Words on a Page Writings about writing

Managing your writing with TinyCal

A calendar, a pen, and a task list

(Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, at Notes From a Floating Life and appears here via a Creative Commons license.)

For the most part, I prefer to use small, simple, minimal tools. Tools that do one or two things and do them well. That way, I’m confident that the tool won’t have to many bugs, be too big and unwieldy, or just trying too hard to be something that it’s not.

There seems to be at least one web developer who shares that sentiment. His name is Anthony Feint and over the last while he’s been crafting a set of what he calls TinyApps. I’ve been playing with one or two of Feint’s creations over the last year or so, and was pleasantly surprised to learn he’d come up with a new one.

It’s called TinyCal and it’s a quick and simple way to manage your writing. Let’s take a look at it.

Getting started

TinyCal, as you’ve probably guessed from the name, is a simple calendar. It’s deceptively simple, though.

To get started, head over to TinyCal.com and register for a free account. When you log in, you’ll see a window that’s reminiscent of an old-school weekly paper calendar.

The TinyCal window

To add something to TinyCal, find the day in the calendar for it. Click on that day and type a description of the event, along with a time, and press enter. Typing this:

Write the TinyCal post at 10:00 am

Results in this:

A new event in TinyCal

Notice how TinyCal adds a blank entry below the event? It’s a nice little touch, since we all often have several entries in our calendar for a given day.

While specifying the time isn’t necessary, it’s a good idea. There are several ways you can specify times for items in the calendar. Here are a few examples:

  • To specify a time range, type event from x:xx pm to y:yy pm — for example, Meet with accountant from 2:00 pm to 3 pm
  • To specify a certain number of minutes in the future, type event x minutes from now — for example, Pick up courier package 25 minutes from now
  • To specify a date and time in the future, type event date time — for example, Doctor’s appointment January 12 11:30 am

Creating Tasks

What happens if you don’t add a date or time to an event or appointment? It becomes a task.

Tasks in TinyCal

Click the task to mark it as complete.

You can also add sub tasks and additional information to a task by clicking on it. That opens a new window where you can add extra information.

Tasks and subtasks in TinyCal

Grouping Events and Tasks

If you have events and tasks that are related, and want to see them all in one place add a hashtag to them.

Hashtags in TinyCal

Click the hashtag to see a list of events or tasks to which the hashtag applies.

A list of tasks with the same hashtag in TinyCal

Limitations

Right now, TinyCal is in its early days. It’s lacking a few features, some of which many would consider key ones. Those missing features include the ability to edit or update calendar items, setting reminders, and creating all-day events. Those features, and a few more, are on Feint’s roadmap. It’s just a matter of being patient.

There’s no mobile app. However, the site does work nicely with a mobile browser.

TinyCal in Chrome on an Android smartphone

Final Thoughts

TinyCal won’t appeal to everyone. That’s especially true for the crowd what wants every feature in their tools. TinyCal will definitely be too basic and too barebones for them.

What I like about TinyCal is that because there are no alerts or reminders, it forces you to be mindful and aware. You have to pay a bit more attention and take a bit more responsibility. It forces you to focus. That, I believe, is what makes TinyCal a useful and successful application.

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