Thursday, April 13, 2006

30Boxes vs. Google Calendar

In early February I wrote about coordinating schedules with your team.  I didn’t actually provide much new information, but rather was asking the question how geographically dispersed teams can do centralized scheduling without the benefit of some big computer in the sky (an exchange server) doing the heavy lifting.  I mentioned 30Boxes at the time as a possible solution.  I’ve been playing with it over the last couple of months and see some great possibilities.  TechCrunch just did a good quick review and it’s worth a read.  Today Google released their Calendar webapp.  I’ve used 30boxes a bit more than Gcal, but I wanted to give an early comparison between the two. 

Let’s look at 30Boxes first.  First, 30b is very simple to use.  You can type “meeting on Thursday at 2 with Jim” and 30Boxes figures out exactly what you mean and adds that to your calendar.  The ability of 30b to parse real world English is pretty amazing.  It’s not perfect, but it’s very, very handy.  You can even add a bookmarklet to FireFox that, when clicked, opens a little box for adding appointments.  Click “new event”, type in your real English language appointment and it automatically gets added to your 30Boxes calendar. 

Calendar View– Here’s a view of my calendar from April.  It’s pretty straightforward, not overly sexy.  I’d say it’s clean though.



Sharing – 30b has all kinds of ways to share your calendar.30bSubscript  First, when you’re entering an appontment you can invite another person to that event simply by adding “” to the end of the description.  Beyond that there are many ways for people to subscribe to your calendar or a subset of it.  You can choose to share the entire calendar, a special shared view or even create a custom view.  Then, as you can see in the picture to the right, each view offers a number of ways for people to subscribe that view.  These include sycing to Outlook 2003 (with an add-in) or 2007.

Importing – In early March, 30b added this feature, but it’s not nearly as clean as GCal’s.  It’s a great start though and will surely be improved.


Let’s take a look at Google Calendar now.  It just went public today, as far as I can tell but people have been writing about it for a while though, like here and here and countless other places.  Most folks seem to think that GCal would be released in 2005.

GCal Calendar View – Here’s how April looks in Google.  Not all the appointments are the same as the 30Boxes calendar because I don’t have everything synced up properly.  Google actually represents my Outlook calendar pretty well, since I imported it.  I really like the Google view better, especially for multi-day activities.  They just seems to pop out better.

GoogleApril Sharing – Gcal doesn’t offer quite as many sharing options as 30Boxes.Goglecalsubscriptn  Gcal provides you with basically two views and two ways to subcribe, XML or iCal.  I thinks these are solid options, but without the tagging options available in 30boxes, I don’t suppose there are too many choices.

Importing – GCal hits a home run in this department.  You can import from a variety of sources, including Outlook.  You simply browse to the right file, (CSV or iCal) and away you go.  It’s fast and easy.

Summary:  For my purposes either of these calendars will work fine.  In 30Boxes favor is the English language appointment parsing and a ravenous user community.  It wasn’t 30Boxes who wrote the Firefox bookmarklet, it was the community.  I don’t think there will be the same kind of adoption for GCal.  While Google gets enormous number of users, I don’t think they inspire the same community of committed developers that other startups (like 30Boxes) do.  Also in 30Boxes’ favor are numerous tagging and subscription options.  There are just all kinds of ways to catagorize, tag and share your information.  30Boxes is really set up to do social calendaring, plugging in well to thinks like chat, Flickr, blogs, etc.

In GCal’s favor is the ability is the strong user base and the attractive layout.  GCal also offers more calendar views day, month, 4–day, etc.  But it’s primarily a calendaring application that isn’t concerned so much with the social aspects of calendar sharing.  Whether this is a strength or weakness is up to you to decide.

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