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Google Calendar was likely the second Google app you tried, right after Gmail, when you got your first Google account. With a history dating back to 2006, one that's overshadowed by Gmail and Google's other apps, it's easy to overlook Google Calendar's deep set of features.
Even though it appears to just be a basic calendar app at first glance, Google Calendar has the features you need to manage almost any calendar needs. In this article, you'll find 30 tips and tricks to customize the app and make it work for your needs. Whether you're wrangling an international business spanning multiple time zones, or just need a better way to track events with friends and family, here's how you can use Google Calendar to manage all that and more.
One of the best ways to spruce up your calendar is to add a touch of color. You can add color to your calendars with one of the 24 Google Calendar colors or mix your own. Varying their colors can help you to differentiate your calendars at a glance, making important events stand out. If a single color for each calendar isn't enough, you can also add colors to individual events on the Edit Event page.
You may not always need or want every calendar to be visible, especially if you've been added to several colleagues' calendars. To cut through the clutter, click the name of the calendar you wish to hide. Its name will remain in the list, but the events will no longer appear in the main calendar view. To bring the calendar back, just click its name in the list again.
If you've set your location in your Google Calendar settings, your calendar can display your weather for the next several days. In Settings–which you'll find clicking the cog in the upper right–select a setting for your weather information, either Celsius or Fahrenheit, and Google Calendar will create a customized weather calendar. Get an idea of the forecast with a quick look at the weather icons, or click an icon to get more details.
Some of Google Calendar's best settings are hidden inside Labs, the part of Google's apps where it puts experimental features. To find these features, select Labs after clicking the Settings cog, and there you'll find a number of extra features–including the Background Image feature.
Activate the Calendar Background Image feature in Labs, then go back to settings and you'll find the newly added Calendar Background setting. Add an image here, either by choosing an image from your albums or uploading a new image, and choose how your image will be displayed. Once you've saved your changes, return to your calendar to see your background image.
Get a listing of your next several meetings and events by clicking Agenda in the upper right of your calendar. Depending on how many events you have upcoming, you may see just today or all of the events for the next several days.
The Agenda view is a simplified view that's quickly actionable. It gives you quick access to some details about each event, including when and where the event is and who created the event. Quickly add an event-specific color here, or click for more details or to edit the event.
Sometimes the default month, week, and day views aren't detailed enough, and you need to focus on a specific period of time. To spotlight a range of dates, click and drag on the dates you want to select in the mini calendar on the upper left. Concentrate on just a couple of weeks, or keep dragging to pull in dates from the preceding or following months. Move your selection by clicking any date outside the selection box; click one of the default views in the upper right to clear the selection.
Professionals who only use Google Calendar for work may find they don't need to see a whole month at a time, or even a 7-day week. In Settings, you can set the default view to Week, and toggle Show Weekends off. When you've saved and returned to your calendar, you'll see only Monday-Friday for the current week displayed. This view may give you a better idea of what you have going on at work, with less clutter to distract you.
It's unlikely you're getting a lot done at 3 A.M., and if you are, it's likely due more to insomnia than any scheduled event. If you find you're not creating many meetings before 7 A.M. or after 6 P.M., Google Calendar can hide those hours–or any range of time you like–highlighting instead the hours when you've actually got something to do.
In Labs, enable Hide Morning and Night, then save your changes and open Google Calendar's Day View. You'll now see a slider on the left. Drag the slider up or down to hide a time range in the early morning, and find a matching slider at the bottom of your calendar day to hide late evening. Once you've abridged your calendar, you can expand mornings and nights by clicking the hidden time range.
This is another Labs setting that sets you up to view your entire year at once. Year View displays the entire year in a grid, allowing you to navigate to a future date quickly. This is particularly useful if you need to know dates like the third Wednesday in June or which months have five Fridays.
If you follow another calendar system, like the Chinese or Hebrew calendar, you can add that information to your main calendar. In settings, look for Alternate Calendar. Choose your calendar and save to return to the main calendar. You'll notice that the date from your newly added calendar is displayed alongside the Google standard date.
If you're not in the Google Calendar app, you can still add an event from a Google search page. You can even go straight to the address bar omnibox and skip the Google search page if your default search engine is already Google.
Just write a similar statement to what you would enter into the Quick Add box back in Google Calendar, like "Lunch with Wade at 11:30," but preface your event information with "make an appointment to." Enter that into Google search, and at the top of your search results will be a Create Event box with your event details. Click that button to add your event to Google Calendar.
Too busy even to type? Use Google's voice search to add a new event. If you have OK Google enabled in Chrome (you can enable it by visiting Chrome's Advanced Settings), all you have to do is say "OK Google" with a search page open and then speak your event information. Or, if you don't have OK Google enabled, just click the microphone in the Google Search box.
