in UCD process

Using Google Calendar to replace MS Project

Tickler Calendar

The more I use Google Calendar, the more I love it.

Yesteday I realised that I could pretty much use it to replace Microsoft Project (if only I could create dependencies between items and spit out a gant chart…. perhaps I’ll just have to train clients to not like gant charts quite so much. What’s with that, hey?)

Google Calendar is SOOOO much better at managing multiple projects + life that MS Project will ever be. (Ever experienced a Project Central implementation? You’ll know what I’m talking about).

When I take on a new project, I create a new Google Calendar and name it after the project. I can then assign tasks to that calendar that appear, beautifully colour coded, in amongst all my other projects and personal activities on one calendar. At a glance I can see when I’m going to be super busy and when I’ll be able to go have lunch out of the office.

It’s easy to move from a high level (monthly) view to a detailed daily view. The agenda view is also great. You can switch other projects/calendars on and off easily, and you can *share* your calendar with others (project team members, your client etc).

If only everyone used Google Calendar. For those who don’t they can keep up to speed with XML feeds or an iCal feed into another web based calendar that supports iCal (and most of the good ones do).

You can share your calendar only with a chosen few, or you can share it with the world. Many thanks to the great people who have created the Australian Cricket Schedule in a shared Google Calendar so that I’ll never need to miss another match (albeit via an online broadcast). The Sydney Web Standards Group also have a public Google Calendar that I’ve added to my calendar at the click of a button. Dead easy and so helpful. (Of course, public & school holidays can be imported exactly this way as well).

Of course, Google Calendar doesn’t do *everything* that MS Project does. It does do a *lot* of the things that Outlook does though. (Although, it doesn’t seem to cope so well with meeting requests and the like that come to Google Cal from Outlook).
If you’re like me and you mostly use Project to create a list of tasks, work out a schedule, then try to stay on schedule (or, watch how the project schedule slips out as people (not me, of course!) don’t deliver on time), then I think you’ll find this a great tool for managing your time. And, I *know* you’ll be happy to see the back of Project!

PS. Know what else I’ve finally gotten into using? 37 Signals’ BackPack. It’s taken me a bit of time to work out whether I actually *like* this product and how I might use it to help me be better organised, especially now that I have quite a few things going on that require organising and lots of working! So, I’ve taken a little time to try a few different structures and I thnk I’m settling into it. (Well, I have settled in enough to justify upgrading to the Basic service from the free one… I guess that speaks volumes). I particularly like the integration of the Writeboard functionality (basically a v. simple collaborative word processor). I do wish it was Writely tho’. Writely is mucho sexy.

V. long rambly sentences today. Sorry about that! :)
Image Credit: rossMania @ Flickr

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  1. I’m very impressed with GCal and I really see where you’re coming from. The awesome meeting invite compatibility with email clients is another huge plus, which I guess begins to take away from other web based project management tools like Basecamp.

    On the lack of Gantt charts in GCal… what a wonderful thing! Good luck convincing your clients ;)

  2. Update: after using GCal for project management some more… what I wouldn’t give to be able to create dependencies between ‘events’…. I know that’s not *really* what GCal is designed to do… but it would be v. excellent if it did.

    (yes, project slippage… can you tell?)

  3. my friend, tasks dependency is needed!
    what if the first task takes longer then needed? do we have to manually change the date of all the following ones? ayaaaaa///
    any other option we got?

  4. Dependencies yes! I constantly encounter situations that would love dependencies. For example, I want to take a nice long trip to South America. I don’t particularly care whether it’s this year, next year, maybe the year after. I want to go either in the spring or the fall. I need to make sure I have a current passport, get some shots, maybe some visas, buy a bike, so on. I’d love to create a set of dependent events and just drop it in a tentative calendar, move it around as a chunk at will. Then life would be complete. Sad to see no traction since 2006 though. Nothing else seems to do the trick, either. MS Project is way to heavy for that. And google apps have way better usability. Maybe someday.

  5. I love Google products. I use Google calendar to send myself an SMS each Wednesday night to remind me to put out the garbage and I use Gmail to back up my business emails.

    I have an forwarder on my hosting that forwards all incoming emails to a Gmail account and in Thunderbird I have it set to send a copy of all outgoing emails to the same account.

    I can’t believe how often I use the Gmail search facility to find stuff I’ve lost, usually receipts and passwords.

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