The complexity of calendar applications varies considerably across all levels. Some are meant to be simple replacements for traditional physical calendars, doing little more than showing the current date and a preview of the month. Others allow users to organize their time in a more advanced way, including coordinating their schedule with other people.
Microsoft has a long history in the office suite market, and the company’s Office product line has gone through many iterations over the years. Recently, Microsoft decided to make parts of the suite free for everyone, including most of Outlook’s functionality – and with that, its calendar. It is not uncommon for home users to be completely unaware of the existence of Outlook Calendar, which is a shame as it has so much to offer.
Packages and prices
Outlook is available for free with the creation of an Outlook account. The basic free account offers full access to Outlook and even some additional Microsoft Office applications including Word, Excel, and OneNote. Premium levels are also available, but not required.
Outlook Premium accounts are intended for heavy email users and have no impact on the calendar experience. The biggest difference with upgrading to a premium account is the additional cloud storage space, but it’s something that would impact the experience of a tiny fraction of calendar users.
Students can also get a premium Microsoft 365 subscription for free, as long as they have a valid college email address.
From a regular home user’s perspective, Outlook Calendar can be a bit limited in functionality. The app supports standard view modes – day / week / month / hourly – and allows users to view multiple different calendars at once, organize them in folders and share them with other people .
The real power of Outlook Calendar is its sharing and connectivity features. The app is very powerful for organizing large meetings with multiple participants, especially if they are all already using Outlook Calendar to organize their own schedules. You can easily preview schedule conflicts and view alternative time slot suggestions. Sharing events and entire calendars is very easy, even if the recipient does not currently have an Outlook calendar.
The application also integrates with other Microsoft solutions. It can sync its tasks with Microsoft’s Android Launcher, a powerful feature for those looking for a handy to-do list they can use on the go.
Outlook Calendar is available as a standalone desktop app, web app, and mobile app for iOS and Android. All versions are mostly uniform in functionality and are updated regularly.
Some features will only be available if your email account uses an Exchange server. More specifically, the ability to categorize events with color coded tags.
Interface and in use
The Outlook Calendar interface is pretty straightforward, but it gets the job done. Its monthly view is a powerful tool for viewing multiple times at once and determining the best time slot for a particular event. The app is nice even on small mobile screens which is a huge advantage over some of its competition.
Home users may be confused by some of the additional features available when creating a new calendar event or task, such as the “View As” option and privacy settings, as those – these are intended more for users in large organizations. Still, it doesn’t take long to get used to ignoring these settings when setting up a new event.
Microsoft has a good reputation for customer support, and Outlook Calendar is no exception. Most of the issues you might encounter are already covered in their extensive knowledge base, which is easy to navigate thanks to the smart suggestions provided by the system.
If you need to contact the company for a more specialized issue, you can expect short response times and friendly service. Paid subscribers naturally come first, but you should be able to get the help you need even as a free user. There is also a very active community council, and it is not uncommon to find a solution to your problems in these areas.
Outlook Calendar has its own place in the calendar application market due to its unique approach to usability and functionality. This makes it difficult to compare with competing apps even for its basic functionality. If you need a simple scheduling tool that lets you set up tasks, reminders, and organize your time with other people, this should meet your needs perfectly.
However, if you are looking for a more advanced planning and organizing tool, with features like subtasks, minor changes between event instances, further interface customization, and deep sorting, you might be better off going with a more specialized solution. Any.do is a good place to start your research in this case.
Outlook Calendar is a powerful tool, despite the modest initial presentation. The fact that it’s free, combined with the reliable customer support Microsoft is known for, makes it a great choice for the average user. Those in need of more advanced features should probably look elsewhere – and the calendar app market has no shortage of options better suited to such needs.