All I really want is recurring tasks in iCal…

Seriously. I love my Mac. I am happy with Apple Mail and Address Book. I like the ability to publish calendars in iCal. But no recurring tasks?

A little background would be helpful. I have been using PCs since the early 1980s. I have worked with DOS and C/PM. I started on Windows with 3.1 and I still like Windows Explorer better than My Computer because it reminds me of File Manager. I am a long time user of Office and Outlook.

I am also a long time user of the Franklin Covey system. I started with the paper calendar system and then moved to using electronic tools instead. Key points of the Franklin Covey system are keeping all of your information in one place and setting up a system of “to do” items that you can prioritize. Some of these are recurring so set them up that way.

I am a Software Engineer. I have done a lot of C++ and C# programming – all on the Windows platform.


About a year ago when my last Dell laptop was dying and I knew I was going to have to buy new hardware I was faced with a choice. Buy another Windows machine and have Vista foisted upon me – not a good choice at all or switch to a Mac – an entirely new way of doing things. I choose the Mac.

I love my Mac. It just works. I have been using Parallels to keep an XP machine handy for the few Windows only things I still need (I use Visual Studio for teaching VB and C#, Visio for another class I teach and SPSS for doing statistics).

When I got my Mac I started with Office for Mac. I used Entourage the same way I used Outlook – mail, calendar, To do list. It was very efficient for me.

Then I got my iPhone. I must say my iPhone is probably the best technology I have ever touched. It is truly wonderful. But I need to sync it. So, I set up Entourage to sync with .Mac and iCal. It mostly worked. I figured out how to publish calendars and that made communicating a seriously complicated family calendar to the seriously complicated family a lot easier.

The problem was that Entourage sometimes did not sync properly. Sometimes it would not sync at all. Sometimes this process gave 10 instances of the same event. Sometimes it gave me 6 of the same to do item carried forward to 2050. It was not working well at all.

I gave up and dropped Entourage altogether. I moved my mail to Apple Mail, my contacts to Address Book and my calendar exclusively to iCal. Then I went to set up my recurring tasks. These are the things I need to get done every week, every two weeks, every month. I set up the first task, went to make it recurring and …. Nothing. No way to make it recurring.

It turns out that recurring tasks are not part of iCal or Apple Mail. Never have been. I did research. After all, surely someone else has had this problem and has posted a solution or maybe a little application that would work for me.

I found lots of applications for the GTD – Get Things Done system. This is kind of like the Franklin Covey system, but more involved. I tried a couple of them, but they required me to change my system. I have a good system to get things done, I don’t want a new system I just want recurring tasks.

I found one work around. Create a recurring event for each recurring task and then the week of that event you can drag the event to the task list. Are you kidding me? Apparently not. This is what I am currently doing. It sucks. It means I have to remember to drag my recurring events to my task list. It means I have a separate calendar for recurring tasks because I don’t really want to publish or sync those.

Which brings me back to my recurring question. Why doesn’t iCal have recurring tasks? It has recurring events. It cannot possibly be that hard to implement this feature.

I will tell you how to do it. In fact, hire me as a contractor and pay me in store credit and I will do it for you.

First, I have never seen the code for iCal, so I am making educated guesses. I strongly suspect that iCal is implemented in an object-oriented way. As such there is likely an event class and a task class. Go to the event class and find the code (probably a method) that implements recurring events. Copy this. Now go to the task class. Paste the recurring events code you just copied into the task class. Fix it up so it is now recurring tasks (this is the complicated bit because you are going to have to make sure you fix all parts of this method so that it will work with the task class). Set the default for when to end the recurring task to number of times and set that to something like 20. This will address the problem of tasks that recur until 2050.

See, it is not that hard. Would it kill someone at Apple to implement recurring tasks? Seriously? I am asking nice and offering to do the work.

5 comments for “All I really want is recurring tasks in iCal…

  1. June 15, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Syd, Since ZenPundit tagged Sam, I hereby tag you with the “Random 7 Meme”. My post (and rules) are here:

    http://oz.deichman.net/2008/06/random-seven-meme.html

    Hope you get those “recurring tasks” — my Palm app “ReDo” is one of my favorites, and a big reason why I stick with the Palm OS.

  2. bluefire
    July 19, 2008 at 4:06 am

    I registered for your blog just to post that the ical team is hiring :). http://jobs.apple.com/index.ajs?BID=1&method=mExternal.showJob&RID=9743&CurrentPage=1

    Maybe you really could help them with recurring to-dos? I hope somebody can because my life stinks without them! Found your blog while I was looking for a solution for the lack of recurring to-dos.

  3. Aaron Webb
    September 10, 2008 at 8:23 am

    EasyTask Manager – http://www.orionbelt.com/.

    The $20 (free for < 20 tasks) is well worth it. Integrates with iCal/Mail.app, and has a free iPhone/iPod Touch native app, with online sync back and forth. I’m new to the GTD method and have just been using these for a few days but already am blown away by how helpful this is.

    The icing on an already rich cake – EasyTask will let you set up recurring tasks, which then get put into iCal for you.

  4. gaelus
    June 10, 2010 at 3:25 am

    OMG I am a new Maccie too and had downloaded some iphone apps to try for reminders and thought why am i doing this – surely i can just do it in ical & have it all in the right place right? wrong! i’m sorry but it is ridiculous that this wasn’t included. i think it is a conspiracy to make $ from iphone apps that fill these gaps but i don’t want a new thing to go to all the time. i want it all in one place! and while i work in digital media, i’m not a techie and don’t have the time or inclination to do ridiculous workarounds or try and buy ever more apps etc that are meant to sync & invariably don’t or are disappointing. VENT OVER FOR NOW.

  5. Frustrated Aussie
    April 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Crikey! Here we are into 2012 and still we have to put up with the frustration of no recurring tasks!
    Perhaps the real beef is with Microsoft who still can’t get Outlook 2011 to synch with anything!
    I have spent countless hours trying to get my calendar and tasks to synch to my smart phone and then hit this ridiculous situation of having to find a work around for a facility av ail able in Outlook that I have been using since the least century! It’s nearly enough to consign my Mac to my grand kids and revert to PC

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