Conquering Your Calendar, Part 5: Sharing, Subscriptions, and Tips

Let’s cue the celebratory trumpets — we’ve made it to the final part of Conquering Your Calendar. 🎉

This is the informative series on how to manage, implement, and succeed at your calendars for your personal and business lives. We’ve spent the previous four entries discussing calendar apps, how to create calendars, making entries in our calendar app, and inviting others to share events we’ve created.

In this final entry, we’re going to wrap everything up by talking about subscribing to calendars. I’ll also be throwing in a few additional tips and tricks as a special thank you bonus for reading through this course.

Much like many of the other services we use in our daily lives, calendar sharing allows us to send content from our own apps and receive content from somewhere else. Luckily, this sort of sharing and subscribing isn’t going to cost us anything at all. We’re putting one over on Netflix now. They’ll make you pay for their videos; nobody’s going to make you pay for calendar sharing if you don’t want to.

Similar to the previous entry to this series where we ventured outside the confines of our calendar app to invite other people to share our events, we’re also going to be going outside of our calendars to make use of subscriptions. Unlike the previous entry, this process is going to be much simpler.

If you haven’t read that entry yet, then be sure to catch up on part four of Conquering Your Calendar:

Heck, when it comes to subscriptions, some apps provide them for you right inside of themselves. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Let’s sign up for this last entry in our calendar series. It’s time to talk about calendar sharing.

  • Learn how to subscribe to shared calendars created by other people/services.
  • Discover how to share one of your own personal calendars with chosen people so that all the events associated with that calendar can show up in someone else’s app.
  • Try out the wonderful natural language input abilities of an app like Fantastical.

Technically, calendar sharing and subscriptions can be considered two separate things, but they’re very similar:

  1. You subscribe to a calendar created by someone else and it updates in your app.
  2. You share one of your calendars with someone else and that calendar updates in their app as you add and edit events.

In other words, a calendar, along with all the events in it, can be displayed in another person’s calendar app.

Calendar subscriptions are generally used to add events for holidays, sports, social media, and other world events. For example, I’m subscribed to a U.S. Holidays calendar. It shows me upcoming holidays in my country.

Calendar sharing is giving access to one of your calendars to someone else. Say you’ve got a calendar that stores the events you’ve created for all of the upcoming school functions for your child. It’s important that your partner also knows when those functions are so they can attend them, too. Sharing that calendar with them will ensure those events show up in their app.

They’re essentially the same exact thing, but depending on the app you use (Apple Calendar, for instance), they may be labeled differently. Confusing, I know, but let’s talk about each of them anyway.

I want to know all the upcoming holidays in my country, that way I can plan around the important days. This is an easy thing to do for any app we might use. It’s really nothing more than copying and pasting a URL into a text field and clicking an “Okay” button.

There are several places you can go to find calendar subscription links, but one of my favorites is a place called iCalShare. There are more subscriptions here than a person is ever likely to need, but they do make it simple to find holiday calendars. Located prominently on their home page is a link for their U.S. Holidays calendar.

We can just click the button on that page and hope for the best or we can make this a little more foolproof. Let’s go for the foolproof method. Right-click on the Subscribe to calendar button on one of the calendar pages and copy that link.

Apple Calendar

Subscribing with Apple Calendar is simple. Once we’ve got our calendar subscription link copied, in the Menu Bar on a Mac, we’re going to click on File -> New Calendar Subscription… A small window with a text field will pop down. We’re going to paste the link we copied into that text field and click Subscribe.

This will pop up another, larger window that will allow us to make appearance edits to the calendar. We can alter its name, its color label, where it’s located, how often it refreshes, and other less needed adjustments. I’ll leave everything how it’s shown in the window and just click OK.

This is going to place another calendar in our Calendars sidebar. It’ll also have what appears like a radio wave next to its name to indicate it’s a shared calendar. We can right-click that calendar to do any of the usual changes, along with unsubscribing if it’s not wanted any longer. Mostly, we can just ignore it in the sidebar and enjoy the extra information we now have.

Google Calendar

Subscribing to calendars in Google Calendar is a simple and intuitive operation. In the Google Calendar sidebar, we’re going to click the “+” icon next to the Other calendars heading. A small window will pop up and we’re going to click on Browse calendars of interest.

We’re going to be presented with a list of many different calendars we can subscribe to, each with just a single click. Since I want to know about holidays in the U.S., I’m going to click the dropdown icon in the Regional holidays field and scroll down to Holidays in United States. Clicking on the checkbox there will immediately subscribe me to that calendar.

There are also loads of other calendars ready to be subscribed to, including those for religious holidays, sports teams, and even phases of the moon. Click any of those checkboxes to subscribe to those calendars.