Now, just speak aloud the event details you'd otherwise type into a Quick Add window, and then add your event from Google's search results.
While clicking Create in the upper left corner of Google Calendar may seem like the most obvious way to compose a new event, there are a couple of simpler ways to make it happen. Start with Quick Add, found by clicking the caret next to Create.
Click that caret, then start typing your event details in the new text box that appears to quickly create a new event. Focus on who, what, when, and where: Who the event is with, what are you doing, where is it happening, and–most importantly for your calendar–when is all of this going down. Google Calendar will create a new event, and you can edit it later if you need to add more details.
You can open up a similar Quick Add window by clicking on any date on your calendar. As before, focus on writing the important elements, such as time and place. You can even create a recurring event by adding a phrase like "every Friday" to your text.
Your tasks, projects, events, and more often live in other apps. Even if you check your Google Calendar each day for the things you need to do, you still might be missing stuff. Zapier's Google Calendar integration can help out here. You can let any of your other apps—your event tools, notes apps, project management boards, and more—automatically add events to Google Calendar. Just select the app you need as the trigger, then use Google Calendar as the action. You can even use Gmail to add events based on your emails automatically.
Then, you can use Quick Add to add the event with just a line of text, as above, or use the detailed event settings to add everything you need. Here's some integrations to help you get started, or feel free to make your own Google Calendar integrations in Zapier with your own favorite apps.
To keep up with your todos inside Google Calendar, click the Tasks calendar on the calendar list on the left, and then you'll see a new sidebar on the right with a list of your tasks. Here you can type in todos, then click the arrow beside them to choose a date and add your todo to a list in Tasks. While Tasks doesn't require each task have a deadline, all task with a date attached will appear in your calendar.
Even if you don't keep your task list visible, you can still add a task by clicking anywhere on your calendar and selecting Task rather than Event at the top of the Quick Add window. Just be aware that any tasks you create this way will only be visible if your Tasks calendar is also visible.
If you get a ton of email event invites, it can be a chore opening all of those emails and responding to the requests. Gmail cuts down on the work, though, by allowing you to RSVP to an event right from your inbox. New invitations will have an RSVP dropdown; just click that and let the event organizer know if you'll be attending. All "yes" and "maybe" responses will automatically be added to your default calendar.
I long ago decided it wasn't worth it to manually add every holiday to my calendar, but not knowing when Passover or Father's Day were going to land each year was a real problem. Luckily, Google Calendar has that covered with Interesting Calendars, a huge assortment of public calendars that cover just about any holiday and more.
Click the caret next to Other Calendars, select Browse Interesting Calendars, and then find the calendar for your country's holidays. Once you've subscribed, return to your calendar to find all the holidays added to your year. If it all becomes a bit too much and you need to hide your holiday calendar temporarily, toggle it off or on in the Other Calendars list.
You'll find that Interesting Calendars offers a lot more than just holidays. There are calendars for half a dozen major sports and teams all over the world. Find your team, and subscribe to be kept up to date on their match times and scores. If sports aren't your thing, there are a handful of other calendars, including moon phase, stardates, and more.
Users with paid Google Apps accounts (hint: if your Gmail address doesn't end in "@gmail.com", and you're using it at your company, you're probably using Google Apps) can go a step further and block off time when they are always unavailable. Find Working Hours in Settings and set the days and times you are available. Once saved, anyone who tries to schedule a meeting with you outside of your working hours will receive a notice that you're unavailable. Your contact can then choose another time during your working hours or disregard the warning and use the same meeting time.
Again, this is only available for Google Apps users, but there is a workaround for everyone else. Just create an event titled "Closed" or something similar for the hours you're unavailable, mark your availability as Busy on the Edit Event page, and set the event to repeat outside of your working hours. This is a cumbersome fix and may clutter your calendar, but if you've hidden early morning and late night hours as described above, you may never even see the event.
Sure, it's great to know the date for Thanksgiving or whether the Fourth of July falls on a weekend, but it's also important to know when your international colleagues are going to be out of the office. If you coordinate with your company's China branch or collaborate often with a friend in England, it's a good idea to stay on top of their holidays, too. Just as you can add holidays for your country in Interesting Calendars, it's not a bad idea to add holiday calendars for other countries if closed foreign offices will affect your business.
Wondering why your traveling colleague isn't answering emails or text, only to find it's midnight where she is? The Google Calendar World Clock, found in Labs, has you covered. The clock widget will appear to the right of your calendar, and you can choose which clocks to use in the World Clock settings.
