Get Your Calendar In Order
Accessing your calendar is our next stopping point for a smooth move away from .Mac. Fortunately, Google Calendar makes it easy to import all of your existing iCal calendars, which .Mac syncs to the Web for you. From within iCal, simply use the "Export" feature from the "File" menu and then import the calendars via Google Calendar's "Import Calendar" features under "Settings."
GMail didn't require you to officially make any changes you couldn't undo while testing out the waters, and neither does Google Calendar. Its ability to export your calendars allows you to get them back into iCal without missing a beat if you decide Google Calendar isn't going to work out for you.
Google Calendar makes it easy to import existing calendars from iCal.
Google's designers took no shortcuts when designing its rich web interface. Clicking on the corresponding time block in the calendar presents an intuitive dialog that allows you to quickly add an event by providing only a brief description. You can enter more details by clicking on the "edit event details" link.
Google Calendars offers an intuitive interface for quickly adding events much like iCal. In either case, simply clicking in the corresponding spot in your calendar adds a container that you can populate with event information.
Once you've added an event to your calendar, click on it to pop up a dialog that provides a slightly more detailed listing of the event's information. From here, you can also proceed to edit the event's details or delete the event. Deleting the event exposes a really neat feature of Google Calendar--it's modal dialog box, which covers the screen in a translucent layer and forces you to make a decision.
A few other items to note are Google Calendar's "Quick Add" feature, its advanced search capability, and its notifications feature that can send SMS messages to your cell phone. The "Quick Add" feature allows you to type a basic description of an event and have Google Calendar (attempt to) intelligently add it. For example, you might type something like "lunch tomorrow at 8pm with Sally" instead of manually picking the time. In the end, it just saves you a few clicks. The key to not being frustrated with this feature is to choose a simple convention like the example and stick with it.
The advanced search capability is probably overkill most of the time, but it's there if you need it or have an incredibly complex calendar to manage. The ability to have event notifications in your calendar sent to your cell phone is one particularly awesome feature of Google Calendar--if you have a plan that's conducive to receiving SMS messages--and setting it up really is as easy as it looks. Of course, if you spend a lot of time on a computer, having email notifications sent to you can be almost as handy.
Desktop Convenience With Google Notifier
GMail and Google Calendar's rich web features are great when you're in a browser, but sometimes you may not want to go into a browser to check if you have mail or look at your calendar. Google Notifier is a slick, minimally invasive program that runs up in your menu bar and features Growl support for notifications such as receiving new mail. You can easily scan the next few items in your calendar and read the beginning of the top items in your mailbox without ever leaving whatever you're doing on your desktop.
Google Notifier features Growl support and allows you to preview messages without leaving whatever you're currently working on.