They’ll all be listed under the Other calendars heading in the sidebar. Hovering over any of those subscriptions will present some actions. You can click the “X” icon to remove that subscription or the three dots icon for additional options, including label colors and other settings. Mostly, we can just ignore it in the sidebar and enjoy the extra information we now have.

Microsoft Outlook Calendar

Subscribing to calendars in Microsoft Outlook is incredibly simple. They take care of all the hard work for you. In the Microsoft Outlook calendar sidebar, below the mini month calendar, is a button labeled Add calendar. Click that button to be presented with a new window.

In the sidebar of this window, we can see a list of options such as “Schools,” “Holidays,” and “Sports.” I want to subscribe to the United States holidays calendar, so I’ll click on Holidays. A list of many countries will show up. I’ll scroll to the bottom and click on the button labeled United States. This will immediately subscribe me to that calendar and place it in the calendar sidebar.

There are also loads of other calendars ready to be subscribed to if you’d like to add more information to your main calendar. You can browse through the other categories and add however many you’d like.

Hovering over the United States holidays calendar will show a three dots icon. Clicking that will give us options to rename the calendar, remove it, or change the appearance of the calendar. Mostly, we can just ignore it in the sidebar and enjoy the extra information we now have.

Sharing calendars is a simple but powerful ability that comes with all good calendar apps. Much like sharing a single event, sharing a calendar allows us to give others access to the information we have within it. However, sharing an entire calendar allows someone to see all the events contained within that calendar instead of just a single event.

This can be especially useful for people living within the same household or if you need to share events with a partner or friend. Instead of doing the tedious work of inviting someone to an event every single time one occurs, share the calendar with them. This way they can see everything the moment it’s added.

Apple Calendar

Sharing a calendar with Apple’s Calendar app will be a familiar process now that we’ve gone over how to invite someone to a single event.

In the sidebar of the app, where our calendars are listed (click the Calendars button in the top of the app window if they’re not visible), we’re going to hover our mouse over the calendar we want to share. After a moment, you’ll notice an icon that resembles radio waves appear. Click that icon.

A small window will appear with the name of the calendar, a text entry field, and a checkbox with the option to make the calendar completely public (meaning anybody can subscribe to the calendar).

In the text entry field, enter in the name/email address of the person you want to invite to this calendar and hit enter. Depending on the service they use, they’ll either be given a notification inside their own calendar app or sent an email inviting them to join the calendar. We can add just about as many people as we want.

Once they’ve joined, they’ll gain the ability to see every event added to this particular calendar. Depending on what permissions you set for them, they’ll also be able to add events of their own. Those additional options can be seen and set by clicking the dropdown triangle next to the name/email we just typed in.

Google Calendar
We’ve talked about inviting people to individual events, so sharing calendars with others should be a piece of cake for us now.

In the sidebar, we can see a list of our calendars under the heading My calendars. Hovering our mouse over any of them will present a three dot icon we’ll need to click. A menu will appear with an option called Settings and sharing. This will take us to a full setting screen.

A few headings down this page will be a section titled Share with specific people, along with a button featuring a plus icon and the text, Add people. Click that button.

A menu will appear with a couple things to do. First, we’ll add the name/email address of the person we want to share this calendar with. We can add as many people as we want to this calendar.

Before we click the Send button at the bottom of this menu, let’s check out the dropdown menu titled, Permissions. Clicking this area will give us four separate options we can choose from:

  1. See only free/busy [hide details].
  2. See all event details.
  3. Make changes to events.
  4. Make changes and manage sharing.

Depending on the person you’re sharing this calendar with, you may want to limit their ability to add or alter events within it. Alternatively, you can give them total control over what they can do with it. The choice is up to you.

Once you’ve got everything set to your satisfaction, click the Send button at the bottom of this menu. If the people you’re sharing this calendar with are also Google Calendar users, they’ll notice a new calendar show up in their calendar list.

However, if they’re not a Google Calendar user, they’ll receive an email inviting them to create a Google account so this calendar can be shared with them. Google uses their own unique calendar links to share their calendars, so they’re not easily transferable between services. It appears that events and calendars are mutually exclusive when it comes to Google’s services.

Microsoft Outlook Calendar

Since we’ve gone through inviting others to individual calendar events before this, sharing a calendar will feel like a familiar task.

In the sidebar of our calendar view in Outlook, we can hover our mouse over the calendar we want to share with others. A three dot icon will appear. Click on the icon. A small menu will appear with an option titled, Sharing and permissions. Click that option.

A window with a text entry field will appear. In it, we’ll enter the name/email address of the person we want to share this calendar with. You can share this calendar with as many people as you need to.

