We're more likely to know the birthday of a favorite actor or musician, thanks to radio, television and newspapers, than the birthday of a cousin or grandmother. Most families have at least one person who keeps track of addresses, telephone numbers and birthdays. That person is like the library when we need information we go to them.
If we use the tools of the Internet, though, we can remove responsibility from that person. Putting names & addresses on the Internet is not a good idea, but a calendar with birthdates can be put at a URL (Universal Resource Locator) so that friends and family may view it, save it to a file, or print it. Since 100 relatives can read it online, it saves printing costs and postage. Any corrections or additions can be e-mailed immediately.
Many Web calendars are available for free. Some require typing in each birthday and anniversary. Others allow synchronization with hand-held devices like the Palm Pilot and with Microsoft Outlook, Access, and other programs. I had just created a family calendar with Calendar Creator, and didn't want to retype the entire list of events, so synchronization was important.
I first tried http://www.anyday.com, which synchronizes with Lotus Notes, Lotus Organizer, MS Outlook, Symantec's ACT, Goldmine, MS Windows CE, and Palm Operating System devices. I had to transfer my event list from Calendar Creator, saved as a Comma Separated Value list (CSV), to Outlook since I had none of the other devices or programs. In order to use AnyDay, I had to sign up and download its synchronizing software. Everything seemed to go smoothly, but when I accessed the calendar in AnyDay it had only entered 87 out of 187 birthdays and anniversaries. I re-ran the synchronization, but the calendar still had only 87 events.
I next tried http://digital.daytimer.com. It required signing up for and downloading a program called Fusion One at http://www.fusionone.com. In the middle of the download, it requested that I update to Internet Explorer 5.5. After that, even though I uninstalled Fusion One, removed all its cookies, and reinstalled it, the default screen of trade show dates was all I could access.
The Netscape Calendar had some file transfer capabilities, but not in file extensions to which I had access. I could have typed in each event separately there, as well as in eCircles at http://www.ecircles.com. I still hoped to avoid entering each item one by one.
Yahoo Calendar at http://calendar.yahoo.com, will synchronize with Outlook and Palm Pilot in Windows platform, only. Again, I had to sign up at Yahoo and download the TrueSync software. The transfer of events to the calendar went smoothly. Each event appears only on days after the date they were imported, so an August birthday will only show up in August 2001, if the events were imported in September 2000.
The sharing options allow for no sharing at all when an event is marked "private." The "public" setting allows anyone with the correct URL to view the calendar. A middle setting allows only the people named in a Yahoo ID list to view the calendar. Another option allows publishing a "read-only" version. To bring up the birthday cake icon, I had to edit each event and select "birthday." I also had to select the "repeat yearly" option.
Even though I had to edit the events, it was less time-consuming than starting over and entering all the information for each event. Most of the online calendars, including Yahoo, feature printable views, allow viewing the calendar by the day, the week, the month and the year, and will send e-mail notification to the people you list. Both Yahoo and eCircles offer photo sharing.
Another use of online calendars is to schedule, announce and update plans for a family reunion, or to keep any group informed of upcoming events.
The Internet can be a venue for strengthening family bonds, as well as for reminding us of important people and events.