30 Boxes – Online Calendar

In the continuing absence of Google Calendar, I’ve today been playing around with 30 Boxes, a brand new online calendar service that launched on Sunday. It’s very swish. Three immediate advantages over other services:

  • It’s fast
  • It opens straight to your calendar without requiring logins every time
  • It works with Opera1

First impressions are good. The signup procedure was an email verification, and after that I was immediately into the main calendar screen. This appeals too – the layout is tidy and clean. Moving the mouse over any calendar items provides more detail.

I particularly like the entry method. If you type ‘chat with monkeys thursday 10:30’, it figures out what you mean and inserts it straight into the calendar without requiring a page refresh. You can use more standard Outlook-style entry methods too, but the text-based system is surprisingly powerful. Their examples are “lunch thursday 1pm” and “meeting 1/19 2-3pm repeat weekly (bring laptop)”. 30 Boxes also supports tagging a la Flickr, so you could add “tag work” onto the end of that, and it seems fairly easy to highlight all items under a particular tag.

What else…If you add your Flickr / Livejournal / any RSS feed details then any photos/posts from that day will be shown under the detailed day view – not on the main page. There’s also built in social-networking, so any friends on the system can choose to share elements of their diaries2.

Annoyingly, 30 Boxes is exactly what I’ve been looking for. It’s a fast calendar that opens itself, sits in its own tab in Opera, shows me all the information I need, and Just Works. Google Calendar’s going to need to be nearly this good for me to switch (I say nearly because contact synching with Gmail will be a large temptation.)

What would improve it? The only quibble I have is that the clever text-based entry form expects its dates in US format. Although I personally think that month/day makes more sense than day/month3 the UK system is so ingrained I’d likely get it wrong every time. A option to change this would be appreciated.

I’d also like to be able to import existing Outlook data, but that’s not too big a deal since it mainly consists of birthdays. If they add contacts, I’ll be a very happy bunny! The only downside I can see is that, completely understandably, there’s no sync with Outlook like (the slow and awkward) Plaxo, so it’s unlikely to appeal to anybody entrenched in that system. Also there’s the continual issue with web-based applications: if the site goes down, you’re scuppered. They do offer iCal and CSV exports, however, and a pleasant feature would be a daily backup email of one of these.

If you’re in the market for a decent calendar, I’d recommend you take a look. I’m certainly impressed. Oh, did I mention it’s really fast?

  1. probably, anyway – I don’t know whether it’s officially supported, but it works so far! []
  2. My ‘buddy page’ is here, if you want to try out the sharing features []
  3. and boy does this get me insulted if I bring it up. Sorting anything paper-based by date is far easier and faster if the month comes first []