Q: I really enjoy your column in the Times Daily. Between spending most of my career with servers and not PCs and the stuff that has changed in the three years since I retired, your column really helps me keep my PC in halfway decent running condition. One thing I really miss from my TVA days is the scheduler that came with the full blown version of Outlook. Can you recommend a good scheduler, preferably free, that would integrate with Outlook Express? - Larry P. - Florence
A: For those who don’t know, Outlook Express is the baby sister of Outlook. Sorry, Larry but I’m not aware of any add-on to Outlook Express that would provide the capabilities of Outlook. In my opinion, there is no other product that integrates calendar reminders, scheduling and email functions quite as well as Microsoft Outlook. However, the standalone version of Outlook costs $100.00 or comes bundled with the $200.00-and-up Microsoft Office family or products. I am a great fan of free products so I did a little research to find a product that might perform nearly as well as Outlook.
The closest contender to Outlook for Windows XP users is Thunderbird. Thunderbird is really easy to install and comes with lots of features that are “missing” from Outlook Express such as spam filtering. The same people who brought us Thunderbird, Mozilla.com, also provide a free product called “Lightning.” Lightning is a calendar/scheduler that can be integrated into Thunderbird. If you just need a calendar only, try their standalone product called Sunbird.
The next contender is a “free” mail application called Windows Mail that comes with the new version of Windows Vista. Windows Mail includes an integrated calendar featuring appointment reminders and task managers. One feature I really like is the ability to share your calendar with other users of the same computer. The problem with Windows Mail is that you have to purchase a new computer or upgrade to Vista to get this “free” software.
Web giant Google.com has been hard at work on an on-line version of Office-type applications called “Google Apps.” Once you sign up for your free Google account (and free “Gmail” email account) you can use their free web-based word processer, spreadsheet and “integrated” calendar. According to Google.com, “With Google Calendar, you can see your friends' and family's schedules right next to your own; quickly add events mentioned in Gmail conversations or saved in other calendar applications; and add other interesting events that you find online. You decide who can see your calendar and which details they can view. Planning an event? You can create invitations, send reminders and keep track of RSVPs right inside Google Calendar. Organizations can promote events, too. You can set up automatic event reminders, including mobile phone notifications, and instantly bring up anything on your calendar with the built-in search tool.”