Google has launched a beta version of a Web-based calendar service that allows users not only to input and track events, but also to coordinate schedules with others and create automatic event alerts. The free online tool offers several other features, including invitation creation, Gmail integration, and, of course, high-powered search capabilities.
The calendar works with the Internet Explorer and Firefox Web browsers and is currently available only in English, but Google has noted that it is working on additional language options for users located in other parts of the world.
Google has designed the tool to work well with other calendar applications. Users can export their schedules to any program or device that accepts iCal or XML files, and can import information from widely used calendar applications such as Microsoft Outlook.
Sharing Is Caring
One of the most striking features of the new tool is its capacity for giving users the ability to share information with friends, family members, and colleagues.
In addition, users can create limits on what is shared. "For instance, you can let Aunt Jane see details about your ballet recitals but not your Lambada lessons," Google noted in announcing the service.
Calendar users also can synchronize their calendar events with colleagues and friends to make personal and professional planning more efficient.
"Google Calendar is truly a best-of-breed in terms of ease of use and functionality," Internet expert Charlene Li, an analyst at Forrester Research, wrote in a blog posting.
Li praised the new service's ability to manage multiple calendars and integrate data with other applications.
Mix and Match
Rolling out new online services has been a focus of search firms for quite some time, noted IDC analyst Sue Feldman. As soon as one search firm announces new developments, others soon follow, thanks to quickly moving development teams, she observed.
New services like Google Calendar are designed not just to drive revenue for the search firms, Feldman noted. They actually are meeting demand as consumers and corporate users attempt to keep on top of information overload. "People have a certain level of difficulty in managing information," Feldman said. "That's why desktop search has become so popular."
Users face many challenges in bringing together information from multiple applications, she added, which is what draws them to services that do multiple functions. "People like simplicity, and if they can do search as well as other tasks at the same time, they'll appreciate that," she added.