You can register for your free Google Calendar account at calendar.google.com.
The Google Calendar Interface
On the left-hand side of the screen, there's a miniature month, so you can quickly jump to different sections of your calendar by clicking on a date. On the upper right corner, there are tabs to switch between day, week, month, the next four days, and agenda views. The main area shows the current view.
The top of the screen has links to other Google services you've registered for, so you could schedule an event and check the related spreadsheet in Google Docs & Spreadsheets or fire off a quick email from Gmail.
The left side of the screen lets you manage shared calendars and contacts, and the top of the screen offers a Google search of your calendars, so you can quickly find events by keyword search.
To add an event, you just need to click on a day in month view or an hour in day or week views. A dialog box points to the day or time and lets you quickly schedule the event. Or you can click on the more details link and add more details. You can also add events from text links on the left.
You can also import a whole calendar full of events at once from your Outlook, iCal, or Yahoo! calendar. Google Calendar doesn't sync directly with software like Outlook or iCal, so you'll have to keep importing events if you use both tools. This is unfortunate, but there are third-party tools that sync between the calendars.
Events from all your visible calendars will show in the main calendar view. However, you can color code these to avoid confusion.
This is where Google Calendar really shines. You can share your calendar with others, and Google gives you a great amount of control over this.
You can make calendars completely public. This would work well for organizations or education institutions. Anyone can add a public calendar to their calendar and view all the dates on it.
You can share calendars with specific individuals, such as friends, family, or coworkers. This is easiest if you use Gmail, because Gmail auto-completes the email address of contacts as you type it. However, you don't have to have a Gmail address to send invitations.
You can choose to share only times when you're busy, share read-only access to event details, share the ability to edit events on your calendar, or share the ability to manage your calendar and invite others.
This means your boss may get to see your work calendar, but not your personal calendar. Or perhaps the bridge club members could see and edit bridge dates, and they could tell when you were busy on your personal calendar without seeing any details.
This amount of customization is really powerful.
When you schedule events, you can send an email to the attendees to invite them to attend, much like you can with Microsoft Outlook. The email contains the event in .ics format, so they can import the details into iCal, Outlook, or other calendar tools.
Calendar on Your Phone
If you have a compatible cell phone, you can view calendars and even add events from your cell phone. This means you don't have to carry a separate organizer to events that will be within cell-phone range.
Integration With Other Services
With a little technical know-how, you can publish public calendars to your Web site, so that even people without Google Calendar can read your events. Google Calendar is also available as part of Google Aps for Your Domain.
Where Google Can ImproveGoogle Calendar is very easy to use and packs a lot of features. Some tasks may be difficult for the beginner to find, but Google has well documented support.
The only thing that's really missing from Google Calendar is a to-do list. It would be nice to see tasks that are not necessarily scheduled for a certain time, and it would be nice to be able to send or receive them like calendar events.
The Bottom Line
- Google Calendar is available on the Web at calendar.google.com