event-managementThis post is a break from the usual Joomla!-based posts we usually put up here. As our primary extensions are based around Google Calendar, we thought it would be interesting to see how calendaring software came about – and how far they have come.

The earliest dedicated machines that kept track of people’s lives were electronic (or pocket) diaries and organisers. PCs and more powerful computers, of course, featured scheduling software which soon became full-fledged personal information managers (PIMs). Borland’s Sidekick, which dates way back to the 80s, for instance, was the PIM of choice for many businessmen. People even used UNIX (and UNIX-like) OSes’ cron event scheduler as a rough-and-ready PIM (provided you know what you’re doing, cron makes an awesome personal scheduler).

As software became more sophisticated, PIMs became part of larger OS and office suites, such as iCal (now Apple Calendar) for OS X fans and MS Exchange and Outlook for Windows users. While these are Internet-enabled desktop software, there are also Web-only event scheduling systems, including Google Calendar, Hotmail and ownCloud. Of course, these calendars form only part of an overall range of services.

Today, of course, event scheduling systems have reached a new level of sophistication with the widespread adoption of mobile devices such as smartphones, phablets and tablets. Thanks to mobile broadband and WiFi hotspots pervading everywhere throughout most cities, “Internet everywhere” is no longer just a daydream, and this has led to a level of interactivity and intimacy between man and machine that would have been absurd to consider merely 2 decades ago.

No longer do you have to remember important dates – if your contact has filled out his profile correctly on Facebook (or any other social media site you both share), chances are your mobile device (or even your email) will remind you when his birthday rolls around. Men can buy St. Valentine’s Day and anniversary gifts for their wives well in advance, also thanks to their trusty calendars. Did you make an impromptu business engagement with someone you bumped into by accident after work? Just record it in your phone, and let it sync to your office PC the next day.

There have, of course, been people who bemoan the encroaching of mobile devices into our most private spaces. You should remember these important dates yourself, and not rely on electronic crutches, so their argument goes. But the rich and powerful have always left the remembering to others – in the form of secretaries, PAs and managers – and the only difference is now, the facility is available to the masses as well – and how!

With all of these different PIMs to choose from, it’s not surprising for many people to use multiple calendars. A person may well be running Outlook in the workplace (connected to his office’s Exchange server), iCal on his personal MacBook Pro, while using Cozi as his family calendar and connected to Google Calendar on his Android smartphone. He may also have to deal with Facebook’s event system (which is not necessarily tied to any calendar). Tying all these disparate calendars and event systems together can be a complex undertaking.

Fortunately, most modern calendars and PIMs use the Internet to provide them most of their usefulness and power – and use a standardised method to sync (usually CalDAV or iCalendar). While they generally have the same sort of feature set, it’s still worth taking a look and seeing whether your event scheduling platform(s) of choice offer these functions or not:

  • Cross-platform compatibility

  • Import/Export facilities

  • Auto-Sync

  • Integration with other software/services

  • Note-taking & file attachments

  • Calendar sharing & security

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