May 8, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Google Calendar colors a CNET reporter's day

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My friends tease me every time I pull out my black, leather-bound date book to jot down an appointment. True, it weighs just over a pound and crowds my purse, but it also contains a notepad, address book, pen and a bevy of business cards.

Still, I've been waiting for something to nudge my scheduling into the digital era. So when Google Calendar was released last month, I saw my opportunity. I also decided to try the Web-based calendars from Yahoo and Microsoft to see how they compare.

Let me tell you, even for a calendar junkie like me, it hasn't been easy juggling three online calendars and my old-fashioned, paper date book for the past two weeks. That said, my attempt at calendar multitasking left me with a few clear thoughts, starting with the fact that marking appointments, or "events" as they're called in the online world, turned out to be fairly straightforward on all three programs.

But Google, in my very unscientific test drive, won out. (For a more technical look at the Google and Yahoo calendars, by CNET Reviews, click here.) Google's had the best interface and the most interactive features of the three. But there's one big caveat, something that didn't bother me so much but could annoy other people, particularly on-the-go business users. While Google Calendar allows users to import from and export to Microsoft Outlook, it doesn't synchronize with Outlook or handheld devices. A Google product manager has said the company will offer that functionality in coming months.

First, some tech background: I used Firefox and sometimes Internet Explorer on a Windows-based PC and tested the calendaring feature in the Windows Live Mail beta rather than Hotmail, which it will eventually replace. On a side note, Microsoft is building a calendar feature into its pending next-generation operating system, Vista, which is due later this year.

Typically, a calendar user creates an appointment by clicking on a button to add or create a new "event" and filling in blank spaces on a new page with details such as event type, day, time and location, and then clicking Save.

Google gives you several different ways to create new events without having to go through all those steps. One way is to click on a particular day and type in some details in a pop-up window, such as "Triathlon in Napa." After that, the program automatically creates the event. Another way is to click on a "Quick Add" link, type in a few more specifics, such as "Triathlon in Napa, Sunday 8 a.m.," and it will automatically create the event for that day.

Google also lets users easily change the day of an event once it's scheduled by dragging and dropping it on to a new day. The other calendars require people to open up the event details and change the date manually, which takes more time.

Elsewhere on CNET
Read more
Check out the CNET Reviews prizefight between the Google and Yahoo calendars.

Google Calendar also was the easiest on the eyes, allowing me to choose from a broad palette of colors for different calendars. For instance, events that are work-related show up in turquoise, personal items are purple, birthdays are pink and travel is yellow. My nine different calendar views each sported different colors, giving the setup an exciting look, if I do say so myself. Google also has kept the interface simple and clean, with no ads (at least for now).

By contrast, Yahoo and Microsoft offered fewer colors to choose from and they both showed ads. Yahoo's interface seemed downright cluttered with ads and a random nature shot, which I could choose from a variety of such pictures. For me, that was distracting and an unnecessary waste of space. Yahoo automatically shows me the weather outlook for the day, which was kind of helpful, if you trust those forecasts.

But Yahoo and Microsoft do have one leg up on Google. They synchronize with Outlook and mobile devices. Microsoft synchs with handhelds through Outlook, a representative said.

CONTINUED: Seemingly small feature a big deal…
Page 1 | 2 | 3

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calendar, Google Inc., appointment, event, Yahoo! Inc.

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 )
Reply Link Flag
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 )
Reply Link Flag
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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