When it comes to online appointment scheduling for your business, you need an appointment scheduling app that's as dynamic and professional as you are. Whether you're a fitness studio booking classes or a solo entrepreneur scheduling remote calls, all the tasks that make up booking management can easily eat into your precious work hours.
I've used several appointment scheduling apps through the years to book discovery calls and client meetings. In my experience, there may be many solutions to choose from—but they don't all stack up.
The best appointment scheduling software can handle short-notice cancellations and reschedule requests, take payments, and integrate with your tech stack. I considered and tested dozens of booking apps to find the ones that will free up your time to focus on the work that matters.
The best appointment scheduling and booking software
Acuity Scheduling for tech newbies
Picktime for free booking software
SimplyBook.me for international businesses
TimeTap for customization
Zoho Bookings for managing your entire business
vcita for managing client relationships
What is an appointment scheduler?
Appointment schedulers are business tools that allow clients to book, reschedule, and cancel appointments through a web interface. When clients want to make an appointment, they go to your business's website, Facebook Page, or anywhere else the booking software is supported, and choose an available date and time.
On the backend, you enter parameters about when people can book certain services, based on business hours you set as well as the times and dates that your staff or other resources are available. The app also prevents double-booking and over-booking, and gives you the flexibility to block off times when certain services may be unavailable.
Say you run a pet grooming business and your poodle cutting specialist takes a two-week vacation. You can enter her days off in the appointment scheduling app ahead of time so that your clients won't be able to book any poodle grooming time during the days that she's gone.
What makes a great appointment or booking app?
How we evaluate and test apps
All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.
The best booking apps do more than simply give clients a list of available times when they can come in for a meeting, treatment, or service. They also let your clientele cancel and reschedule appointments without having to contact you. Additionally, they make it easy for business owners and managers to do their jobs, allowing you to streamline communication, centralize payments, and manage your staff. Here's what you should expect from the very best appointment scheduling apps:
Flexibility. The best appointment scheduling apps know that different kinds of organizations have different needs, so they let you deeply customize how your bookings work. A small gym offering one-on-one training sessions should have a different booking experience than a community workshop that rents gardening equipment. Do you want your clients to be able to choose from a menu of services? Should they be able to specify the location for their appointment, such as for services offered at their home? Though there are some great niche options out there (like Vagaro for salon, spa, and fitness businesses), the best appointment scheduling apps let you customize these aspects.
Calendar syncing. Nearly all appointment scheduling apps let you sync with a calendar. Some even require it. That way, you can see your business's scheduled appointments alongside other important information, such as when you'll be closed for holidays or renovations. Plus, the app can cross-reference your availability with the events on your primary calendar. For our tests, apps were only considered if they offered syncing with Google Calendar and at least one other popular calendar—and priority was given to apps that offered two-way syncing.
Payment processing. The best appointment scheduling apps let you collect a payment at the time of booking. That way, you can take a deposit for an appointment or have clients pay for their services upfront. If a client doesn't show up, your business isn't at a total loss.
Integration with third-party tools. Your appointment scheduling tool absolutely needs the ability to connect to the rest of your tech stack. If the app can't integrate with tools like Slack, Mailchimp, and Zoom (or at least let you set up your own connections with Zapier), it has no business being on this list.
Professional presentation. Your appointment scheduler should be an extension of your brand. Whether customers are making bookings or an industry peer is scheduling a Zoom call with you, the appointment scheduling process should be streamlined, glitch-free, and aesthetically pleasing. It should also be flexible, with multiple points of access like a widget on your website, a Facebook Business Page, or a custom URL. For this reason, I tested each app from both the business and client sides.
I excluded any online booking system that didn't have standalone functionality. For instance, there are plenty of WordPress plugins that let your website visitors book appointments, but that could be a list in and of itself, so I didn't consider those options.
One final consideration in choosing the best appointment schedulers was to avoid confusing them with meeting scheduling apps. Meeting schedulers share some similarities with appointment software. The key difference is that meeting apps are specifically for meetings, whereas appointment scheduling apps are for a variety of appointment types that may or may not include a menu of services but often require payment at the end.
Best appointment scheduling app for tech newbies
Acuity Scheduling (Android, iOS, Web)
Now a part of Squarespace, Acuity Scheduling is the appointment scheduling app to choose when you aren't tech-savvy but still need to customize your booking process to a fine degree. When you design your booking page, you can allow your clients to choose recurring appointments, if it's applicable, complete an intake form, and pay in advance for services. You can also offer coupons and give clients the ability to add on services when they book, such as adding a 15-minute foot massage to a pedicure.
