ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

Shifts Calendar apps for Windows Phone

12/18/2012 7:34:54 PM

My wife works in shifts. Randomly distributed over a month. Every month she gets a sheet of paper with a list of shifts in a table with other people. What I usually did was take a picture of that list and then look through it trying to figure out her schedule for today/tomorrow. This isn’t difficult but pretty inconvenient. So for a month or so I was musing about doing a personal hackathon to make an up to do that more conveniently.

Does your idea pass a “Google test”?

Well, this app was never meant to be a business, because I always thought it’s too niche. That’s why I never thought it could exist and never bothered to search for an app like this. But as they say “there’s an app for that”. Even for something you think only you and 2 other people need. So I finally stopped procrastinating and did a search for “shifts calendar”

image

The funny thing is that I either didn’t find SaTurnos when I did the search on the phone or missed it because the name and tile didn’t catch my eye. So I’ll only cover the remaining 3 in this post.

My requirements

I had 2 must-have requirements:

  1. easy to enter shifts – I don’t want to spend half an hour to enter the shifts.
  2. live tile – I want it to be easier to check the shift with this app than to look it up in the photo, way easier.

There are a few things that would be nice-to-have but I can live without them, namely

  • export to [real] calendar
  • share the data file with other copies of the app (wife’s, daughter’s, etc.)

Choosing an app

shiftscalendarHere’s a brief look at my thought process when choosing one of the 3 apps.

First of all only one of the 3 apps had trial – ShiftCalendar

Since it was only one of the 3 that had a trial it was an obvious choice to try first without even going through description or reviews. Glance at the screenshots and instant download. At this point, if it satisfied my requirements it would be over for the other 2. Can’t understand why would anyone decide not to do a trial or a free version with upsell/IAP/ads.

Anyway. Unfortunately 2 other apps got a chance because ShiftCalendar failed both of my requirements. Entering shifts is relatively painful – for every day it opens a windows to select a shift. You can select multiple dates for the same shift and then set it. Still a little suboptimal, imho. Moreover it only lets you pick a color for the shifts so you end up with a colorful calendar where you have to remember which shift each color represents. Probably easy after a few days of use, but still an odd decision. And no live tile.

So, as I said, only the fact that it didn’t satisfy my requirements gave the other 2 a chance. Since they didn’t have trial I had to read their descriptions and reviews relatively carefully.

shiftworkcalendarFirst was Shift Work Calendar. The screenshots looked nice and feature list impressive. The app has way more than I need, even though it doesn’t have any of my nice-to-have features. That said it has an export to image feature which on one hand is better looking and easier to digest and share than the original sheet of paper, but on the other hand screenshot feature on Windows Phone 8 basically renders this a non-feature.

So the calendar looks nice, entering shifts is easy (even though I envisioned a better input UI for my imaginary app) and live tile is listed and showcased on one of the screenshots.

With everything looking pretty good one “feature” threw me off completely and made me buy the other app first and I only bought Shift Work Calendar after I decided to do this review.

That “feature” is:

30 page user guide downloadable from the help page.

 

Seriously! This is the reason I chose the other app. That and the fact that some people in the reviews mentioned this “feature” as something you would need to figure out how to use this app. And I actually had to reread the description (managed to do without the user guide) to get a hint on how to get the life tile to work since it didn’t work on the main tile (you need to go to calendars, select a calendar you want to pin and press the edit button (pencil) and there you’ll find a button to pin it).

The tile looks a little washed out (probably due to the fact it was made for WVGA displays) but otherwise displays all the essential information – today’s shift on the front and tomorrow’s shift on the back.

shiftwerkSo this brings us to the third app and the first one I’ve bought – Shiftwerk. The app looks pretty good, even though I prefer the look of Shift Work Calendar. The data entry is pretty much identical to Shift Work Calendar and is fine with me. Like ShiftCalendar it only shows shifts via colors in the calendar, though. That said if you tap on the date you see the details under it. Another thing is that it always uses Sunday as the first day of the week and doesn’t pick it up from your regional settings and doesn’t have a setting to set the first day manually.

Live tile worked “right out of the box”, looked crisp and it didn’t require reading a 30 page manual ;) Unfortunately, though, there’s one major flaw with the live tile for me. It show the next shift. Meaning that if you work say from 2pm to 8pm today it will start showing tomorrows shift after 2pm. This is probably fine if you are the one working in shifts – you would probably know that you are at work at 3pm. But since I need it to know someone else’s shifts it doesn’t work for me. If 3pm was the first time I decided to check it I will have no idea if today was a day off, first shift or second shift. Not a super-major issue but still a minus in my book.

So it looks like I will be using Shift Work Calendar after all, but I’m keeping all of them pinned at least until the end of the month to see if I’ve missed something. Here’s how they look pinned:

wp_ss_20121218_0001

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