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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Google Calendar Goes Live

Google Calendar is officially live now. The service is very slow at the moment but worked for me (I’m not sure but I suppose everyone with a Google Account can get inside – though if you’re unlucky, you’ll get a “Calendar is unavailable right now, please try again in a few moments”).

The first impression is that this looks just like Gmail (and Google Reader, and Google Groups), in tune with the now standard Google 2.0 design. There’s a lot of soft blues, yellows, and greens. To the left side you can see the month as an overview, and to the right side you have the week (or days/ month) in a detail view.

Click on a time cell in the details view, and you can add an event. You can also drag your mouse cursor over a time span to select multiple cells. Once an event is added, you can drag it around to other times, or expand the time span by dragging the bottom border. All in all, this works just like expected (which is good), except that it’s a bit slow today... you often find yourself clicking on something and nothing happens, and you’ll see a lot of “Still saving changes...” messages.

For every event, you can define a variety of details. The basic info is the What, When and Where, e.g. Dentist, 4/17/2006, Stuttgart. Also, you can add a description and comments, and decide when you want to be reminded of the event.

You can share specific events with other guests by entering their email. While there is some auto-completion in the guests field, it doesn’t seem to contain your normal Gmail address book. For example, I could enter phil... to see it be completed as, but entering tony... doesn’t find Tony Ruscoe, who’s in my Gmail contacts.

An Agenda view, the right-most tab in Calendar, shows you all your next events in a chronological list.

A very nice feature is a “quick add” box to add events, free-text style. For example, you can click “Quick add” in the top left, enter “movies with girlfriend tomorrow 14:00”, hit return, and the event will be instantly added.

The Google Calendar settings allow you to switch to European date and calendar format (meaning the week starts with Monday, and the day precedes the month, such as 24/12/2006). Plus, you can add different calendars to your existing one, and if you want to, you can enable sharing for individual calendars. Once your calendar is public, as Google warns you, it will also be available via a Google search. I searched public calendars for the word “google” and found 305 matches... this sharing stuff might be one of the most interesting features of Calendar, competing with such tools as

Where do we go from here? Googler Matt Cutts comments:

“There’s still some room to improve, of course. It sounds like an API is planned but isn’t available yet. I’m sure people will want deeper integration with Outlook (not just export), as well as phones/PDAs.”

Myself, I just hope the service will scale and be fast soon. It’s kind of sad but everyone’s getting used to new Google services being down during launch...

Also see the previous discussion in the forum.

[Thanks Oreo, Alek, Orli, C., Samuel, Thomas, Siggi, Manoj, Michael, and Markus.]


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