Selecting a Web Calendar

This is the first in a multi-part series on selecting a web calendar for your organization and web site.

Introduction to Selecting a Web Calendar

The web calendar market is a very crowded and confusing one. It’s really difficult to understand what to purchase. As a web calendar vendor, we understand the market and what features people are looking for in a calendar system. Our goal is to help you find the right calendar to meet your needs. We’re going to focus on helping you select a web calendar, but before we can get there we should review the types of calendars on the market.

The Basics

Broadly speaking, the kinds of calendar programs are:

Event Publishing Software

This kind of software is designed to publicize events on a web site. Examples of people using this kind of calendar are schools, churches, universities, corporations, etc. In general, if you want to put a calendar on your web site, this is what you want. Sometimes this software can be used by small groups to coordinate their activities. If your greater need is to know what people are doing rather than coordinating group interactions such as meetings, this category can be a cheaper alternative to Groupware.


A PIM is a personal information manager application. An example of a PIM would be Outlook without Exchange. PIM’s typically include a to-do list function, contact manager, and may include Email capability. PIM’s usually do not have a web publishing feature.

Meeting Scheduling/Groupware

Software designed to coordinate large numbers of people. It’s usually deployed in a corporate environment. The major use of this software is to allow scheduling meetings between many people. Typically this kind of software can check free/busy schedules and tell you if a proposed meeting time will work for the selected attendees. Examples of this type of software would include Microsoft Exchange, IBM/Lotus Notes, and Novell Groupwise.

Specialized Calendars

This is a kind of catchall grouping. Things that would fall into this category would include employee scheduling, and appointment scheduling software. Some event publishing software calendars may be suitable to these needs. If event publishing calendars can be used for your application, they will usually be much cheaper than specialized software.


Features to Look For in a Web Calendar System

Listed below are some of the features we think you should consider when shopping for a web event publishing calendar. While you may not need each feature listed below, it’s good to know which features to look for. The conclusions section has links to spreadsheets with feature checklists you can use for comparing different packages.

Calendar Views

A good web calendar should have support for month view, week view, and day view. A list view is also very helpful.


When you really need support, there’s nothing more important. Find out what kind of support the vendor offers. Standard support types are:

  • Email Only
  • Email/Forum Support
  • Telephone Support
  • Telephone Support w/ Remote Session

Telephone support is the most desirable, and Email Only the least desirable. Remote session support can allow support staff to actually view your computer’s desktop to help troubleshoot very difficult problems. When shopping for a calendar, look for the phone number of the business. If it’s not published in the Contact page and Support page, you’re dealing with a company that actively doesn’t want to talk to you. You can draw your own conclusions about what that means.

Security System

Your needs really dictate this. If you’re going to have only one person maintaining the calendar, then you won’t need an advanced security system. If you’re going to have many editors, with approvals, and other controls then you should carefully look at the security features each calendar offers. If you only want people with logins to view your calendar, make sure that’s a supported feature as well.


It’s important that users have access to high quality documentation. Having good documentation helps users help themselves with questions and reduces your support load. A printable version of the manual is also desirable. Video tutorials are a sign that the vendor is a professional business and cares about it’s customers.

Resource Management

Many organizations want to schedule and manage resources like class rooms, conference rooms, vehicles, etc. A web event calendar with resource management can solve two issues at once; it prevents double-booking resources, and it publishes events on the web. A lot of web calendar vendors will tell you their product does resource management. Well, kind of… What they usually mean is that you can create a calendar for each room. This approach has three issues. First, it raises your licensing costs. You have to buy a calendar for each room. If you’re a school with 28 rooms, that’s 28 calendars. Second, it forces you to create duplicate event entries in your calendar if a single event uses more than one room. Finally, it doesn’t allow you to organize your calendar in a way that is natural for your environment. For example, a school might want to have a calendar for Sports, or Extra-Curricular activities. If you’re making a calendar for each room, your ability to organize events is lost. If you need resource management, look for a system that makes resource management an integral part of the product. Additionally, you should look for planner/Gantt/bar chart views for resources.

