New year brings a new online calendar

Remembering appointments is not my strong suit. Like Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback who botched a last-second field goal attempt in Saturday's play-off game loss to Seattle, I also drop the ball – and the outcome can get ugly.

For example: Last month, I arranged for three of my four children to visit the dentist on the same day. I wrote the appointment on every calendar I had, reminding myself multiple times. The night before the visit, the dentist's office called to remind me.

Then I woke up early the next morning and ... forgot the entire thing. Not until two days later did I realize that I had blown it again.

For years, my wife and I have searched for an online calendar system that will make keeping track of what's happening in our lives as easy as possible. At the same time, we needed something that would allow two working parents to coordinate schedules so that if I happen to forget a dentist's appointment, she'll still know it needs to happen.

At Christmas this past year, we found what seems to be the solution. is a calendar/appointment/blog website that has proven to be a godsend. Airena, a company in San Francisco that created the site and the software, describes Airset as "lifeware" – online software to help you organize your life.

Airset allows my wife and I to use our computers to coordinate all of the various elements of our lives on one website (that can, of course, be accessed from anywhere you can find an Internet connection) and share them efficiently with each other. The online software also allows me to send e-mail reminders of the day's events to my computer's in-box and my cellphone, making what I have to do that day difficult to forget.

My wife and I each have personal calendars on the site, where we record our activities. The information can also be shared with a main family calendar that we both can access. The site also features to-do lists, contacts, a blog where we can share information in more detail, and a links page to other online information we need (school websites, plumber's site, heating oil company, etc.).

Basically, it's groupware designed to help the individual.

Airset also has a program you can download that allows PC users to synchronize their online material with their Outlook calendar or Palm desktop. Airena has not developed this feature for Apple users, although it hopes to have one available in the near future. The website, however, offers a work-around using the Mac program iCalendar and the Web standard for publishing calendars, called iCal. Using these two features, you can upload material from your computer to your profile on the Airset site, and also move material from the website to your Mac.

The best part: It's free.

Well, most of it is free. Airset offers a service that will let you update your calendar from your mobile phone for a fee that is based on weekly, monthly, or yearly access. Still, the main service doesn't cost a cent to use. Airset also works with the free Internet telephone service, Skype.

Brian Doherty, CEO of Airena (who also helped found the ahead-of-its-time company GeoWorks in the late '90s), calls Airset a "sequel to social-networking software."

"In your teens, you use social- networking software to get a life. After you get a life, and get out of your teens, you find that it's incredibly hectic. And you find that you have all these groups and things that you have to manage in your life." he said on the Productivity Show, a weekly podcast with an emphasis on new software to improve people's productivity. "Managing your whole life in one place – that's really what Airset is all about."

To make money, Airset hopes to convert as many free users to the subscription-based mobile service as possible. "Our next step will be to include some advertising on Airset, but we're not quite there yet," says Patrick Hurley, vice president of communication for Airena. "But it is the direction we plan to move."

Thanks to Airset, I haven't missed or forgotten a single event since I started using it Christmas week. (Granted, it hasn't been that long, but in my life, every day is an opportunity to forget to do something else.)

For those interested in trying a few other systems, Google's calendar system has a lot of features that are similar to Airset, and it's also free of charge. You can find it via Google's homepage. AOL also offers an online calendar system that is worth checking out, especially now that you can get AOL's entire service (except Internet access) without paying a subscription fee.

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