I found Acuity's blend of flexibility and ease of use truly impressive. During setup, you'll choose between monthly and daily view for clients, create intake forms, upload a logo, set a time zone, and decide whether to make clients pick their own time zone to avoid remote call issues.
You can choose to let clients reschedule or cancel their appointments—or not—and change the interval for start times of appointments, which is by default every 15 minutes. You can put a limit on how far in advance or with how much short notice clients can book an appointment. And I especially love that you can enable an option called "Make me look busy," which automatically hides some available times so you don't seem desperate.
When you're ready to make your booking page live, share it via a direct link, embed it into your website using a few different options (including an easy embed option for Squarespace sites), or create a booking button, booking bar, or QR code. Acuity has mobile apps to access your account from the business side, letting you update your availability from an Android or iOS device, and a client app for mobile booking.
I was impressed with the number of email templates that were available based on different appointment types, including confirmations, reminders, cancellations, rescheduling requests, follow-ups, package/gift card orders, and subscription updates.
Acuity comes with powerful integration options, including QuickBooks, ClassPass, Salesforce, and Zoom. Or you can integrate Acuity Scheduling with Zapier, which lets you connect Acuity to thousands of other apps. Here are some examples of how to automate your scheduling-related tasks.
Create Mailchimp subscribers from new Acuity Scheduling appointments
Add new Acuity Scheduling appointments to a Google Sheets spreadsheet
Read more: Learn how to automate Acuity, or take a look at our comparison of Calendly vs. Acuity.
Who Acuity isn't right for: While there are several features that would be useful for retail businesses (like in-person payment options), there's no SMS reminder option for customers. So consumer-facing brands and those that want several ways to get in touch with attendees prior to appointments may want to look elsewhere.
Supported payment systems: PayPal, Square, or Stripe; also works with in-person payments
Supported calendars: Google Calendar, iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com; with the option to choose between 2-way and 1-way syncing
Acuity Scheduling pricing: Paid plans from $15/month for 1 staff member and location, payment processing features, and more
Best free scheduling app
Picktime (Web, iOS, Android)
If you're looking for a booking app that'll get you client-ready—in a hurry and for $0—you can't go wrong with Picktime. The app's free plan is the most generous option we found, including unlimited appointments, three team members, two locations, and a number of useful native integrations.
Open the sidebar menu and select Calendar to view your full schedule of booked appointments, classes, and resources. Select Online Booking to customize your booking page, scheduling rules, and booking questions.
Picktime isn't the most customizable when it comes to your booking page, but what it lacks in customization options, it more than makes up for with setup speed. I found the default booking page to be slick and professional-looking, and it allowed me to get my profile up and running in a matter of minutes. Plus, with pre-built widgets for Facebook, Google Maps, and several website builders, you can let clients book from nearly anywhere.
I also loved the streamlined Overview dashboard (the first option in the sidebar menu). There, you can see all the important details at a glance, including total appointments, confirmed, projected, and total revenue, and what's coming up next.
Who Picktime isn't right for: Picktime limits payment processors to PayPal on the free plan, and the only video conferencing app available on the free tier is Jitsi Meet. If you want to sync with Zoom for remote meetings or accept payments through Stripe or Square, you'll need to pay for the premium plan, at which point, you might want to look elsewhere.
Supported payment systems: PayPal, Stripe, Square
Supported calendars: Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, Office 365
Picktime pricing: Free for up to 3 team members and unlimited bookings; paid plans start at $9.99/month and include additional team members and locations, payment processing options, integrations, and more.
Another robust free appointment booking app, Setmore was just barely edged out here as the best free option. It offers many of the same generous features on the free tier, including up to four users, social media and website integrations, a custom booking page with unique URL, and unlimited appointments with email reminders. The free plan also limits available integrations, but this time, users are limited to Square for payment processing and Teleport for video conferencing. So if those choices are more to your liking and you're set on a free plan, check out Setmore's generous one.
Best appointment scheduling app for international businesses
SimplyBook.me (Android, iOS, Web)
Because of how many languages and international payment options it supports, SimplyBook.me is the best scheduling app for international businesses. SimplyBook.me's booking pages are available in 32 different languages, from Arabic to Greek to Icelandic to Ukrainian. It also offers integration with more than two dozen payment processing services so that you can offer a system that works for your customers.
I found the setup process (and booking page) to be extremely pleasant and intuitive, as clear instructions walk you through your options for creating appointment types and add-on services. Choose a color theme and background for your booking page website, and specify how many service providers and services your business offers. As an added bonus, SimplyBook.me automatically identifies the features most relevant to you based on the information you added about your business category (for example, if you select "Gym," SimplyBook.me highlights selling memberships, offering classes, and including multiple locations).
