iCal 101

Creating a New Calendar…

With iCal open, under the “File” menu, select “New Calendar”:


Name it anything you like – Meetings, Conferences, Travel, whatever. I’ll call it Lectures just so I can name it something for this tutorial.

iCal02-03finalNote, if you have never opened iCal before, you will notice that by default it contains already two calendars, Home and Work. You can use the, rename them or even delete them. For this session we will ignore these calendars, or any others that you may have created already,

Navigating around

The left hand sidebar lists all of your calendars, the right hand drawer/sidebar lists all your To-Do items (if you don’t see a right hand sidebar click the “Thumb Tag” icon in the very bottom right corner of the iCal window). If you don’t use iCal for your To-Do list there is no need to have the right side sidebar visible, you can hide it by clicking again on the thumb tag icon. At the top of the iCal window you should see some options – day, week, month – I find it easier to maintain my calendars in the monthly view, however to learn iCal it is best to use the weekly view, so click that view.


General Preferences

Open iCal’s preferences by selecting from the “iCal” menu “Preferences …”.


Under the General pane, set it to reflect your day – mine is set to start at 8 and end at 6. Then, and this will help you to see more when, tell it to show 12 hours at a time instead of the 10 hours from 8 to 6. You can also change to show less, such as 8 hours, this stretches the size of the little calendar cells, and makes it easier for you to read. Of course, you can change this at any time. However, when you go to print your calendar, it will print whatever hours you set it to start and end at – so mine prints from 8 am to 6 pm. I also like my week to start on Monday instead of Sunday, you can adjust the start day by selecting the start day from the selection list to the right of the “Start week on:” option in the General Preference pane. If you never schedule anything on the weekend, you can also limit the calendar to 5 days by selecting that option for the “Days per week” option.


One very useful option to select is the “Show times in month view”. I suggest you do so if prefer that view mode. Now close preferences window.

Customizing the color of your calendar

In the left sidebar, do a right-click (or hold down the CTRL-key and click) on your “Lectures” calendar, select the Get Info option from the selection box.


You’ll see a window pop up, to the right of the Name entry field there will be a little rectangle of color next to it.


Click on the color and either select a color offered or click on “Other …”.


Clicking on “Other…” does the usual Mac thing, opening a new window that allows you to set to a million different shades of pastels or whatever.


I like the Crayon box. Let’s click on it and select yellow (lemon), close the color selection window and click on the OK button. Now, everything you build in this calendar will be the color you just set. More later on why this is a helpful tool.


Let’s start setting up a day

Picking a day…

…any day – today would be a good day. We’re just gonna play with this. You can delete this calendar later and start fresh, so don’t worry about messing this up. So to review, your hours should be set in preferences, and you should be viewing your calendar in the weekly view.

Creating an event

Move the cursor and double click in a block at a specific time, such as 7:30.


A colorful little event cell pops up.


Type “iCal Basics” right in the little cell and hit the Return key.

By default a new event has a duration of 60 minutes. If you selected the start time of the block to be 7:30, the end time will be automatically 8:30. You can adjust the event cell to change the time related information. Put your cursor at the bottom of the cell, click an hold your mouse/touch pad button. You can now stretch it or shrink it to fit the time you want to spend on this. You can do this at the top of the cell too.

Set your event block to 30 minutes duration – starting at 7:30. You could drag this event block cell to anywhere now, drag and drop just like in all else Mac. You could drag it to a new time, or you can drag it to a new calendar. Ok, so you’ve created an event named “iCal Basics” and you’ve sized it to the correct start and end time. Now, let’s customize it!


Making iCal work for you

Double-click on the newly created event block to open up its information window. This is where you’ll do all of the nitty gritty work for whatever event cell you have selected. First let’s check to make sure the title, start and end times are correct, if not correct it now. Enter for the location “Dublin Office”.


Go to repeat. Click those little arrows there. Scroll down to Custom.


Let’s say you want this event block to be on Wed, Thur, and Fri but not on Monday and Tuesday ’cause you have something else on these days. Click the days you want this event block to repeat on and click OK. We’re not done here though.


In the same window where it says “end” (and right now it says “never“) click the little arrows again. Click “on date” and now reset the date to whatever you’d like. You can repeat out for the end of your year, or a week, or you can just repeat indefinitely. For this example let’s select “08/30/2008”.


 Notes…or…Where do I type the “stuff”…

Still in the info window, go down to “note” – click on the word, type in some detailed information about your lessons here. It is deceiving in how it looks, but you just start typing there and it expands to fit your notes. You can add a detailed description (such as “iCal 101 Basics presentation for users that have never used iCal to allow them to manage their iCal calendars”), even lesson notes and page numbers, names, whatever here. This is the detail part that shows up when you go to print your iCal page, it’s what makes iCal perfect for detailed planning! Play around with it. If you’re still having trouble visualizing how the notes section works, type in each of your colleagues names followed by a return and that helps you see that the notes section can hold a number of details for you.



Now, you’ve set up a event block, set it to repeat, and have added details that provide details about the event block. All of those details repeat with your lesson block. That may or may not work well for you, in which case you may have to tweak each repeat block.


Finish building the imaginary day

Go through and make some more event blocks naming them as you go and adding details as you go. We’re not done yet, but you’ve just built the skeleton of what could be your lecture plans for the year! Let’s add another lecture, such as my PowerPoint lecture to the calendar. It will start at 8:00 for 30 minutes, repeating each Wednesday of the month until the end of the year.


