Five hidden tools and tricks for Google Calendar

Many of us would be lost without our calendars—they're where we schedule meetings, pencil in appointments and set project deadlines. And without the proper tools, managing a calendar can become a headache.

While Google's Calendar app has a number of known features that ease the pain of planning—integration with other calendars, mobile accessibility and schedule sharing, for example—there are a handful of other useful tools and tricks you may not know about. Read on to find out how these features can help you cut down on planning time and increase your productivity.

1. Learn keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts can be a great time-saver if you know the right moves. Much like Gmail's keyboard shortcuts, Google Calendar has its own set designed to help you fly through scheduling appointments, viewing your meetings and managing your events.

To view the full list of keyboard shortcuts, open your Google Calendar and press Command-/ or check Google's Website. Below are six you're likely to use the most:

  • Create an event: press C
  • Move to view today's schedule: Press T
  • Display your calendar in the Day view: Press 1 or D
  • Display your calendar in the Week view: Press 2 or W
  • Display your calendar in the Month view: Press 3 or M
  • View calendar settings: Press S

Google Calendar shortcuts
Press Command-/ to see a list of shortcuts you can use in Google Calendar.

2. Auto-decline appointments

If you'll be away on vacation or know you have a prior commitment, you'll appreciate the Automatically Declining Events tool in Google Calendar Labs. To turn on this feature, click the gear icon at the top right of your screen and select Labs. Find Automatically Declining Events in the list and click Enable next to it. Then click Save at the bottom of the page.

This feature lets you block off times in your calendar when you know you'll be unavailable. When someone sends you an invite for an event during this time period, Google Calendar will automatically decline it.

3. Easily reschedule events

Scheduling a meeting or event at a time that works for everyone can be a nuisance. One handy feature in Google Calendar labs that aims to make this process easier is the Smart Rescheduler, a tool that helps you reschedule an event by analyzing everyone's schedule, evaluating conflicts, obtaining conference rooms, and proposing the best meeting times.

To use this feature, click the gear icon at the top right of your screen and select Labs. Click Enable next to Smart Recheduler, and then click Save at the bottom of the page. Once Smart Rescheduler is activated, select an event that you want to reschedule, and then click Find a new time. You'll then see a ranked list of possible times for your meeting and a replacement conference room nearby.

You can refine the results by marking people as optional attendees, changing the meeting duration, ignoring certain conflicts, or specifying the earliest and latest times you want. The results will update to reflect your new requirements.

4. Add attachments to events

Need to share a document with meeting attendees? Visit the Labs section of your Google calendar by choosing Labs from the gear icon at the top right of the page. Scroll to Event Attachments and click Enable, and then Save.

The Event attachments lab is an experimental feature that lets you attach a Google document, spreadsheet or presentation to your event, or upload a file from your computer. Do note that if you're sharing a Google document, you must grant them access to view it beforehand.

Once you enable the Event Attachments lab, an Add Attachment link will appear under the description of the event. Click this to browse your Google Docs files or upload a file from your computer.

5. Add events to Google Calendar via SMS

Google Calendar SMS
Add events to your Google Calendar by sending a text message with your mobile phone.
If you're at the airport and forgot to schedule a meeting in your Google Calendar or you don't have good Internet service, don't worry: You can easily add events via your mobile phone in a few quick steps.

First, from your computer, sign in to your Google Calendar account, click the gear icon at the top right of your screen and choose Calendar Settings. Then click the Mobile Setup tab and enter your country, phone number and carrier. Google will send a verification code to your mobile phone; enter the code and click Finish Setup.

Once the setup is complete, you can send events to your calendar via your mobile phone by texting the details of your event (such as Dentist appointment 1:00pm April 20) to GVENT (48368). You'll receive a confirmation text message shortly after, and the event will appear in your calendar.

Kristin Burnham covers Consumer Technology, SaaS, Social Networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham .

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