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Google Calendar is very much like an online version of iCal. You can store events such as appointments and birthdays; set up meetings that you invite other people to attend; make events repeat on a schedule; view your events by day, week, month, or other time periods; set alarms; publish your calendars so that others can see your events (even in iCal!); and subscribe to public calendars such as lists of holidays and sporting events. And as in iCal, you can move an event simply by dragging it to a new time or day on the calendar.

Calendar tips

Learning Calendar is easy. But these tips may help you put it to better use.

Use the Quick Add Feature You can add a new event by clicking on the Create Event link and filling out the form with all the details, but for many events, there’s an easier way. Click on the Quick Add link, type in a brief description, and press return (see “Fast Scheduling”). Calendar tries to turn your description into a specific date and time. For instance, type

Mireille’s birthday on Thursday
, and Calendar immediately adds that event on the next Thursday. Since you didn’t specify a time, the event is entered as an all-day event. If you enter
Lunch with Robert noon tomorrow
, Calendar blocks out a one-hour lunch beginning at noon tomorrow.

Subscribe to Public Calendars In addition to tracking meetings and appointments, Calendar (like iCal) lets you subscribe to calendars containing sports schedules, phases of the moon, holidays, and other events you may care about. To subscribe to one or more of these calendars, click on the plus-sign icon (+) next to Other Calendars in the Calendars box. Then go to the Browse Calendars tab, and choose from among numerous calendars maintained by Google. Or go to the Search Public Calendars tab, and type in search terms (such as

movie releases
) to find matching calendars. When you find a calendar on either tab that you want to use, click on Add Calendar.

Try Cell Phone Notification By default, when you’re logged in to Google Calendar, reminders of upcoming events pop right up on your screen. You can also choose to have reminders e-mailed to you or SMS notifications sent to your cell phone.

To set this up, click on the Settings link at the top of the page, and go to the Mobile Setup tab. Enter your cell phone number in the Phone Number field, choose your carrier from the list, and click on Send Verification Code. Calendar will send you an SMS message containing a numeric code. Enter that code in the Verification Code field and click on Finish Setup. Verify that the SMS Event Reminders option is selected, and click on Save. From now on, you’ll get SMS reminders of upcoming events (ten minutes ahead of time).

Is it for you?

Google Calendar has most of the major features found in high-end corporate scheduling systems, but its interface is as understandable as iCal’s. So it makes for a fine all-purpose calendar program. If you need to share calendar information with others, Calendar gives you a great deal of flexibility. And unlike iCal, it can remind you of upcoming events even when your computer is turned off.

Still, cell phone notification notwithstanding, Calendar isn’t the best place to keep your schedule if you spend a lot of time disconnected from the Internet.

[ Joe Kissell is the senior editor of TidBits and the author of Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups (Peachpit Press, 2007). ]

Fast Scheduling: Using the Quick Add field, you can add an event to your calendar without having to fill out a whole form.
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