Looks like Google Calendar is live: you can sign up here. Remember my disclaimer: I’m speaking only for myself, not for Google on this post. But it’s live and other folks are talking about it, so let’s take a look. To try it out, I added the sessions that I’ll be speaking on next week at the Boston WebmasterWorld conference, and it looks like this:
To make a meeting, you can
– click on the grid and drag,
– fill out a form, or
– use a “Quick Add” box that understands freeform text input like “Meet Dad at SFO airport at 10:22 am on Monday.” That automatically adds info to your calendar like this:
Notice the “map” link? Yup, clicking on that takes you to a map of the SFO airport, which is handy if you’re going somewhere new.
Integrating with Google Maps is nice, but I expect Google Calendar to really start to shine with Gmail. Have you noticed that if you’re using Gmail and someone sends you an address, you get the option on the right-hand side of the page to get a map for that address? In the same way, it sounds like Gmail will look for events and let you add them to your calendar.
Meetings are resizeable (click on those little parallel lines at the bottom of events and just drag). You can also drag and drop a meeting to a different day. I like that you can keep multiple calendars (e.g. a personal calendar, a work calendar, a conference calendar), and you can color-code them however you like. It’s nice to be able to hide calendar layers, and I especially like the option to hide a meeting if you decline it (pet peeve: I hate seeing a meeting cluttering up my calendar when I know I’m not going to attend).
Beyond the UI though, there’s a solid amount of import/export options. You can import Outlook calendar info, Apple iCal info, or Yahoo! Calendar info. And Google Calendar provides both XML and ICAL export. Going deeper, you can set a calendar to be world-viewable, or you can allow granular access to people you choose.
With Gmail, it took a while for invites to trickle out, and then a little while longer for some nice things like smart vacation settings and contact groups to show up. This launch feels pretty deep on day one. I haven’t fully dug into everything, but it feels like there’s a lot of documentation to make it easier to try out the Calendar, and some nice stuff like printable PDFs of calendars. There’s also
– an overview
– a tour
– a guide to making clickable invite buttons that event publishers can use for one-click adding to the calendar (pretty neat)
– a fleshed-out help center that appears to have 50+ pages of answers and documentation
– a discussion group where people are already posting mash-up questions like “Is there any way to post an event (preferably a Quick Add style post) either through some sort of API (for use with, for example, a Dashboard widget) or through some URL I can use (for use with e.g. YubNub)?” I’m sure the Calendar folks will be listening to feedback on what features people want the most.
I’m an enthusiastic Gmail user, but some parts of it seemed pretty alien at first (labels instead of folders, threaded conversations) until you got used to them. But once you get used to using Gmail, it’s really productive. By comparison, the migration to Google Calendar feels like less hassle to me. My hunch is that the features and options will get even more polished over time. I like Google Calendar a lot so far, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.
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. Even though meetings are private by default, I’m sure that in 2-3 days, someone will bend over backwards to claim that Google Calendar somehow hurts someone’s privacy. With a web calendar? Yeah, somehow. 🙂 And I’m sure people will use Google Calendar as a chance to ask if Google is spending enough energy on search. My answer to that is that (in my opinion) Google is definitely focusing even more on search quality/infrastructure recently. I’m confident that I’ll talk more about core search quality in weeks to come, but this post is already too friggin’ long–I’m done for the night. 🙂
P.S. My first request? A bookmarklet to let you select text on a web page and “QuickAdd” that event with smart parsing of the text. So in the post below, you could select “10 August 2006 Expected date of workshop” and click on the bookmarklet to add AIRWeb to your calendar in just a click or two.