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Review: Google Calendar

·776 words·4 mins
Articles reviews tech
Daniel Andrlik
Daniel Andrlik
Daniel Andrlik lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia. By day he manages product teams. The rest of the time he is a podcast host and producer, writer of speculative fiction, a rabid reader, and a programmer.

It hardly seems worth it to write a review of Google Calendar this late into the game does it? After all, with a Google product I’m sure everyone who is interested has already jumped onto the link to create their own account and see for themselves what it is like. So, this will be a very brief review.

Google Calendar: I like it.

I’ve been looking for a good online calendaring option ever since I retired my Palm Pilot four years ago. I wanted to be able to access my events from anywhere without carrying yet another mobile device. At the time, online calendaring services were pretty weak and I wasn’t so hot on logging into a website just to access my appointments. I wanted something more integrated. So, for a long time I just made do with my disorganized mess of handwritten notes, mental reminders and the use of the Microsoft Exchange Server Web Access for my work related appointments. I tried numerous desktop solutions, Sunbird, Korganizer, Evolution, but in the end it all left me feeling unimpressed. I couldn’t really access those events from elsewhere without an remote desktop connection or unless I used a WebDAV service, all of which were somewhat lackluster.

Then a few months ago I started looking into some of the new AJAX powered calendars as I saw potential to have the desktop functionality I craved in a web page. In particular I was impressed with the interface design of 30 Boxes, but the integration with email just wasn’t there. By that time, rumblings of Google Calendar had begun and as a faithful Gmail user, I decided to wait.

When I first started playing with Google Calendar it actually seemed a little too simple at first. It had the trademark clean and quiet interface, with a lot of the AJAX magic that made Gmail so popular, but I began to fear I had waited for nothing. However, as I began to dig into the features of GC I discovered that it was quite a powerful program. With this program you can create multiple calendars, which you can view all at once or seperatedly, each with separate sharing rules if you wish. Sharing can either by done at the public level or be restricted to particular users. Those of you who have used any flavor of groupware before will recognize and appreciate this feature. GC also allows you to add predefined calendars such as the holidays for your nation or religion, which will then be displayed on your calendar. You can also view your friends’ calendars if they elect to share them with you, which makes for fun social programming and event organization.

If you really want, GC also provides private URLs so that you can access your data from desktop calendaring applications either via XML syndication or iCal, which is a nice feature for those of you in love with a particular application and just want a convenient way to access your data away from home.

Of course, GC also serves up the meat and potatoes of any calendar program with full support for event recurrence, automatic guest invitations, event-specific sharing rules and of course location information. Google Calendar will even offer to use Google Maps to display the location of the event.

Google Calendar also can do the ever important event reminders, either by a JavaScript alert when you are viewing the page, email reminders, text messages to your cell phone or all three at once. Which brings us to the most important feature, which really wasn’t totally operational until today: email integration. Your calendar is smoothly integrated with Gmail allowing you to send and receive invitations with other Google users and build events based off of email conversations. This is a really cool feature. Gmail will automatically detect when a conversation seems to be dealing with a specific event and will provide a link to create an event for your calendar based off of the details. Sweet!

Honestly, I’ve been digging hard looking for something not to like in this service and I’ve come up with very little. My only wish is that there was a way to view my calendar over an https connection, similar to what you can optionally use in Gmail. It suits my security-conscious, (some might say paranoid) tendencies. :D

If you are one of the few who haven’t checked this out yet, I highly recommend that you do. Play with it for a few days, and I think I can safely say you won’t go back to your old system.

Tried Google Calendar? Agree/Disagree? Think I am full of it? Leave a comment!


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