This is an article to follow up on my basic use of online calendaring applications. As I wrote before, I think Google offers the most versatile and user friendly calendaring application on the Internet. There are several other, like Yahoo! and MSN, and I would hope you look at each of these to find the one that suites you the best.
For the purposes of this article, I will cover both the web and mobile version of the Google calendaring systems.
Web based version:
One trait you can count on with Google is a simple and clutter free interface for most of their applications. The calendar application is no exception.
This application is made up of three different sections. The main part of the screen shows a day, week or monthly view. A left sidebar that shows the current month, and all available calendars (which we’ll discuss later), and setting options on the top. You can configure the look and feel to provide you with the best work flow.
The first things you want to become familiar with are entering calendar events, and deciding if you need more than one main calendar. As you can see from the example picture to the left, I have several individual calendars that make up my entire view. I can easily turn them on or off by simply clicking on them
A great example for the necessity of more than one calendar, is one for yourself, one to share with your family, one to share with your book club and maybe one to share with your office. Each one is independent but can be managed from the same application.
Entering a new calendar event is as easy as clicking on the day of the month, or if you are have the day view up, clicking the time slot, and you’ll notice a small bubble window will pop up. You can quickly add a new event by simply typing in the event name, location and time, i.e. Lunch with Thom at TGI Fridays 12-1PM. This entry will then show up with defaults on the day you selected. To edit the details simply click on the entry and choose the edit link.
A really cool feature Google calendar offers is how it notifies you of an upcoming event. You can choose up to three different options, an email, an SMS message, or a pop up message if you are logged into your Google account. I typically remove the email and pop-up because I’m not always at my computer, and I like getting the SMS message over email because I can see it immediately without having to load up the email application.
You can also invite others to be part of an event by simply entering their email address in the Guest section. Each calendar event has the normal settings like public or private, recurrence, date and time, where the event is taking place and ample space for a description.
Another really cool feature of Google calendar is the ability to publish your calendar, making it viewable on a web site, or imported into an application like Microsoft Outlook. You also have the option to pull down through POP for use in other web mail or desktop applications.
Google has gone to great lengths to make all of their core applications work in conjunction with each other. For example, if someone send you an email in your GMail account, and it appears they are asking you for an appointment, you will see a link on the right hand side of the email view that asks if you want to create an event from this email. One click and you just created an appointment. This is also possible if someone sends you an Outlook meeting request.
As I said earlier, you can create multiple calendars, or even subscribe to someone else’s calendar, and combine it with your own. It would depend on the permissions given by the author whether you can update their calendar or not. You can also import a iCal if you are a mac user. I personally use a Mac and have all of my calendar items published as iCal.
You can also find dozens of pre-made calendars on the Internet for events like US Holidays, TV Program schedules, sporting events, and more.
The mobile version of Google calendar comes in a couple of flavors. Mainly its web based. So if your phone or device doesn’t have access to the Internet, more than likely you wont have access to a majority of features. In my example, I’m using an iPhone, but the look and feel is similar on a Windows Mobile device.
Examples of Google Calendar on the iPhone web application. As you can see the interface is very easy to understand and navigate. You have the option to see your calendar in a day or month mode, and review individual appointments
Finally, you can manage all you Google calendar items completely through SMS. By sending commands to the Google short code, which is ‘GOOGLE’ or 466453, you can get your current schedule, create new events, and see what is coming up.
As you can see, you get more than enough features to run your life using the Google Calendar. From web, to mobile, to SMS, the product pretty much covers every base. As with any web based application, the only way it will truly add value to your life is if you use it 100%. Trying to manage more than one calendar, say a paper version and a web version, will surely leave gaps and the take more time to manage.
I suggest you give this version a try. It doesn’t cost you anything, and you can delete you account if it doesn’t meet your needs. But I would be highly surprised if you didn’t find it to be an application you can’t live without.
Thom Allen has been a technology leader for over 20 years, and is also a science fiction writer. You can get to know Thom at his web site http://thomallen.com