Sugar Calendar Review: Lightweight, Extensible WordPress Calendar Plugin
Looking for a WordPress events calendar plugin that doesn’t bog you down with features? Sugar Calendar might be just what you need. It’s a lightweight, but functional, event calendar plugin from Sandhills Development, the same team behind Easy Digital Downloads, AffiliateWP, WP Simple Pay, and (formerly) Restrict Content Pro (before recently selling it to iThemes).
Basically, it comes from an established group of people who know what they’re doing and have built a lot of other successful WordPress plugins.
In our hands-on Sugar Calendar review, I’ll take you through everything this plugin has to offer.
Sugar Calendar Review: The Feature List
Sugar Calendar is a pretty old plugin – I remember seeing it on Pippin Williamson’s site years ago. However, it seems like it started getting a lot more attention in 2019, when the team released a complete rewrite of the plugin in the form of version 2.0, as well as a standalone website for it.
The new version supports everything you need in a lightweight calendar plugin:
- Create unlimited “calendars” to act as categories.
- Add unlimited events via a really simple interface.
- Show calendars on the front-end (you also get some dedicated widgets).
- View/manage calendars and events on the backend.
- Set up basic recurring events (with the core Pro version).
The core version is pretty lightweight, but it’s got all the basics that you need.
There are also some paid add-ons that add key features that a lot of event sites need:
- Event ticketing – sell and manage tickets to your events. It includes a built-in Stripe payment system.
- Calendar feeds – sync your calendars to iCal, Google, and other calendar systems.
- Event URLs – configure external URLs for events or set up redirect URLs,
- Frontend Event Submissions – allow users to submit their own events from the front-end of your site.
- Advancing Recurring (Coming soon – not released at the time that I’m writing this) – create recurring events using more advanced rules.
If you need even more features, there are also a few free add-ons:
- Gravity Forms – integrate with Gravity Forms so that you can use Gravity Forms to create registration forms and even accept online payments.
- Ninja Forms – the same thing as above but for Ninja Forms.
- Google Maps – display event locations on Google Maps.
- WP All Import – easily import events from CSV or Excel files using the WP All Import plugin.
Hands-On With Sugar Calendar
Now, let’s go hands-on with Sugar Calendar and I’ll show you how it works.
To begin, I’ll only use the free version from WordPress.org. Then, I’ll install the premium add-ons and show you how some of those work.
There are two types of content in Sugar Calendar:
- Calendars – you can think of these as event categories – they help you organize your events.
- Events – these are individual events.
Creating an Event
One of the most unique things about Sugar Calendar is how simple its interface is for creating an event. If you’ve ever used another event plugin, you know that they give you lots of options for creating an event, which can sometimes feel overwhelming.
Sugar Calendar, on the other hand, only gives you a couple, which makes it much simpler (especially if you’re going to be handing this over to clients).
Obviously, there’s a trade-off there in that it also gives you less control over events. However, I’ve personally found that, with those other plugins, I usually left most of those fields blank anyway, so I kind of dig Sugar Calendar’s approach. YMMV, though.
With the free version, here’s literally all you do to create an event:
- Enter the duration in the Event box.
- Enter the Location in the Event box.
- Choose a Calendar in the sidebar (remember, these are categories).
- Add text in the editor (it uses the Classic editor by default, but it gives you an option to enable the Block editor if you’d prefer to use that instead).
- Add a featured image using the regular WordPress featured image tool.
And that’s it! You have an event:
You would likely want to add some custom CSS to adjust the event page because it’s pretty basic by default. If you’re a casual user, this might be a little frustrating because there are no built-in style options. But power users/developers can easily adjust things as needed.
You also get options in the settings to change the format of the date and time.
Displaying/Viewing the Calendar
To display calendars on the front-end, you get a few different options:
- PHP function
There’s currently not a block, which I think would be a useful addition here. Still, it’s easy enough to add the shortcode in the Shortcode block – you just won’t get a visual preview in the Block editor.
The shortcode comes with different parameters. For example, you can:
- Choose specific calendars (categories) of events. The default behavior is to show events from all calendars.
