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I'll let you in on a little secret: I really like iCloud. It's certainly had its fair share of niggles and gremlins during its time but, overall, iCloud has been a really well-done service.
There are two features that I use on a daily basis that have been not only easy to use but pretty much indispensable, Calendars and Reminders. You may not realise it but there's a lot more these two services, within iCloud, can do than simply remind you of a dentist appointment or to pick up some milk on the way home.
In this tutorial, I'll show you what iCloud's calendars and reminders can do and how you can collaborate with other users to get the most from iCloud.
If you're a frequent iCloud user then you'll likely have used iCloud's calendar service at some point or another. When using iCloud with a Mac and iPhone, for example, you can make sure that any events you add on either device (or even through the iCloud website) are available across all devices immediately.
You'll likely already know how to add events and, more importantly, how a calendar works. What this tutorial will explain are some of the more underused or lesser-known features of iCloud's calendar service.
An often overlooked feature of iCloud's calendar service is that you can have multiple calendars, not just the two it creates called Home and Work. These can even be renamed to something more appropriate.
Adding additional calendars can be very useful so each calendar can be used for a particular task, such as managing a sports team. This keeps events separated so that a team schedule doesn't need to be mixed in with your personal events.
You can add calendars either using the Calendars app on your Mac or through iCloud's website. Using your Mac, simple click File > New Calendar and select iCloud as the location you'd like to create the new calendar.
You can then name the calendar whatever you wish and if you'd like to change the colour of the calendar, or add a description, simply right-click and select Get Info.
Adding events into our calendar for things like dentist appointments, sports events or movie times is usually the de facto way many of us would use to keep track of upcoming appointments that we need to attend. There are times when it would be beneficial for other people to also have access to our entire schedule, not just individual events. A perfect example of this would be someone our recently created Sports Team calendar. It would be great if we could share this calendar with the rest of the team so that they will always know when their next game is.
iCloud supports some great sharing features, allowing iCloud users to share their entire calendar rather than simply emailing individual events.
iCloud calendars can be shared with other iCloud users that provides them with full read and write access, almost as though it was their own calendar. Other iCloud users we share the calendar with in this way will be able to add new events, change existing ones and even delete as necessary. For our sports team, this would be ideal if we're sharing the duties of scheduling practice or finding out when the next game is.
We can also share an iCloud calendar with read-only access, known as a Calendar Subscription, so that anyone you provide the link to can see your calendar but can not make changes. This is probably the best method if you're only wanting others to view the information on the calendar but wouldn't want someone to accidentally delete an event or change the time of one. A benefit of this method is that we can share it to anyone, regardless of whether they themselves use iCloud.
Sharing to Other iCloud Users
To share a calendar, simply hover the cursor above the calendar's name and you'll see a small icon appear to the right that provides access to the sharing settings. You can more easily access these by right-clicking the calendar and selecting Sharing Settings….
If you'd like to share your calendar with full access, allowing other users to make changes to it, enter their iCloud email address or Apple ID here. Just like writing an email to multiple people, you can include as many people as you like. You can even amend these afterwards and remove anyone who no longer requires access to the calendar.
Once you click Done, iCloud will then notify all the recipients that they are now able to access this shared calendar. They'll receive an email and even a message will automatically appear in Calendars.
As soon as people start to join the calendar, you'll receive notifications within Calendars and there will be a green tick box next to their name within the calendar's sharing settings. People also using Calendar will also receive a notification within the app.
For read-only access, check the box that says Public Calendar and a sharing button will appear, along with a link that starts
webcal://. This link can be copied to the clipboard or you can use the sharing button to send it via email or iMessage.
If you'd like to test this read-only calendar further, here's the link to my Sports Team shared calendar - Sports Team Calendar.
Clicking the link will automatically open it in your default calendar app, likely Calendars. You can then alter how often the calendar is automatically refreshed, its colour and if you'd like to remove any events.
Very popular in the business world, calendar event invites have been around for some time yet many of us never use them. Invites allow other people who may need to attend the same meeting to be notified and the same event that is in your calendar is then created on theirs.
To invite another person and send them event information, simply add them as an invitee to an event you create in Calendar. That person will then receive a notification that they've been invited to an event.
Their name or email address will have an icon next to it to denote their status with regards to the invitation. If it's a question mark, it means they haven't yet responded. A green tick shows that the person has confirmed whilst a red prohibited symbol means they've declined the event.
Should you make any changes to the event, the invitees can be notified and their calendar event update automatically, great for rescheduling a meeting.
Helping us remember to pick up the dry cleaning and remember the milk, iCloud's Reminders has a few hidden gems of its own that are similar to what we can do with calendars.
Reminders are located in the Reminders app and to view more information about a specific reminder and amend any of its details, hover the cursor over it and then click the info button.
Remind at a location
You'll probably already know that you can set an alarm for a reminder but what you may not know is that you can be reminded when you either leave or arrive at a specific location. It's been an often-touted feature of iOS yet we can still make use of this function on the Mac.
Adding a location to reminder in iOS is simple if you're at the location since you can simply use the Current Location option. On a Mac, however, you can simply enter an address or, if you're visiting a friend whose address you have in Contacts, entering their name.
You can also specify whether to be reminded when you arrive at the location of your choosing or when departing, useful for that all important reminder when you heave the house.
Multiple Reminder Lists
Just like iCloud calendars, you're not simply limited to the list that iCloud sets up for you by default and can have multiple lists, such as one for home and one for work-related tasks.
Adding new lists is very straightforward in the Reminders app and you simply click on the + button at the bottom of the app and you can add as many reminder lists as you need.
Shared Reminder Lists
You can share reminder lists between iCloud users, allowing more than one person to add or edit reminders. I have a shared reminders list set up that both my partner and I use. If I'm at the supermarket or she's close by to the dry cleaners, we can both get things done and add new reminders as necessary.
To share a reminders list, hover the cursor over the list you'd like to share and a sharing icon will appear. Clicking this allows you to specify other iCloud users to share this list with.
iCloud's Calendars and Reminders features are very powerful and can be used way beyond simply adding events and things to remember. Sharing is a key part to some of iCloud's services and although other services such as Google offer similar features, iCloud's ease of use makes it very attractive to use, especially with users who are new to the Mac or iOS.