So you’ve set up your Outlook/Thunderbird calendar and found it to be useful in organising your day to day life? You may have even found out how to access the schedules of colleagues who work in the same organisation as you. But what if you’re interested in accessing your calendar from an Internet cafe Or sharing your calendar with family, friends or customers over the Internet? Putting it on your homepage? Or having entertainment that you love updating your calendar automatically when something’s on in your area? Let’s find out in today’s tips from the Information Handyman.
Initially you’ll need to choose which calendar service you’ll be using. Let’s look at the suppliers of online calendars and what they offer:
Only available to Apple users that have a .Mac account, iCal provides a seamless and simple integration between the operating system’s built in calendar and the Internet version of it. Once it’s up there, its format is open so it’s easy to set up an RSS feed to it from your own feed reading homepage.
Yahoo’s had an online shareable calendar for years now. It’s available to anyone as http://calendar.yahoo.co.uk/yourID, it’s searchable and you can set up reminders to alert you to whenever upcoming events are occurring as well as differentiate between private and public events. Unfortunately it’s not heavily integrated with the email application and the events are not in an open format, such as iCal, so cannot be hosted elsewhere.
Google entered the online calendar market in April 2006 and has set up a highly functional and user friendly application. It’s tightly integrated with Gmail, which provides an ‘Add to calendar’ link if it detects an event in an email. It’s compliant with open calendar standards, so you can import and export your calendars to a .CSV spreadsheet file. And it has RSS feed links to a shared version and one for applications such as a homepage.
It’s introduction upped the stakes in the calendar market considerably and is the only current rival to iCal in the Windows environment. So lets have look a bit more deeply into how to use the Google calendar. Firstly, you’ll need a Gmail account, and if you haven’t got one already do email me and I’ll send you an invite. Once you’re logged in, click on the link to the Calendar in the top left hand corner of the screen.
To add an event you can either use the ‘Quick add’ box, which lets you enter an event using a sentence such as “Dinner with Mark, Wednesday 2pm” or click anywhere within the main calendar area to create one at that time. This will provide you with additional options, such as adding a location – which links directly to Google maps – or setting up a reminder, inviting guests (to whom alerts can also be sent and who are drawn automatically from your contacts list), adding a description, and allowing the event to be seen publicly. If so, people are able to make comments about the event if they so wish. You can also set the event up to recur in a variety of ways – such as every Tuesday and Thursday, annually, or each working day.
You can also import calendar events from a CSV file, which you can export from Outlook or Thunderbird. To do so click on the calendar folder in the left hand side of Outlook, then click ‘File/Import and Export’ then choose Export to a file and click on the Comma Separated Values option. Save it to your desktop, then head into your Google Calendar, click on ‘Settings’ in the top right hand corner and ‘Import’. Browse to the CSV file on your desktop and import it. Your events are now ‘Online’!
There are a number of other management options available. For instance, you can add another calendar and make all events on it public and a different colour. You can then get an RSS feed from it by clicking on the XML button beside the ‘Calendar address’ under the ‘Calendars’ tab in settings. Copy and paste this into the ‘add feed’ area of your homepage and voila! All your upcoming events are available on this handy single page.
Finally, and most cool, is the HTML button beside the XML one. Click on this, and the calendar will configure some code for you to put directly into your website’s script, just like on the Information Handyman’s homepage.