Making Your GOOGLE CALENDAR More Useful

For those of us whose online lives are entrenched in our Google accounts and use the offerings from Google, such as Google Drive or Calendar or Picasa, there's on obvious usefulness to these tools.

As you jump on board and start using them, you probably, much like myself, just start using them without digging too deeply. And hence, you may not give a lot of thought to if you can make them more useful to you or not. At least for me in the beginning, I reluctantly started using some of them but really did not give it much thought beyond the basics.

For me, I've had an interesting affair with my Calendar, in that it's great to have and annotate events but I've found myself the victim of a few shortcomings. Shortcomings that were more my fault than anyone else.


CREATING CALENDAR EVENTS and Making Them Stand out

First off, I think making a calendar event is pretty straight forward.

(IF you're in Agenda Mode, click on the calendar view, pick the week, month or what have you,

Quickie Entries:

-Click on the day you want to add an event,
-Type your event... like "Wife to Airport at 10am."
-Click 'Create Event.'

It knows you typed 10am and will put the event in the right slot.

In Depth, Unique Entries with Personality:

-Click on your day,
-Click 'Edit Event'

The 'Edit Event' screen has more options if you need more.
When you do a quickie entry, just typing the event and time, Google is smart enough to know where to put your event because you typed the time in the description.

In the 'Settings' field that I talk about below, you can set a default time duration. For me it's 60 minutes, and that seems like a good generic setting, unless you are nutty busy.

But under this 'Edit Event' page, you can set your event title, where (location of), add video calls, guests, choose which calendar (if you have more than one), add attachments and for me, the most useful part of this page is...

Picking the 'Event Color!'

Yep, you have 12 different colors to pick from and for me, this is pretty useful for my different categories of events. At least when you are viewing events in the modes other than 'Agenda' mode.


Once you've set your events, then you can customize how you see them and how you choose to get reminded about them.  (Which is also in the 'Edit Event' settings page.



First, we're going to be using the 'Settings' page a bit after this, so I would suggest

-opening up your calendar,
-click on the 'gear wheel' in the upper right corner,
-and choose 'Settings.'



Now that this is open, my first issue was that my default view was as a 30-day calendar page. Which is nice, but you have to look through it to see what is coming up.  Ug. And I say ug because I somehow always manage to miss seeing my dental appointments until it almost too late.  (Oh, what a coincidence, right?)

But if you like the setting as it is then there's no need to change it, but if you have the same issue I do, then maybe you want to set your default view (the view you get when you first open your calendar) to "Agenda."

That way, you see your important, upcoming stuff right away! Agenda shows up as a list, or at least, in a list-like format.

Go into your 'Settings' page and the 11th item down the page is 'Default view:' and there, you can set it to "Agenda."

Now go hit that save button up top and see what you will now see when you first open Calendar. And if you look carefully, you have not lost the traditional 30-day view, it is just not opening up first.

Ah, now I can see exactly what I have coming up and... crap, another dentist appointment!!!???  Well, at least this time I am not learning about it with just a single day's warning! Crap! I have a dentist appointment!


If you enjoy knowing the weather or it is an important aspect of your plotting and planning, you can always choose to show the weather for your location in your agenda or calendar view.

For me, I chose a centrally located city rather than my work or home or disc dog events, then chose to show weather in F. What this option does is show you the weather forecast for the next few upcoming days.

I'm not sure where Google looks to nab their weather, but it should at least give you a ballpark guess.


NOTIFICATIONS, AKA Reminders For the Mentally Challenged

Now let's say you are challenged at remembering you have events you need to check on. Right now I have my email reminders, or notifications, set to one day before the event.

As we learned about me earlier, when I want to not remember my dentist appointments, well, that's not good to get a 24-hour warning.  Technically. Because up here in the Bay Area, everyone wants to charge you for last minute changes to their appointments.

If you want to be alerted to an event earlier than the day of, you have a few options.

-Go to 'Settings,'
-In the Upper Left of your Settings screen, click 'Calendars,'
-Choose your calendar (if you have more than one)
-Click on 'Edit Notifications,' (Right side of screen)

From here you can choose how early of a notification you want.

Productivity Suggestion

Or, if you're like me, sometimes you might like being notified the night before so you don't forget what you're doing tomorrow. But if it is important enough, you can always add an event twice to your calendar.

Once on the day of the event and maybe once, a week earlier.

IE:    Today: "Go get tortured." (Code for go to dentist)
A week prior: "Torture time is one week from today."

That way you don't mess up too much with the reminders, because if the reminders are too early, you may still forget.  OK, I'll forget.

Google also provides you with the option of adding more than one reminder per event, so that you can get an email one day and seven days before an event. Which ix-nays my two-event suggestion above.

But I'm not sure I want to set that kind of early warning system for all events.  But that's up to you!


BIRTHDAYS... forget them! Or Not.

Under the 'Calendars' Settings Notifications setting is the accursed 'Birthday' settings.

Have you ever started getting birthday notifications for people you barely know or don't give a shit about? Yea, it's annoying when Google shoves everyone you've ever contacted into your calendar.

I unchecked this option and later add the birthdays of the important people I know, like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates... my wife, immediate family, into my calendar.

Besides, Facebook is pretty good at shoving incidental information down your throat, so this is not as critical here.


To Do Lists (TASKS)

If you like To-Do lists, in the Calendar on the far right side of the screen you will see a header called 'Tasks.'

This is great little place to create your online 'To-Do' list.

I hate it. It keeps me responsible about things I need to do.  (Which is code for it works good.)


There are ways to make your calendar available to yourself when you are also offline, but I am not that deep in this utility.  But if you are, here are Google's instructions for making your calendar usable under Chrome when you're offline...


You can also share your calendar.  I'm too paranoid, so I don't. I mean, it will get pretty difficult to explain a bachelor party that's in your calendar that you haven't told your wife about...  seriously!


CALENDAR LABS OR Cool Other Features

To the right of 'General' and 'Calendars' click-links at the top of this settings page is 'Labs.'

Labs are features not permanently implemented by Google, but are features sitting in this experimental feature page. And some of them are cool.

It's here that you can enable anything that looks interesting to you.

You can 'hide morning and nights,'
Enable a 'Year View,'
Set a background image,
'Jump to Date,'

And a few other options. There are not a ton of different options here, but you might find something a bit more useful to add to your calendar.

Once added, most of them will show up on the far right side of the screen in a new panel.


And that's how to help make Google Calendar slightly more useful for your personal tastes. If you use MS Outlook or the straggling and slowly sinking Yahoo email calendar services... never mind! Yahoo is sufficient but has just enough flaws that I haven't even tried to use it. MS has had its day in my court and I dodge it if and when I can.

Hope this helps!

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  1. Hey Bruce, good post :)

    One thing that I constantly here when talking to people about Google Calendar is why can't I see the calendar in 15 minute time slots.

    This has been asked for a lot in online forum group so hopefully Google will look at giving different time slot options.



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