If you find Outlook’s Contacts program ponderous and its Calendar overbearing and underpowered, consider switching to Google contacts and calendaring apps.
Google’s free tools are lighter and more flexible — and easily accessed via your phone or tablet.
Good reasons to keep it simple and flexible
In many ways, Microsoft’s Office-based mail, calendaring, and contacts system still harkens back to the era of Big Iron. For example, sharing Office-based email, contacts, and calendars between PCs, phones, and/or tablets typically requires Microsoft’s back-end Exchange Server. And Microsoft’s protestations to the contrary, Exchange Server is big, messy, and expensive.
You can let Microsoft manage the back-end services by subscribing to its Office 365 service (see the Feb. 14 Woody’s Windows story, “Software SmackDown: Office 2013 vs. Office 365.”) Outlook Web Apps, included with both Exchange and Office 365, can give you access to contacts and calendars through any Web browser — desktop or mobile — but is relatively cumbersome. And if you want all Outlook Web App features, you have to use Internet Explorer. Imagine that on a phone. Blech.
Outlook will run on Windows 8 tablets (and soon on Windows RT tablets), but the current contact/calendaring tools are poorly designed for small screens and big fingers. Other Microsoft options for contacts and calendaring include the wholly inadequate Metro apps in Windows 8 or the anemic Web-based Outlook.com.
For individual PC users (and for many businesses) those options seem too complex, limiting, and expensive — especially when compared to Google Apps. Months ago, I switched over to using Google Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks — and can’t imagine going back to those inglorious days of multi-gigabyte Outlook PST files. And though I like Outlook.com and its Metro-inspired Mail, People, and Calendar apps, I much prefer the Google Apps interface and approach. And they’re all nicely tied to the Big Kahuna: Gmail.
I do have a few quibbles with Google’s environment. Apps names can be a bit obtuse at first. For example, what’s the difference between “Tasks” and “Calendar”? They are, in fact, not the same thing. But by and large, I find that Google Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks run rings around Outlook. Try them both and decide for yourself — they’re free!