- Change the date range (e.g. a weekly calendar vs a monthly calendar).
The calendar will do its best to inherit styling from your theme, which makes it blend into the rest of your site right away. It also includes options to let visitors change the date or filter by a specific category of events:
In terms of widgets, you get dedicated options to show:
- A list of all calendars (categories).
- An event calendar.
- Event filters – lets visitors filter how to show events on the event archive page.
- Event list – shows upcoming events as a list instead of a calendar.
Here’s an example of what those widgets look like – again, you might need a little CSS to clean up the event list widget, at least on my Astra demo site:
You can also view a calendar of events on the backend in your dashboard, including options to filter events by date/time:
If you click on an event, you can see a popup with a quick summary of its details (including start/end time).
And that’s pretty much it for the free version – let’s take a look at some of the premium add-ons.
With the core Pro version, you get the option to create basic recurring events. With this version, you can repeat events:
You can also set a hard date to stop recurrence:
The developer is also working on a premium add-on that will add more advanced recurrence rules. However, that add-on is not out at the time that I’m writing this.
The Calendar Feeds add-on gives visitors an option to easily add individual events to their own calendars in the case of iCal or Google Calendar. Or, they can also sync entire calendars, in the case of WebCal and Direct.
It adds new options for iCal and Google Calendar to the single event page. It also adds an option to the calendar view:
With the Event URLs add-on, you get a new Link option in the event interface that lets you add a link to the event. You also have the option to automatically redirect visitors to this link (which would make the event page itself inaccessible).
For example, if you were hosting a webinar, you could redirect the event to the actual webinar join link:
The Event Ticketing add-on lets you sell tickets for your events, powered by Stripe for payments. Or, with a recent change, you can also integrate it with WooCommerce to unlock all of the many WooCommerce payment gateways (and the WooCommerce checkout/order management options). I’ll look at the Stripe method as I like Stripe and it’s the simplest way to get started.
In the ticketing settings, you can configure details like your currency and the order receipt emails:
Then, when you’re adding events, you’ll get an option to set a ticket price and maximum capacity:
On the front-end, visitors can purchase them using a popup. They can also add multiple attendees if needed:
On the receipt page, they’ll get options to email/print/view their tickets. Each ticket is assigned a unique code:
You’ll also be able to view order/ticket details in the backend:
You would need to verify ticket orders using this interface. Or, you could export tickets to a CSV file and use that (so that you don’t have to open your WordPress dashboard at the event).
However, there’s no app or QR codes or anything that lets you just easily scan the tickets.
Frontend Event Submissions
The Frontend Event Submissions add-on lets you create front-end forms for visitors to create their own events. It doesn’t include its own form builder – you’ll need to integrate it with one of the following plugins:
For example, in WPForms, you’ll get a new Sugar Calendar settings area that lets you map fields in your form to Sugar Calendar event fields:
Sugar Calendar Pricing
Sugar Calendar comes in both a lite version at WordPress.org, a core premium version, and various premium add-ons (as well as some free add-ons).
You will need the pro add-ons for advanced features such as event ticketing, front-end event submissions, calendar feeds, and more.
The core Pro version costs $29 or $49, but doesn’t include the Pro add-ons. You can get access to the Pro add-ons for $89 for a yearly license or $249 for a lifetime license:
Final Thoughts on Sugar Calendar
First off, all of the plugins from Sandhills Development have always had a good reputation when it comes to code quality and stability, which I imagine includes Sugar Calendar (though I don’t have the tech knowledge to assess the code myself).
I would say one consistent across all the plugins, Sugar Calendar included, is that they don’t try to wow you by packing in every single feature under the sun. Instead, they just do the core features most people need really well and then also build in a developer API so that you can extend things if needed. You can also easily extend via official extensions (like the ones I’ve detailed) or third-party extensions.
If you like that approach, I think you’ll like Sugar Calendar. However, in terms of raw features, it doesn’t match up with some other popular options. So if you’re a casual user who wants to have a pre-built feature/setting for every possible variation, it might not be right for you.
However, if you do like the lightweight approach and you feel comfortable using a little bit of CSS here and there, I think this is a really good option to consider.