And because SimplyBook.me is so conscious of the global business community, it only makes sense that it offers Facebook and Instagram integrations, too, for people who do most of their business through social media.
SimplyBook.me also offers a dashboard and reports, so you can monitor your business: see how many bookings have been canceled, workload per employee, online reviews of your business, as well as all the text message reminders that have gone out from your account.
Plus, you can connect your booking software to all the other apps you use for your business with SimplyBook.me's Zapier integrations. Do things like automate and customize your booking confirmations, add appointments to all your calendars, and more.
Send copy of SimplyBook new booking confirmation via Gmail
Add SimplyBook.me appointments to Office 365 as events
Who SimplyBook.me isn't right for: If you do a lot of meetings via Zoom, you may be frustrated with the limited video conferencing options with SimplyBook.me. There are options to host remote appointments with Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, but no native Zoom integration as of yet.
Supported payment systems: 2Checkout, Adyen, Alipay, Asiapay, Authorize.net, Bitcoin, Borgun, Braintree, CCAvenue, Dwolla, ECPay, GoCoin, Korta.is, Line Pay, Liqpay, Mollie, NewebPay, Pagar.Me, Payfast, Payfort, PayGate, Paymentwall, PayPal, paysafecard, PayTabs, PayU Latin America, Pin Payments, Skrill, Square, Stripe, Swish, TapPay, Virtual Card Services, Worldpay, and ZooZ.
Supported calendars: Google Calendar, Outlook
SimplyBook.me pricing: Free for up to 50 bookings per month and 5 providers; paid plans from $9.90/month, including additional monthly bookings and providers, a client app, and more.
Best appointment scheduling app for customization
TimeTap (Web, iOS, Android)
If you like really digging into the mechanics and aren't afraid to spend some time customizing the tools you use, TimeTap is one of the most scalable and customizable appointment scheduling systems out there. It may be one of the pricier options on this list (at $39.95/month), but the app is such a great blend of flexibility, automation tools, and features that it was still an easy choice for this list.
When it comes to professional presentation, TimeTap users have a lot of granular control over the app's settings. As I was testing, I took my time setting up the "mini website," where I customized the web address, added a logo and SEO/metadata fields, played with button and field displays, customized message boxes, and chose a color scheme and style to match my theoretical business's brand. And I appreciated that once I customized my bookings page to my liking, I could easily choose to embed it in my website or social media pages.
TimeTap also has a highly flexible calendar view, letting you choose between a weekly calendar, availability view, appointment lists, and class lists. Easily customize the scheduler rules and logic, set locations (and even individual rooms), create detailed booking forms, and create recurring appointments.
Larger organizations will undoubtedly find TimeTap's unlimited appointments and clients useful, as well as multiple staff calendars with different security levels. For example, you can add users that only have permission to view the Reports menu, so if you have a back-office staff member who needs to run reports, you might give them limited access to your system without worrying about mishaps. Customers and staff can also upload PDFs (like forms/waivers) and attach them to client profiles.
The booking feature comes with a handy waitlist so that even when you're booked up, you lessen the risk of no-shows costing you money.
Who TimeTap isn't right for: While the platform is extremely feature-rich, users who aren't technical may be overwhelmed by the very granular settings. Also: TimeTap integrates with an impressive number of payment apps and calendars, but its other integrations are limited to Salesforce, Keap, and Twilio. You can use webhooks to connect to another app (or implement an integration with Zapier), but again, that's a lot of work for a user who isn't tech-savvy.
Supported payment systems: PayPal, Stripe, Square, Cayan, Authorize.net, E-Xact
Supported calendars: Two-way sync with Google Calendar, iCloud, Office 365, Outlook, Exchange
TimeTap pricing: Free for 1 staff and 1 location; Professional Team plan is $39.95/month for 5 staff members and 5 locations
Best appointment scheduling app for managing your entire business in one place
Zoho Bookings (Web, iOS, Android)
If you already use one or more of Zoho's other offerings—or if you're just looking for an all-in-one solution to let you manage your entire business, you may want to consider Zoho Bookings. While the (very affordable) appointment scheduling tool itself is robust, intuitive, and feature-rich, the real benefit is that Zoho Bookings integrates very well with other Zoho apps, including Meeting, Calendar, CRM, Assist, Flow, and Sites.
