Mountain Lion's Calendar: Your questions answered

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Today’s Calendar application is more than a simple date book. With it you can view your life’s doings in multiple ways, enter events in nearly natural language, receive alerts to events by unexpected means, and add multiple bits of information to your events. Not everything about OS X's Calendar app is obvious, however. Here are answers to some of the questions I hear the most.

Q: What's the quickest way to create events?

A: In Lion’s iCal and in Mountain Lion’s Calendar, one quick way to create an event is to press Command-N or click the plus-sign (+) button at the top of the window. In the resulting Create Quick Event field, enter something like Brunch w/ Claire March 17 11 AM and press Return. This instruction creates an event for that date at 11 a.m.

Press Command-N to quickly create an event entry in Calendar.

This same kind of intelligence goes to work when you want to create an event in Month view. Double-click a date to create a new event, and enter Meet Dan for lunch. The event will be created for noon. If you enter dinner instead of lunch, the event will be set for 8 p.m. And of course, you can spell out a specific time if you wish: Meet Dan at 3 PM. This saves you the trouble of calling up the event editing window (by selecting File > New Event or by pressing Command-E) to make time adjustments.

Q: Help, I hate the default alerts for Calendar! How can I turn them off?

A: By default, Calendar alerts you to all-day events and birthdays at 9 a.m. on the day before the event. Single events don’t automatically trigger an alert; instead, you’ll receive an alert only if you’ve previously opened an event’s edit window and configured an alert.

You can configure how and whether these alerts appear. To do so, choose Calendar > Preferences and click the Alerts tab. Here you can choose how alerts work with single events, all-day events, and birthdays. If you set these options to None, you should see no alerts. In addition, you can limit your revised alert settings to the computer you’re currently working with, by checking the box next to Use these default alerts on only this computer. (Otherwise the settings will be used with other devices synced to your iCloud account.)

You can control how alerts work in Calendar's preferences. 

Unfortunately, even if you configure every variety of event not to issue an alert, an alert may still appear on your computer or your synced iOS devices. On some peoples' computers and devices, a bug seems to be preventing these settings from sticking.

Q: I'm not seeing any Calendar alerts on my Mac, even if I set them. Did I mess something up?

A: Under Mountain Lion, event notifications may seem a little more complicated because the settings you configure in the Notifications system preference have a direct effect on whether and how you see Calendar notifications. If you launch System Preferences, choose Notifications, choose Calendar, and then select None as the calendar alert style, you’ll see no banners or alerts for your events—even if you manually created an alert within an event’s edit window. The event will appear in Notification Center on your Mac and a sound will play if you’ve created an audio alert, but no separate alert window will pop up.

If an alert is attached to an event in your iCloud account, any devices synced with your account will display alerts based on their notification settings. So, for example, although you won’t see an alert on your Mac (because you switched off alerts within the Notifications preference), you will see the alert on your iPad if you’ve left Calendar alerts switched on within the iPad’s Notifications settings.

Q: I haven’t found the perfect view in Calendar—a week doesn’t display enough events and Month view shows too many. Can I configure something in between?

A: You can. In Lion, you could access hidden iCal settings by enabling iCal's Debug menu. To do this, you’d launch Terminal (in your Applications/Utilities folder) and enter defaults write IncludeDebugMenu YES  and press Return. One such settings option involved changing the number of days you would see in the Week view. In Mountain Lion, you can't invoke a Debug menu, but there’s another way to make this kind of change.

Launch Terminal and, for a 14-day week, enter defaults write CalUIDebugDefaultDaysInWeekView 14 and press Return. When you next refresh the Week view you should see this number of days displayed. You can substitute 21 or 28 for 14 if you want an even broader view. If you ever need to change back, go to Calendar > Preferences and in the General tab choose 5 or 7 from the Days Per Week pop-up menu. If you choose 5, Saturday and Sunday will disappear from the Week view.

Q: I'm constantly receiving invitations to events via email. Are there any shortcuts for creating events from email messages?

A: Suppose that you’ve received an email message containing text that reads “Let’s meet on Wednesday.” You could certainly switch to iCal or Calendar and create a new event for that important date, but here's a quicker way: Highlight the important bit of text and drag it to a date in iCal or Calendar. The text string will become the name of your event. Then press Command-E, and fill in details in the editing window as necessary.

If you're looking for more shortcuts, you can attach various items to the editing window by dragging and dropping. For example, drag a file into the window, and it will be added as an attachment. Drag a text file to the Note area, and it will be attached as a note. Drag a contact from Contacts/Address Book, and that person will be added as an invitee. Drag a URL from your Web browser to the window, and it will be added to the URL field.

Similarly, you can drag selected text into a contact’s Note field to add that text.

Updated 10/11/2012 8:00 PM to substitute more reliable Terminal command for changing number of days in Week view.

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