Thursday, October 19, 2006

Geeky Ramblings

First off, if you don't have Gmail, you should. With over 2 gigs of storage space and growing, you never need to delete another email message. It keeps conversations together in your inbox, which is handy and fun. And the search functions are so easy to use and fast that you don't need to bother sorting email into folders anymore. Also, anyone who has Gmail also automatically has Google Talk, a handy little instant messenger protocol that you can access right from your Gmail page (it's also powered by Jabber, so it can be accessed through multi-platform programs like Gaim). And when you search for anything in your emails, it also returns search results from your chats, which it automatically logs for you. If you still need an invite to sign up for Gmail, I have 99 invites remaining at the moment, and I would be glad to send you one. Just email me at my address, juleannwakeman at.

But what I really came here to rant about today is Google Calendar. I love this feature. One the surface, it's just another event tracker, but it's also so much more. There are several different views - ranging from one day at a time to one month at a time, all of which I use at different points in time. The daily view is very visual - blocking out the sections of the day that are scheduled and making is easy to see what's ahead at a glance. It lets you set up multiple calendars, which comes in handy for keeping track of things like work schedules or class schedules that might take over your personal calendar. I have two calendars right now - one for work and one for everything else - but I can imagine circumstances under which I might start a third or even fourth calendar.

The best part of Google Calendar, though, is the sharing. I can share my calendar with any other friends who also have Google Calendars, so that they know before asking whether I am free Friday night to go to a movie or not. This is especially handy with friends like Rachel, who also work irregular shifts, because I can see, at a glance, whether our schedules overlap so that we can drive up to Kutztown and pick apples. You can check or uncheck which calendars you want to see at any given time so that if I'm trying to get three particular people together for a lunch date, I can look at just their calendars. Which are color-coded. Very nice. (Share your calendar with me by clicking the drop-down arrow beside your calendar and choosing "share this calendar", then add my Gmail address to your list and save!)

Some things I am only just starting to discover about Google Calendar:

1. Holidays. At first, I was taken aback that there were no holidays marked on the calendar by default. Do I have to add them all in by hand? That's a bit of a pain. But, it turns out that the reason there are no holidays on the calendar is so that you can choose which set of holidays you want on your calendar. Would you rather view Vietnamese holidays or Jewish Holidays? Calendar Settings -> Calendars -> Add calendar -> Browse calendars -> Add whichever ones you want.

2. Public Calendars. I don't have my calendar shared publicly, because I can imagine people using my work schedule for stalking or house-robbing purposes. However, there are a lot of interesting public calendars out there, from local dance groups to sports team schedules to video game release dates. I haven't done a whole lot of investigating here yet, but it could be a valuable resource if you are part of a club or group that meets semi-regularly. Calendar Settings -> Calendars -> Add calendar -> Search public calendars.

3. Weather. At first, I had added a public calendar that gave me the weather reports, but this became extremely cumbersome once Google added a weather feature to their basic features. So, for early adopters like me, you can add weather by going to the general settings page and choosing "Show weather based on my location".

4. Reminders. I don't use this much, but I should. You can have your calendar email you a week, a day, an hour (or other times, too) in advance of events, depending on how much notice you need. I use this for birthdays right now, but there is so much more I could be using it for. You can also have it send reminders to your cell phone, but I don't have a cell phone, so I don't utilize this feature.

Some things I would like to see coming soon to a Google Calendar near me:

1. Easier inputting of several events at one sitting. When I go to put in my work schedule for the next two weeks, it's a pain to have to go back to the main calendar after every one. It would be nice to have a "Save and input another event" or "Save and go to next day" option.

2. Links on the holiday calendars to pages about that holiday. That would be nifty.

3. A to-do list feature with deadlines. So far, I can only figure out how to put deadlines in as all-day events, which is kindof silly.

4. More modifiable printing. The pdf file it brings up when I click the printer icon is not at all what I want to print, but I can't figure out how to change it.


jon said...

man, that weather feature is nice. i'd love to see a todo list as well, and the one thing i'm surprised they haven't added yet is integration with gmail. why can't i see my daily itinerary when i open gmail? yes, i'm quite lazy.

tim said...

google is slowly taking over the earth. but i, for one, welcome our geeky visionaries.

Jule Ann said...

Hail geek overlords!