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Tungle launches non-annoying scheduling service

It's a little better than TimeBridge. But it may not be better enough.

On June 11, I added a clarification. See last paragraph.

My readers may know that I'm big fan of TimeBridge, a free service that makes it much easier to schedule meetings. It's not perfect, though. I like it a lot, but I find it confuses or annoys some of the people who get my TimeBridge invitations, even those who proposed meeting with me in the first place. So I'm always on the lookout for alternatives.

Here's one I recently got working: Tungle. It's a plug-in that is functionally similar to TimeBridge. You install the small app, connect it your Outlook client, and it then lets you propose multiple blocks of times for meetings with people, and it lets the recipients select the times that work best for them.

The company has also launched a new service, Tungle Click to Meet, which gives every user their own page on Tungle's service where they can send people to book meetings. There's a free/busy widget that goes along with it (for embedding in your own site or blog). I don't like opening up my calendar that much, but some service professionals might like to use these features with their existing online or software-based calendars.

For an Outlook user, Tungle is a little better than TimeBridge, for a few reasons. First, instead of requiring you to pick discrete blocks of time for your meetings, as TimeBridge does, Tungle lets you paint whole swaths of your calendar as available, and it lets attendees pick the best time for them inside those blocks. For example, if you select 1:00 to 5:00pm for a 30-minute meeting, an attendee can select 2:30. With TimeBridge, you'd have to create 8 different proposed half-hour meeting times to make that possible. Except you can't; TimeBridge only lets you earmark five options for each meeting.

Tungle lets you block out big chunks of time. It works alongside your Outlook calendar. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

Tungle also doesn't clutter your Outlook calendar with tentative time slots you're reserved for meetings, which TimeBridge does. Personally, I like seeing on my Outlook calendar what's tentatively held for me by TimeBridge, but the Tungle view is neater.

Both TimeBridge and Tungle will also integrate with Google Calendar, and they don't require any downloads when you're syncing with Google. Both also have other options for sharing availability information. You can invite certain people to see your calendar whenever they want.

The best thing about Tungle, for me: I've been using it for a week and nobody I've been making meetings with has complained about it.

On the business side, however, I still think TimeBridge is the smarter company. Its scheduling service is free, but it sells online conference services, at a bargain rate when compared to Webex and GoToMeeting. Tungle is opting to go the straight paid route, and will eventually sell subscriptions to its scheduling service. The price hasn't been decided yet, but no matter what it is, I fear it will be too high. Solid schedule coordination services, like TimeBridge, are currently free and will probably remain so. Tungle may be slightly better, but I don't think it will be seen by potential customers as better enough to pay for.

Clarification added June 11: Tungle CEO Marc Gringas wrote to me to say, "What is available on Tungle today is free and will remain free. Later in 2010 we will be launching premium services that will target specific segments such as sales, HR and PR professionals."

See also:
Online-scheduling alternatives to Google Calendar
Tungle launches meeting time broker (2008)
MeetingMade (another schedule helper).