Google Calendar: All Your Appointments Are Belong To Us

Matthew Magain

Google launched their much-anticipated Google Calendar today, dubbed CL2 (in beta, of course) and I gave it a quick spin this afternoon.

There have been many cries for a decent online calendaring solution — so the question is: does Google Calendar deliver? Well, there’s certainly plenty to like about it. It has a slick interface and it’s fast (at switching between pages, anyway). But while it contains many features we would come to expect from the Big G, in this instance beta really does mean beta.

There are those features that I would consider stock standard in a calendaring app these days, just because they have been implemented in so many other online calendars (some better than others). Google Calendar has all of them, plus some other nice-to-haves:

  • layering of local and remote (iCal) calendars, and colour-coding of these calendars
  • sharing calendars publicly or privately (ala CalendarHub)
  • inviting people to events, publicly or privately (ala evite)
  • notifications via cell phone or email (US-only from what I can tell)
  • nice AJAX-y drag and drop of events
  • calendars being made available in iCal/RSS (credit to Google for providing this, as many apps only offer import or export rather than a hosted feed, in an attempt to further segregate our connectedness)
  • predictably, integration with Google Maps, although this isn’t achieved in any particularly clever fashion other than creating a link with an event’s location in the URL
  • love those Google Maps-style speech bubbles

Where Google Calendar pushes the boundaries for online calendaring are in the following features:

  • integration of events with GMail contacts: the contacts lookup is based on your GMail address book
  • web search of iCal calendars: a bit like upcoming.org, but Google have indexed the Web for .ics files to subscribe to
  • in-browser notifications: Still not sure how I feel about this feature. I was working on a different tab in my browser at a time that I designated a reminder to occur, and the browser jumped straight to the Google Calendar tab to display a modal dialog box containing the reminder. I am guessing that if my browser was minimized at the time, it would have done the same thing, but I haven’t tested this.
  • the ability to add events by typing English phrases such as “meet Simon for lunch at 1pm”

But like I said, there are still a couple of bugs to iron out:

  • None of the test invitations that I sent actually got through to my recipients. They might arrive one day, but they haven’t yet. Now this is core functionality, so I’m sure they’re working on it, but I did test this a few times and had no luck. Which is a shame, because I was interested in seeing what format the invitations took. Will it be possible to integrate them into other email/calendar clients? Update: the invites came through, but the body of the email is unreadable in Thunderbird! Eek! Unless all of your recipients use GMail, this is pretty useless…
  • Subscribing to iCal calendars seems remarkably slow, and sometimes throws an error minutes after the submit button was pressed. At one point this action actually killed my browser (along with all the other tabs I had open!).

So what would it take to convince me to switch? I’m not sure. Apart from fixing the bugs, how about:

  • Add SyncML so I can sync with my PDA or cell phone
  • Someone write a Yahoo! Widget so that I can see all my calendaring info in a desktop widget
  • Add support for Safari (Opera is not yet supported either.)

Even without these features though, there’s no denying that once again Google has raised the bar. And once the bugs are ironed out Google Calendar will no doubt become the organizer of choice for many.

And then they’ll know not only who you know, but also where you are. You may now choose to be afraid.

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  • BjornT

    I don’t like the pop ups. It seems everything you click on leads to a pop up blocking one pare or another of the calendar.

  • Etienne

    Even if Opera is not supported, i played a bit using the latest Opera 9 weekly build and it seems that appart from a frame not correctly sized (day view IIRC) it works well.

  • malikyte

    A printable preview/version of current week/month/day events would be great too. As it is now, there’s no way to, say, hand a nice copy of your events to your secretary to let them know when you’re available. Granted, live versions are always the best, but sometimes having a printable view of these things is quite important.

  • Anonymous

    From what I can tell there is an a print view. Right next to the tabs at the top theres an icon which seems to put your calendar in a nice pdf document for viewing.

  • Mr. B

    I’m not sure what I think of it. Sometimes when I try to enter a new event, it doesn’t take it. I tried in two different ways and saved, but it said that it failed.

    I do wish it was easier to switch between the calendar and gmail. Unless I’m missing something, You’ve pretty much got to have two windows open to use them both – there isn’t an easy way to switch. I hope they change this.

