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.
I cannot stress this enough. Girlfriend and I sync GCals which sync to both our iCals. ITS WONDERFUL!
I have used SpanningSync (Someone mentioned it here) but in my opinion its buggy and unreliable.
install BusySync and then you can get the same benefits as you do with mail.app and GMail/iMAP.
PLUS you can take advantage of data detectors in mail.app messages.