You can adjust Google Calendar so that it's working in your time zone, but you can also add additional time zones to your calendar. This is especially useful if you live in one time zone but need to coordinate with a colleague in another time zone. An additional time zone won't affect how your own events and notifications work, but it will allow you to set a specific time zone for events like conference calls or video chats so that everyone invited knows when to be available.
Google Calendar provides a number of keyboard shortcuts to make quick event creation and editing simple. Enable keyboard shortcuts in Settings, and click Learn More for a full list. You can jump among days, switch your calendar view, and more, all without taking your hands off of your keyboard. Be sure to check the list of keyboard shortcuts to find the ones you'll use the most.
Use the search field at the top of your calendar to find any event in any calendar. Your search can be as specific or broad as you like, and Google will provide results from its other apps, including Drive and Gmail, beneath the calendar results.
If you're not getting the results you need with the simple search, click the caret in the far right of the search field to start an advanced search. There are fields for the basics of an event–who, what, and where–and you can specify a date range to narrow your results further. You can even search a single calendar, making it a lot easier to track down that one event you're looking for.
Control your default event notifications in a calendar's settings by selecting the caret next to your calendar's title. Set pop-ups to appear or send yourself an email to remind yourself of an upcoming event. You can set multiple default notifications in each calendar, but you can also set up notifications from the edit event window in case a special occasion requires a little more notice.
Or, you can use Zapier to send you an alert in the app of your choice whenever you'd like: your email inbox, a team chat app like Slack, with a notifications tool like Twilio or Pushbullet, or anywhere else you want.
Or, if you'd rather stay notified on the go, you can add your phone number to Google Calendar to let it send your SMS messages. In the Mobile Setup section of Google Calendar's settings, you can add your cell phone number—and you'll find that most countries and carriers are already supported. Once you've verified your number, you can then pick which notifications you'd like to receive via SMS or email—or both. That way, you can know what meetings are coming up next, even if you don't have a smartphone.
If you're still having trouble making it to your meetings on time, enable Next Meeting in Labs to create a countdown to your next event. The countdown appears to the right of the calendar and give you some details about the event in addition to how much time you've got to get there. If you find you're always losing track of time and your boss is beginning to notice your tardiness, this Labs widget can be a godsend.
You can't always make it to an event you created and need to set a new point person. Transferring event ownership solves the issue, allowing you to set another person as an event owner.
To transfer ownership of an event, go to the Edit screen for the event, and select Change Owner from the Calendar menu. Simply transferring ownership of an event doesn't remove you from the list of attendees, though, so you can still attend even if you're no longer managing the event.
If your internet connection is inconsistent, it's essential that all of your online productivity tools work offline, too. Like the rest of Google's products, Google Calendar doesn't give you offline access by default, and leaves the choice up to you. If you're using Google Chrome, just click the cog in the top right of Google Calendar and select Offline from the menu to turn offline syncing on.
Only your default calendar will sync for now, and it may take a while for the process to complete. To sync your other calendars offline, go to Settings and choose the Offline tab. Select all of the calendars you wish to access offline. Check the status of offline syncing my clicking the Settings cog and choosing offline. You won't be able to turn off offline syncing once it's started, but as soon as the process has completed, you can disable offline access again.
You may already have a family calendar hanging in your kitchen, marked up with important dates and football practice times, but it makes sense to keep a copy of all of those meetings and events where you can access it anywhere. A family calendar that only one person can see or edit isn't a lot of use, though, and that's where calendar sharing comes in.
To share a calendar, hover over the calendar's name in the left sidebar and click on the caret to access the Share This Calendar option. From there you can add people to your calendar by email address. There are a few different permission settings, including view only and event editing, so you can control who can do what with your calendar.
You can make your calendar available to a colleague just as you would to your family, but what if you want access to your colleague's calendar? Under Other Calendars, enter your colleague's email address. Google Calendar will send her an email asking for permission to access her calendar. If she agrees, her calendar will appear in your list. Don't worry, you can toggle its visibility on and off in you need to free up some calendar space.
Communicate important dates and information to customers or clients with a public calendar. When creating a new calendar, there's a checkbox to make it public, but if you want to change the visibility of a previously private calendar, look in a calendar's sharing settings.
Now that your calendar is public, you need to make it accessible. In the Calendar Details tab of your calendar's settings, scroll to the bottom to find your calendar's address. Simply share this address or link it on your website to allow users to view it. Be careful with this one, though, because any public calendar is visible in Google searches. Only make a calendar public if you're sure it contains no personal information.
From tweaking the way your calendar looks to making sure that you see the most important events—and only those—these tips should help you get Google Calendar working the way you want. But we might have missed your favorite calendar tip. If so, be sure to share it in the comments below!
Credits: Lego calendar photo from keso via Flickr.
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