Calendar Data Export

It is important to be able to extract data from your calendar. This can be used for importing events into newsletters, extracting data for use in other areas of your web site, or creating custom reporting and billing statements. Any web calendar should support CSV and iCal (RFC-2445) format at a minimum. Support for JSON is also becoming a must-have feature.

Calendar Data Import

Whether you’re just setting up your calendar, or if you want to regularly bring data from other systems into your calendar, you’ll need to import data. At a minimum, import should support CSV and iCal format.

Email and Text Message Notification and Reminders

Most organizations want a calendar system that can notify interested parties when new events are added to the calendar, and generate reminders for upcoming events. If this is a feature you need, check that not only regular users can subscribe to reminders and notifications, but also make sure that system administrators can create reminders for other users.

Section 508 Compliance

Section 508 refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act. It provides guidelines on web accessibility. Government agencies and supported institutions (universities for example) must create web sites in such a way that the vision impaired can access them. This is where the list view mentioned earlier can be useful. A normal calendar grid is of only limited usefulness to the sight impaired because much of the information is encoded in the column/row relationships of the display. A list view provides friendlier and easier use for the visually impaired. A good indication of whether the software may be compliant is whether the web pages that are generated pass validation using an HTML validator like the W3C Web Page validator. If a calendar generates 1000 errors, it’s probably not going to work with a screen reader used by a disabled person.

Advanced Features

Advanced features that may be desirable in a calendar include:

  • Custom Fields – Can you add your own entry fields for events?
  • Ajax Support – A web technology that let’s you use calendar data in other areas of your web site.
  • RSS Feeds – Provide a way that users can subscribe to calendar information without having to visit your site each time.
  • LDAP/AD Authentication for User Authentication – Simplifies administration and password management.
  • Time Zone Support – If you have users in different parts of the world, then this is necessary to avoid time confusion.
  • Localization/Internationalization – Supports different languages, date, and time formats.

In part 2 of this series, we’ll be discussing the different software models (SaaS, Plugin, Installed Software, Plugin/SaaS Hybrid).

Selecting A Web Calendar – Part 2

This is a continuation of my multi-part series on choosing a calendar for your website or business. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to check out part one of selecting a web calendar.

One of the choices you have to make when deciding on a calendar system is what software model to choose. It’s an important enough issue that it really deserves thought before making a decision. Broadly speaking the options are:

Software as a Service (SaaS)
Also known as a cloud system, the software runs on the vendor’s servers for you. Examples would be a site hosted on, or Office 365.
Installed Software
You download and install the software on a computer that you control.
Pure Plugin Model
This is similar to installed software, but the plugin world adds enough unique issues that it needs to be talked about separately.
Hybrid Plugin/SaaS Model
In this case a plugin provides a small subset of features, typically for web site integration, while the heavy-duty back end functionality resides on a cloud/SaaS server. Our connectDaily Calendar uses this model.

Here’s a table that shows the advantages and disadvantages of each model.


Model Advantages Disadvantages
  •  Vendor usually upgrades to latest versions when released. You always have the newest features and bug fixes.
  • Data is backed up and can be restored.
  • Simpler Support. Vendor support staff can easily login and troubleshoot problems.
  • Typically, no buy-in or approval from in-house IT staff required.
  • Recurring Fee
  • System will be unavailable if internet connection is down.
  • If vendor goes out of business, data may be lost.
  • No recurring fees unless you upgrade.
  • Software under your control. No dependency on vendor.
  • Requires IT buy-in of selected package.
  • Installation and upgrade require technical staff.
  • Data may or may not be backed up.
  • Application Rot – You’re usually running an older version without current fixes or enhancements.
  • More difficult to support. Vendor support staff usually can’t login and manage the system.
  • Target installation server must support scripting language/database supported by application.
  • Decreased dependency on vendor compared to a SaaS or hybrid SaaS solution.
  • Easy to update, usually self-updating.
  • Recurring fee. Typically, plugins must be updated as the CMS they run on is updated. Practically speaking, you must have a maintenance or update agreement.
  • Compatibility can be a nightmare. Different CMS versions, OS versions, scripting language versions, database versions, installed plugins or themes, all combine to make a large pure plugin very difficult to make stable.
  • Greater reliability of core application.
  • Simpler support for core application.
  • Smaller footprint for CMS plugin.
  • Higher performance of CMS since most functionality resides on separate server.


