Online Calendars – Micrososoft, Google, Yahoo

With the release of Google’s Calendar, I thought I’d take a look at the offerings of the three big companies and see how they compare as I need to pick one to use going forward.  This review is not comprehesive, as it focuses only on the bits I need it to do, not necessarily on the complete feature set.

 With the phone I have, I can only synch with MS Outlook, which is only desktop-based in the version that I have.  As I don’t use it for email, I’ve not seen the value in upgrading yet to one that shares online calendars.    I also need an online system as I work across 2 or more PCs; therefore, to get the best out of the tools, I need to have something that synchs with Outlook to synch with the phone (which only holds the bare minimum details) and allows me to do most of the work online.. 

For this comparison I’m using Yahoo Calendar, the Google Calendar released in beta this week and the Windows Live Calendar, also in beta.

Time View:  For a week, Yahoo and WL are both arranged horizontally, with days listed in rows down the page.   Google has columns for the days, as with the Outlook workplace standard.  Google does not have an annual view, unlike the others.

Event Entry

WL: Click on New appointment or double click on the calendar itself.  Fill in the form with appropriate details.   You can choose from a variety of categories for the event, invite people, set up a recurrence and get a reminder email or IM alert sent

Yahoo:         Click on either the Add Event button, or the links on each day.  There’s a long form with all the options on, (WL has links to click for some of the option).   The same options to set up the event as in WL, however you can also check others calendars if on same system.  Yahoo also has a quick add system, filling in form fields for title, data and time.

Google: Click a Create Event button to get a form to fill in.   There are no categories but other options are similar to the others.  You can set a reminder but only to send it to your gmail account. (WL and Yahoo allow you to choose a mail address).  Google allows me to send an text message to a US based phone only (it needs to know carrier and a verification code, which I guess is a requirement of the US system), but has no IM alert.   Google also has a quick input – which takes a text input and extrapolates when the event should be.  Some thought needs to be given to the syntax when using this, and you need to add pm to times otherwise everything is in the morning or change the calendar settings to 24hr clock and remember to add the colon calendar settings)

Interestingly, all of the calendars allowed me to create events in the past without warning me.

Viewing Events: click on the event in the calendar.  Yahoo and WL take you to the events page, Google displays the relevant info in a bubble on the page and you need to click into the event to see notes.   Google has a great integration with Google Maps, taking whatever you add to the location field and trying to map it (although giving me 108 million options for ‘home’ may get me lost)

Deleting events: WL – from the event only; Yahoo from the calendar view or the event entry; Google from the event or the calendar view (but one extra click than yahoo)

Public Calendars

WL allows you to share appointments and calendars with contacts/people with a Passport.   It also allows you to publish directly to the web for all to access.   The default setting is to allow all appointments to be shared, which needs to be watched for.  By default, it displays any events set up by groups you belong to.

Yahoo allows you to share with listed people or direct onto web.   The choices when setting up an appointment allows you to designate time as busy only, instead of the details of the event.  ‘Special Friends’ can set up appointments and change your calendar for you.   By default, events from groups you belong to are displayed.

As with the others, Google allows you to share publically or with a select group.  Permissions can be set up to allow others to edit. 

Sharing data across applications.

WL does not appear to allow you to export or import data

Google uses XML and ICal to share, opening it up easily to a lot more options and has public and private version of these feeds.    It also allows you to create more than one calendar, making it extremely flexible for group or family settings, allowing total or limited sharing across the calendars.  After disbling the calendar in the browser, I was able to export an ics file easily, which can then be imported to Outlook.  Importing files is also straightforward .     (on my previous post, I stated that it could not do export – finding it is not straightforward, as the option is about 4 levels in)

Yahoo has a standalone application, which needs to be downloaded and set up,  called IntelliSync which allows one click synchronization between your online calendar and Outlook in both directions.

So which one:  Without Import/Export Windows Live is not an option at the moment.   Google’s Calendar is probably the best looking, very ajaxy and probably got the best feature set for sharing the calendar outwards, .   But the one click 2-way synchonisation of Yahoo sells it to me at the moment.  It means I can add events to the phone or to the online calendar and synch between them using Outlook as a middleman.  Until the phone allows me to use iCal, then that is how I need to do it.

I’ve also being trying out Qumana for typing the post.  So far, it looks good.

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