Calendars, planners and apps,, Oh my! Do they suck!

by Fred

I’m MAD!calendargh!

Not in the Mothers Against Drunk Driving type,, but mad nonetheless.

This weekend for some weird reason, my palm pilot crapped out on me and though my contacts and memos still exist, I completely lost all distinct events listed in my calendar (my 4th pilot since 1997, love them for their simplicity, kinda frustrated right now).

Maybe I’m just dumb (don’t worry I hit the revert button right away,, nothing), but I’ve been thinking a lot about planning and scheduling apps. I have access to far too many of them, let’s see, Palm, Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail, MSN, Scrybe (yayy the beta is rocking, more on that later) and Evite (yes, I count Evite, it’s a great service that does a specific job very well, but lacks in my main complaint here).

On to my whine (and no, I’m not drinking any @#($* merlot!)

Why has no one created an email-able calendar event notification that is insert-able in ANY scheduling program?!

This has driven me mad for far too long. Half of my events require some other human to be there. I don’t want to “run their life” but I do want them to have a reminder available, no matter how they prefer to schedule their life. The issue we’ve all run into is simple, WE ALL PLAN DIFFERENTLY. However, we all do plan (sort of ).

Yahoo has the closest version of this where their events are easily inevitable, however, once you send an emailed event to someone they still have to add it to their calendaring app directly. No one has bothered to make it a rapidly insertable hotlink that operates in a variety of programs. Yes, Outlook has easily emailed events that work like this, but it ONLY works with Outlook (Kudos for you M.S. guys for getting that much right).

At this point it still seems like everyone has their head stuck in the sand feeling that “their system is the only true system,” yet if “WEB 2.0″ is a reality, then why is it the only thing I cannot do is,,, plan with everyone easily?!

I’m aware both 37 signals, and the Mozilla kids are working on calendaring apps as well (and I’m not a user of either yet, so please do correct me there,) but this doesn’t seem like a difficult thing to do. For that matter (and yes I emailed them about it weeks ago and heard nothing) why can’t I email a del.icio.us link to someone who doesn’t have it, straight from a linking window?

Even if your email editor (gmail, hotmail, yahoo, are you watching) just recognized a simple html/xml included tag that would interact with your calendaring software (no matter who sent it). Wouldn’t that make people’s lives better? (Gosh, if you came up with that first, then people would want to use yours more than anyone else’s!)

My second gripe is that they don’t export easily to PDA’s. Why?! People want to use your online calendar, AND their PDA, make it easy for them already!!!

So now that I’m out of my calendaring stuff, I’m leaning most on the Scrybe beta right now. It’s more or less like everything else, except for it’s clipping (like Evernote, which I like and use) and best of all it has great ways to print out your calendar for when you’re on the go.

I’m waiting! (and if I’ve missed all this, tell me where!)

16 reviews or comments

Fred Says: March 5, 2007 at 2:34 pm

If this is truly the need I feel it should be (keep watching here open source people).

It should go as follows,
.evt is an event file or .mtg (though that would seem to designate meetings)

and for an additional, typical thing that should be emailable
.do (a “do” file) to send out a task, you could event send it to multiple people and attach it to other files in the email so that they had the rescources they need included with the task. (including links and other items).

Thoughts?

Marc Says: March 5, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Google calendar can send you an SMS reminder – that’s about as universal as it gets, since you don’t need a calendar app at all on the other end. Not much use on the planning front though, it’s more use on the “about to forget” level!

It’s a good point – if everyone’s using the same system then it works but as soon as people have different apps it all falls apart. The iCal “standard” was supposed to be an interoperable format of sharing calendar info but again it depends on the various applications implementing it correctly.

Fred Says: March 5, 2007 at 3:33 pm

Being a PC guy, I haven’t used iCal, however, it is still obvious that link isn’t there either.

As for the SMS, I just don’t want to be charged for every single text when my pilot should just beep at me, (or I could check my email or a piece of paper in the place of Scrybe)

Thank you Marc

Marc Says: March 5, 2007 at 3:54 pm

Oops – difference in terminology! I meant the iCalendar standard – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICalendar

So in the US you pay for *receiving* SMS messages? That sucks. We pay for sending them but mobile providers don’t charge you for receiving by default. (it is possible to have that model but it’s the exception rather than the norm)

Fred Says: March 5, 2007 at 4:15 pm

as far as I know we pay for it (I barely ever send them, for me it’s typically email, phone, or, if I’m home skype).
good find on the wiki for Icalendar,, is there a good tutorial out there for using it with gmail (as that’s one of the listed groups that it works with).

here’s who they list that they work with 30 Boxes, Apple’s iCal application, Darwin Calendar Server, Contactizer and iPod, Chandler, Drupal with its event module, Citadel, Facebook, FirstClass, Google Calendar, Jalios JCMS, KOrganizer, Lotus Notes, Microsoft Entourage, Mozilla Calendar (including Mozilla Sunbird), Mulberry, Novell Evolution, Nuvvo, Simple Groupware, Upcoming.org, Windows Calendar, Webical, Zimbra Collaboration Suite, and Microsoft Outloo

my question is, why aren’t they advertising that this is out there and operational?! It says its “in all of them” but how do we properly access that functionality, or is it “hidden” behind other actions?

