I recently came across Google Calendar almost by accident, I was aware of it before but had never used it as we have Outlook Exchange at work and I have my trusty FiloFax as well as my iPod touch for my own scheduling.

I was trying to publicise some drop-in information skills sessions we hold and spent ages constructing a suitable table in HTML, then inputting all the basic details which linked to a booking form for sessions where we have limited places. I then tried to find a way to give more details on the workshops and investigated using JavaScript popups, which looked great but manually coding it all was a nightmare on our restrictive CMS, especially when you need to edit or add more workshops at a later date.

At around the same time I read a blog post about Google Calendar so had a proper look at it. On the surface it’s pretty much what you’d expect from a calendar but when you utilise the ability to share calendars and produce embeddable widgets it really is a great tool.

It took only a matter of minutes to create a new calendar for our information skills sessions, schedule them and add in details including a brief description of the session and a link to the booking form where necessary.

Google Calendar Widget

I created a widget for the calendar, customized it to suit our needs (all done using Google’s widget creator) and added to our webpages (see screenshot above). Now users can find all the information they need in an easy to use table (which they can view in a list which I’ve chosen as the default or as a weekly or monthly view). Clicking on the title of a workshop causes the table to expand to give more details. If they currently use Google calendar they can also add the schedule to their calendar or individual sessions they wish to attend. I’m not sure if anyone will use this in our case but it would certainly be useful for instantly adding a series of shared meetings or a lecture timetable.

I’ve started using Google calendar as a personal calendar also, although I still have to use Outlook for work purposes (I am able to export and import between the two which is handy). I particularly like intelligent adding of events such as “Team meeting tomorrow 10-11” rather than having to complete numerous fields for every event. I’ve also been able to add my to do list to Google calendar using ToodleDo, a web based to do list.

All in all I think Google calendar is a great tool, particularly for shared calendars and it’s still in Beta so new developments are still being added. I can see tools like this being used more and more in organisations.

Has anyone else any positive/negative experiences of Google calendar or of any other useful calendar tools?

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  • That’s really interesting – I tried the Google offering but didn’t get on with it, – perhaps it’s time I gave it another bash.

    There are a lot of Calendar/meeting resources available – I have a list of a few more at http://www.philb.com/iwantto/collaboration.htm in case you want to take a peek.

  • Jo Alcock

    Thanks Phil, that’s a great list of resources! I’ll definitely be having a look through those.

    I’m doing a presentation next week to help students organise themselves, there’s so much out there that I’m struggling to choose what to include!

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