Let my calendars go!

Photo by Dean Forbes

I had a phone call a few days ago that left a painful problem sitting on my lap. A friend runs a company, has a crazy schedule with lots of travel, and his wife can’t always keep up with when he’s going to be around. He knew I’m on a crusade to break all sorts of juicy information out of the Exchange silo, so he asked me for my thoughts.

A password-protected web calendar that you can share with friends and family would let his wife easily keep on top of his plans. There’s quite a few of these, most famously Google Calendar, but there’s no simple way to drive them from Exchange. Google itself offers an Outlook plugin that periodically syncs, but this has a lot of functional limitations. SyncMyCal gets good reviews, and offers a mobile version too, but still requires installation on every machine you use.

It seems like a no-brainer to offer this directly from the Exchange data, rather than going through a complex dance of syncing from Exchange to Outlook to Google. Microsoft actually do have a way to view somebody else’s calendar through Outlook Web Access, but it involves manually typing out a special URL suffix. Not exactly user-friendly.

Microsoft produce some world-class tools for a networked world, but with Exchange they seem focused on incremental improvements to existing work flows, not taking advantage of the new opportunities of the web. They’ve even got the technology to compete with Google’s calendar under the hood. That URL hack has been there for two versions, but they’re hiding it away.

I couldn’t find a good solution for him, so I’m adding that to my ever-growing list of painful problems I can solve by opening up Exchange’s data store.

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