Google Apps RingTo stay organised calendars are a very important tool. I have tried all sorts of calendars over the years but have always found issues trying to keep different computers in sync with each other let alone other devices like mobile phones.

The only way I have found to get around this is to use Google Calendars. They are available pretty much anywhere, as they are web based as so available from any browser on any computer, but even better they can be made available offline on your computer(s) as well as devices such as the iPhone or iPad (both of which I pretty much rely on for day to day use now).

Another advantage is that you can easily make calendars available to other individuals or even set up a public calendar to share with the world. You can also include calendars other people have shared in with your Google Calendars. A great example of this is the Rugby World Cup 2011 Fixture Calendar.

To get the best use of these calendars though there are a few things that may not be obvious so I will try and go into them in a bit more detail below.

Setting Up Your Calendars

To make use of the calendar application you need to have a Google log in. If you use Gmail or other Google applications then you might already have one, otherwise you may have to set one up. You can use your current email address or you can set up a Gmail account and use that address, it’s up to you.

If you go to Google there is a button in the top right to sign in. If you already have a log in then use it now. Otherwise click on the create an account for free link and then just go through the simple form to sign up.

Once logged in you can get to the Calendar section using the more menu option at the top of the main Google search page. You may have to sign up for the application on the first use I’m not sure as I’ve been using it for a long time now. Then you can get straight to adding events into you new calendar!

The calendar application has advanced a lot over a period of time and now resembles a complete desktop application with a good choice of views and easy entry of new events.

Holidays are probably something you want to add so on the left hand side there is an Other Calendars section. This has a little drop down icon next to it which pops up a menu when pressed. If you then Brose Interesting Calendars you should be able to find the holiday calendar for whichever Countries you are interested in. From here you can also add in calendars shared by other people.

Sharing A Calendar

If you want to share a calendar then simply move your mouse over the calendar in question and click the drop down icon that appears. This will give you the option to Share this Calendar.

From here you have the option to make the calendar public, allowing anyone to see your schedule, or share with specific individuals using their email address. You can even restrict their access allowing then to only see your free/busy status, the actual calendar events or even allow them to make changes to the calendar.

Accessing Calendars On iPhone or iPad

Now you have all of the calendars set up how do you get access to them on your iOS device?

This is one of the not so well documented areas.

The first thing to do is to go to the iPhone Sync Settings or you can copy and paste the address https://www.google.com/calendar/iphoneselect into your browser of choice. I’m not even sure how you find this from within the calendar application so it’s easiest to just go directly to the link.

From here you can select which calendars you want to make available to your iOS devices. You can select which ones are actually displayed on the device itself later.

Next you have to connect to your Google account from your iPhone (or iPad, the process is exactly the same). To do this simply follow these steps:

  1. Open up the Settings app.
  2. Select the Mail, Contacts, Calendars item from the list.
  3. Select Other from the list of account options.
  4. Select the Add CalDAV Account from the Calendars section.
  5. Enter www.google.com as the Server.
  6. Enter your Google account log in details in the User Name and Password fields.
  7. Enter a suitable name in the Description field. e.g. Google Calendars.
  8. Press the Next button at the top right to complete the set up.
  9. Open the Calendar app and your calendars should get pulled in automatically.

You can select which calendars are visible on the device simply by pressing the Calendars button at the top left of the screen.

Calendars On Your Computer

You can gain access to your calendars from your desktop without the need for constant access to the internet. To do this you will need some kind of calendaring application. I use the built in iCal application for the Mac and the Lightning add-on for Thunderbird on my Windows PC.

There is also the standalone Sunbird application which is pretty much the same as Lightning but in it’s own application rather than combined with email. As this is basically identical you should be able to follow the steps for Thunderbird & Lightning below.

So here are the steps you will need to take to get access to your calendars from your desktop. Once the calendar is loaded it will then be available even if you are not connected to the internet and any changes will be updated when you next connect.

Thunderbird & Lightning

Double-click in the space below the Calendar section, which appears on the left of the calendar view in Thunderbird. (If you cannot see any space below the calendars then simply right-click on one of the existing calendars and select New Calendar.)

This will bring up the Create New Calendar wizard. There are two possible ways to set up your calendar. If you are setting up a calendar that is purely read only then you can simply use the iCalendar format but if you want to be able to make changes then you should set use CalDAV format.

Here are the steps for each method.

Read Only Calendar

  1. Select On the Network as the actual calendars are stored online.
  2. Select a format of iCalendar (ICS).
  3. Open up Google calendar in your browser.
  4. Move your mouse over the calendar you want to add and press the drop down icon and select the Calendar settings option.
  5. Press the ICAL button in either the Private section if the calendar belongs to you or the Calendar Address section if the calendar is public.
  6. Copy the full web address shown.
  7. Go back to the Thunderbird wizard and then paste the address into the Location field.
  8. Click Next and enter a suitable name and select a colour for the events.
  9. When the calendar tries to get the information from Google you will be prompted for your user and password, which can be stored to avoid having to keep re-entering them.

Writable Calendar

  1. Select On the Network as the actual calendars are stored online.
  2. Select a format of CalDAV.
  3. Copy and paste this string into the Location field: https://www.google.com/calendar/dav/(Calendar ID)/events
  4. Open up Google calendar in your browser.
  5. Move your mouse over the calendar you want to add and press the drop down icon and select the Calendar settings option.
  6. Copy the Calendar ID from the Private section. This may a simple email address or may be of the format xxxxx@group.calendar.google.com.
  7. Go back to the Thunderbird wizard and paste the ID over the (Calendar ID) string in the Location field.
  8. Click Next and enter a suitable name and select a colour for the events.
  9. When the calendar tries to get the information from Google you will be prompted for your user and password, which can be stored to avoid having to keep re-entering them.

iCal

Lastly here is the setup for iCal on the Mac. Open up the iCal application from the Dock or Applications folder. Then run through these simple steps to access your Google calendars:

  1. Drop down the iCal menu and select the Preferences… option.
  2. Select the Accounts tab.
  3. Press the + option in the bottom left to add a new account.
  4. Set the Account Type to Google.
  5. Enter your Google account details in the Email address and Password fields.
  6. Press the Create button.
  7. Switch to the Delegation tab on the right hand section to select which calendar are visible.

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