May 8, 2006 4:00 AM PDT
Google Calendar colors a CNET reporter's day
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All three offer the ability to view the calendar in day, week and month modes by default. Yahoo and Microsoft also offer year views, and Google offers a "next four days" view, which is arguably more useful than viewing the whole year without any events listed. Google has a unique and very handy display function that lets users highlight any number of days or weeks in a monthly calendar thumbnail on the left-hand side to change the main calendar display to show only those days. With Yahoo and Microsoft, users have to click an arrow to navigate through to the next day, week or month, which can be tedious.
Google also offers an agenda view that lets users see a running list of events on the calendar, and Microsoft offers separate views for tasks and for notes. Yahoo lets people create a list of tasks that are seen on the main calendar view on the left-hand side.
That seemingly small feature turned out to be very important to me. It's the digital equivalent to the yellow Post-it notes for ongoing tasks that I migrate through my print date book every week. And if you ever saw my desk, you'd understand how important Post-it notes are to me. They serve as a constant reminder of things I need to do, like train for the triathlon, renew my passport and take care of long overdue e-mails and phone calls. Having it easily viewable there every time I look at my calendar will, theoretically, improve the chances that I will actually get those things done.
Google and Yahoo also allow users to search for events in the calendar by keyword through a search box on the main page, which Microsoft doesn't. Google let me search the Web for events I might want to add to my calendar, although the search is only as good as the events listed. For example, a search for "DJ" and "San Francisco" turned up 47 items, many of which looked useful, whereas a search for "belly dance" in the same city turned up zero items--though I know of a bunch of belly dance events in the city (don't ask why).
And Google Calendar is integrated with Gmail so that when I receive an e-mail that mentions dates and times for an event, I can click an "add to calendar" button and it will automatically add the event to my Google Calendar. Neither Yahoo nor Microsoft offers that function, although accepting a meeting request in Outlook will automatically put it in Microsoft's Calendar, a representative said.
What Google probably does best is offer the ability to share calendars with others. Not only could I create different calendars for myself--one for work, one for travel and another for personal events--but I could also combine those calendars, along with outside public calendars and calendars from friends, all into one view. A user can hide or show any of the different calendars at any time by clicking boxes next to a list of them. This is very handy for when I don't want my friend's crazy yoga schedule littering my work-related calendar view.
Google Calendar solves a problem that has plagued me and my friend for months. Instead of e-mailing back and forth or conducting long and confusing phone conversations about when we are both free to go to Harbin Hot Springs for the weekend, we can now go to a Web browser and quickly see that that trip (unfortunately) won't be possible until next month at the earliest.
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