Windows has a few good desktop calendars, but we think Google Calendar is without a doubt the best calendar around, so though it may not be a desktop app in the truest sense, it still wins our pick for best calendar on Windows.
We understand that some of you might be upset that our pick isn’t a “true” desktop app. However, we still think it’s the best option on Windows by a good margin. That is, if you asked us what the best way to manage your calendar was on a Windows machine, we’d say Google Calendar, hands down — and that’s what the App Directory is about. It’s about finding the best tool for the job, not getting caught up in technicalities. If you need a desktop app, check out the Competition section below.
- Manage multiple calendars, and share them with your friends, family and co-workers so they can keep up on when you’re busy.
- Quickly add events with just a few clicks and a phrase like “Dinner on Sunday with Grandma at 5PM”.
- Set reminders that email you, text you, or display a pop-up window when an event is near, either for individual events or for all events on a specific calendar.
- Send invitations for events on your calendar, and let other Google Calendar users RSVP via email or GCal itself.
- Sync your calendars down to nearly any desktop or mobile app, so you have it with you wherever you go.
- View calendars in a day, week, month, custom number of days, or event-by-event “agenda” view.
- Attach files stored in Google Docs to calendar events.
- Search for events throughout your calendars using Google’s algorithm.
- Google Calendar Labs, which enhance the experience by letting you add additional features like less intrusive pop-ups and displaying other attendees on the event’s block in your calendar.
Where It Excels
Google Calendar’s biggest advantage is that it’s extremely easy to use without skimping on features. Everything is plainly laid out: you can add quick calendar events with a few keystrokes or more advanced events, full of reminders and other attributes when you need them. Being able to send yourself emails and text messages is also great, as is setting specific events to “free” or “busy”. No doubt the coolest feature of GCal, though, is being able to share your calendars with others, and have them share their calendars with you. Never again will you have to call your spouse and ask them if they’re busy, or email your friends asking them what dates they’ve planned for that road trip. It’s all in your calendar, all the time. Plus, it’s completely free, and can sync to just about any other app out there, meaning you’ll always have it on your phone and can access it from any computer.
Where It Falls Short
Google Calendar’s biggest downside, at the moment, is its lack of offline access. This feature is supposedly coming soon, but for right now, it’s something that’s severely lacking if you don’t have an internet connection. In addition, Google Calendar’s Gmail integration is surprisingly disappointing — you can add events right from Gmail, but they don’t take on any dates or times from the email, making it a mere link to Google Calendar. It’d be nice if it could try to extrapolate event details from the message and create it that way.
One of the most popular calendar apps on Windows is Microsoft Outlook. It’s also very powerful, but not quite as user-friendly, nor as cheap (since it requires you buy the Microsoft Office suite). It has great email integration and works fantastically in an enterprise environment, but for personal calendars, it isn’t quite as easy. If you use Outlook for email, though, it’s the clear calendar choice.
If you’re using our favorite email client for Windows, Thunderbird, you might like the Lightning extension. Like Outlook, its biggest strength is email integration, but it can be a little buggy sometimes. If you use Thunderbird, it’s worth a shot for the email integration alone, but don’t expect it to be as good as the others. It can, however, sync with Google Calendar, which is nice.
Rainlendar is a popular calendar that, instead of having its own big window, puts a small calendar widget on your desktop and alerts you to upcoming events. You can apply all sorts of different skins and even sync with Google Calendar, Outlook, or Remember the Milk if you so choose. If you want your calendar to stay out of the way, it’s worth checking out.
Windows Live Mail includes a simple calendar tool that integrates with other Windows Live apps, but sadly can only sync with Windows Live’s web interface out of the box (and isn’t nearly as powerful as the other competition). VueCalendar is one of the most feature-filled calendars around, but costs $US40 to use. If you spend a ton of time with your calendars, though, and need really advanced features like running programs with an event, publishing calendars to HTML, or uploading saved web pages to an FTP server, it’s worth checking out.
Lifehacker’s App Directory recommends the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.
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