To keep track of my work life, I’ve been using one of those GIANT 2′ by 2′ calendar pads–you know, the kind you can order from Staples that takes up pretty much half of your existing desk space. About as low-tech as you can get, and not exactly portable. And for me, since I often split work time between O’Reilly and my home office, not exactly the best way to keep track of meetings and appointments.
(I guess I could set up a webcam pointed at my calendar at the office so I could view it when I am working from home…. Nah. Though that might be a good way to pinpoint when the folks from janitorial swipe the
bacteria-ridden water bottle off my office desk to send to the recycling bin. I think they’re trying to tell me something there. OK, I’ll admit this: to thwart their efforts, I’ve taken to putting a yellow sticky-note on my water bottle that says “Please do not throw this away!”. I figure I should have the right to decide when I’ve consumed enough bacteria.)
Serious digression aside, it’s long been time for me to get a better calendar system. I tried Outlook’s version once, played around on my partner’s Palm (there’s an interesting sentence) to see if I should get one, and way, way, way back, when it was stylish, I carried a Franklin (because they were cheaper than Day-TImers). But everything just seemed like too much work, so somehow I settled into this simpler calendar pad system. Yet when I work from home these days, I always have this uneasy feeling I am forgetting something that I’ve written down on that giant calendar pad at work.
So, when I read Giles Turnbull’s Your Life in Web Apps, I was intrigued by what he had to say about using Google Calendar. When you work in online publishing, you pretty much are always on–a necessary thing for using any of the many web apps Giles covers exhaustively in the PDF–so trying Google Calendar on for size sounded like a good idea for me. Long story, longer, here’s what I found out.
Getting started using Google Calendar was easy since I have a Gmail account, though you don’t need to have Gmail to use the calendar. All I had to do was go to www.google.com/calendar and after signing in (Google automatically sets you up using the same password you set for Gmail), up popped a blank calendar page. Google offers a good overview for using the Calendar here, but getting my events set up was as easy as grabbing my pen and writing in an event on ye old calendar pad.
There’s lots to like with this calendar system, but the Quick Add feature has to be the main reason I will use Google Calendar. I like things simple and you can’t get more simple than this: click on Quick Add (on left) and
up pops a little window that allows you to add a new event to your calendar by typing ‘lunch with Linda tomorrow at noon’ and hitting enter (the entry automatically shows up correctly with tomorrow’s date at 12 p.m.). Nice.
A quick keyboard shortcut (shift-q for me) pops open the window as well.
Since I can never seem to remember what day it is, I do like how in Month view ‘Today’ is highlighted in yellow–that
alone helps me a lot, believe it or not. The thumbnail view for the calendar month on the left also bolds today’s date–double the help for me and my adled brain!
If you have a meeting or an event that repeats week after week, you can click on a calendared meeting, then click on ‘edit event details,’ and under the Repeats pulldown menu, you can choose from Daily to Yearly and most options in between and your calendar will update to show the meetings and its details ad infinitum. We have editorial conference call meetings same day and time every week, so this is certainly easier than writing the same things down week after week on, well, ye old calendar pad.
The Manage Calendars link at the bottom left corner has a feature under the ‘Holidays Tab’ that allows you to add the holiday schedule specific to your country. If your work involves dealing with folks in foreign countries regularly, this seems like cool addition to have. (I just like seeing all those paid holidays set off in big bold color.)
Another nice thing, of course, is the easy back and forth between my Gmail account and Calendar, where meeting reminders come to my inbox. You can set up preferences for this in Settings under Notifications. (If I could just remember to carry my cell phone all the time, I’d use the feature for getting notified via cell phone!)
In my adventures thus far, there hasn’t been much not to like, but in the interest of fairness…
I don’t like how in Monthly View multiple entries on same day seem to munge together, but in Firefox, an easy
fix for me is to turn off Navigation or Bookmarks Toolbar (or both), which is nice anyway, as this allow a full screen view of the calendar.
And I don’t like how the Day view shows a 24-hour period, as generally I like to sleep between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m., so I’d like to just show my waking hours from say 8 a.m. to 8 p.m in the daily view. I am sure there’s a way to customize this view as you like, but till I find it, I am iritated that to view ‘today’ I need to scroll to see the stuff when my day actually starts.
Then there’s the issues of security and backup. Google makes it pretty clear that if you use any of its apps, the company takes no responsibility if you lose your data. Giles addresses this issue nicely in the aforementioned Web Apps PDF, but it is something to consider. Unless, heaven forbid, the office building here burns down (or the janitorial folk just can’t fight their compulsion to throw something from my desk into the recycling bin), I am not likely to lose data using my current desk calendar pad system, but you do have to place your trust in Google’s service when you use its Calendar system.
When all is said and done, though, the pros do win out over the cons for me, so it looks like Google has a convert to yet another of its offerings. Does this mean I am ready to throw out my big calendar pad? I’m not sure yet. It’s become like an old friend–even if I don’t plan to use it anymore, what will I do with all that empty desk space? ‘Course I am a Virgo, so the first coffee-ring stain that shows up on the calendar pad makes me want to rip the whole page off even if it’s only day 2 of a new month–I do so like a clean page! Guess I’ll wait and see but at least now I have an easy, always-on way to view (and remember!) day-to-day events no matter where I am.