Google released its much anticipated web based calendar solution last week. Designed to work in tandem with Gmail and Google Talk, Google Calendar attempts to free the user from the tether of the computer workstation. Since the information is web based and maintained by Google, it is available to the user whether they access it from their home, office, or even from the local internet cafe.
Since the release of Google Calendar, dozens of stories and blog posts have described its feature set. Reviewers seem to have mixed emotions about the new web based technology. Some think it is one of the best technologies Google has released in years. Some think it only mimics functionality provided by other solutions. Few reviewers touch on one of Google Calendar’s most powerful features… its Apple iCal integration.
It seems obvious that there are some Macintosh fans among the engineers at Google. Google Calendar is still beta, but even the beta release boasts powerful Mac only integration. Google’s initial implementation includes support for Apple’s iCal.
Since Google would like users to replace all existing calendar solutions with Google Calendar, it seems only logical to offer users a way to import information from their existing calendar solutions. With that in mind, Google engineers made it easy to import delimitated data from just about any source. In addition to this, there is a specific import just for iCal users. This makes it easy for any Mac user to switch to Google’s calendar solution.
That’s not all. Google has gone much further and implemented extensive iCal support. Since calendar sharing is a main feature of Google Calendar, support was built in allowing iCal users to subscribe to shared Google Calendars. Simply copy a user specific URL from the preferences of Google Calendar and open iCal. Select Subscribe from the Calendar menu of iCal and past in the URL from the Google preferences. iCal asks for a custom title for the shared calendar and allows the users to specify how often iCal should check the calendar for updates. Once the calendar has been added, iCal will update itself at the specified interval and retrieve updated information from Google.
These shared calendars are ideal for families and businesses that need to make sure everyone is on track with the same information. Google’s integration with iCal is a powerful feature unique to the Macintosh. It makes it easy to subscribe to Google Calendars without forcing users to abandon their existing calendar solution.
But while the integration is powerful, there is one major shortcoming. It’s not possible for users to post new events to the shared calendar from inside of iCal. iCal can simply import events and changes made to Google Calendar. The shared calendar is read only from inside of iCal. To make changes, the user must either open the calendar directly in the web browser, or create their own Google Calendar that has been assigned read/write permissions for the shared calendar.
All things considered, Google Calendar is a very powerful solution. It offers some very powerful sharing options to other users of Google Calendar. The iCal integration is simple and effective. Since iCal is designed to let users subscribe to 3rd party calendars, it is nice to see that Google took advantage of Apple’s iCal API. Will two-way event support be added in the future? We can only cross our fingers and wait to find out. Remember, Google Calendar is still in beta, so anything is possible!