I don’t know a soul using it anywhere and it seems so good.

Reuven Says: March 5, 2007 at 4:54 pm

Did you try http://airset.com ? You may like it (I am not affiliated with them)

Fred Says: March 6, 2007 at 9:36 am

Reuven, and Yan, thanks for the tips on both airset and planypus.

Airset, is attempting to do well within it’s own system, but it seems my major complaint is still unaddressed.

The key I’m looking for is communication across software packages (I do commend airset for having a complete solution, however, it seems only to be a solution within it’s own group). I bet those small businesspeople want to let the people they work with/sell to/buy from know things as well, yet they have to send data to them, and they have to re-input it into their own format.

Imagine how many events are missed every year by people who transpose dates and times of events by even one single digit. A date, a time.

If you plan to watch a Formula 1 race with a buddy and show up an hour late, what happens there? (oh right, you just missed more than half the race!)

Keep up the great comments though, tons of stuff I hadn’t seen that is getting us closer to a real solution!

Yan Says: March 6, 2007 at 9:44 am

I spent all night fixing up our Planypus emails, now they have links to add to outlook, share on facebook, and add to gcal :-). Look for this in a new release probably later this week soon as we clean up some other things. Cheers!

Yan Says: March 6, 2007 at 10:12 am

The links in the emails will be ical compatible too (so you can add to ical not just outlook), btw. I wish i could release this right now but we have to go through a test cycle to make sure nothing is broken :-)

Fred Says: March 6, 2007 at 10:25 am

Yan!!!! You’re awesome!!!
ok, so now I’ve gotta go give this a full run through.

Sure, you’re gonna make me eat my words and everything aren’t you? Hah!

I’m delighted to know people that can effect real change are reading this. As a product designer, I know that it can be hard when people criticize projects or products you have spent blood sweat and tears on to perform in a manner you designed. Then, some jerkwad who thinks he “knows what’s best” makes some uninformed statement and people come out of the woodwork to let them know where they stand.

The nice thing about this, is the informed and functional (ie people who can do something about making a real change) can participate and make something happen to help people.

Thank you, I’m off to give planypus a thorough testing,
(time passes)

So I put together a first event Yan, nice. Simple and straightforward. I made a few little mistakes, but all in all well done. The best thing you’ve done seems to be linking with local events and eateries. That can always be the kicker, plus the voting, nice touch (are you watching evite?!)

Obviously it’s still beta, but I think you’re really moving forward with a great service. I know your pain on developing out of your own pockets (I’m there too).

Yan Says: March 6, 2007 at 10:40 am

Thanks Fred. I think that in this world where the skills to build an internet site are approaching commodotization one of the things we can do to differentiate ourself is actually *gasp* listen to customers. Surprising how few companies are actually out doing this. The nice thing about our company is that we’re small and agile so if I read a good idea on a blog I’m not going through 10 layers of red tape to implement it. I just stay up till 2am and do it :-) Looking forward to more feedback on Planypus…I know we have some usability issues and are actually going through a full redesign coming soon.

Fred Says: March 6, 2007 at 10:48 am

Yan, thank you for your responsiveness!

Anybody else out there willing to re-write code like that is truly dedicated. Better than that, your customer focus is your only insurance that you’ll continue to thrive. It looks like you’ve set yourself up well with a great team too. Remember folks, no good design work is done in a vacuum.

Anything I say in thanks sounds like repetitious drivel, as you stayed up till 2am after working a full day and don’t live in a dorm. Wow.

(Who doesn’t miss dorm life a little though?)

The Latest in Shrunk Gadget Pics » Coolest Gadgets Says: March 6, 2007 at 12:36 pm

[…] Calendars, planners and apps,, Oh my! Do they suck! […]

Yan Says: March 18, 2007 at 4:17 pm

Fred,

We’ve launched the latest version sorry it took so long. We now have the ability directly from the Planypus emails to add the info to google calendar, outlook/ical, and facebook.

Reuven Says: March 18, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Since I posted about http://airset.com above, they have made some substantial improvements. One of them is 1 Gig of file storage.

Oh Google where art thou? (some things for you to do) » Coolest Gadgets Says: May 11, 2007 at 9:40 am

[…] Well you may vaguely remember I have gone on mild tirade/suggestion lists. […]

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