Family life seems to be getting more and more complex all the time. Too many places to be, chores to be done, and demands on our time and attention. Fortunately, there are many great tools available on the Web to help manage our family time and resources. From the most simple to the most robust, every family will find something here that will help them stay better organized and focused.
Google Calendar has a very simple interface and easy-to-use tools. It offers month, week, day views, as well as the ability to share it with others and to give different levels of permissions for different people. A nice added feature is the ability to create several individual calendars (like one for each of the kids) and them merge them into one by importing public calendars or private calendars whose owners give you permission. Different colors can define different calendars, so if you give each family member's calendar a special color, you can tell at a glance who needs to be where. It also has a nice interface for cell phones and PDA's. Google Calendar is free and a part of your overall Google account.
The Family Time Planner is a very flexible and colorful tool for your family calendar. Once you have a subscription, you can have unlimited user ID's for family members and friends. And you can limit different user ID's to only some parts of the calendar. You can interconnect Family Time Planner calendars with other families as needed. Family Time Planner also syncs with Microsoft Outlook. It is a fee-based system ($16 for the first year and $12 per year thereafter) but there are no advertisements, which for many is a good trade-off.
Talk about full-featured! Cozi offers both a web-based and downloadable calendar system. The calendar includes a different colored tab for each family member and has a very simple and straightforward interface for entering information. Cozi also has a built-in family messaging system and shopping and to-do lists that family members can add to or change. You can also host your family journal or blog on Cozi Central. It syncs with Microsoft Outlook and also has a cell phone interface for accessing it from your Blackberry or Treo. Cozi Central is free to subscribers.
A part of My Yahoo, the Yahoo calendar has lots of great features. First, it is easy to manage and has quick options for adding appointments that don't need a lot of detail. And you can share the calendar with some friends and family members and give others rights to modify the calendar. Your friends do not have to be Yahoo members, so it can be flexible for both immediate and extended family. The whole My Yahoo suite including email, calendar, notepad, an address book and customized web portal is a free advertiser supported service.
30Boxes is a simple yet powerful tool. It ends up being much more than a family calendar. It also has an interactive to-do list and a message center that can get messages from Facebook, Flickr, or any RSS feed for that matter. The calendar sharing feature is based on a "buddy list" for individuals, or if you are really wanting the calendar to be public, it can post events directly to your blog or your social networking home page. 30Boxes is a free online service.
In many ways, Home Convenience reminds me of an electronic and full-features Day Planner. The calendar is very simple to use and review, using color coding for each family member's activities. There is a to do list, an address book, a list manager and a family journal like many other programs. But what sets Home Convenience apart is it's database features. Think wine list, fitness tracker, medical records manager, vehicle maintenance program, home inventory tracking and the like. If you are really looking to manage and organize your home via the web, the Home Convenience is the program you'll want to explore. There is no free version of Home Convenience other than a 30 day trial; the cost is $9.95 per month.
Lots more than an online family calendar, Fircle will also let you maintain and print shopping lists that will remind you when you're running low on specific groceries, manage children's allowance and maintain household chore lists. There are places in Fircle to record your children's growth and keep records of medical information. You can also store your family history, keep and share recipes easily, create personal journals, family newsletters, organize your play groups, create a poll so you can have family members vote on family decisions. Fircle has a free advertiser supported version, or for $39.95 per year, you can enjoy Fircle ad-free.
Another in the full-featured line of online calendars is Famundo. In addition to a very colorful and easy-to-use online calendar, Famundo will let you store important family documents, host a family webpage, keep shopping lists or wish lists current, post to a message board, and scan documents directly to Famundo's family library or secure vault. The basic, free program has some limitations, but is adequate for most families. A $99 per year upgrade allows more storage and eliminates advertisements.
Bievo is another in this series of online calendars that can be adapted for family use. One of the things I like about Bievo is that it can integrate calendars from other groups and organizations. For example, if the soccer coach puts all of the games and practices on a Google Calendar, you can import the data directly into Bievo, and have it update when the coach makes changes due to rainout or whatever. Bievo also works seamlessly with your family members' smartphones, making it a very flexible and versatile tool.