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Google Calendar
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gemsling
It's amazing how busy life can get. Even when it feels like we're not doing much, if I stop and think about it there's always something on. And with a family, we need to keep track of what's going on so that we don't overlap of forget. (oakalyptus will attest to the frequency with which I ask "do we have anything planned for x?")

Officially, we have calendars hosted at icalx.com, which we can use through Sunbird or other iCalendar clients. In reality, though, they sometimes fall into disrepair until I forget something and sit down to add a batch of events. In fact, Theresa primarily uses a paper diary as her schedule. In other words, calendaring and scheduling should be as easy as email, but for us it's not quite there.

So, I'm thinking of moving to Google Calendar.

Generally, I prefer open and flexible solutions to being locked into proprietary ones, but Google Calendar appears to be more open than I realised. At the very least, it provides export to iCalendar format, so if we ever want to change, there's an escape path. I'm also impressed that it lets you subscribe to calendars outside of the Google Calendar sphere, so you don't have to convince all your friends to use it before it becomes useful.

And the more I play with Google Calendar, the more I realise that it could meet our needs:
  • We can each have our own calendar, but still allow each other to create events in any of them.
  • One account can have multiple calendars - eg. the Birthdays calendar and one for Deborah if she doesn't want her own Google Calendar account.
  • iCalendar files can be downloaded to act as a backup and allow viewing when offline.

It also has some niceties beyond our current setup.
  • Web-based, so it's accessible from anywhere. No need to install Sunbird or wait for it to load.
  • Easy to add an event: just type "7pm Rehearsal at Hartwell" and it's done. No need to open a dialog and fill in multiple fields.
  • It's fast. Sunbird feels sluggish, because it has to send events to the server and it keeps popping up a password dialog box at startup.
  • Technically it has the ability to send email reminders and invitations, although in practice these only go to your gmail account, which is not ideal when your primary email account is elsewhere.

The disadvantages a few. I'll have to get over my preference to create zero duration events (there's no way to set a default duration), but that's pretty minor.

I should also try out Yahoo! Calendar for the sake of comparison, but the username gemsling is not available and I don't know what to choose instead. I might have registered it somehow, but I can't get access to it, so maybe someone else got it...

Theresa: fancy creating a Google calendar? I can help you import your existing one and will also set up the Family, Deborah and Birthday calendars for cross-sharing.

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Technically it has the ability to send email reminders and invitations, although in practice these only go to your gmail account, which is not ideal when your primary email account is elsewhere.


Upon further investigation, it seems that you can create a Google Account for a non-gmail address (good), but if you use a Google Account that has a Gmail service, then you can't change the address to use something else (lock-in).

This means Theresa can create a calendar and have notifications go to her main email address. I could also create a new Google Account and use that for Calendar instead - still deciding whether to do this, or stick with the Gmail version...

I was just about to create a Google Account for my main address when I realised that I'll then need to sign in and out to switch between Gmail and Calendar. Hmm...

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