Matt Gemmell

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Software Birthdays

development & source 1 min read

Hmm. It’s taken 4 years for me to realise that iCal Birthday Shifter shares an acronym with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. In any case, this minor update is for the former, fixing a crasher with nil-titled calendars (usually Groups; thanks to Adrian Kosmaczewski for the heads-up) and now ordering the calendars the same way as iCal instead of just alphabetically.

If there’s anyone in the world still using it (and my email indicates that there are plenty) you can get it from Magic Aubergine. Source included.

Hard to believe that I released iCal Birthday Shifter 1.0 on 11th Sept 2002, the day after iCal 1.0 was released (full disclosure: I didn’t develop it in one day; I’d had the White Rabbit beta for about a week at that point, and I started development on Sunday 8th). Four years ago.

During that time it spent months on Apple’s iCal resources page (see it on the Wayback Machine), was featured in various magazines (including repeatedly in MacPeople Japan, for whatever reason - I have my copies proudly archived here), been on umpteen cover CDs (including MacWorld UK), and even grew up from its initial “trendy” brushed metal UI:

iCal Birthday Shifter old screenshot

It looks like this now:

iCal Birthday Shifter new screenshot

And it’s just an incredibly simplistic little utility (which is pretty much obsolete since the Tiger version of iCal; see the option in iCal’s Preferences to “Show Birthdays Calendar”) that basically:

  • Grabs the people in your Address Book who have a Birthday specified
  • Parses iCal's various configuration files to get calendar names and colors
  • Adds the relevant birthdays to the chosen calendar via AppleScript, using a title you can specify (with tokens for the person's first name and last name)
  • Adds a custom property to the Address Book entries to mark those birthdays as "already copied"

That’s the entire thing. Why it’s lived on so long I have no idea. I guess that’s just a property of the internet, coupled with its timely release after iCal itself. As a mark of respect for the now surely venerable little app, I’ve created a new group in Address Book entitled “Software”, and created an inaugural entry for Shifter (with appropriate Birthday, of course).

Happy (belated by a month and a half) 4th Birthday, Birthday Shifter.

iCal Birthday Shifter icon