A few weeks ago I decided I would try giving up Microsoft Outlook. I already used Gmail as my primary email account, and was getting frustrated with trying to achieve a two-way sync between Google Calendar and my Outlook appointments, so I thought I would just give up Outlook for Google. And honestly, it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be. The main reason I used Outlook wasn’t just for use as an email client – if it was as simple as email, I would have given up Outlook for Gmail years ago. No, I used Outlook as a management system for my appointments, tasks, address book and email.
Everything I liked about Outlook, I can accomplish with Google, with few exceptions. I love Google Calendar, and the ability to manage my calendar and appointments online. I can share my calendar, manage invites, and have my daily agenda emailed to me so I don’t forget anything. With the personalized Google homepage, I basically created a web based version of Outlook’s “Today” view; email inbox, upcoming appointments, and tasks with upcoming due dates. Embedding my email and calendar into my homepage were the easy tasks; Google doesn’t yet have a to-do list, and so I had to look elsewhere for list management. Remember The Milk does Task management, and then some. You can share tasks with other users, tag tasks, associate a web page, give a time estimate, and more.
Honestly, the only thing I can’t accomplish with Gmail is auto-adding birthdays and anniversaries from contact information into a calendar, which would be really nice. Otherwise, I can never remember who has an upcoming birthday or anniversary. Another thing I wish Google would add is the ability to label/tag/categorize contacts. I would love to be able to filter out contacts; say I want to send an email out to family, but I don’t want to make a “Family” mailing list. If I could just filter out business contacts and friends, that would be convenient.
I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I use MS Outlook as my e-mail software. If I used it for just e-mail, I would have switched to Thunderbird ages ago. After all, I switched from IE to Firefox a few years ago, and haven’t looked back. No, I use Outlook for everything; the contacts section is my address book. It maintains birthdays, anniversaries, email addresses, home addresses, website addresses, almost anything I could want. I have a task list to remind me when certain bills are due, with a checkbox so I know if I’ve paid them this month. I keep my work schedule in there, since my schedule changes from week to week. And it syncs to my Dell Axim, so I can take my contacts and lists with me anywhere.
I’ve installed Thunderbird in the past, to try it out, and see if I could switch. It’s nice for email, but the contacts section was sorely lacking, and it had no calendar function. I decided that I would switch to Thunderbird only when it could replace Outlook for me; decent contacts, decent calendar, and syncing with my Axim. Well, come to find out you can now synchronize Thunderbird with a Pocket PC. About a month ago, Lifehacker had an article detailing just how you can sync your Pocket PC to Thunderbird. I think maybe it’s time for me to re-evaluate Thunderbird, and see how the advances in the calendar plug-ins have come.
Ok, until Thunderbird improves the address book, I’m sticking with Outlook. I’ve been spoiled by the birthday and anniversary fields, and the auto-creation of birthday and anniversary events.
So, I’m mostly happy with my blog. I have nested comments working, and some fun plug-ins for stats and polls (assuming I ever want to make a poll). The only thing I’m really lacking, is a calendar. I’m not even so sure I need a calendar, but it would be convenient. I’ve played with different calendar plug-ins before, and most aren’t bad, but seem to lack something. I’ve tried the one from firetree before, and it’s almost perfect. It lets you add future events, multi-day events, and subscribe to the calendar, which is cool. The only problem is how it adds events to the calendar; for whatever reason, everything is added to the calendar by the date of creation. While this is fine for posts, I don’t really want my static pages added to the archives, and I’d rather my events show up only when they’re scheduled, and not ALSO on the date when I created them.
I’ve tried a few other options, with not much luck. I’d like to be able to display and modify my google calendar from the blog, but I don’t know how feasible that is. Has anyone out there come across a calendar plug-in that they are particularly attached to?