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Response to [Understanding calendar use] by Payne


This paper draws the understanding of calendar along the line of psychological study by interviewing volunteers about their use of calendars and to-do lists. The goal, as stated in the paper, is to “understand the psychological structure of individual calendar usage”, to “understand the link between design features and user acceptance”, and to “suggest novel design features”. The method consists of a task structure analysis and task entity analysis. Finally the author points to some design opportunities (of electronic calendars) such as support for opportunistic reading, more sensitivity to the variety of events and between-events dependencies, etc.


Design opportunities (or the requirements from users):

  1. Support for opportunistic reading
    • browsable like paper calendars;
    • fish-eye view, focus + context.
  2. More sensitivity to the variety of events and between-events dependencies
    • “enter notes for arbitrary time windows”;
    • “Between-events dependencies could be represented by links in a hyper-structure.”
  3. Support user orientation
    • temporal cuing.
  4. Exhibit some sensitivity to social and personal routines;
    • personal routine can be incorporated into calendars and calendar can display and alarm such routines.
  5. Extract entries and compile reports of past activities or current intentions.

“A key conclusion is that paper calendars support prospective remembering by promoting browsing of existing appointments during subsequent calendar keeping but that this advantage is compromised in current electronic designs.”


  • Given that the design opportunities seem a little bit scattered, one might wonder, at a higher level, what do people want in calendar? (more detailed reading needed)
  • Still the timeliness is a big issue here – what is really needed, viewed from today, is to understand what people really want out of calendar and, whether we can borrow and learn from such requirements today (did they ever change over time?).

About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

Making an Impact in Your Life


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