Use Google Calendar. Internet Organization Was Never Easier

What Is Google Calendar?

Google Calendar
Screen Capture by Marziah Karch

Google Calendar is a free web and mobile calendar that lets you keep track of your own events and share your calendars with others. It's the ideal tool for managing personal and professional schedules. It is both simple to use and very powerful.

If you have a Google account, you have access to Google Calendar. You just need to go to calendar.google.com or open the Calendar app on your Android phone in order to use it.

 

The Google Calendar Web Interface

Google Calendar's interface is everything you'd expect from Google. It is simple, with Google's characteristic pastel blues and yellows, but it hides a lot of powerful features.

Quickly jump to different sections of your calendar by clicking on a date. On the upper right corner, there are tabs to switch between day, week, month, the next four days, and agenda views. The main area shows the current view.

The top of the screen has links to other Google services you've registered for, so you could schedule an event and check the related spreadsheet in Google Drive or fire off a quick email from Gmail.

The left side of the screen lets you manage shared calendars and contacts, and the top of the screen offers a Google search of your calendars, so you can quickly find events by keyword search.

Adding Events

To add an event, you just need to click on a day in month view or an hour in day or week views.

A dialog box points to the day or time and lets you quickly schedule the event. Or you can click on the more details link and add more details. You can also add events from text links on the left.

You can also import a whole calendar full of events at once from your Outlook, iCal, or Yahoo! calendar.

Google Calendar doesn't sync directly with software like Outlook or iCal, so you'll have to keep importing events if you use both tools. This is unfortunate, but there are third-party tools that sync between the calendars.

Multiple Calendars

Rather than making categories for events, you can make multiple calendars. Each calendar is accessible within the common interface, but each one can have different management settings. This way you could make a calendar for work, a calendar for home, and a calendar for your local bridge club without these worlds colliding.

Events from all your visible calendars will show in the main calendar view. However, you can color code these to avoid confusion.

Sharing Calendars

This is where Google Calendar really shines. You can share your calendar with others, and Google gives you a great amount of control over this.

You can make calendars completely public. This would work well for organizations or education institutions. Anyone can add a public calendar to their calendar and view all the dates on it.

You can share calendars with specific individuals, such as friends, family, or coworkers. This is easiest if you use Gmail, because Gmail auto-completes the email address of contacts as you type it.

However, you don't have to have a Gmail address to send invitations.

You can choose to share only times when you're busy, share read-only access to event details, share the ability to edit events on your calendar, or share the ability to manage your calendar and invite others.

This means your boss may get to see your work calendar, but not your personal calendar. Or perhaps the  bridge club members could see and edit bridge dates, and they could tell when you were busy on your personal calendar without seeing any details.

Reminders 

One of the problems with an Internet calendar is that it's on the Web, and you may be too busy to check.

Google Calendar can send you reminders of events. You can get reminders as emails or even as text messages to your cell phone.

When you schedule events, you can send an email to the attendees to invite them to attend, much like you can with Microsoft Outlook. The email contains the event in .ics format, so they can import the details into iCal, Outlook, or other calendar tools.

Calendar on Your Phone

If you have a compatible cell phone, you can view calendars and even add events from your cell phone. This means you don't have to carry a separate organizer to events that will be within cell-phone range. The interface for viewing and interacting with calendar events on your Android phone is different than it is for viewing than it is on the web, but it should be. 

When using your phone, you can also schedule events using Google Now. 

Integration With Other Services

Gmail messages detect events in messages and offer to schedule those events on Google Calendar.

With a little technical know-how, you can publish public calendars to your Web site, so that even people without Google Calendar can read your events. Google Calendar is also available as part of Google Apps for Business.

The Bottom Line

If you're not using Google Calendar, you probably should be. Google has obviously put a great deal of thought into Google Calendar, and it behaves like a tool written by people who actually use it. This calendar makes scheduling tasks so easy, you'll wonder what you did without it.