Online calendars get serious


Last year I went through Outlook detox and successfully created cross-platform, web-synched versions of my mail and contacts. The calendar part was tougher, since there was no really good online app for the task. In the last couple of months this has changed. Kiko retooled, 30 Boxes launched, and Google Calendar cannonballed right into the pool.

I’ve spent some time really working with 30 Boxes and Google Calendar (Kiko, not so much). Google is the one to bet on, I think, because of their momentum in the space and track record. Also, as Web 2.0ish as 30 Boxes is I’ve come to agree with others that a duration view of events by day and week is crucial (and kinda pretty too) in that you can squint your eyes, find some white space, and simply know that you’re open during that period. The views on 30 Boxes are all list-based and make this kind of spatial reading of your calendar impossible. 30 Boxes does have the edge on integration of non-calendar data, though. You can pop in online web calendars, of course, but you can also read in any RSS feed imaginable. This is very useful for blog posts, weather, and anything else that makes sense to see in a calendar layout. Right now Google only does webcal, no RSS. (Anyone know of an online converter of an RSS feed to webcal?) Integrating specialized calendar feeds (such as those from Basecamp) is especially nice.

30 Boxes also has taken the tagging angle which allows you to filter and syndicate just about any slice of your calendar. Google only allows syndication of whole calendars. They’ll need finer granularity eventually. Google does repeating events and specifically modifications to repeating events much better than 30 Boxes. This becomes a huge deal when you want to skip or modify a particular instance of a repeating event. Obviously Google is well-integrated with GMail.

The glaring omission from all online calendars — and the reason they are not yet on par with mail and contacts — is synching. I can view my calendars in desktop apps (iCal and Sunbird) but I cannot modify them there for synching back to the server. You have to imagine that they are working on this, but from what I read the CalDAV spec is anything but ready for primetime. Also, the PC desktop apps that read iCal are godawful right now. That’s not Google’s or 30 Boxes problem, but it is a hindrance. MozCalendar/Sunbird is way behind Thunderbird and Firefox for sure.

Happy calendaring!