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Google Calendar: A Test Drive

Recently I’ve been starting to use Google Calendar for events.

Here’s a quick review.

First, some background. I really need a PDA synchronized calendar/contacts solution, and unfortunately the Nokia 770 PIM (GPE) doesn’t offer much in the way of synchronization. GPE lets you import vcards from Evolution, but apparently the import from Outlook into Evolution was not smooth (Gee, thanks, Microsoft!).

The calendar syncing involved OpenSync and Evolution, which was not smooth either, not to mention the bother of having to exchange files. (I’ll spare you the details of my elementary root/ssh problems).

Google is looking like a sweet solution. First, google lets you keep public and private ical files, not to mention HTML and XML. Evolution has a feature which will automatically check your public google calendar address to update its local calendar. That would be really cool if it worked; unfortunately, for me, the time is 6 hours off–something having to do with it not providing the GMT offset.

Google offers various options for sharing and privacy (which are important). The best thing they have is a HTML configuration tool which you can use to drop your calendar into a personal webpage. Amazingly cool. The best thing about it is that it offers various widths, which matter a lot if you’re creating webpages for reading on your pda or cellphone.

Another cool thing is that you can add public calendars to your own as well as public events. Upcoming.org lets you add events directly into your google calendar, which is amazingly cool. I suspect other event sites will let you do the same.

Not-so-good is that if you leave events public, it will be searchable on google. (Can you imagine searching for my name on google and learning I have a hot date tomorrow?). That’s easy enough to fix though. You can make it private of course. You can also send/receive invitations from other gmail members, and you can even send invitations to people without a google account.

Another not-so-good thing is that on the shared calendars/custom html tool, it does not show the duration of events by default. That often is the most important detail you need. You can still obtain the information by clicking on the event itself, but that involves an extra mouseclick.

The other frustrating thing is that guests/friends can only view one of your calendars at a time. Ideally, your friend would see both your work calendar and personal calendar in one calendar, but that is not doable at the moment. Instead, I create an html page consisting of both calendars on the same page.

One crazy thing is that Google Calendar is not optimized for portable devices. If you create a calendar and try to view the main calendar in your PDA browser (opera for me), you won’t see it. I don’t know if it’s the ajaxy magic or screen real estate, but that seems like a goof. Fortunately, though the html configurator makes it painless to create your own calendar.

I’ve decided not to make my calendar public, but if you want to see how my calendar appears on my private html page, just email me (idiotprogrammer at fastmailbox.net ) , and I can send the url.

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