  • Recurring Fee
  • If vendor goes down, web site may be impacted.

Our recommendation is that if the software application is very complex, the best approach is the Hybrid SaaS/Plugin Model. It truly offers the best of both worlds. You can have a large, complex application that will be stable and well maintained. Additionally, compatibility and performance issues are much less likely with this model.

If the application is very small, then a pure-plugin or software approach is the way to go. It’s got fewer moving parts to go wrong, and costs are generally going to be lower.

In our next article, we’ll be discussing the advantages and disadvantages of paid versus free calendar software.

Selecting a Web Calendar – Part 3

This is a continuation of our series on selecting a web calendar. If you haven’t read parts one and two, you might want to start reading from the beginning.

Free Calendars or Plugins versus Commercial Calendars

There are a ton of free calendar systems and plugins on the web. From looking at the sheer volume of available options the immediate reaction is that free is the way to go. However, each model (Free, Paid, and Freemium) has advantages and disadvantages.

Free Calendars

While free sounds good, it’s usually got some major problems. They are:

  • High probability of abandonment. If the developer’s not making money, at some point they’re going to get bored and abandon the project. Statistics were recently released that showed that 50% of the plugins in the WordPress library haven’t been updated in the last two years.
  • Limited feature set. If software is free, the amount of time that can be spent adding features is going to be limited.
  • Limited or non-existent support. The free version of one popular plugin only responds to forum posts one day a week.

Still, if you have no budget, or very simple needs, free can work out. A better option might be the Freemium model.

Paid or Commercial Calendars

The advantages of paying for a calendar system are:

  • High level of commitment to product. If this is the developer’s livelihood, they’re probably going to keep providing updates.
  • Large feature set. If the developer is making money on the software, they can devote more time to adding features.
  • Better support. A paid calendar system requires recurring sales or renewals to be profitable. A key part of that is ensuring that customers are happy.

Generally, if the functioning of the calendar is critical to an organization’s web site or operation, some sort of paid solution is going to make the most sense.

Freemium Calendars

Freemium is an emerging hybrid model of software sales. Essentially, a certain amount of features are made available for free, but advanced features are sold either individually, or as a package. The advantages of the freemium model are:

  • Requires no financial investment to get started.
  • Same level of commitment as commercial calendars.
  • Advanced features are available for purchase.

The one area that this model suffers in comparison to a paid system is that if you’re on the free spectrum of the product, you may not get the same level of support as a paying customer.

Why We Chose Freemium for connectDaily Events Calendar

With the connectDaily Events Calendar, we have transitioned to the freemium model. The advantage to this model is that web developers and theme builders can include connectDaily for free as part of their normal distribution. They know they’re getting a very stable, defect free, and feature rich product to incorporate into the sites they deliver. For customers, the advantage is that if they need to add features, they can continue using the same system and pay a small monthly fee to add only their desired features.


The web calendar market is insanely crowded. It can be really tough to sort out to match up the many offerings on the market with an organization’s needs.  I hope that this article series has helped you understand how to select a calendar that will best meet your needs.

To help you out in your search, we’ve made a calendar feature comparison checklist as an Excel worksheet that you can use.

Download the Excel Calendar Feature Comparison Worksheet.