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(Almost) Pain-Free Calendars in Outlook 2013

The Calendar tool in Outlook 2013 is a flexible and powerful part of the program that most of us under-use. Katherine Murray shows you how to create three different types of appointments, drag and drop items into your calendar, and share your calendar effectively.
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Outlook has been one of the applications in the Microsoft Office suite since the program was first offered many years ago. With each new release, Outlook has offered new and improved features and a continually improving Calendar tool, designed to help you set, track, and organize appointments, meetings, and events. The Calendar tool works seamlessly with your Mail (where you receive and send email), People (where you track and manage your contacts), and Tasks (where you list the to-dos you need to remember to complete).

For many of us, the Calendar tool is an underused feature in Outlook. If the company you work for has adopted Microsoft Outlook as its primary email and calendaring tool, you may be using the Calendar and sharing your calendar with others on your team using Microsoft Exchange. For those of us who don’t have access to Exchange, sharing calendars in Outlook 2013 requires that we incorporate Web calendars (like the Gmail calendar) in Outlook or we publish the calendar publicly online and invite others to view it. This article walks you through a number of Calendar techniques that get you headed toward managing and sharing your calendars effectively.

Choose Your Appointment Type

Outlook gives you three options for adding items to your calendar:

  • You create a new appointment when you have somewhere to go—a client to see, a vendor to visit, an interview to complete.
  • You can create a new meeting when the “something” you are doing requires the attendance of other people.
  • You can create an all-day event when you’re going to a special activity that takes—you guessed it—all day.

Start by displaying Outlook 2013 in Calendar view and clicking the area on the calendar where you want to create the event. Click Calendar in the lower left of the Outlook window, and your calendar appears in the work area. In the New group of the Home tab, you’ll find the tools you need to add an item to your calendar (Figure 1). Click New Appointment to add an appointment, New Meeting to create a meeting, or, if you want to create an All Day Event, online meeting, or other schedule-related items, click New Items and choose the option you want from the list.

Figure 1 You’ll find the tools you need for adding an item to your calendar In the New group of the Home tab in Calendar view.

A window appears related to the type of item you’re creating. Figure 2 shows the Meeting window used to set up a new meeting and invite participants. Enter a subject for the meeting, set the Start and End times, and enter a location for the meeting. Click To and select the contacts you want to attend the meeting. Add a note in the description area to explain to invitees what you’re proposing, and then click Send. Outlook will track the responses and display the status of invitations in the lower portion of the Meeting window.

Figure 2 Enter the meeting subject and location, and invite the contacts you want to attend.

Drag and Drop

Here’s an easy and fast way to add new appointments to your calendar as soon as they appear in your Inbox. In the Mail view, select the email message with the information for the appointment. Drag the message to the Calendar selection (Figure 3) in the lower-left corner of the Outlook window and release the mouse button. The new appointment window opens.

Figure 3 You can drag and drop an email message to the Calendar selector to open an appointment window and add it to your calendar.

Add the information to the appointment window and click Save & Close to add the appointment to your calendar.

Change the Look of the Calendar Window

Outlook gives you a number of tools you can display or hide in the Calendar window to help you stay on track. The Folder pane appears by default on the left side of the Calendar window. The Reading Pane, which shows you the content of an item on your calendar when you click it in Calendar view, is turned off by default. And the To-Do Bar is customizable so that you can show Calendar, People, or Task items along the right side of the Calendar window. To add or remove any of these items, click the View tab and choose the tool you want in the Layout group (Figure 4).

Figure 4 You can change the look of the Calendar window by choosing tools in the Layout group of the View tab.

Share Your Calendar

Outlook gives you several options for sharing your calendar, but the one that actually says “Share Calendar” will be grayed out for you unless your business uses Microsoft Exchange. If you use Exchange, you can add others’ calendars to your calendar display easily so that you can find times that you’re all available to meet. But even if you don’t have access to Exchange, you can share calendar information with others three different ways:

  • You can use the E-mail Calendar tool in the Share group of the Home tab to email your calendar to others (and choose the data you want to share).
  • You can use Open Calendar in the Manage Calendars group to add a web calendar—like Gmail calendar—to your Outlook calendar.
  • You can use Publish Online to publish your calendar to a WebDAV server online. WebDAV is an extension that allows documents to be created and modified on a web server. You’ll need to check with your Internet service provider to find out whether your server supports WebDAV.

Figure 5 shows the options available when you choose Open Calendar. If you want to add a web calendar to Outlook, choose From Internet. In the New Internet Calendar Subscription dialog box, paste the URL for your web calendar. Note that this URL can be difficult to find. In Gmail, for example, click Settings, Calendars, and Calendar Details; then scroll down to Calendar Address and click the green ICAL button. This displays the URL for your particular calendar in a format that will work with Outlook. Copy the URL and paste it into the dialog box; then click OK to add the calendar. The calendar will appear in the Folder Pane on the left side of the Calendar window; click the checkbox for that calendar to display it in your Calendar view.

Figure 5 Add a web calendar to Outlook by copying and pasting the calendar’s web address (ending with .ics) into the New Internet Calendar Subscription dialog box.

Final Thoughts

Like anything else, working with Outlook’s calendar gets easier with practice. If you use your calendar consistently, adding appointments, scheduling meetings, and sharing your information with others as needed, you’ll soon find it helps you stay organized and—who knows?—maybe even add a little extra time to your day.

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