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Finding Your Way Around Calendar's Hidden Features


Apple introduced iCal in September, 2002. It came with the Mac and allowed users to make a virtual calendar instead of one that was pinned on their office or home wall. Everyone loved the idea, and every update to OS X has brought something new to the app. iCloud has been used as a sync service with iOS devices and other Macs since 10.7 Lion, and the most recent update, 10.8 Mountain Lion, added Notification Center support, search suggestions, a new date picker, and more. There’s still more in the now-renamed Calendar app than meets the eye though. Let’s go over some of the ten-year-old app's more covert features.

There’s Not Just One Calendar

Most people think that Calendar has no options for an additional agenda, like one for work or a home project that takes some time to get done. However, you can add as many of these as you’d like, the method of doing so is just concealed.

Users don’t know these are here because Apple hides them away in a side menu. Instead of a + button like the one for adding events, you have to click the Calendar's button in the top right corner, right-click the white space below items you already have in there, and click New Calendar. The new creation starts out named "Untitled," but you can give it whatever heading you'd like.

Adding a new calendar is easy.
Adding a new calendar is easy.

Each calendar is color-coded to help you remember which is which when browsing your tasks. If you’re unhappy with the random color that Calendar chose for you when you first created the datebook, right click it, click "Get Info," and select one of the seven colors from the drop-down menu to the right.

The “Other…” button will let give you the ability to select another color using OS X's Color Picker. While you’re in this screen, you can also add a description to the calendar, tell the app not to alert you for events added to it, and make all events added to it affect whether you're free or busy.

Tip: Share a calendar by hovering over it and clicking the transmitter icon. You can then send it to a contact or a specific email address for their viewing. There’s also a Public Calendar box if you want to send a few people the link.

Using the Get Info pane to edit an existing calendar.
Using the Get Info pane to edit an existing calendar.

To set a main calendar — since you probably have a few now that you know how to add them — head to Preferences, click the General tab, and select one from the Default Calendar menu. All events added to the calendar will then use that, unless you change it to something else in the "Get Info" pane.

Unfortunately, there's no way to make events at a certain time become assigned to one calendar and not the default one. Maybe that'll show up in a future release.

Quickly Add Events by Clicking Twice

Double-click an event to edit it faster.
Double-click an event to edit it faster.

Double-clicking is used in many areas of the Mac, but not as many as Windows. In Microsoft’s operating system, opening an application used to take two clicks instead of one. In Calendar, Apple integrated double-clicking well for a single task: quickly create a new event. You can double-click any day of the month (when in that view) to add an event to it. A name can be added to this new event and once you’re finished, you can even drag it to another day if you’ve rescheduled.

To edit an event, just double-click it as well. A small pop-up will appear with an "Edit" and "Done" button. Click "Edit" to change everything about the event. This is a perfect alternative to right-clicking the event and clicking "Get Info" because it’s not a separate window and feels more connected to the app you’re using. When you’re finished, just click done and click anywhere else on the screen to exit.

Change the Day the Week Starts On and the Time a Day Starts

Are you tired of seeing Sunday as the first day of the week, all the way to the left of the calendar? You can change that in the "General" pane of Preferences. And instead of the usual Sunday or Monday, you can make any day the first day of the week, in case you’re accustomed to such things as new-week-Wednesday.

Likewise, there’s an option to change what time a day starts and ends. This will vary depending on when you wake up and the meaning of its existence is to help you organize your day better. It’s mainly for work calendars though.

Selecting when the day starts in the General tab.
Selecting when the day starts in Preferences' General tab.

Lastly, you can customize how many days are in the week; the options are five and seven. The only problem here is that there’s no way to make this appear on certain calendars and not others. Why would you want it? Well, work weeks are generally five days and a person’s regular week is seven. Separating the two would be useful.

Time Zone Settings for Travelers

Changing the time zone to accommodate something new.
Changing the time zone to accommodate something new.

If you travel the world, getting your events to appear in the correct time zone can sometimes be difficult. After all, you may want to keep your computer set to your home time zone and set your calendar to another. If you work for a company that’s international, it’s also something that comes in handy. Calendar has a setting to turn on this feature in the "Advanced" tab of Preferences titled, “Turn on time zone support”. You can then select whichever setting you want to use with the drop-down menu in the top right of Calendar.

The Advanced tab of Preferences.
The Advanced tab of Preferences.

While I’m on the topic of the "Advanced" tab, there are a few other interesting features in here. First is the week numbers setting which, when enabled, shows the number of the week beside its first day. There’s also an option to automatically open all CalDAV invitations from Apple’s Mail app, which is beneficial if you get a lot of these.

Other Tips?

You’ve read the little things that I’ve gathered about Calendar, but do you have any? Whether it’s something you’ve stumbled upon on the Internet or even a tweak you’ve been using to improve the experience of Apple’s app, we’d like to hear about it. Leave a comment below telling us about your experience with Calendar.

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