REVIEW: Google Calendar

Ok, so the Google Calendar (CL2) has been available to the public for a few days now, so I thought I would chime in on how I see it compared to other calendar programs.

Google Calendarwebsite

Google Calendar

Key Features:

  • Calendar Layout — Something all the calendars have in common is the user interface. Google’s is clean, lots of white space. It’s got the calendars on the left, and view options on the top. The settings and logout buttons are located at the very top of the screen on the right just like with Gmail, Google Personalized Home, etc. On the left at the top are links to Google and Gmail, hinting at future integration with Gmail and/or Google Personalized Home. Biggest thing for me here is that the calendar view starts on Sunday, and by default, you view one week at a time. All of this, of course, can be changed in the settings. When you select an event, you see the familiar Google Local/Google Maps thought bubbles with event specific options. And, of course, there is a search bar at the top of the screen that will search your calendars.
  • Event Creation — Very easy in Google Calendar. Click and drag the mouse from the start time to the end time of the event. You can also create an event by using the “Create Event” or “Quick Add” links right above the calendar on the left. The “Create Event” link adds an event using the “advanced” interface, and “Quick Add” is simple, and… well… quick. The quick add allows you to type something in plain English such as “Lunch with Bobby at 3pm Thursday” and it will add the event at 3pm Thursday.
  • Invitations — Integrated like adding recipients to an email in Gmail, you just start typing the name or email address of who you want to invite, and Google Calendar automatically starts searching your Gmail contacts for matching entries. Guests can only be added in the “Create Event” link, or by editing the event by clicking on it.
  • Event Notifications — You can be notified by email, SMS or on screen popup when someone invites you to an event, they accept your invitation, an event you’re invited to changes, when someone replies to an invitation or when an event is about to happen. All of which is controlled in settings.
  • Platform Independent — This can run on just about any web browser on any Operating System.
  • Subscribe to Calendars — Simply search for the calendar owner’s name in the search box in the “Calendars” section of the sidebar, and the matching entries will be displayed. Click “add” and the calendar becomes subscribed to. You can also subscribe to any calendar that produces a feed of some kind (XML or iCal).
  • Multiple Calendars — Yep, does that.
  • Share Calendars — Google gives you two different ways to share and two technologies to use. You can share your calendars completely (i.e. everyone can see all the details on your calendar) or just so people can see that you’re busy during specific times (the “anti-stalker” calendar). Shared calendars can be subscribed to using either XML or the iCal format. Your own private calendars can also be shared this way, as long as you don’t give out the URI Google gives you. If you do, Google lets you reset the URI so that anybody who was subscribed gets a broken link.

Overall Review:
My favorite of all the products I reviewed. It incorporates well with the web-based Google applications (Google Talk, Gmail, Google Local) and will probably incorporate with more in the future. It’s exactly the calendar system I was looking for. Some of the features I didn’t know where to put above are the integration with Google Local, i.e. give the calendar an address, and you can get a map to that location by clicking on the event. It will also allow you to let other Google Calendar users manage calendars of yours. This will be great for a secretary organizing something for her boss or for a collaborative project trying to keep all their members on the same page.
[rate 4.5]


iCal Calendar

Key Features:

  • Calendar Layout — Pretty much the same as Google. List of calendars on the left, the actual calendar view in the middle, the view options are on the bottom. iCal also opens up by default with the event details drawer open on the right.
  • Event Creation — The easiest way to create an event is to click and drag on the proper day from the start time to the end time and just enter the information about the event afterward. You can also choose file-new and create an event that way. There is no quick add option, but most people won’t use that often anyway.
  • Invitations — iCal integrates with Apple’s Address Book software. You can start typing in the Attendees section of the event details to begin searching through your Address Book. It sends an email notification to the user.
  • Event Notifications — Via email and on screen only when an event is about to happen. You can also use iCal to schedule AppleScripts for various functions (i.e. using iTunes as an alarm clock).
  • Platform Independent — Macintosh Only
  • Subscribe to Calendars — You can subscribe to a calendar using the calendar-subscribe option. You must know the address of the published calendar though since there is no “search by person” option.
  • Multiple Calendars — yep
  • Share Calendars — This is done through publishing. You can publish to a .Mac account or to another account on a webdav enabled server. Right click on the calendar or choose calendar-publish.

Overall Review:
Pretty good for a stand-alone, non-web-based calendar. It’s got a lot of online capabilities, but it’s a little bit lacking and not quite useful for me anymore. The main problem is that iCal isn’t cross-platform. If it was, I would probably use this over anything else.
[rate 3]


Kiko Calendar

Key Features:

  • Calendar Layout — Another web calendar. When it starts up, the interface is clearly more crowded than the Google Calendar but basically the same layout. The calendar information and list of contacts flanks the calendar with view options linked above. There is a quick add text box at the top where you can type plaintext appointments and the calendar will add them for you. At the very top left are the user options. Help is on by default, which clutters the screen even more. Sharing and Calendar are both tabs above the view tabs, making for some modal operation, which isn’t usually a good thing, but it works for Kiko.
  • Event Creation — Same methods as with Google Calendar
  • Invitations — You must have the people you want to invite to an event in your contacts or have their email addresses memorized. Kiko doesn’t have a built-in list of contacts from scratch like iCal or Google Calendar.
  • Event Notifications — Email or popup but not SMS.
  • Platform Independent — Works in most web browsers.
  • Subscribe to Calendars — You can subscribe to any calendar that is a feed.
  • Multiple Calendars — yep
  • Share Calendars — creates feeds in both vCard and iCal format.

Overall Review:
Pretty good AJAX calendar system. The only beefs I have with it are cleanliness of the interface and the fact that the calendar doesn’t refresh itself. You have to refresh the page manually to see what changes have been made to it. I discovered the refresh problem when I tried to import my exported calendar from Google Calendar to play with the new (yes new) interface. Wasn’t too happy that I had two copies of everything…
[rate 3.5]

I was going to write about Outlook’s calendar as well, but I decided it wasn’t worth it. For me, for now, it’s Google Calendar for the win. After using iCal, trying to use Kiko and finally getting settled with Google Calendar, the choice has been made easy for me.

My Google Calendar is shared, so you can look me up using tlmason at gmail. If you’ve got gmail, I’ll probably start inviting you to events using Google Calendar.

You should use it anyway

But now, I’m out to enjoy the rest of the day!

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