Cracking calendars

When you think about it, the progress in online calendaring (if there is such a word?) has been one of the web’s bigger disappointments. It’s not for a lack of ideas, services (Google, 30Boxes) or standards (iCal)… maybe it just isn’t sexy enough compared to Flash-ier functionality. But things are finally moving, it seems.
I’m starting to see sites waking up to the potential of offering date-based information in date-based formats. This morning, for example, I added the next few televised Arsenal games into my calendar, thanks to the Arsenal fixture list‘s one-click links to .ics files. And I added details of the train I’m catching shortly, thanks to the new iCalendar links on the fantastic site. Very simple, very straightforward, but a huge step forward in terms of convenience.
And hurrah! – it looks like decent calendaring is finally coming to WordPress. An already pretty good plugin by Kieran O’Shea is set for a major update, with all sorts of powerful new features.
I’m also working with a (very!) high-profile client on a closed-community website, and it’s looking like date-based information could be the site’s ‘killer app’. We’re exploring the possibilities of tying a personalised ‘to-do list’ into a calendar presentation of key dates, so (for example) each task’s deadline appears automatically in your calendar (until it’s completed).
For added convenience, we’re talking about offering a downloadable AIR-based desktop widget / client / thing, which could also include the latest news items from the site (via RSS). An already interesting project is now getting very exciting indeed.

Breath of fresh AIR

I’m finding more and more reasons to like Adobe’s new AIR technology. They describe it as ‘a new technology that makes possible exciting new software applications that merge the desktop and the web’; in practice, it opens software development up to those who chose to specialise in more ‘creative’ fields like Flash. And of course, because it’s AIR, the same app runs on both Windows and Mac (with Linux supportĀ  to follow).
Two current favourite tools: Analytics Reporting Suite, for looking at your Google Analytics data; and Twhirl, a lovely little Twitter app. In both cases, the originating website was already perfectly usable, but the convenience of a desktop app takes it a step further.
The Analytics tool is a reminder of the web’s limitations, even in the post-Ajax world: it’s just quicker, neater, and arguably prettier. And there are countless reasons to like Twhirl: you can log into several accounts at once; the interface removes the need to remember all those ugly Twitter codes; and there are ‘toaster’ alerts when a friend sends an update. Both are highly recommended… and free, obviously.