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March 21, 2007

Feedback and suggestions for Google Calendar

Google Calendar Logo

Here are my ideas for improving Google Calendar

  • Display the current time, in all views. Knowing the current time of day is relevant and useful when working with a calendar. I often find myself switching browser tabs to look at the clock gadget on my Personalized Homepage when I'm looking at my day. I'm sure there's a desire not to clutter the interface, but an unobtrusive clock could be added; perhaps a simple digital readout under the current month display. As a bonus, add a thin horizontal time indicator bar in Day and Week view that moves vertically down as the day progresses. The hour indicator on the left of the page could be highlighted in the same color as the bar. This is a quick & easy way to see where you are in the day relative to what's on the agenda.

    Update: 2007.03.22 - A day after I wrote this, Lifehacker published a post with an image that shows an example of this horizontal indicator — go check it out to see what I mean. The post was an intro to today's Rock Your Google Calendar in 18 Ways, by Anne Zelenka at Web Worker Daily. She noted that GCal doesn't seem to get a lot of love or attention lately; well, see below for some from me. Thanks for your useful post, Anne!

  • Add background shading to Saturday & Sunday in Month View. On the small month indicator, Saturday and Sunday are lightly shaded, making them easy to distinguish from weekdays. This useful visual cue would be a great enhancement for the main Week and Month views.
  • Sync with mobile devices. (I'm happy to see this is already on the list, but I have some comments.) The SMS/text messaging interface is useful, and it's really nice to be able to add events that way. I hope this won't go away or be deprecated even when sync is enabled. For planning, though, we need to be able to refer to the calendar, and browse it. The inability to sync is a serious deficiency, and kept me away from Google Calendar for a long time — the fact that so many of us use it without sync is a testament to how good everything else is!

    Update: 2007.05.24 - Google released the mobile web service, Calendar for mobile devices. Thanks, Google! This goes a long way toward solving the problem of real mobile access. I still think sync is the ideal, but maybe that'll be an option for the future. It would be nice to be able to delete entries, though, as well as modify them. (I know it's new.)

  • Add ability to link events to other calendars as an alternative to copying them. I copy several events among my and my wife's calendars, because we each want the ability to filter the other's calendar, but still see things we're doing together. That means when I update an event, I have to do so in two places. Since I have the ability to write to her calendar, it would be nice to designate some events as linked, so they show up independently on shared calendars, but can be updated on either one, with the changes reflected on both.

This list, which I'm publishing in March 2007 — when Google Calendar is just shy of its first birthday — is almost certain to grow and develop.

Google Calendar is amazing

I recently switched to Google Calendar and I'm really impressed. I wanted to use it when it first came out, but was waiting to switch from Yahoo Calendar because I (and many others) wanted an easy, Google-supported way to sync with my Windows Mobile smartphone. I switched anyway, and even without mobile phone sync, I can't get over how much I like Google Calendar.

The team that built it invested a lot of research and effort into doing so, and it shows. For a look at how they did it, check out Rakesh Agrawal's blog post with notes and commentary about Product Manager Carl Sjogreen's presentation [.pdf] at the Future of Web Apps Summit, 2006.

Google Calendar feels good and is enjoyable to use — it makes me want to use a calendar, and that makes me more organized and productive. It's a great example of what a web application can be now. It's fast, easy, and knows it's connected to the web. Google Calendar isn't perfect — in fact, it's beta — but it's worth serious consideration.

March 06, 2007

Keep an eye on Grazr — If you use feeds, you'll want this widget

Grazr is a really cool feed widget you should check out

Grazr logo

If you've discovered the benefits of using feeds, you should take a look at Grazr. It's an embeddable, web-based feed browser widget that augments your primary feed reader & lets you put feeds anywhere on the web.

Grazr isn't a replacement for a full-fledged feed reader — it's an addition to your toolkit: a blazing fast feed widget that makes sharing and interacting with feed content easy. It's multimedia capable, so you can look at pictures, listen to audio, and watch video in the feed, all without having to subscribe. You can put a Grazr widget on several popular personalized start pages, a blog post/sidebar, a regular web page, even your Windows desktop.

Grazr.com recently achieved two important milestones

  • Funding - Grazr just completed a Series A financing round of $1.5M. They've already developed an impressive tool, but clearly that's just the beginning.
  • Outline & feed hosting - Now you can host your web outlines (OPML) & feeds in your own account at grazr.com. This is a great service for people who want to use and share web outlines and feeds, but don't have a web server on which to host them. I have my own web server, but just as hosting & sharing my links at del.icio.us is far better than I could do it myself, I expect Grazr.com to add significant value when you use their service to host feeds and outlines.

These are two very positive events for the company, and I'm excited to see what they'll do next. You can help influence that by participating in the forums. The team really listens to and values input from people who use Grazr, so if you have ideas, share them!

Grazr makes feeds fun and easy

Grazr was originally built to let people "graze" feed content without having to subscribe. It makes feeds fun and easy, and lets people use them without having to understand how they work, install software, or sign up for anything. It will help feeds break out of subscription jail, and that should promote more innovation in how feeds are used.

I expect to see a lot more from the Grazr team, and I think we'll all be beneficiaries of their successes. Congrats, and keep up the good work!

Example Grazrs

Explore interesting Flickr photos, watch the most recent YouTube featured videos, and listen to CNN updated news updates.

(If you're reading this in a feed reader, click on an image below to launch the corresponding Grazr.)

Here's a web outline that displays the 3 feeds above in a single Grazr panel