our new calendar overlords, welcoming


So last week Google introduced Google Calendar, and while it doesn’t quite work with Safari yet (not even the secret shiny “gold compass” nightly builds of Safari) it will in fact work with Firefox and Camino, so that’s nice. It looks great and feature-complete right out of the gate, and thus so long, 30boxes, we hardly knew ye — while I appreciate the clean, Mac-like UI of 30boxes a lot more, the feature set of Google’s Calendar cannot be beat. In fact, I’m ready to declare Google Calendar better than iCal, which for years has been my Gold Standard of calendaring apps. Here’s why:

  • Access from everywhere, and ability to edit from everywhere. iCal has the ability to publish your calendars via WebDAV and on the web via .Mac, but you can only edit them when you’re sitting in front of your computer. Google’s Calendars can be edited when you’re home, at work, at your friend’s house, wherever. So long, .Mac!
  • Shareable calendars. iCal’s ability to share calendars has always been one-way, read-only, but Google’s calendars can be edited and annotated by anyone you want to give access to. This feature alone is why people run incredibly expensive Microsoft Exchange servers, and Google just gave it to everyone for free.
  • Email alerts. iCal’s email alerts only happened when iCal was active — if your machine was asleep or offline, too bad for you! Google’s email alerts happen anytime, and can even be set to send an SMS page to your mobile phone as well.
  • Daily Agenda sent to you via email. Every day, Google Calendar can send you an email at 5 AM laying out the events of the rest of your day. This is killer, it’s like Google just hired a personal secretary for everyone on Earth.
  • Calendars can be exported to RSS or iCal. I’ve already got my calendars set up as RSS feeds, but I’ve exported them to iCal too, which means they’ll go on my iPod automatically — so if I add an event online, it goes everywhere I need it to go all at once. Once again: so long, .Mac!

So with this move, one third of Google’s increasingly clear “make Microsoft Office irrelevant” strategy is complete. They have already taken everything that is good about Outlook’s capacity to organize email and calendars and transformed it to a superior web application. With the recent Google acquisition of Writely, the next sixth of the puzzle to click in will probably be an online word processor. After that, all that remains is a database (Google Base maybe?, although to be honest, I can’t figure that thing out at all), a spreadsheet, and a PowerPoint-y presentation module — and suddenly Google has provided pretty much all of what most humans need Microsoft Office for, with the added killer-app benefit that all your documents and all your email are online, available, editable, and instantly searchable from any computer. That’s a benefit I could explain in a sentence even to mom and dad.

And once people realize that they don’t actually need Microsoft Office to Get Things Done, they’ll soon realize that they don’t actually need Microsoft Windows either. I had a recent revelation at work about a month ago: as all the apps I use at work are web-based, all I really needed was a copy of Firefox running on anything, and I was good to go. This revelation allowed me to ditch flaky Windows XP on my cruddy Dell work laptop and switch to Ubuntu. The Dell laptop remains cruddy, but I’m much happier with the experience as a whole. So I, for one, welcome our new calendaring overlord. All hail ants, and Google.

~jeff

15 thoughts on “our new calendar overlords, welcoming”

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  4. I don’t find this an especially compelling set of arguments:

    “Access from anywhere.” In truth, that only means access from anywhere you have access to the internet. As for editing, I carry a PDA with me, and I can edit my calendar on my PDA at any time, and later synchronize the changes with iCal. No internet required.

    E-mail alerts: Useful if you have access to the internet. If you have a PDA, an iPod or a mobile phone, you’ll get alerts without having to have access to the internet.

    Daily Agenda: Boy, I don’t understand this one. If you have a computer that receives e-mail, how do you not have a computer with your agenda already on it? Do you not already receive enough e-mail? And if you have an iPod, PDA or mobile phone, don’t you synchronize them with your iCal calendar?

    Then there’s the issue of how reliable you believe Google will be.

  5. Dave: I’ve already touched upon how to get Google’s calendar into the iPod, which I agree is very useful. The daily agenda via email is just a nice thing to have.

    It sounds to me like you’re pretty fond of your PDA, which, y’know, cool. I agree a PDA is great way to stay organized; I myself had a palm and then a treo and I loved them both dearly, but Palm’s weak Mac OS support has driven me berzerk, and as a result I can’t whoelheartedly recommend one any longer.

  6. me too, me too. i fell in love with google calendar immediately, despite ical and 30 boxes having such nice interfaces. for me, i have to be online a lot for work, and they make me use a bastard spawn PC, so something that isn’t platform-specific like ical is more useful to me. and the integration with gmail and the mapping of events features are rad.

  7. What I really like about Google calendar is the “Backpack”-like entry of events…Yahoo! Calendar has the daily agenda thing and pretty good sharing features, you just can’t sync with a PDA via Mac. It’s event entry is pretty clunky (so is iCal’s for that matter). I haven’t switched everything to Google Calendar–but as soon as they have a decent Google Mobile interface for it I probably will! I never had the time to really work my 30 boxes account, Trumbo isn’t bad though…

  8. “so long, 30boxes, we hardly knew ye — while I appreciate the clean, Mac-like UI of 30boxes a lot more, the feature set of Google’s Calendar cannot be beat.”

    The beginning of your post got me interested, but almost everything you say compares Google Calendar to iCal. It would be possible to substitute “30Boxes” for “Google Calendar” in those sentences, because you generally talk about generic Internetty things like “available from anywhere”. How is Google Calendar actually different from 30Boxes?

  9. A quick followup: there’s a substantive comparison of 30Boxes and Google Calendar here: http://www.nontrivialexercises.com/2006/04/my_take_on_goog.html
    The main conclusions are that 30Boxes is better because:
    It uses tags rather than separate calendars;
    It has more options for sharing data.

    If this is an accurate characterization it seems to me ironic that the Gmail people, who got rid of mail folders and push the use of tags, would adopt the old hierarchical model for calendars.

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