tom haynes

Calendars, online and otherwise

I went to a Google info session today and we talked about calendars for part of it. Specifically, we talked about getting people to switch from a paper calendar to an online one (like Google Calendar but the exact variant isn’t really important). While my main calendar is online, there are some affordances of a physical calendar that I miss.

One is being able to track things on a calendar, simply by making little marks in the corners. Maybe I’ll put a “W” in the corner for days I work out, or jot my weight next to days I weigh myself, or put stars on days that were really good. My calendar becomes a sort of personal history for me. This also works for days in the future; sometimes I don’t need an entire rectangle and text to remind myself of something, I just want to draw a red box around the day or highlight days that I’m excited for.

Speaking of excitement: I can’t express any sort of emotion or priority in my events online. My personal events are green and my classes are blue, but that’s as much as a difference as I can have. On paper I can make things bold or big or draw stars around them; I can express and embed myself in the calendar. Then I can see at a glance what is important to me alongside my recurring and less exciting events simply pencilled in each square.

But what about things that don’t fit in a single square? My friend is visiting for a few days, or even a few weeks. Should I make an event that spans the whole period and be reminded that it’s happening at the top of each box every day? On my physical calendar I can write on the day he’s coming and draw a thin line at the bottom until the day he leaves. It’s my custom solution that doesn’t fit neatly into the boxes and text fields of my web browser.

I imagine that these shortcomings of online calendars are limiting their usefulness and preventing those who use paper from making the switch.

Do you calendar online? On paper? What differences do you see?