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4 Web-Based Meeting Schedulers Reviewed
A slew of online applications are attempting to eliminate the headache of scheduling meetings. And, unlike their proprietary older brothers, such as Outlook and iCal, these new entrants into the scheduling market are completely web-based, compatible with Google Calendar, and best of all, don’t require your invitees to install software or register on their site.
After giving all of these a test-drive, I have not found one service I would use exclusively — each one seems to have some attractive features. Here is the run down of the four applications that just might make the logistics of scheduling a little easier.
Doodle is a pleasantly light, quick-and-dirty scheduler with the most intuitive interface of the four services I reviewed.
Step 1: Name the meeting. Step 2: Propose up to five possible times for said meeting. And… that’s it. Invitees are given a link to a spreadsheet-like interface where they check each one of their availability times. Everyone’s availability is neatly delineated with bright green and red squares on a calendar, and there’s a clear tally of the number of people available per time. The admin scheduler picks a time and e-mails it to the invitees. Done! In all, it takes only a few minutes, and neither the scheduler nor the invitees have to register on Doodle.
Notable Features: Like all of the services we sampled, Doodle integrates with Google Calendar () and popular desktop schedulers. It also has an iPhone app (for $2.99). Additionally, Doodle has a cool option to canvass attendees on options for a meeting, like what type of cuisine they’d prefer.
Tungle is more feature-rich, and is designed for those of us who have so many meetings that it’s difficult to remember all the factors and people being considered. Scheduling is a 3-step process:
1) Name the meeting and give it a duration; 2) Invite participants (with e-mail addresses); and 3) Propose a time. Unlike Doodle, Tungle has a graphical calendar interface where the mouse pointer can be scrolled over large swaths of days and times. Invitees receive an e-mail which links to a similar graphical interface that denotes other users’ activities. The final meeting time is e-mailed to all participants.
Notable Features: Tungle has a brand new feature (exclusively launched with this post) that allows groups of registered individuals to see their overlapping availability. Simply type in something like tungle.me/greg,josh,wolverine, and my, my editor’s, and my comic book hero’s availability is displayed. Tungle, too, has an iPhone app, which is available for free.
ScheduleOnce’s graphical user interface and scheduler is very similar to Tungle’s, and requires about the same amount of time to schedule a meeting. As far as I could tell, schedulers will need to send the link via e-mail, and this could make it more difficult to keep track of invitees. Additionally, unlike Tungle, meeting times are selected on a horizontal time line. This seems more intuitive if the meeting time being considered is only for a single day, but more confusing if multiple days are up in the air.
Notable Features: ScheduleOnce has an integrated plugin for Google Calendar and Gmail (), which places a box (in Gmail) right above the chat window that displays upcoming meetings. It can also find group availability like Tungle.
TimeBridge has a similar graphical user interface to Tungle and ScheduleOnce, but there is a limit to five proposed times (at least in the free version). Time Bridge, like ScheduleOnce, allows invitees to show their preference for a favorite meeting time by selecting “Best” from a list of “Yes,” “No,” and “Best.”
It should be noted that TimeBridge is more than just a scheduler. It offers phone conferencing, online meetings, and to-do lists. Additionally, TimeBridge was by far the most aggressive advertiser. I was offered a coupon for free coffee (twice) and got multiple pop-ups to try new features and sign up for premium membership.
Notable Features: Instead of the scheduler playing king, TimeBridge allows invitees to propose meeting times, which might be the most convenient way to corral a busy team in some cases. TimeBridge also has a free iPhone app.
First, for those concerned with privacy, each one of the online applications is subject to OAuth protocol, which masks sensitive information from service providers.
Second, I would recommend trying out each service. Below is a comparison chart of features, but each app has its own unique interface, and it’s ultimately up to you to decide which one works best for your team.