I almost forgot about Google Calendar!
So with Outlook out of the picture I also lost my primary vehicle for making appointments. Outlook was always on my laptop when I needed it but had one major shortcoming: not everyone that needed to see my calendar could.
Sure, I could (and did) have Outlook hooked up to an Exchange server and people could see when I had free time at work, however when it came to personal things, like my wife trying to tell me about a parent-teacher night or that we were getting together with a group of friends on Saturday, we were always missing out.
I have a couple of friends that switched to Google Calendar, the free calendaring tool solution that Google provides. They raved about it and so I thought I'd give it a try. As has been the case with lots of Google products I've been using lately, I was immediately impressed.
It's very easy to use. The interface is very responsive and works great on IE on my Windows machines and Safari on my Mac. I even got my technology terrified wife, who is now a big GMail fan, to use it. Suddenly we can see each other's calendars. Sure, it sounds stupid that a techie would be excited about calendar sharing but I had been in an Outlook rut for so long that I didn't think I needed what Google Calendar was offering.
There are a couple of other things that Google Calendar does that make it really valuable to me:
- SMS: I can send reminders to my phone via SMS. Since I started carrying a small Moto Krazer I needed something that helped remind me of things. This is wonderful.
- Map Integration: It's uncanny how well Google integrates their applications with one another. I add an appointment that reads "Meet with Joe at Starbucks in the Reston Town Center". Simple. Then if I open the actual item there's a Map link next to it. Click on it and Google maps loads and I've got the location right there! Really cool.
- Access from my phone: As I mentioned before, with the Krazer and it's tiny screen I can't see a lot of data. Google recognizes when I try to access it with my phone and optimizes the page to fit the format. Not a dynamic interface at that size but highly useable.
So moving to Google Calendar was the last piece of the puzzle for me in leaving Outlook.