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Online Calendars

Imagine you're on the road and you accidentally leave your PDA on a train to Yerevan. If you use an online calendar, your schedule is as close as the nearest Internet cafe. Online organizers give you ready access to a calendar, to-do list, and address book. We looked at three of these online solutions, MyPalm, Yahoo Calendar, and ScheduleOnline. Although each offers the same basic functionality ScheduleOnline offers the best Mac compatibility.

Registration was painless for all three; simply choose a unique user name, enter a password and some personal information, and you're good to go. ScheduleOnline offers two versions of their service, Silver and Gold. For approximately $8 per person per month, the Gold account lets you check the availability of others in your ScheduleOnline group, provides a hefty 75MB of online storage, and has no advertising. The Silver account is supported by advertisements and limits your disk space to 15MB -- you also can't check other people's schedules. To entice you to sign up for a Gold account, ScheduleOnline gives you the Gold functionality free for the first 30 days.

The biggest barrier to moving to an online organizer is data entry, especially if you have a sizable address book. Unfortunately, none of them will import contact information from anything but a PalmOS PDA. Even then, Yahoo calendar and MyPalm only sync with a PDA when it's attached to a Windows PC. ScheduleOnline is the only service that provides a Mac sync utility for PalmOS data. However, once you sync your Palm data, you will only be able to use ScheduleOnline. You will not be able to continue to sync with the Palm Desktop software on your computer.

All three of the services had functional interfaces with daily, weekly, or monthly views. ScheduleOnline has a slight edge with a clean design and informative icons. Although your information is always online, you must contend with the speed of your connection, the load on their server, and overall Internet traffic. Compared with organizers you keep on your Macintosh, such as Palm Desktop or Now Up-to-Date, any online service is slow. You also run the risk of the host's server going down.

Perks of the Pack

Any of these packages can function as a group calendar for small offices and workgroups. Although this can be handy for coordinating, as you add items to the calendar they can become slow. All three services also provide e-mail notifications of appointments and to-do tasks. MyPalm can send reminders to any e-mail address from a half-hour to three weeks before an event. Yahoo can send you a daily e-mail of your day's schedule, useful if you only have Internet access in the morning or evening.

Each of the services has a few niceties. MyPalm whimsically adds your horoscope and the weather to your calendar. By default, Yahoo reserves your username for the free Yahoo mail service. Yahoo also is the only site that will remember your username and password, convenient if you have a primary computer in a secure place. ScheduleOnline will only remember your username.

Easy to Navigate: ScheduleOnline's icons are clean and easy to read.Daily Update: MyPalm gives you a daily weather report.
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