With five busy people in my house, keeping track of who needs to be where when is a challenge. There’s my work schedule, my husband’s work schedule, my kids school calendars, classes, doctor’s appointments and games and all of our social events.
We have a paper family calendar that is posted by the fridge. It has all of the kids’ appointments and events, plus work travel. But writing appointments into the little squares is difficult and there’s no way to access it unless I’m home.
What I use instead is a digital calendar that syncs with Outlook and Google Calendar so I can see everyone’s schedule wherever I am so I can set up doctor’s appointments or schedule a dinner party with confidence that I’m not double booking someone.
There are a few good free choices out there, each with a couple of features that set them apart.
The Cozi Family Organizer syncs appointments with Outlook and can be accessed through iPhone, Android and BlackBerry apps. Each family member is assigned a color, so it’s easy to see who’s busy and who’s free at a glance. And you can make appointments for anyone in your family. There’s a very robust reminder system, with the ability to send text and email reminders, as well as a weekly digest. You can’t send invites outside of Cozi, though, like you can with Outlook and Google Calendar.
In addition to calendaring, you can share shopping lists and to-do lists with family members and create a family journal, which everyone can contribute to. All of the features are available in the free version or you can subscribe to Cozi Gold for $4.99 per month for an ad-free experience.
The Famjama family calendar is ad-free and can be accessed online or through the Famjama iPhone and Android apps. You can sync with iPhone, Android and iCal, which makes Fanjama the best choice for Mac users. Google Calendar is limited to manually importing and exporting events and for Outlook you can only download appointments. Like Cozi, Famjama displays a calendar color-coded by family member. Event reminders can be delivered via text and email, but you’re limited to making appointments only for those using the service. You can also send group messages via text and set up to-do and shopping lists.
If you’re Gmail user or just looking for a calendar, you can create a family Gmail account and associated calendar. You can then sync that calendar with Outlook, iPhone and Android and share it with other family members who use Google Calendar. It’s also the only option that lets you invite outsiders to events.
Of course, Google Calendar doesn’t have any of the other family friendly features, like to-do and shopping lists or a family journal. But for me, it’s the best option.