February 20th, 2007

Keep Walking

The Web's Best Calendars

By Michael Calore
02:00 AM Feb, 20, 2007 - an article from WIRED

Online calendars help you keep your life in order no matter where you are. They hold all of your info securely on a web server. Log in with a password and your schedule accessible from anywhere.

Any web calendar worth your attention allows some way to share your schedule with a distributed audience. Groups of people working together can subscribe to a calendar using either RSS or the iCal data standard. Using these data formats, calendars you create online can also be duplicated on the desktop in familiar applications like Microsoft Outlook, Apple iCal and Mozilla Sunbird.

Most of these web services use Ajax-powered interfaces, so they behave like desktop applications. You can drag events around from day to day and edit event details inside of a JavaScript pop-up window. These calendars usually also let you speak "shorthand" when adding events. Type in "Call Jim to discuss biz plan at 4pm tomorrow," and you get an easy-to-edit event in the right place (and at the right time) on your calendar.

We've reviewed many of the offerings out there in the web calendar world. Here are our favorites.

1. Google Calendar
Not even a year old,
Google Calender sets the standard for drag-and-drop editing inside of its uncluttered interface. Armed with more than just good looks, rights-assignable group calendaring and integration with GMail's e-mail and contacts databases make it a good choice for the workplace.

Some stand-out features: The color-coded layout is a must for keepers of multiple calendars, the "Next 4 days" and "Agenda view" options are perfect for short-term planning. The "Quick Add" command creates regular calendar events from event data entered in plain English. Also, the ability to search for and add public events from within the calendar interface lets you find items and schedule them without ever leaving the calendar.

2. Yahoo Calendar
Although it shows its age as one of the oldest calendaring apps on the web,
Yahoo Calendar is also one of the most useful, thanks to integration with Yahoo's array of personal web services. Reminders and event invitations can be sent to anyone in your Address Book through Yahoo Mail or Messenger. Also, events can be added from within Yahoo's Local listings and Upcoming.org.

Group editing in Yahoo Calendar is managed through a buddy list. Add your friends (they'll need Yahoo logins) and mark them as "Special" to give them edit permissions. Larger groups may find it more useful to set up private group calendars in Yahoo Groups.

Yahoo Calender doesn't have the smooth drag-and-drop functionality found in the newer, Ajax-powered services, but a newer version is rumored to be on the way.

3. Scrybe
More than just a calendaring app,
Scrybe is a date book on Web 2.0 steroids. It has multiple tools for organizing your life, including to-do lists, a web clipping bookmarklet for grabbing text or images and, of course, a sleek-looking calendar.

The calendar is impressive -- Click on a day and it blows up to twice its size, clearly showing the details of your appointments. Next to the calendar is a to-do list, and each item on the list can be dragged and dropped onto dates and times on your calendar. Scrybe also supports your browser's "Work offline" mode. Make changes while you're offline, and then all of your data gets synched as soon as you connect. Something that's sure to impress the execs: Scrybe calendars can be printed out as foldable, pocket-sized notepads.

Scrybe is still in beta, so you'll have to sign up on the waiting list if you want to try it out. In the meantime, watch the video.

4. 30 Boxes
This web app from 83 Degrees has what you'd expect from an online calendar -- easy drag and drop, one-click editing, plain-language event adding -- but there are also a whole crop of features built just for social networking junkies.

Through 30 Boxes' "Web Stuff" settings, you can add feeds from Twitter, Blogger, MySpace, Facebook, WordPress, Vox, Upcoming.org and just about any service to your calendar. The result is sort of a social timeline containing all of your recent web activity.

30 Boxes plays well with other calendars. You can import and export data as ics or csv files, or as an RSS feed.

There aren't any color-coding options -- add too much and your calendar can look a bit hectic. The tool also lacks support for group calendaring, but 83 Degrees's Narendra Rocherolle wrote in to tell us about a brand new PBWiki integration feature in 30 Boxes: "You can insert an 'anonymous' 30 Boxes calendar into PBWiki and it is editable by everyone on the wiki. It may also be shown in a read-only version to users who do not have edit rights."

5. MSN Calendar
As part of Microsoft's Hotmail service,
MSN Calendar offers full integration with your Hotmail contacts list and your MSN Messenger buddy list. You can send invitations and share appointment details with other MSN users easily. You can't share detailed calendar info with anyone outside of Microsoft's Passport system, but you can publish a copy of your calendar on the web. A nice touch: personal calendars and shared calendars show up in separate panes in the interface.

If you're looking for the pretty Ajax stuff, you won't find it here. MSN Calendar is very Web 1.0, so there's no drag and drop rescheduling, no one-click editing and no support for group calendars.

6. Kiko
One of the most professional-looking calendar apps of the bunch,
Kiko has a built-in contact manager, nice support for RSS feeds and a Quick Create field to easily build new appointments in plain old English. Contacts and calendars can be imported from the desktop or from other online calendars, and you can add any RSS feed to your calendar. Color labels help keep everything organized.

Kiko has the familiar click-and-drag user interface of other "Ajaxified" calendars, but I found it to be a little buggy in Firefox on the Mac. For sharing options, others can view your calendar or subscribe to a web feed if you share it with them, but there are limited group editing functions available. In the end, Kiko gets points for sharing a name with Oakland A's middle reliever Kiko Calero, the man who throws one of the most wicked sliders in baseball.

7. Backpack
This offering from 37 Signals is a
web calendar and scheduling app that's as clean as it is simple. The interface looks a bit like Apple's iCal, complete with color-coded calendars. Calendar sharing is available through the iCal standard. Other than a few extras -- plain-language event adding and SMS meeting reminders -- there's not much candy here.

One of the things I like best about Backpack is its ability to clearly organize your schedule around specific tasks. Every task gets its own page. Within that page, there's room for to-do lists, text notes and photos. It's a nice addition to the basic calendar.

Some downs: No group calendaring functions, and it's not free. Backpack's calendar feature is only available to paid subscribers.

8. Spongecell
Another free, Ajax-powered calendar along the lines of Kiko and 30 Boxes,
Spongecell has a few distinguishing features that make it stand out. First of all, the interface ranks up there with Google Calendar for ease of use. Dragging and dropping happens smoothly with no glitches, although it's a touch slow in Firefox. There's also a tool that creates an embeddable, auto-updating calendar you can put on your blog. Spongecell even provides instructions on how to sync your calendar with your iPod.

Spongecell has the basics: sharing via RSS or iCal files, calendar import and export and plain-language event additions. However, it's missing group calendaring and color-coded management for multiple calendars.

Honorable mention: Spanning Sync is a tool that allows for bi-directional syncing between Google Calendar and Apple iCal. This means being able to edit one calendar from two locations, so it's understandable that Mac users are really excited about this. Spanning Sync is a beta application for the time being. When it's released, it will be available at a modest subscription rate or for a one-time purchase fee.


Today's song is Pansy Division - Too Many Hoops