Tech Tips: Google Calendar dumped its best feature and dealing with data caps | TheUnion.com

Tech Tips: Google Calendar dumped its best feature and dealing with data caps

Doug Behl and Ken Getz
Columnists

I've been using Google Calendar forever to keep my life organized. Recently, they updated the design so it's all pretty, but I can't make it allow me to enter events like I used to. Previously, I could enter an event like "Lunch with Rhoda tomorrow at noon" and the calendar would create the event with the correct name and time for me. Now it just creates a full-day event with the title "Lunch with Rhoda tomorrow at noon." That's not very helpful! Is there some way to enter events like I used to?

Ken has been using Google Calendar for years, and he certainly feels your pain.

Yes, Google did update their user interface to make the calendar more visually pleasing. And they succeeded (in our eyes) on that front. But along the way, they did drop what we would consider one of Google Calendar's greatest features. It was previously so easy to create new events, just by typing descriptive text about your event.

This feature is called natural language data entry, and several top-tier calendars still fully support this feature (including Apple Calendar and the critical favorite Mac calendar app, Fantastical).

Microsoft Outlook supports natural language in a limited way — you can enter dates by typing simple expressions like "Next Saturday," but it won't parse out a complex expression like "Dinner with Mom every Tuesday at 6 p.m. until May 1," that Fantastical handles just fine. And Google Calendar used to handle expressions like this as well. What the heck happened?

There's no way we can know exactly why Google removed this feature from Google Calendar, but it's certainly gone. Google recently added back a small portion of this functionality, allowing you to specify a title and a time together when you create a new event (so you can enter "Dinner with Mom at 6 p.m." once you create the new event), but this isn't nearly as functional as the old capability.

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Note that Google hasn't removed the natural language functionality from its Chrome Extension or mobile apps, just from the browser version of the calendar. (Also note that not all natural language support works the same: Fantastical does great with an event like "Dinner with Mom every Tuesday at 6 p.m. until May 1", but no Google apps handles this well.)

Hopefully, Google will respond to our somewhat snippy emails about restoring this capability soon!

Does uploading count towards my data cap?

My Internet Service Provider suddenly started applying a data cap to our Internet usage. Because we live in a rural area, we don't have any options for our internet, so we just have to live with it. Everything we see about the data cap deals with downloads. What about uploads? Are those counted against our data cap?

It's odd, right? As the cell phone industry moved back towards providing unlimited data (with strings attached, of course), the home Internet Service Provider's are implementing strict data caps on your data usage. Even the giants, Comcast and AT&T, limit your monthly throughput. They figure you'll watch a few hours per day of streaming video, and ensure that you have enough data for that, but if you want to stream 4K-resolution sports 12 hours per day, you're going to sorely disappointed in your service if you have stringent data caps.

As to your question: Absolutely. Yes. Uploads are included in your data cap limits. Should you worry about it? That depends.

If you send a lot of emails (even hundreds of emails per day), and even if every one of those includes a photo or two, you won't adversely affect your data use. Video is what sucks up bandwidth, not audio or photos. (Of course, they do use some data, but not nearly as much as video.)

The real problem comes into play if you use an online backup service, such as Backblaze or Carbonite. We absolutely love online backups and take advantage of these great services for our homes. But sending all your local data to an offsite storage requires you to upload all your content, and if you change a lot of large documents every day, you could see your data caps fly by.

What do you do? If you're living with a data cap, you'll need to be aware when you're backing things up to "the cloud," and take this data throughput into account when tracking your data usage. If you have the option of using "off-peak hours" (HughesNet offers this option, for example) try to do your backing up only during that time.

One final note: If you use online storage for a security camera, like a Nest camera, beware that sending that video upstream, 24 hours per day, will consume huge amounts of data. You'll need to reconsider this sort of activity if you have a data cap.

Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken's tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21 a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to questions@techtipguys.com.

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