Why you will love your calendar when Notes 8.5.1 ships

August 24 2009

One of the areas that I publically speak out about my frustration (which is rare - I save that for internal methods of communication with IBM) is with the Notes calendar.

Image:Why you will love your calendar when Notes 8.5.1 ships

My Calendar for this Friday in Notes 8.5.1 (white blocks are stuff I had to hide from all of you :-) )

I can tell you today that Notes 8.5.1 is going to solve many of those problems, and polish the work done in 8.5.0. Personally, my Notes calendar is the calendar tool I prefer to use - and I have Outlook and Google Calendar accounts in use and have used Apple iCal for years. IBM really got the calendar right. Here are some reasons why:

1. Clicking a calendar link on the web just works.

We have asked this for years, but when I am on a web page and click an "Add to my Calendar" link, it should go straight to Notes. With 8.5, Notes acted as the default calendar application in Windows, but the experience in Notes was bad. Now, a single click takes you from the web page to the Meeting Notice in Notes - ready to add to your calendar. I have tested this with TripIt, Facebook Events, and many other sites. It even works when you see "Click to add to your Outlook Calendar" 99% of the time. I have seen one case where a "Click to add to your Outlook Calendar" was VBScript and not an iCal file. That site got a #FAIL email to support :-). And yes, they fixed it so it works with multiple events in a single iCal file.

You can also click any webcal link and Notes will ask you if you want to import or subscribe. Subscribe will add a new Federated Calendar to your calendar. As other folks say, It. Just. Works.

2. Opening an iCal attachment in email or from your hard drive just works.

One of the other long standing issues with the Notes calendar were ical files attached to emails. The only way to get add this ical file to your Calendar was to a) hope the Notes router converted the email into a calendar event or b) detach and import. You can now double-click on the ical file and Notes recognizes it - without first going to the file system.

3. Federated Calendars are much improved

Federated Calendars were a great feature in 8.5.0, but there were lots of implementation issues. Editing an existing Federated Calendar subscription was a real pain. Now, everything is editable and works consistently.

4. Federated Calendars show up on my Blackberry

When you subscribe to a Federated Calendar, clicking "show off-line or on a mobile device" actually does that! There are still some minor bugs that need to get fixed before 8.5.1 rolls out the door, but the implementation of this is great. I am very happy that IBM listened on this item. It should not be up to RIM or other mobile companies to have to build special functionality to get Federated Calendars on to my mobile device. Let the Notes calendar do the work. IBM is taking that approach. Bravo IBM (and Ram for really listening).

5. My Calendar is Fast - Yes, even with Federated Calendars turned on!

In 8.5.0, if you had multiple Federated Calendars implemented, your calendar could be as slow as molasses. 8.5 FP1 fixed some of those issues, but 8.5.1 is naturally fast. Meaning, when you advance days, you don't notice if something is federated or not. I see zero delay in advancing days/weeks/months.

6. I can respond to Calendar documents, such as Invitations, in the Preview window

This is a biggie - in the preview window, you get all of the user actions available for a calendar. Some of the Chair options might not make 8.5.1, but so far, I have been able to interact with calendar entries without ever opening the calendar entry itself. LOVE IT!

As you can see, IBM has done an amazing amount of work here. This does not even touch on a slew of bugs fixed around the calendar, including repeating meetings.

As always, there are some things left for IBM to do of course, and my wish list includes the following:

1. Publish of my calendar to other calendar software and services, like Google Calendar
2. Full support the of the iCal Server Protocol
3. Forward Calendar and/or Free Time in emails - so that people can see my free time even if they aren't part of my Domino domain
4. Show Birthdays and Anniversaries in my calendar from my Contacts listing
5. A full featured Group Calendar, which Ed Brill mentioned was on the to-do list for the next version of Notes.

All in all, you will be very happy with your calendar once 8.5.1 ships - and you update your mail file to the new template (hint hint).

Disclaimer: this is based on beta software, so it's subject to change.