Updated Google Calendar Adds 'Find a Time' Feature for Meetings
In the latest update to its Calendar app for Android, Google is introducing a "find a time" feature aimed at making it easier to schedule meetings with a number of people. Announced today, the new feature is designed for "easy, on-the-go scheduling," according to Gmail product manager Stella Schieffer.
The feature starts working when a Google Calendar user indicates on the app that he wants to set up a team meeting and chooses people to invite. After clicking "find a time," that person is shown a ranked list of times during which everyone named will likely be able to attend. The app also displays alternative times with notes that some participants "seem unavailable."
Quick Check for Conflicts
"Smartphones have made productivity portable," Schieffer wrote today in a post on the Gmail blog. "You no longer have to be at your desk to catch up on meeting notes, dial into a conference call, or send an e-mail. But scheduling meetings on the go is still difficult, as you have to open your laptop to check everyone's calendar and find a time that works."
With the Find a Time update, users of Google Apps for Work or Edu can more easily schedule meeting times that work for everyone involved, Schieffer said. Launched with one tap, the feature checks each person's calendar entries, identifies scheduling conflicts and then ranks the time slots in which all or most participants might be available.
"If there are no times that work, Calendar will look at which conflicting meetings can most easily be rescheduled," Schieffer noted. She added the tool works even when meeting participants are in different time zones and is "[d]esigned specifically for organizations where sharing your calendar with colleagues is the norm."
iPhone, Web Features in the Works
The find a time feature offers suggested times only, leaving it up to users to decide when they want to schedule meetings, Schieffer said. She added that Google is also working to eventually make the feature available on iOS so Calendar users with iPhones can use it, and will seek to improve Web-based scheduling as well.
Some other companies that offer e-mail and calendar apps support similar features. In September, for example, Microsoft's Garage "hack culture" project lab launched an iPhone app called Invite that lets users send a few meeting time options to contacts, who can then respond with the times that work best for them.
Earlier this month, Google also introduced a new calendar feature called Goals that lets the app find free time during which the user can work on specified personal goals such as exercising more. The feature automatically identifies open blocks of time on a user's schedule, and even "learns" from a person's schedule changes how to choose better times for an activity in the future.
Image Credit: Google Calendar (pictured above) via Google and Google Play.