Sometimes technology still knocks you out when you compare today’s excellence with yesterday’s primitive first steps. Compare the iPhone to the Newton MessagePad , sleek subnotebooks with the old luggable suitcases , the 21-inch LCD screen with the old 14-inch CRT . At other times, as with computer-based calendaring, the passing of the years has led to little or no improvement.

For more years than I care to remember (regimes came and went; Take That was born, became famous, disbanded and returned triumphant) I was confined to Lotus Notes* when making my business appointments, and suffered in silence with that clodhopping user interface. Now my work gives me Outlook and it’s a bit better but not great, still offering a welter of complex options and disappointing little to make intuition the only training needed. Worst of all, calendars have been among the last bastions of proprietary software and the data contained therein is exported to another calendar only with the most appalling ill grace and inelegance.

That’s why I’m keen to try out Yahoo’s latest web-based calendar , because, as with its terrific mail service, it is fit for my purpose and packs one of the cleanest user interfaces around. The new version, the first upgrade for several years, taps an almost forgotten acquisition Yahoo made in 2007 – Zimbra.

Zimbra, based on open source and in fully-fledged form an alternative to hosted Microsoft Exchange, was once seen as a very hot property but seemed to disappear from view for a while as Microsoft and Yahoo played out their will-they-won’t-they merger talks.

Currently in beta, the new Zimbra-fied Yahoo Calendar has one feature that sounds very exciting, namely the ability to synchronise with other calendars via the iCalendar and CalDAV standards.

Why is this important? Because it means friends/colleagues/significant others on Google, Microsoft, AOL and other web-based calendars can now see what you’re up to and vice-versa; also, I’m hoping, you can swap in one calendar for another. I also like the idea of adding photos from Flickr for that home-made look, and SMS alerts.

Yahoo Calendar is just going into beta and I haven’t had the offer to participate yet but when I can, I will, because Yahoo makes many of the best web tools out there and knows the value of simplicity.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to throw out the old standby backup service – my Ladbrokes Racing Diary.

By the way, could we call a moratorium on all the corporate bloggers who get upset by people saying they prefer using freebie web-based systems to “enterprise” groupware? We all know quite well about workflow, the vagaries of admin staff, governance, corporate branding and so on, but we’re bright enough to know when sending a freemail message might appear inappropriate. If you wrote software that was this usable and IT shops made it as secure and well administered as these services, we’d use your stuff more often than when we have to.