Juggle several projects at work. Arrange romantic anniversary dinners for spouse. Shuttle the children among their many school and social...
Juggle several projects at work. Arrange romantic anniversary dinners for spouse. Shuttle the children among their many school and social obligations. Stay in touch with friends. Help out in the community.
We’re neck-deep in the overflowing demands of life, yet aren’t getting help from computers and the Internet. Personal electronic calendars, sadly, have become a technology backwater where little has changed in a decade.
A new online service called Trumba OneCalendar stirs up the pond with some long-overdue ideas.
It’s not for everybody, but if nothing else Trumba could cause bigger competitors such as Microsoft and Yahoo! to put calendar improvements higher on their to-do lists.
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Here’s the problem:
Most of us don’t schedule our time in a vacuum. We need to coordinate with family members, co-workers, friends, classmates and clubs to which we belong. In geek talk, this is called “shared calendaring” or “connected calendaring.”
Trumba (www.trumba.com) does an outstanding job of delivering shared calendaring to home-computer users, assuming everyone involved is willing to sign up for an account and faithfully keep their personal calendars up to date.
To get started with Trumba, you pay $39.95 for one year of service.
The Seattle company behind the service — also called Trumba and which was co-founded by Jeremy Jaech, who helped start Visio — plans to introduce a $3.95 monthly rate later this year and is promising a discount for families. You can also try Trumba free for 60 days.
The service works through any Web browser, with no software to install.
Once you’re signed in, you see a calendar page on the screen into which you enter individual events.
This will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s used Outlook, the Palm Desktop software, Apple’s iCal or the free online calendars from America Online, MSN and Yahoo!
What’s different about Trumba is how you can sort and share those entries.
You can, and should, create multiple custom color-coded calendars in Trumba. All your work-related events can be on one calendar, family activities on another calendar, meetings of your book group on a third calendar and so on.
It’s simple to see all the calendars together, in a day, week or month view, or to look at just some of the calendars at once.
More impressive, it’s easy to designate individual calendars for public or private sharing.
The best way to explain this is showing how Trumba could work in my life.
My boss is a hardworking editor who also supervises three other writers. If all five of us used Trumba, we could share our work schedules with each other. She could then see what each of us was doing every weekday, just by looking at her Trumba calendar.
When I added a meeting to my work schedule, it would instantly show up on her calendar in the “Mike” category. But I wouldn’t show her my personal or family calendars.
For home, I could create a calendar listing activities for my 4-year-old daughter, Sara, and give my wife, Debbie, permission to edit that calendar.
When I get a call that Sara’s swimming lesson is rescheduled, I could change the time on the Sara calendar and Debbie would see the new time when she next went to Trumba.
Sara is very energetic and, as unathletic as I am, perhaps I’ll end up coaching her soccer team in a few years. Trumba lets me create a separate calendar for the soccer team’s practices and games, then publish that calendar as a professional-looking Web page.
Whenever I’d change a practice or game time in Trumba, the Web page would be immediately updated.
I could also enter the e-mail address of other team parents and arrange for them to automatically get an e-mail once a week with the most recent version of the team’s schedule.
Team parents wouldn’t have to sign up for Trumba to view the Web page or receive the e-mails. If the schedule was something more sensitive, I could put password protection on the page.
You can also pull in public calendars from a directory maintained by Trumba.
I picked the San Francisco Giants. All their home and away games instantly popped into my calendar.
This kind of sharing goes far beyond what’s otherwise available to home users today.
Microsoft’s Outlook, popular in offices, does similar tricks — but only within a corporate network. The calendar features in AOL, MSN and Yahoo!, while free, aren’t nearly as flexible.
Apple’s iCal comes close, at least among groups of Macintosh users.
The big problem is Trumba reaches its full potential only if everyone in your circle joins, which doesn’t seem likely at $40 a pop.
Using Trumba would cost my family $80 a year, since we’d need accounts for myself and Debbie. It would be another $40 if our daughter was old enough to keep her own schedule.
What’s more, you have to be compulsive enough to keep your Trumba calendars organized and up to date.
I suspect many people don’t want to sit around contemplating how many separate calendars to create to cover their personal and family activities.
Then there’s the problem of synchronization.
Right now, Trumba only synchronizes with Outlook. And if you enter an event in Outlook, you still have to sign onto Trumba to move that event to the appropriate calendar.
If you use Palm Desktop, iCal or any other electronic calendar, you must enter everything twice.
In the near future, I hope much of what Trumba does will become invisible.
Whenever we create a calendar entry, whether it’s on a computer or a cellphone or some kind of newfangled refrigerator touch pad, that entry will seamlessly move to our other devices and be automatically shared in whatever ways we designate.
All the effort to make this happen will be worthwhile, if only there’s never another Saturday where my wife and I have accidentally made appointments for haircuts at the same time, then can’t agree which appointment to cancel so that one of us can keep an eye on our daughter.
Mark this down on your calendar, then, as one of life’s nagging problems that technology can actually solve.