The question, "when are you free?" never seems to have a quick and easy answer. Seniors Ben Johnson, Nathan Merritt and Houston Kraft may have found a solution to this problem, however, with their new iPhone app, Free Time.

"It basically looks at your calendar from a new perspective," said Kraft. "It imports the calendar from your phone, and shows the blocks of free time when you are available, and you can quickly share those with people."

Free Time allows the user to select these blocks of available time from their calendar and either copy that information to their clipboard, send it via text message or communicate it through email.

Though the app has not been released quite yet, it is currently in its second week of beta-testing, with an intended release in the middle of May.

Users also have the ability to bump phones with another person who has the app installed on their device, which allows them to view their mutual free time.

Johnson, who came up with the idea for Free Time, said he thought of it when he was walking across the quad one day.

"I get a lot of emails that ask me when I'm free," he said. "I thought that there has got to be a way to automate that response, because I don't want to write that email again. Machines can do that, so why not let them."

Following his revelation, Johnson contacted Kraft and Merritt and asked them to be a part of the project.

"He sold me on it," said Merritt. "Ben was always such a schedule nerd. He scheduled his Halo time during freshman year."

The app has come a long way since the idea's inception, though. "It's grown well past the auto-email," said Johnson.

Upon first using the app, users are asked to set the length of their day, their work hours and the times during which they usually take meals. This allows them to sort their free time by meal, time block, time range and day of the week.

Johnson, Kraft and Merritt, who've been friends since they met on the ultimate frisbee team in their first year at Bowdoin, began developing the app a little before the start of Winter Break.

Merritt was in charge of writing the back end of the code.

"I wrote all the data management and algorithms, none of which are iPhone specific," he said. "I'd never written much in C++ before, so the learning process was fun."

They chose this programming language because it can be integrated with both the iPhone and Android environments, and they hope to develop an Android version of the app over the summer.

Kraft was more involved with the design and user interface of Free Time.

"We worked a lot over Winter Break," Kraft said. "I would talk with Ben for a couple hours every day about how the app should look and feel, and I'd send him 10 to 20 drafts of ideas and templates that I had every day."

"My design background was very print-oriented," said Kraft. "My process of shifting my perspective toward user interface design has been interesting. You have to really think 'how will people use this?' It gives design a very human connection."

Johnson, who developed the Bowdoin Dining app, among others, headed the project.

"I'm in the middle [of Houston and Nathan] with a little bit of design and programming sense. I've been putting it all together," he said.

"We just want to clean it up performance-wise, feature-wise, and do final bug testing," said Kraft.

"I think it's pretty cool, because it really addresses a problem that people have," said Merritt. "I think people are going to be using their smartphone calendars more and more. I've really started using mine this year."

As for the future of Free Time, there are numerous possibilities.

"Every time we discuss the app, we always bring to light a number of new ideas and features that could be interesting down the road," said Kraft.

"It's a product that's going to grow," said Johnson. "It needs users to push it in all directions."