Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Microsoft Updates Hotmail Calendar

Microsoft has updated Windows Live Calendar and made it look and feel more like Google Calendar.

Windows Live Calendar is now out of beta, and boasts an easy way to synchronise data with Office Outlook calendar, public calendars and national holiday information.

"We took valuable feedback from customers like you and made the next generation of our online calendar even better," Hotmail notified its users in an email on Tuesday.

Similar to Google's Calendar, the new version of Hotmail will allow users to click on a calendar day to fill out their event in a pop-out box. Users will no longer be redirected to a new page, as with the classic Hotmail calendar.

When the event has been registered in Windows Live Calendar, it appears in a bubble-type box like the ones in Google Calendar, and in a colour of the user's choice, although Hotmail has opted for pastel colours to match its latest redesign while Google offers louder colours.

Hotmail has also copied the Google layout by adding an Agenda tab to the top of the calendar, and moving the arrows that allow users to scroll from month to month to the top left-hand corner. The update also creates a holiday calendar for each country, allowing users to keep track of public holidays and religious days in other regions.

However, Google's version can now be accessed offline and can synchronise with more external calendars than Microsoft's service. The Sync button is also in easy reach at the top of the page.

Microsoft offers an Outlook Connector in order to synchronise Windows Live Calendar with Outlook, while the Google Calendar Sync button integrates the service with a choice of Outlook, Apple iCal and Mozilla Sunbird.

Microsoft said that it will slowly migrate users to Windows Live Calendar, and that tasks and notes will be combined in a new to-do list function at the top of the calendar, although this will not go live for a few months. The firm currently warns users to stick with the old version if their existing events are more important to them than trying out new features.

Currently, users have the choice between the older Hotmail version and the Live edition, and can press on the Calendar tab to the left of their inbox to switch between the two.

"When we finish moving all your original calendar information to Windows Live Calendar, the original calendar will officially retire so we can focus on delivering a more feature rich Windows Live Calendar to you," said the Hotmail email.