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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cozy with Cozi

Managing a family calendar and other kinds of shared information between couples is not a trivial task. Way back, Gail and I kept a large printed calendar on the pantry door; we wrote appointments, travel plans, etc on the calendar, and every January we copied forward all the birthdays. This was cheap and effective, but the calendar was accessible from only a foot away.

I have two laptops (one for home, another for work), an iPhone, and a Kindle Fire. Gail has a laptop and an iPhone, plus a desktop computer at her workplace. Sometimes it's convenient or necessary for one of us to access the family calendar from someone else's computer. What calendar system is best in terms of access, ease of use, and synchronization? I have tried many solutions including Google Calendar. The one that seems to work best is Cozi.

The co-founders of Cozi came from Microsoft, but their solution provides a native iPhone client, a native Android client (that the Kindle Fire will run), and web access for everything else. Cozi handles a family calendar nicely. There are a number of bells and whistles in it, too. The only one we currently use is a common shopping list, so that either of us can go to Costco or Harris Teeter and walk down the shopping aisles without forgetting what the other of us wants or needs without having to ask.

Basic Cozi is free. It is advertising-supported, but the ads are not obnoxious. Setup is easy, and there is no software to be loaded onto laptops -- so it works the same across Windows, Macintosh, and Linux machines. Because wireless access is now 99.9% ubiquitous, we don't bother to update our personal Outlook calendars or to sync those Outlook calendars with our iPhones. In other words, I don't use the built-in iPhone calendar app.

What about sharing contacts? For that we do use Outlook, in conjunction with a free service from Europe called Soocial that synchronizes contacts across multiple instances of Outlook. It can also synchronize with Google Contacts, if you use Gmail.

Using any cloud-based service for personal information carries risk, but I'll write about that another day.