My Second Favorite Gmail Plugin

calendarI recently shared with you my favorite Gmail plugin. Boomerang Calendar is my second favorite and I use it nearly every day. It makes scheduling easier, right inside Gmail. Here are some highlights:

See your schedule while you read your email and add events to your calendar without leaving Gmail.

Boomerang Calendar identifies event information as you read your email. It automatically highlights dates and times in the message with information about whether or not you can attend. If the event text is green, you’re all clear. Yellow, you have an adjacent event. Red means you have a conflict. No need to switch over to your calendar to check.

The best part? Your friends and colleagues can write messages using whatever language they like. Boomerang Calendar understands what you mean, whether you type “Monday at 2pm” or “4/14 at noon”. It even understands time zones, so if you’re in Paris, “PDT” will mean the right thing.

inside email

Need more details? Hover over a detected time, and you’ll get an at-a-glance view of the full day’s schedule. Or click the time, and you can see a preview of what that event will look like in your calendar, with all the rest of your schedule prefilled.

When Boomerang Calendar detects an event in an email, it provides a + icon to immediately add the event to your calendar. It will automatically fill in the start and end times, fill in the meeting’s location, and populate the notes field with the body of the source email.

add event

Boomerang Calendar provides another significant enhancement over adding events the old fashioned way. If you add an event, you can check a box to automatically send reminder emails the morning of the meeting, or a couple of hours beforehand. You can also bring the original email back to the top of your Inbox when it’s time to head out. You’ll be more organized, and everyone will be more likely to make it to the meeting.

I use this feature all the time. Think about when you sign up for a webinar and get the confirmation email with all the details. Now I can put this on my calendar with one click. Cool!

Emails that schedule and confirm meetings in one step.

You know how it goes: you try to set up a meeting, then 6 emails of scheduling back-and-forth later, someone ends up at the wrong coffee shop. Boomerang Calendar includes an interactive interface that simplifies the entire scheduling process (proposal and confirmation) to a single email.

propose times

To propose a meeting, click available time slots on your calendar and Boomerang Calendar will embed the visual interface into the body of your message.

recipient click confirm

To confirm the meeting, your recipient clicks one of the proposed times and the appointment is added to everyone’s calendar – no additional action by you required! The visual availability features work regardless of whether the recipient opens your email on a phone, in Outlook, or anywhere else – they don’t need to be using Gmail or Boomerang Calendar.

This feature rocks! It saves so much time emailing back and forth to find a good time for a meeting or call.

Cross-timezone scheduling.

If your business is anything like mine, you’re scheduing meetings with people in other time zones all the time. If you’re scheduling a meeting with someone on a different coast (or continent), you can now see both timezones next to each other while suggesting times to meet. You’ll know immediately what the best time is for a call between London and San Francisco, or Bangalore and Miami.

cross time

The email Boomerang Calendar creates will have the times listed in both timezones, so nobody has to do the translation by hand anymore. Coordinating across the globe just became a lot easier, and a lot less mistake-prone.

Share your availability with 1 click.

Replying to, “I want to get coffee, what’s your availability next week?” used to require you to switch back and forth between your inbox and your calendar to type out your availability. Not very efficient. Now, click to share your availability over the next few days or next week and Boomerang Calendar will embed a visual interface showing all of your existing appointments marked as “Busy.”

include availability

As your schedule fills up, the changes are automatically updated on the recipient’s visual interface, preventing you from having to send and resend your availability as your schedule changes. Now, your recipient can propose a coffee date that he or she knows will work with your schedule.

Plan group events.

Boomerang Calendar includes the best system for coordinating a group event anywhere. Just choose times from your calendar view, and Boomerang Calendar will email all participants asking which of those times works for each of them, with a form they can fill out directly from inside their email.

availability grid

As participants respond, everybody’s emails themselves will update to reflect availability. It’s never been easier – and participants don’t need Boomerang calendar or Gmail, just an email address.

If you’re a Gmail user – and I suggest you want to be – I hope you give this plugin a try. Leave a comment and let me know if it’s helped your productivity.