November 14, 2012, 2:05 PM — Email and calendar apps may not be much fun, but they're essential if you intend to live on the grid, interacting with other human beings. Enter Microsoft's new Windows 8 Mail and Calendar apps, each of which takes a prominent position on the new Start screen. Of course, plenty of competitors offer basic email and calendar functionality, so if Microsoft is going to enter this arena, it had better give users some real innovation.
Calendar syncs with Hotmail, Outlook, and Google accounts to bring together all your sundry events on one large screen for easy viewing. Mail taps into Hotmail, Outlook, Google, AOL, Yahoo, and your own personal IMAP and POP accounts; the app also aggregates all your messages from these various accounts on a single screen.
Pretty standard stuff, right? Actually, no: Email and calendar apps are never as simple as they seem. That's why some are awesome, and others downright stink.
What Calendar does well
When your busy days all seem to run together, keeping everything straight can be tough. And the situation gets even worse if you use multiple accounts with multiple calendars to eyeball meetings, personal events, and those pesky birthdays that keep sneaking up on you. How are you supposed to separate all of your business engagements scheduled on Google from your personal commitments scheduled on Outlook?
Luckily, Calendar provides a great, full-screen view of all your calendars in one place. Scrolling through the months, weeks, and days is simple with a basic swiping gesture. Seeing different events, even when they overlap, is easy thanks to color-coding unique to each calendar, and overall the interface is designed to help prevent you from overscheduling yourself.
The Calendar app is great for tracking the birthdays of all your social contacts too. When you sync different social accounts to People, you also sync them to your Microsoft Account, which Calendar pulls from. So if your friends and familiy have their birthdays listed in their social media profiles, they will appear in the Calendar app as well.
Where Calendar falls short
Calendar may be too simple for its own good, however. Case in point: At PCWorld we use an assortment of shared Google calendars to track events. We use these calendars to see when weekly meetings are held, when our editors are attending trade shows, and when the deadlines are approaching for each week's battery of feature stories.