We create WordPress themes for education, governmental and nongovernmental organizations. Because of this I am constantly researching and analyzing over 750,000 of school, kindergarten and city hall websites from all around the world.
During my research I have determined that a very high percentage of education and governmental websites use some type of event calendar on their website.
But how should you choose a calendar plugin for your WordPress website?
I’m hoping that by the end of this article you will be able to decide which is the best WordPress calendar plugin for your website.
What are Event Calendars?
Not to be confused with the standard WordPress Calendar Widget, an event calendar is usually a page that contains a list of upcoming events organized in a certain place or by a certain organizer.
Who needs a calendar on their WordPress website?
If your organization works with the public in some way then most likely there are regular and irregular events that you need to inform people about.
Schools usually have a rich event calendar for their students, parents and faculty. It is the easiest way to keep everyone informed about what’s happening at the school.
Kindergartens have a calendar to keep parents informed about parent association meetings, as well as the weekly/monthly tours for new parents.
City Halls use their calendar to inform citizens of local events, holidays, etc.
The Most Popular WordPress Event Plugins
I would like to present a list of the most popular WordPress Event Plugins that I found in the wild. The order does not use the official WordPress.org plugin active installations counter but my own statistics.
For example a comparison between All-in-One Event Calendar and The Events Calendar. The first one shows 100,000+ active installations and the second one shows 600,000+ active installations. Even though it’s a 600% difference, my own research data indicates that the All-in-One Event Calendar is used by school websites 6 times more often than The Events Calendar.
I will be testing all these plugins using the Fleming WordPress Theme, a great theme for schools, local government offices, etc.
1. All-in-One Event Calendar (by Time.ly Network Inc.) — FREE
The most used event plugin on school, kindergarten, university and city hall websites.
This is what the plugin’s main Settings page looks like. I have highlighted 3 configurable options that I think you should pay extra attention to.
The Add New Event page looks just like a regular blog post creation page, but it has an additional Meta Box at the top: Event Details.
Here you can describe the event: Date and Time, Event Location, Event Cost and Organizer info.
A core feature that I really appreciate in All-in-One Event Calendar is the ability to automatically repeat events. It provides a very intuitive way of setting this up.
This is what a published event looks like:
On plugin installation it will also create a new Calendar page that will automatically display all your upcoming events. This is what it looks like with just two repeating events:
And finally the plugin provides a custom Upcoming Events widget that you can add to any widgetized area (sidebar).
All-in-One Event Calendar Plugin is great! It is Free and comes with the most important features built-in: repeatable events, a calendar page and a upcoming events widget. Unless you have very specific requirements, this plugin will likely work very well on your WordPress website.
2. Simple Calendar – Google Calendar Plugin (by Simple Calendar) — FREE
This plugin is for people that use and rely on Google Calendars and want them better integrated into their WordPress website.
You will have to follow step-by-step instructions in order to set up a Google API Key, otherwise you can’t load and access the calendars directly from the website.
Once everything is set up properly, this is what the calendar could look like embedded on your website:
I didn’t spend much time reviewing this plugin, as it relies on a third-party service. The good part is that you probably can have multiple people with access to your Google Calendar, and yet none of them would have direct access to your WordPress website. So I guess it is a good way to limit the amount of admin accounts on your WordPress website.
3. The Events Calendar (by Modern Tribe, Inc.) — FREE
Universally the most popular WordPress Events Calendar plugin.
The plugin has a Settings page with five sub-pages (tabs). The most important ones are General and Display (highlighted).
If you are having issues getting the calendar to look OK in your theme, be sure to try out the highlighted settings from the Settings > Display tab.
The New Event page looks a little overwhelming because all the event input fields are visible in the same block, without separating them in collapsible tabs.
A significant weakness of this plugin is that it doesn’t have recurring events. Yes, you can upgrade to Events Calendar PRO which includes the Recurring Events feature, but that will set you back at least $89.
And here’s what an event page looks like:
This plugin has another inconvenience that can prove to be difficult in certain cases. The page that displays your upcoming events list is not an actual page that you can edit, it is a taxonomy archive page that you as a user have little control over. For example some of the layout options that come with our themes cannot be used with this specific page.
And finally the Events List widget that comes with the plugin:
The Events Calendar is a nice looking plugin, especially if you look at its popularity and don’t compare it with competing plugins. But when you put it side by side with free plugins like All-in-One Event Calendar then it falls a little short. As a developer I don’t see many reasons why I would use this plugin instead of All-in-One Event Calendar.
4. EventOn (by ashanjay) — $24
EventOn is a paid WordPress Event Calendar Plugin sold on CodeCanyon (Envato). At the time of writing this the plugin had 35,446 sales and a 4.45 average rating based on 1697 ratings.
The plugin was first released on January 3, 2012 and has seen regular updates ever since. For the past 2 years there’s an update roughly every month.
I didn’t get to use the plugin itself, but it has a live demo page that demonstrates the plugin’s features.
Default Calendar view:
It also provides a tiled view:
The plugin is over 6 years old and is constantly being updated. Considering the amount of sales and continued support, this plugin looks like it stood the test of time. If none of the free plugins on this list work for you, then maybe you could try this paid plugin.
5. Events Manager (by Marcus Sykes) — FREE
Another popular (free) plugin. The Settings pages of this plugin are incredibly overwhelming. If you are someone who needs very specific control over your plugins and enjoy reading through dozens and dozens of pages of settings and input fields, then this plugin is for you.
Right out of the box, the Add New Event screen looks a little odd. For some reason the time part (When) appears to the right, while the location (Where) appears at the bottom of the page.
The input fields are not aligned very well and it looks a bit messy.
If you add only a partial location then the new event doesn’t even save after hitting “Publish”. After a different issue with the event page I decided that it’s not going to work for me.
Maybe it’s worth spending a couple of hours figuring out how to tune this plugin, but at this point I don’t see a reason to get too much into it. The plugins that were mentioned above have a much easier learning curve and work right out of the box. Is this plugin better for more complex requirements? I don’t know. If I got overwhelmed by it then most likely average users will be scared too.
There are many plugins for creating, managing and displaying lists of events. When looking for one to use it is best to try out and review at least four or five of them, because popularity and a high rating do not automatically mean a certain plugin is best for you.