A kind of personal mental model of time.

I often find that things like train timetables, conference agendas and especially calendar applications don’t work towards a kind of personal mental model of time for me. This sounds deep – but I essentially mean that the way they are laid out or the interaction and manipulation is not intuitive to me.

I notice this everyday when I’m using the calendar in Outlook. Certainly a fair number of people are using it and a lot of work went into every single detail of it. So in order to find out whether it is just me, I want to show you how I would wish it would be and look forward to feedback.

Nuisance 1: Breaking time up into pages

Outlook breaks time down into pages.

Outlook breaks time down into pages. See Next Page, Previous Page buttons above.

Outlook breaks month and week views down into what are practically pages. Navigating in such a month view is, for me, often quite distracting and confusing. Especially when I’m interested in looking at days that happen to be at the end of one and the beginning of another month.

Outlook only displays full months and doesn’t let you center a transition of months on the screen.

When you want to look at a period of time that goes across two months, the way Outlook forces you to chose 'what page' you want to see is really frustrating.

Left: What Outlook let’s you do. Right: What I need. When you want to look at a period of time that goes across two months, the way Outlook forces you to chose ‘what page’ you want to see is really frustrating.

This breakdown into pages doesn’t work for me. I would much prefer to be able to fluidly scroll through time. Here is a simple mockup of how this should work:

Nuisance 2: Not giving you a year view

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So, this is the type of calendar I grew up with. Every year this A4 sized year calendar would be handed out by your school teacher at the beginning of the school year. (Hence it starts with September on the left and ends with August on the right.) It showed the entire next year and highlighted the school holidays (very important back then). What I really like about it though, is the way it gives you a bigger overview of the year, rather than just see a month.

I often find myself wanting that overview in Outlook. Here is a mockup of how I think this could look like:

A mockup of a year view in Outlook.

A mockup of a year view in Outlook.

And of course, also this view should be scrollable without pages.

I’m very curious to hear feedback and thoughts. Even if you think I’m on my own here and you’re perfectly happy with the calendar view in Outlook.

2 responses to “Interacting with time. (Nuisances with MS Outlook)”

  1. Brian says:

    I’ve been looking for a way to view a calendar in outlook, exactly like you mockup, but i still havent found it. At work i’ve been forced to make it manually in excel, the last 5 years .

  2. col says:

    I too would like a year view like a wall planner. Unlike your preference I’d like a month per horizontal line layout as per a typical Sasco office wall planner.
    Why is such a view so difficult to find?
    Like a comment above I mock up my own in excel every year

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