After entering the name/email of the person into this field, a dropdown menu with permission options will appear. These options include:

  • Can view all details
  • Can edit

Depending on the sort of access you want this person to have, you can choose between the two options. Selecting Can edit will allow the person to add and modify any event within this shared calendar. Click the Send button to send the person an invitation email. Once they’ve accepted, they’ll begin to see this calendar in Outlook.

However, if they’re not an Outlook user, they’ll need a published calendar link to view this calendar. Outlook uses their own unique calendar links to share their calendars, so they’re not easily transferable between services. It appears that events and calendars are mutually exclusive when it comes to Outlook’s services.

I want to touch on publishing your own calendars quickly. This feature is especially useful for sharing a calendar with someone who uses a different app than you. Say you’ve got to coordinate the practice schedule for your child’s sportsball team with loads of different people. Some use Apple’s service, some use Google calendar, and others use Outlook. It can become a mess.

Publishing a calendar allows other people to subscribe to your calendar, like we touched on earlier in this section. It removes the trouble of sharing a calendar with people using different services.

Apple Calendar

Hover over the calendar you want to publish and click on the radio waves icon. Instead of typing in a name/email address, click the checkbox labeled Public Calendar. Follow that up by clicking the Done button. This calendar is now published.

When we click on the radio waves icon for this now-published calendar, we can see new URL text in the small window that appears. There is also a small Share button next to that URL. Clicking the share button will give you options to text or email this published calendar to whomever you choose.

Now everybody can be in sync!

Google Calendar

Hover over the calendar you want to share with others and click on the three dot icon that appears next to the calendar name. A familiar small menu will appear and we’re going to click on Settings and sharing.

Find the section titled Access permissions. There will be a checkbox we’ll click on next to text reading, Make available to public. Click OK on the window that appears. This calendar is now published!

Underneath that checkbox is a button titled Get shareable link. Click on that button to be given a link we can copy and paste anywhere we’d like, e.g. an email or text message. Now positively anyone can see this calendar.

Microsoft Outlook Outlook

Click on the gear icon in the menu bar at the top of the Outlook calendar window to open up the settings window. At the bottom of that window is a View all Outlook settings link. Clicking that will present a new settings window.

We’re going to select the Calendars tab in the sidebar, followed by the Shared calendars tab, and then find the section called Publish a calendar. In that section, use the first dropdown menu to select the calendar you want to publish and the second to set the permission level you want to offer. Click the Publish button.

Your calendar is now published! From here, you can copy the ICS link (not the HTML link) to share with anyone you wish. With this link, others can subscribe to this calendar in whatever app they use. Huzzah!

I personally use an app called Fantastical for all of my calendaring needs. It’s a phenomenal app that allows me to tie in any calendar service I might use (in my case, both an iCloud calendar and a couple Google calendars). It’s gorgeous to look at and, best of all, it supports natural language input.

What do I mean by natural language input? Instead of clicking on a bunch of checkboxes and settings to enter an event into my calendar, I can instead just type in a sentence like this:

Lunch with Steven on June 26 from 12:00 to 13:30 at Urban Cactus /friends

Fantastical will take this sentence, parse out the important bits, and create a perfect event with all the information in its proper places. I’ve now got an event:

  • Titled “Lunch with Steven”
  • Set for June 26
  • From 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
  • With the location set to Urban Cactus
  • And placed in my “Friends” calendar

It works so well every time. It’s now an app I don’t want to live without. I would recommend it to everyone I know who uses an Apple device (sorry Android and Windows users).

Another app that offers a similar feature is Calendars 5. That one is also very capable and wonderful to use.

A calendar can be a powerful tool, but it’s a tool you have to pay attention to every day. A screwdriver can do a lot to help you around the house, but you can’t expect anything to get screwed in unless you actually use the screwdriver every single time.

But as you set out on this successful calendar journey, take care not to overdo it. Like life, a calendar needs balance.

I want you to create as many events in your calendar as you can — go crazy with them! — but make sure to ask yourself, every time, if this thing you’re adding needs to be an event. Perhaps a reminder to empty the trash cans around your house would be better suited for a task manager instead of a calendar.

Make sure you’re using your calendar with clear intention. Take care to not let it turn into a messy inbox you just toss anything and everything into. The events that go into your calendar should be meaningful and require your attention.

You can do it. I believe in you.

And that about wraps it up! You are now a Certifiable Calendar Conquerer! I’m so proud of you.

This series covered all the basics of good calendar use. We’ve figured out why there are calendars in a Calendar app, how to make events, how to collaborate with people, and are now wrapping it up with my heartiest thanks.

Your support and enthusiasm means the world to me. I want you to know that I share the same support and enthusiasm for you. You can do great things with your calendar and I’m excited to see what you cook up.

Until next time, stay dandy, cat.

Always chasing that cozy feeling of being snuggled under a heap of warm blankets in a cold room. Also trying to find cats to pet 😻

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