not long ago, a calendar was just a calendar. It was a simple document, and you jotted down the daily round of appointments and events. But that was then. And now, "smart calendars" are turning humble agendas into full-fledged personal assistants.
Got a meeting? Smart calendars will figure out who'll be there, compile their personal information in one place, pull up any associated e-mails or documents, and then, if you're running late, make it easy to text or call everyone.
What's the App?
Tempo, free for iOS, is one of the best smart calendars around. It comes with a high pedigree. Developed by SRI, the same company that invented Siri, Tempo pulls information from several sources into one convenient calendar.
The clean, cheerful interface is easy to master right out of the gate, and it's a cinch to set up. After you link your inboxes, it takes a few minutes to index your e-mails and contacts. Then you can connect Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.
Once it's complete, you can start by adding an event or appointment. Instead of displaying just what you enter, Tempo then retrieves any related e-mails and attachments -- like Word, Excel and PowerPoint files -- as well who the meeting is with, some details about them, and where it's located.
The search can lag, though -- it takes a bit of time to find the files. But once it's finished, for the most part, it pulls up the right e-mails and documents. Like any artificial intelligence, it'll grab the wrong files at first, but it learns over time, and after a few days, results were much more accurate. One note: make sure the name of the meeting has the keyword of the files you need.
All the data then sits in the calendar: either in list, agenda, daily, weekly or monthly views. To keep you on cue, you can set up alerts, too. And for fun, it's easy to scrawl message on Facebook walls from within the app. No need to tap back and forth to dig up loose ends, saving you time, stress and distraction.
One particular feature that stands out, especially for business, is how easily it combines online or telephone meeting information. If your meeting includes a conference call, you don't have to fumble on e-mail to scribble down phone numbers and passwords, just tap on the number to dial, and then tap again to let Tempo enter the code. You just have to tap "1" to confirm.
"People go in the calendar then into another app," said Raj Singh, Tempo co-founder. "We thought, why not do it directly from the calendar itself?" And if you're stuck in traffic, there's even an "I'm late" button that sends a text or e-mail to let everyone know you won't be on time -- it's all in one place.
Of course, Tempo also works with Siri, so you can use just your voice to add a meeting, add participants and set the location. It'll even pull location data from Foursquare and Yelp, giving you directions, reviews and recommendations without having to flip through several different apps.
Since Tempo's launch, SRI says it's saved users more than one million taps. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but once you try it, you'll see why it's so convenient to have everything in one place. And the more you use it, the smarter it gets and the more convenient it becomes.
You'll Want It If...
You're looking for a genuine personal assistant -- not one that talks to you in clever quips, but a real app that gathers relevant information and makes your life easier. If you do business, you'll love how it intelligently combines contact, meeting and e-mail information.
It's Not My Thing -- What Else Ya Got?
A true 5-star app is a rare specimen, a combination of powerful functionality, superb performance, genuine usefulness and beautiful design and ease. But Tempo is pretty darn close to the top tier. Of all the smart calendars I've seen, it's the best in its class. It's easy to use, has jam-packed features and above all, is useful.
I would have liked a search feature to scan for specific events or items, though -- say, everything to do with "weddings" or "graduation." And if you need that function -- as well as integration with stalwart services like Evernote and Dropbox -- Cue or Doo is a better fit.
I also wish Tempo could delete or hide unwanted Facebook events from the calendar, since I can't stop friends from inviting me to events taking place across the country. But those quibbles hardly detract from one of the most polished, refined and truly useful smart calendars on the market. Tempo's developers, which take note of feedback, took a good idea and turned it great app. And it should only get better over time.