Thursday, 27 July 2006

Stuff a calendar into your Backpack

So the calendar feature for Backpack launched today. I like how easy it is to add items to the calendar, and I realize this is a 1.0 release (Note to Google: it’s not a beta.), but I’m greatly disappointed it didn’t roll out with repeating events as part of the feature set. I was looking forward to using iCal solely as the desktop conduit between an online calendar I can access anywhere, and my mobile devices with which I would like to sync calendar events.

Sure, I can do that with Google Calendar, but I’m already in Backpack so much, and I like 37signals’ implementation and interface better. Besides repeating events, other features I’d like to see added in a future update, ranked in order of personal importance:

  • Events added to Backpack’s Calendar do not show the scheduled time within the calendar. Mark Gallagher notes this in the announcement’s comments, because to see an event’s time, you have to click on the event, instead of just being able to glance at the calendar and seeing all of the times in context.

  • The ability to toggle the time on the reminder. For some events, I need more than 30 minutes notice, my parents’ anniversary, for instance, which I need a few days notice so I can buy a card and put it in the mail to them. Yes, I know I can use Backpack’s Reminders feature for this, but it would be more productive to have this built in to the Calendar side of the house. It seems like overkill, and double work, for me to enter the event of my parents’ anniversary in to the calendar, then have to switch over and enter a separate reminder to buy a card days in advance.

    Commenter “D” notes: “Quick hack to get repeating events: enter them as reminders and then subscribe to your reminder feed within calendar.” This is working well for me, so far, but then you’ll get in to the situation of all of your reminders being in a single calendar, when you would like to have reminders in different calendars: Personal, Work, Pet, and so on.

    In the Backpack Calendar forums, 37signals’ own Jason Friedman notes that they weren’t happy with the repeating events implementation, and decided not to include it the 1.0 release. So at least for now, the best way to get this function is D’s suggestion, but it’s nice to know it is being worked on, and we can expect it in the future. I hope this upcoming implementation allows for the setting of a time other than thirty minutes before.

  • Single, all-day events should be displayed in the same way as multiple-day events. This was a suggestion by Ryan Christensen in the announcement’s comments. This would distinguish the all-day event, like my aforementioned parents’ anniversary, from a time-specific event, like “Give the dog his heartworm pill at noon”.

  • To-do list implementation for the calendar. Again, from the comments to the announcement, Jeff Croft asks about this, specifically that supported by the iCalendar format. Probably ninety-five percent of what I personally use Backpack for is some sort of to-do list. For short-term stuff, I would love to see this implemented in the Calendar, but have lived without it this far. I would much rather see 37signals devote developer time to repeating events and print styles, something they still need for Backpack’s regular pages.

All in all, the Calendar function in Backpack is simple and elegant, and on par with what I would expect from 37signals. It took them two and a half months to arrive at this point; I hope the next two and a half months result in usability improvements which put the Backpack Calendar over the top.

posted on July 27, 2006 11:38 PM




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