It only took me a few days to decide to switch my calendar from Outlook to Google’s brilliant new Calendar.
It has always been a pain accessing my work calendar remotely — we’re lucky enough at ACP to have the choice of Citrix remote screen sharing or Outlook Web Access, but both have levels of inconvenience involved, mostly around log-in.
I tried a PDA for a while but didn’t really find it necessary to have access to my appointments everywhere, as I’m in front of a computer often enough. So when its battery eventually died, I didn’t really think the cost of getting a new battery and the ongoing pocket-bulge was worth it.
Google Calendar bridges the gap beautifully. It can:
- import all your existing Outlook calendar data in a few clicks (you do have to manually export your Outlook calendar to a CSV file first, but that’s easy)
- read and respond to incoming Outlook meeting invitations, if you redirect them from your work email account to Gmail
- be used on any internet connection with automatic cookie-based login, just like GMail.
For the first time ever, I find the web-interface actually superior to any desktop software. Calendaring is one of those pain-in-the-ass things that always seems to require 10 clicks to set up a single appointment. Not in Google Calendar.
In GCal, you press ‘q’ and type ‘Team meeting in Level 9 meeting room at 4pm every Tuesday’ and Google Calendar sets it up for you.
And because it uses AJAX, you can drag-and-drop appointments just like a desktop calendaring app. You don’t have to wait for the page to refresh like old-world web calendars.
Even with AJAX, I think that the very slight delay involved in web transactions has imposed a discipline in user interface design that desktop software developers haven’t really had to contend with. That’s why in Outlook it can take five or six clicks to set up an appointment and the appropriate time/date/recurrence, while in web apps it is by necessity much less.
Microsoft has quite obviously missed the boat in a big way here. If, for example, an Exchange server account could be made accessible via the web in a really functional way (not OWA), then perhaps people wouldn’t find this so appealing.
Then again, perhaps corporates themselves are the one undermining the concept. Obstructive IT departments cite security concerns as a resason for not deploying Outlook Web Access (OWA), which means that the individual has to look for an alternative solution.
I love the fact that Google has made it so easy to import Yahoo and Outlook calendars. It only took me a couple of minutes to move my calendar over from my corporate Exchange Server account.
There’s obviously more to come…
Google hasn’t built any PDA or smartphone synchronisation services, but it can notify you nonetheless: it will pop up a dialogue box in your web browser if you have Gmail or Google Calendar open; it can SMS your mobile phone (though only to US users at the moment, unfortunately); it can send you an email and it can send you an email at 5am every day telling you what’s on that day. As someone on another blog said (can’t remember who, sorry), it’s like giving a secretary to every person on earth.
However, it seems obvious that Google will create some alarm notifier software in the same way it has with GMail Notifier to let you know when you’ve received an email at GMail.