Saturday, April 29, 2006

Google calendar

Until now I have not used a computer-based calendar for keeping my life organised. For no particular reason, or reasons too long to go into (take your pick) I decided this has to change. So first up I downloaded Mozilla's Sunbird and started giving it a trial. It is nice to use and all, but it has one drawback: it lives on your PC and therefore isn't viewable from any other computers you might use (as far as I know -- maybe there is a way of easily connecting calendars over the web, but still you would have to have Sunbird installed, which hinders ubiquitous accessability).

I had also been aware that Google, that purveyor of all things marvelous, had a calendar in the pipeline. Well, two days ago I looked and found it alive and kicking in beta version. And I proclaim it "Good". Bye bye Sunbird!

In Google's calendar you can set up multiple calendars (e.g., work, social, running club) and subscribe to public calendars or friend's calendars. Then you just turn their display on and off with a click. For example, while writing this I searched for public calendars and found a whole list of holiday calendars and subscribed to the one for Japan. And you can specify who you share your calendar with -- either completely private, certain people, or totally public. I have set up a public one called "Japan Running Events". (Not much data there yet.)

Other cool features are the "quick entry" and smart deciphering of text strings into date and time. To illustrate by example, say you click on a day or time, a little data entry form pops up. If you then type in "Lunch with Mum 12 noon tomorrow", it correctly interprets the "12 noon tomorrow" as a date and time and shoves the entry in the right place. Neat!

But what is really, really cool is the integration with Google Maps. For the event location, the calendar creates a link to Google maps and tries to find the location based on your text. For text-only entries that hasn't worked too well for me, being in Japan and all, and it only shows up US locations. But, and this is a huge but, you can achieve robust pinpoint precision by putting in the coordinates of the place. And how might you do that I hear you ask? Well, you could look here for a start (navigate the cross-hair to the point of interest and click on the latitude longitude link at upper left, copy the easting and northing to calendar event "where" field, and Bob's your uncle).

If ever there was a reason to sell your soul over to Google, this is it. I was an early adopter of Gmail, and I have never regretted it for one second. This reinforces that decision even more. I am now an utterly hopelessly addicted slave to the cult of Google.

Please, why not come on over to the Google side?

1 comment:

plu said...

I also heard on the radio the other night that with G-mail you also can have 1g of webspace. They are looking better all the time.