The platform comes with tools for every business task under the sun, from sales, to marketing, to customer service, to project management and collaboration tools. But since we're talking about appointment scheduling in particular, let's take a closer look at the Bookings app itself.
Zoho Bookings comes with a lot of flexibility, with built-in buffer times and planned breaks, time off or special hours, and a custom cancellation policy. You can also set up several workspaces (aka businesses or locations) with separate booking pages and calendars.
The calendar dashboard is easy to navigate and check at a glance. It comes with various views (Calendar/List and Day/Week/Month) as well as the option to view the cumulative schedule for all workspaces or only one in particular. As I was testing, I appreciated the easy access to the customer-facing booking page from the dashboard: you can just click Booking Page to see what your customers would see when scheduling an appointment with you. That made it easy to tweak and customize the booking page for the best presentation and customer experience possible.
Users have the option to share a URL for the entire business or direct URLs for each booking type. Alternatively, each staff member has their own booking page URL to share with customers. One unique and useful feature: the software can auto-assign appointments to the least-busy staff member at the time.
Beyond Zoho's apps, Zoho Bookings also comes with a wide variety of integrations including Google Meet, Zoom, Clockwork SMS, and Twilio. Plus, Zoho Bookings integrates with Zapier, so you can connect all your apps and automate even more business tasks. Here are just a couple examples.
Create Zoom meetings for new Zoho Bookings appointments
Send email via Gmail for canceled appointments in Zoho Bookings
Who Zoho Bookings isn't right for: While the app is extremely feature-rich, the number of features can be overwhelming for some users. If you're hoping for a quick and minimalist appointment calendar (and if you have no interest in Zoho's larger suite of tools), this app may not be for you.
Supported payment systems: PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.Net, Razorpay, Forte, Mercado Pago, 2checkout
Supported calendars: Zoho Calendar, Google Calendar, Office 365
Zoho Bookings pricing: Free for 1 person; the Basic plan is $6/user/month and includes mobile app access, the ability to sync 2 calendars, and the Zapier integration.
Best appointment scheduling app for managing customer relationships
vcita (Web, iOS, Android)
vcita is a whole suite of cloud-based tools for businesses, and it includes two that are for booking and managing appointments: Client Portal and Scheduling. It's very easy to get started with vcita, though slightly more difficult to customize the app deeply to your needs. In addition, it offers billing and invoicing, lead generation, and marketing campaign tools for email and SMS.
One of the selling points of using vcita for appointment scheduling is that it helps you develop relationships with customers. Some of the tools aren't strictly unique to vcita, as other appointment scheduling apps allow you to keep notes on your customers. But vcita lets you upload attachments, view your history with the client, and even import your client list from another app. vcita also gives you an inbox where you can interact with customers about rescheduling appointments, cancellations, and other details. You can write emails and text messages to go out as a campaign to your client list to promote new services, offer existing special deals, or simply nudge them to schedule their next appointment.
After an appointment takes place, you receive an email from vcita asking if you'd like to take any of the following actions next: set a new appointment with the client, send a thank-you message, or log it as a missed appointment. These prompts help keep you engaged with customers and active in running your business efficiently. You also have the option to create a secure client portal where your regulars can log in to manage their information and appointments.
vcita works with QuickBooks, Weebly, Wix, WordPress, Zoom, and other tools, but if there are other business apps you'd like to integrate, you can do that by connecting vcita to Zapier. Here are a couple examples of how you can automate your booking workflows, but Zapier supports thousands of apps, so you can customize your automation.
Add detailed events on Google Calendar for new vcita appointments
Who vcita isn't right for: While this app is highly customizable and comes with a suite of tools to manage your customer relationships, it also has a steep learning curve. Less tech-forward administrators may want to go with another, simpler app. Also, the pricing might be prohibitive for smaller businesses. Adding a second user bumps the monthly price from $19 to $65 (when paying annually).
Supported Payment Systems: PayPal, Stripe, Square
Supported Calendars: Google Calendar, iCloud, Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo
vcita Pricing: $19/month when billed annually for scheduling only and 1 team member; full-featured plans from $45/month when billed annually
Whether you run a client-based business on your own or with the help of many staff members, you can find the right app to help you manage your client appointments. Using a full-featured appointment booking tool can also cut down on the number of no-shows and late cancellations, and it can help you recoup cancellation fees easily by securing a credit card hold at the time of booking. And when you automate your booking software, you'll be able to use your energy to focus on the work that matters most.
Originally written by Emily Irish and published in 2017, this article has had contributions from Jill Duffy, Kiera Abbamonte, and Emily Esposito. It was most recently updated in April 2022.