  • http://www.eleytech.com beley

    I think the app is pretty cool, but I already give Google way too much personal information as it is. If they turn out to be the Antichrist we’re all in a heck of a lot of trouble!! ;)

    Let’s see… they have my email, credit card info (adwords), birthday, tax id (adsense), browsing history (toolbar), search history, favorites (google customized desktop) and more.

    If they decided to use their information they’ve amassed over the years there’s no telling what they could do!

  • robdot1

    I tried logging in to sign up and got this message: “Your browser’s cookie functionality is turned off. Please turn it on.” I’m using Firefox and my cookies are turned on, why would I get this Google Error?

  • http://www.kostam.com kosta

    Looks great, but google’s design looks like noone’s taking care of it; pretty ugly

  • leo

    i tried to send an initivation to my gmail account. It arrived. However, I am not sure how I can add it to my Google Calendar at all.

    any tips?

  • http://www.lowter.com charmedlover

    It works fine in Opera 9.

  • Franklin

    i like it but the lack of any to do functionality drives me crazy. i need that to switch from yahoo – which admitedly is lame but w/out to do list i’d be fired wihtin a week. otherwise very nice.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Matthew Magain

    i tried to send an initivation to my gmail account. It arrived. However, I am not sure how I can add it to my Google Calendar at all.

    There is an “Automatically add invitations to my calendar” option in the settings, give that a go.

    i like it but the lack of any to do functionality drives me crazy

    Here’s a thought: you could create a calendar called “To Do” and put all your tasks in that (using the date they are due). The “Agenda” view will list all those tasks, sorted by due date. May not be ideal, but it could work for some.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Matthew Magain

    Actually scrap that idea, it ‘s too clunky to be usable. I’m sure to-do lists is on the way.

    A couple of other things:

    • Google Calendar specifies a doctype, which is a first for Google as far as I am aware (it’s html 4 strict).
    • the browser-detection code occurs before the head element… huh?
    • The invite email worked in my Thunderbird client at home, but not at work. Not sure what’s going on there.
    • the PDF print functionality is cool, but didn’t work in IE for me.
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  • mattalexx

    Hey, it’s much better than Outlook already.

  • Mr. B

    It looks like my gmail has been updated and integrated with google calendar, at least to an extent. Now you can switch between the two easily.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Matthew Magain

    Doug Bowman has blogged about his involvement in developing Google Calendar. I’m guessing it’s because of him that it specifies a doctype, but he obviously didn’t win all battles on the web standards front.

    Re: integration with gmail, they can certainly do more than a link which opens the calendar in a new window. Or maybe they don’t intend to, to cater to the audience who want to use one without having to rely on the other.

  • patrikG

    Google Calendar is seriously good. I love the easy integration of other calendars (for holidays etc.) the interface, the text-parsing – but if they could add a simple-line break for the events, I’d be even happier.

    Very impressive work.

  • tonysmith2

    Here’s a little aside;
    I’m putting together a colletion of tools for a specific professional group to use to organise themselves. it’s all about online calendars with printable versions, etc.

    anyone know of any good open-source products like this? pref in PHP using MySql.

    cheers peeps!
    :-)

  • Josh

    I tried Google Calendar and while it worked, it is still not up to par for where it should be. First, why doesn’t it sync with anything? I dont care that it can import and export my calendars from other services, it does me no good if it can’t sync to other calendars (like my outlook calendar). Second, I want Gmail to see any date in any email as a possible event for the calendar, maybe put a little link in the sidebar of the message to turn the email into an event on the date listed in the email. For instance if I get an email from someone saying, “Lets meet for lunch next friday.” I want Gmail to think, ohhh, this could be a great calendar entry and let me easily add it. Third, why cant I open the calendar to some extent within Gmail, and not always as a seperate tab or window?

  • http://www.infocis.com infocis

    to: TonySmith2

    Have you looked at SugarCRM OpenSource: sugarforge.org

    Commercial supported at: SugarCRM.com

    Depends on how “organised” you really want your group to be.
    It contains full integrated calendar, contacts, email campaigns, heaps of other features. Best of all is the flexibility of fields – easily edited as Admin. Plenty of 3rd party plug-ins.

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  • LastHope

    Hi,
    sync is possible if you’ve got Outlook 2003…just use RemoteCalendars plugin!
    https://sourceforge.net/projects/remotecalendars/
    Here you can find all the instructions ;)
    http://remotecalendars.sourceforge.net/google.htm