All Day Events – what are they good for?

One more fun tool – all day events! Go to the very top of your calendar – see there’s one little cell above the gray border and below the date?


Double click in there. You can put all sorts of fun stuff up here – I use it to add my vacation days, conferences to attend or any other special all-day event day. You can add several all day events – the cell stretches to accommodate. You have the same options with all day events as you do with the other events you just worked on – you can repeat, add details, etc. For this session I will add a Conference that I will present at which will be this Friday in Santa Clara.


The niftiness of layering multiple calendars

If you’d like a little more definition with All Day Events, try this: go to File menu and select New Calendar – name it “Out-of-Office” and pick the “Cayenne” crayon for its color.


Now, on the left hand sidebar (looking at the list of all of your calendars, which right now should be at least four – make sure there check marks in the “Lectures” calendar box and in the “Out-of-Office” calendar box. Now you’re viewing both calendars superimposed on one another. Why is this part of the niftiness, you ask? With both boxes checked, use your mouse/touch pad and click on your “Out-of-Office” calendar. Now you can see both calendars, but anything you add or change will be done in the “Out-of-Office” calendar. You’ll notice it is a different color from your other calendar. That’s important.


Now let’s move the “Conference” all-day event from the Lectures calendar to the Out-of-Office calendar by dragging the event block (click and hold) to the “OoO” calendar label in left sidebar pane. Feel free to go up to the All Day Events section of your “Out-of-Office” calendar and create a new event. You can add an activity down in the notes section.



Now, when you view your calendar and when you print your calendar, you can see at a glance that the rhythm of your Lecture year is set in a lovely bright yellow and all events associated with it are yellow, and your Out-of-Office events are set to cayenne. It just adds some visual order to the calendar and your schedules. Each calendar, unique colors, merged into one useful calendar. Now, if you print while they are all “checked“, they’ll all show up in one merged calendar, all color coded, with all of the details and reminders for each of your events, all on the same page (or pages depending on the number of details you’ve just added. You could have a new calendar for each different activity in your life if you want – the possibilities are endless.



You can drag an event from one calendar to the next. Just click an event and drag it to the calendar you want to put it in and it will move it to the same time, same day, new calendar.





Mail Data Detectors

Mail automatically detects text fragments like addresses and appointments and lets you choose smart actions with a click to create an new address entry or iCal event.


Moving the cursor over the date information will reveal visual cue within the eMail as a dotted line around the recognized piece of information plus a drop down menu triangle.


Clicking on the menu triangle will open a popup menu offering commands based on the type of data, for date related information the options offered are “Create New iCal Event…” or “Show This Date in iCal”.


Selecting the Create option will pre-filled the Event entry window with useful defaults, based on the detected date and using the email’s subject as event title. If there are multiple dates in the email body you will be able to click on each and create separate events, however, be aware that the event title will be the same as both use the email’s subject content. If there is a date only the detector will suggested an all-day event.


Let’s add the dial in information from the email to the event note field:


Clicking on the “Add to iCal” button will add the event to your iCal calendar.


A nice detail: The URL data field for the new event shows a link back to the email message.


Clicking this link opens the message in Mail. This is very convenient because you don’t have to hunt down the message in Mail if you want to get back to it in a hurry to check some details of the event.


Publishing calendars

To make your calendar available to others, choose Publish from the Calendar menu.


In the resulting dialog, type a name for your calendar in the top field, choose where to publish it (.Mac/MobileMe or your own server) from the Publish on pop-up menu, select any of the other options you want, and click Publish.


When iCal finishes publishing it, a dialog opens and displays the URL for your calendar:


Be sure to write this down, or better use the “Send Mail” option to send an email to your self, it contains the webCal URL used to allow others to view (subscribe to) your calendar.


Subscribing to other users or public calendars

If you know the URL of an iCal calendar that someone has published on the Internet, you can add that calendar to your Calendars list by subscribing to it. You can also subscribe by clicking links to published iCal calendars on the Internet or in emails you may have received. To do so:

Choose Calendar > Subscribe


Enter the URL for the calendar you want to subscribe to and click “Subscribe”.


A new window will open with a number of option to choose from. If you want iCal to update your copy of this calendar when changes to it are published select from the “Auto-refresh” selection list a suitable time period. To complete the process, click the “OK” button.


There are many published calendars available. For example all major sport team calendars are made available for importing, such as the Oakland Raiders one:


Both subscribed calendars are bing listed in the left sidebar window under the “Subscriptions” heading


Deleting an event

If you made a mistake, or simply just want to delete an event, select the event with a click and press the Delete key, that is all there is to it.


If the event to be deleted is part of a repeating event a action window will be displayed given you the choice to Cancel the request, delete only the selected event or delete all future events.


To delete a calendar, right-click (or hold down the CTRL-key and click) on the Calendar in the left sidebar window and select the “Delete” option.


There is always more…

There are things that I did not mention, such as creating and receiving Calendar invitations. This feature requires a separate tutorial. For now you have learned about the basic features of iCal and you’ll probably find some shortcuts as you’re starting to use iCal. If you want to learn more about iCal, check out the built-in iCal Help guide on your Mac (in iCal, choose iCal Help from the Help menu).

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