Set iCal default alarms well in advance

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One of the new features in the OS X 10.5 version of iCal is the ability to add a default alarm when you create a new event. Since I almost always want to be reminded of upcoming events in iCal, this is a real timesaver. You’ll find this setting in iCal’s preferences, on the General tab—it’s disabled by default, so just check the box next to ‘Add a default alarm to all new events and invitations’ to enable it. By default, it’s set to 15 minutes, though you can change this by simply typing a new value in the box.

Now, this may be quite obvious to many of you, but it wasn’t to me…what if you’d like to be reminded further a day or two in advance, instead of some number of minutes? It turns out you can enter large numbers of minutes in the input box, even though there’s not room to display them all. So if you’d like to be reminded—by default—one day before events, just enter 1440. Two days would be 2880, three would be 4320, and so on.

While the value may look ugly in the preferences area, it works fine in practice. If you set the value to 1440, for instance, and then create a new event, you’ll see that the default alarm is set to “1 days before”—and don’t blame me for the combination of a single day and the plural form of the noun, as that’s how Apple writes it! Enter 2880 minutes, and you’ll see the more-grammatically-correct “2 days before” (though the purist in me wants to see “two” instead of “2”) when creating a new event.

While it would be nice if there were a days/minutes pop-up in the iCal preferences to make this adjustment more easily, at least the program knows what to do when you enter large values for minutes.

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