Life on the move – Online calendars

I’ve been spending some time having a look at online calendars. While improving fast they all have problems.

The problems are all fairly basic. For example only 30boxes supports an event of more than one day. Only CalendarHub and 30boxes supports viewing your calendar using an ical client such as iCal or Mozilla. Only 30Boxes and Planzo have a usable RSS feed.

So lets have a closer look at a few.

Yahoo! Calendar have a pretty good interface, and most of the features you might want. The big flaws – no RSS and no iCal in or out. The interface also lacks any AJAX goodness though the Yahoo servers are fast enough that it feels fairly responsive. The interface is cluttered, To Do items when dated do not appear in the calendar.

CalendarHub is pretty good. It has a good quality, clean interface with lots of AJAX goodness to make it responsive, I like the list feature which is a raw list of your events in date order and I appreciate being able to add any iCal calendar I can find to my events. Now for the bad news; the RSS is broken in two critical ways, the feed is unsorted and doesn’t include the date in the item title. Like almost all the online calendars it lacks support for events that last more than a day. Watch them to see how fats they fix these – the unsorted RSS feed is a known bug (I reported it) so may well be fixed by now. If it is then watch them.

Planzo is another extremely cluttered page, though the interface for adding an event is clean, full of AJAX goodness and works fine. They also have good quality feeds for Daily, Weekly, and Monthly calendars, for your web page you can have a either a little event widget or your full calendar. They even have a little AIM bot for todays events. If they added iCal, an RSS feed for the To-Do and dated To-Do’s in the calendar then these guys would be a long way down my wish list.

30 Boxes would have to be the best of the bunch. The monthly view is clean and simple, they lack a weekly view and you get a day view by clicking on the day. They have a brilliant interface for adding an event. They have a text box that uses a good English parser to turn a text entry into a diary entry – something like “Lunch with Susie Friday 1 pm” or “Check webserver every Tuesday at 8 am till October 17” will get turned into the right diary entries. If you want they also have a neat pop up dialogue box under a “detailed entry” link. They also have ical and csv import just starting up (it’s in final testing). They allow you to tag diary entries. They also have great export possibilities with an excellent RSS feed and iCal subscriptions that can even be filtered by tag or a little badge for your site that shows a snippet of your calendar (that can also be filtered by tag). While they have some shortcomings they are working fast to fix them, they support recurring appointments and after some user requests added “every other week” as a recurring type and then quickly added the ability to have “skip dates”. These guys are probably the one to watch closest. Personally, this is the one I’m using.

Now one of the things people seem to want is a To-Do list with their calendar, personally if I can get a good RSS feed for my calendar then I just have a start page with my T-Do list and calendar feed both showing and that does me. None of the online calendars have a To-Do that is well integrated with the calendar, this is one area that could become a major differentiator if one group get it right quickly. It’s another wait and see item.

If you know of another calendar system that is as good as any of these then I’d love to hear about it. I’m also half way through a look at “start” pages such as NetVibes and PageFlakes so if you know of one then drop me a line.

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