Organize Your Life with Windows Calendar

By Matthew Murray
Over the decades, people have devised all sorts of ways of taking control of their busy lives—Post-Its on the refrigerator, notes scribbled on half-torn pieces of paper, telephoned and e-mailed reminders of impending events. Personal Information Managers like Microsoft Outlook are great, but they can be expensive and confusing. Windows Vista, however, includes a free one: Windows Calendar. You can use it to track what you've got coming up today, tomorrow, or next week—and keep your family and friends up to speed, too.
To start Windows Calendar, click your Start button, and then select it from the list of programs.

ADD AN APPOINTMENT

To add an item to your calendar, click on the day and/or time you wish to schedule, and then click the New Appointment button in the upper-left corner of the window. This will create a new, blank appointment at your specified time, and change the Details pane (on the far right of the Calendar window) into a form you can use to type your information. You can enter:
  • Top field: The name of the appointment. (This is what you'll see first in the calendar)
  • Location: Where the event is happening. Text you enter here will appear in parentheses following the name you've given to the appointment.
  • Calendar: Calendar uses groupings called, uh, calendars to keep track of multiple people's appointments. If you've set up multiple calendars (see below), this option will let you select which calendar will hold the appointment.
  • URL: If there's a Web site associated with the event, enter its URL here for reference purposes.
  • All-day appointment: If you select this check box, Calendar will display your appointment at the top view screen for that day (so you'll see immediately if any other appointments conflict).
  • Start and End: These date and time boxes let you specify when the appointment begins and finishes.
  • Recurrence: This lets Calendar know that the appointment will happen every day, every week, every month, or every year at the same time. If you click on the Advanced option, you can specify the number of cycles you want to repeat, and even when the appointment should stop reappearing on the Calendar.
  • Reminder: Calendar can display a message on the screen when your appointment is approaching; use this drop-down to set when it happens (from two weeks to five minutes in advance).
  • Attendees: You can type the names of people you want to invite in this field, or click the Attendees button to select people already in your Windows address book.
  • Invite: Once you've specified your list of attendees, click the Invite button to have Windows Mail let the list know when and where the event is.

EDITING APPOINTMENTS

  • To change the name or detail of an appointment, double-click on it. You can then either rename the event or change any other information on the Details pane.
  • If you want to reschedule an appointment, just drag it from the old date and time in the calendar view to the new one. (You can also just edit the information in the Details pane if you want, and the appointment will move itself.)
  • You can change the length of an appointment just by dragging the top or bottom edge of the appointment to the new start or finish time.
  • If the worst should happen and you need to cancel your appointment altogether, just select it and click the Delete button in the navigation bar (or hit the Delete key on your keyboard).

CHANGE THE VIEW

By default, Windows Calendar shows you what you have scheduled today. But you can display what you're doing this week, this work week, or this month just by clicking on the View button. This will cycle through all four schedule views; to select a specific one, click the downward-pointing arrow next to the View button.

USE MULTIPLE CALENDARS

Handy as Calendar's functions might be for you, scheduling with your family, friends, or officemates could complicate things even further. Give each person his or her own "calendar" (or grouping of appointments), and everyone will be able to see at a glance who is or is not available at a particular time. Select "New Calendar" from the File menu to establish one for someone else, and choose a unique color for it to make it easier to keep straight when everyone is doing what. You can select the calendar you want to view by clicking on it in the Calendars pane. You can also use the "New Group" option (also in the File menu) to treat multiple calendars for smoother management, printing, and so on. Just create the calendars, create the group, and then drag the former into the latter.

PUBLISHING AND VIEWING PUBLISHED CALENDARS ON THE WEB

Okay, now you know what you're doing—how can you tell everyone else? Easy: Publish it to the Web.
  • In the Calendars pane, click the calendar you want to publish.
  • From the Share menu, select the Publish option. This will bring up a window that lets you specify the calendar's name, where you want to publish it, and how often you want the calendar published.
  • Click the Publish button. You'll connect to the Internet (if necessary), and Calendar will provide you with the URL of your calendar.
  • To subscribe to a published calendar, click the Subscribe button in the toolbar, input the URL from the last step, and you'll see the calendar in your own Calendars pane.
Note: To publish a calendar, you'll need to have access to your network share or a Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) Web site.

IMPORTING CALENDARS

If you aren't equipped to publish your calendar on the web, you can still share it over e-mail. Just choose File > Export to dump your calendar into an *.ICS file, which you can then e-mail to someone as an attachment. Your recipient can then save the file, open Calendar, and select File > Import to add it to his or her own Calendars pane.

TASKS

Tasks are like mini-appointments, complete with their own reminder system, to help you set up your own to-do list. To add a task, click New Task in the toolbar, and then fill out the information in its Detail pane. Most of it is pretty similar to the Appointments Details pane, with two key differences: The Priority option, which lets you specify low, medium, or high importance, and the Completed checkbox which will let you "cross it off your list" once you've finished it.




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