May 8, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Google Calendar colors a CNET reporter's day

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Sharing our Google Calendars was easy. We just typed in each other's e-mail addresses and it sent us invites. Anyone can share, not just Gmail users. Forget who is speed dial No. 1 on my cell phone; sharing a calendar with someone shows where they really stand in my personal hierarchy.

After a confusing start, I was able to share a Yahoo Calendar with a colleague. But I had a harder time finding a Hotmail or Windows Live Mail beta user to swap calendars with. Then I had a difficult time synchronizing my real-world schedule with that of a Microsoft representative so we could figure out how to share online calendars. When we finally did get on the phone to do it, we both got error messages saying that the sharing feature was "currently unavailable."

So much for that.

I saw a few things that could be improved in Google Calendar. For instance, it allowed me to send event invites to friends for a date that had already passed. I didn't notice that the date was wrong until I happened to open up the event in my calendar and see that one of the friends had responded and pointed out my error. It should alert me if I accidentally try to input something for a date that has passed. And I'd like to get an alert or somehow be notified when a friend responds to an invite to an event.

Google and Yahoo calendars also let users set the system to send them alerts via e-mail and mobile phone, while Microsoft lets people send reminders only via e-mail, which is the method I chose to receive all the alerts. In the Microsoft reminders, the text was so small that I could barely read the details, and clicking on the "view details" button did nothing. The Google Calendar alerts can be set to be displayed in pop-up windows too. Google Calendar sent me an alert one day notifying me of a meeting at 2 p.m., but it didn't specify that the meeting was for the following day, which would have been helpful. A Google representative said the company is addressing that issue.

I also was able to search on outside event database sites for items to add to my calendars, such as from Trumba.com and, for Google and Yahoo, Eventful.com. It was easy to export events to Yahoo Calendar from Upcoming.org, which Yahoo acquired last year.

I'm exhausted maintaining these calendars. While they all did the job, I think I'll keep using Google Calendar because of its ease of use, customization and sharing advantages. But I'll still be toting around my date book, because there's no compelling electronic calendar/address book/notebook replacement yet for this old-fashioned girl.

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14 comments

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Public Calendars
One feature the author didn't mention was the numerous public calendars available, for such things as sporting events for your favorite team or sport.
Posted by Galley (55 comments )
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Message has been deleted.
Posted by tom_trumba (1 comment )
Link Flag
Public calendars from DateDex.com
Thanks to Galley for pointing this out. At DateDex.com all events can be uploaded directly to Google Calendar (and Outlook, Sunbird, iCal). We also have a list of public calendars to subscribe to, in a number of categories.
Hope you find DateDex useful.
Posted by DDNigel (1 comment )
Link Flag
SMS notification on my cell phone is not working
From Gmail calendar, SMS notification to my cell phone is not yet working, despite my online account says, it's setup correctly. Did any one else have similar problems?
Posted by auto1234 (13 comments )
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Widen your sample
It's a shame that C-Net (of all sites) should choose to just focus on the big guns and ignore the plethora of other calendar sites on the Net.

There are a number of excellent services around, my personal favourite being 30Boxes.com which has significantly greater functionality that google calendar... give it a roadtest and I'm sure you'd find it leaves Google in the shade (at least for as things stand now)...
Posted by neurotoxic (1 comment )
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OfficeZilla.com calendar, contact & file sharing
OfficeZilla GroupWare has free calendar, contact, and file sharing. It can keep you updated when you are not in it by email reminders and rss feeds.
Posted by georgescott (48 comments )
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OfficeZilla looks kinda clunky...
I read your comment and checked out OfficeZilla. In my opinion the site for it seems...clunky and unprofessional. It doesn't have aesthetic appeal to lure users--me included--in. But the site isn't the software! you say? Maybe it isn't, but the site is the all-important first impression. Users make a wide variety of judgement calls from your index page. My initial impression was that if the software was as aesthetically pleasing and functional as the website then it probably wouldn't be of any use to me. Just being honest here.
Posted by abeburnett (5 comments )
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Calendars
I went through the same three calendar juggling act the past three months and I also chose Google. Two major flaws with MSN Calendar that you failed to mention are: (1) No import/export feature (you must manually enter all of your upcoming dates and you cannot download the calendar to your PC); and, (2) Microsoft automatically deletes your dates that are over 90 days old- bottom line with Microsoft is that there is no way to archive your calendar. Yahoo lost out on the graphics and the inability to color-code your various calendars. Yahoo is also noticibly slower than Google.
Posted by jeffrey.jensen (2 comments )
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Did you check out Mediabee?
Interesting you concluded: "But I'll still be toting around my date book, because there's no compelling electronic calendar/address book/notebook replacement yet for this old-fashioned girl."

This is the essence of the problem; the reason why the vast majority of households still use wall calendars and day planners to coordinate household activities. Google and some of the newer calendaring solutions have solved some of the problems that plagued people who were already using computer-based calendars, but the real challenge is to bring all the non-users into the fold.

These average users want something that's as simple and functional as the wall calendar; they couldn't care less about drag-and-drop or the ability to share calendars- except with their own immediate family.

Mediabee solves that problem quite well for thousands.
Posted by mediabee (1 comment )
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With the massive database Google already collects
and stores PERMANENTLY on their networks, I would be EXTREMELY leary of providing more personal details (i.e. synch'ing my entire addressbook, calendar, et al) and waiting for the Feds to subpoena Google for the data is a massive sweep of weapons of mass eraction.
Posted by kamwmail-cnet1 (292 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The best calendar, for me, costs a lot of money
I too live by the calendar, and have tried just about everything
available. In my case, I settled on Apple's iCal for its one feature
that sets it apart from everything else I have tested. When I add
or change something on my home or work computer, it
automatically updates my other computers plus the calendar on
my Nokia.

If I make additions or changes to the calendar on my phone, my
computers will grab the changes and sync the other when the
phone gets within bluetooth range.*

The downside is the need to subscribe to Apple's good, but
overpriced, dot mac service. Fortunately my company considers
it a reimbursable expense.

* via cron scheduled iSync.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
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