The Google Apps Calendar – More Powerful Than You Realize

Google Calendar

Image by HRC via Flickr

Organization is the key to efficiency, and most of us (including myself) are too lazy to be organized.  People that have all of their papers “just-so” on their desk with their color coded tabs and rubbers bands and sticky notes and highlighters drive me crazy.  It amazes me that they can actually find their work when it’s buried under all those office supplies.  What I need is a personal assistant that follows me around and lets me know everything I’m supposed to be doing at a specific time.  Someone to tell me things like “Call your client at 11am,” “Your mom’s birthday is tomorrow,” and “At 2:00 you have a company meeting about buying more office supplies.”  Unless you make Charlie Sheen money, you’re probably not able to pay someone to walk behind you all day rattling off your schedule.  However, technology has once again provided a suitable substitute.

No, it’s not robots (although R2-D2 rolling around beep-booping my to-do list would be way cool).  What we’re talking about here is a “cloud calendar,” or a scheduler that you set in one place, and it propagates to multiple locations.  The Calendar built into Google Apps is probably the best example of this.  Google Calendar is amazingly powerful and records, schedules, and reminds you of everything you’re supposed to know.   It’s multiple contact methods mean it will be difficult for you to avoid your taskmaster…it goes where you go.

First base – The Web

Google Calendar’s station of operations is the web.  Our TOAST.net customers can reach their calendar via our Start Page (which also gives you a preview of your Google Calendar).  You can also go directly to your calendar by going directly to Google’s Calendar site.  From here, you can easily create appointments by clicking on a date and setting it’s parameters.  You can also color code appointments, make multiple calendars, share schedules with colleges…just about anything you think a calendar should be able to do.  Choose from pop-up notifications, alarms, email alerts, even SMS text messages.  If you use Google Chrome as your web browser, you can even add an extension that will give you one click access to your calendar.  To get even more fancy, there is simple code available to post your calendar on your website.  Many companies do this on their Intranet page to do things like schedule conference rooms, meetings, or other events.

Check your schedule from any phone

If you have a smartphone, your calendar hits the streets with you.  Any appointments you add to your phone automatically sync with the web calendar, and visa versa.  Most smartphones (especially Android powered phones) allow you to see multiple calendars, keep your color coding, and have multiple methods of notification (I like to use the Air Raid Siren notification when I have an appointment.  It makes everything sound important.)

Android phone users have it easy- all that needs to be done is open your Gmail app, create a new account, and enter your Google Apps email address.  You will then have the option to sync your calendar.  All done.

iPhone users need a little more work.  You have to set up the email app to use the mail server m.google.com.  I conjured up a Knowledge Base article on our Support site to walk people through the process.  It sets up like a standard email account, but you have to tell your iPhone to use Exchange settings to get calendar sync working.

Blackberry users sync their Google Calendar with a special app, because Blackberry users are special people!  Just browse to http://m.google.com for download instructions.  Once installed, you’ll be asked to enter your Google Apps email address and password, and the app will do the rest.

If you don’t have a smartphone, you can still use your cell phone to receive SMS text messages to remind of you appointments.  A text message allows you to check your schedule- text GVENT (48368), and add the commands “:next”, “:day”, or “:nday” to check the next appointment, the whole day, and the next day’s schedule.  For example, to check your slave list for tomorrow, you would send a text to: 48368:nday.

Third Base – Microsoft Outlook

Sync your schedule with Google Calendar.

Some offices are still using Outlook for various reasons (the use of email clients is on the decline due to advancements and easy administration of web-mail).  Google Calendar can sync with Outlook with Google Apps Sync for Outlook.  Not only will your calendar synchronize with this tool, but it will bring down your email and contacts as well, giving connectivity similar to Microsoft Exchange Server.  As with your phone, any changes you make to your calendar will propagate to your phone and the web.

Home Run! – You’re Organized

The reason a lot of scheduling software useless is you can only make changes at your computer, and the need to schedule something most often comes up when you’re not at your desk.  The beauty of Google Calendar is it follows you around and is accessible via multiple methods.  Booking appointments in real-time will transform you into Mr. Organized in no-time.  All this without the use of colored tabs, rubber bands, and sticky notes.  It would still be nice to get a robot involved in all of this, but I think that’s still a few years off.

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12 Responses to The Google Apps Calendar – More Powerful Than You Realize

  1. Nicki Banks says:

    I use google calendar synched with my iPhone and it is incredibly useful. However I’ve not been able to work out how to colour code, and searches suggested I’d have to set up several calendars to do so – or is there a better way?

    • Currently Apple has deemed color coding on the iPhone unimportant for us mere mortals, so they have not included the feature. So, at present, you are correct. You need to make a separate calendar for each category. There are rumors of Apple changing this in upcoming OS versions, but for the time being you’re going to have to deal with multiple calendars.

      • TF says:

        It seems that Google has deemed color coding on Android or in Google Calendar as unimportant too as it’s not possible with out making separate calendars for each category.

  2. I understand Google is looking into color coding on Android at the moment, but in the meantime I use the apps Android Agenda Widget and Touch Calendar. Both are free and add color calendar functionality.

  3. Val Lusis says:

    I’m looking for a solution where all my calendars from different Google Apps accounts would consolidate in one place (or be available in every account) and I could see every single event. Right now, the only thing I can do by adding Google calendars from other accounts it would show only busy time, with no event info, and sometimes the busy time won’t show up and causes conflicts with other accounts. And to make it even more confusing, I have to import every single calendar into every single account, and to make sure I’m not missing any busy entries, I still have to open and verify calendars on other accounts… The best solution would be a single calendar that would sync all events from all accounts back and forth and crisscross, or just a functionality of whenever I enter an event into one account it would get synced with other accounts with a certain account tag, and I could actually see the full details of the event, as well as edit it if needed.

    • Val Lusis says:

      Looks like the ONLY Gmail account’s calendar can be shared with “Make changes AND manage sharing” option, but all the calendars in Google Apps accounts can be shared with ONLY “See only free/busy (hide details)” option.

      • Val Lusis says:

        I got it! Go to “Manage this domain” > “Settings” tab > “Sharing Options” and change the “Outside Domain – Set user ability” option, and it’ll work back and forth, and crisscross.

      • Val,

        It looks like you got the solution before I could post. Glad you found it :)

      • Brianguy132 says:

        I don’t understand your response on how you got the calendars to show up without it defaulting on busy (with no detail). I have two google e-mail addresses, 1 for work (paid) and 1 for home (free). When I share the account from the the home gmail to the work gmail the work account shows both calendars with full detail. I tried to invite the free home gmail to see the work gmail by selecting “make changes and manage sharing” and typing in the home e-mail address from the work account. When I type in the e-mail it switches it from “make changes…” to “see only free/busy (hide details)”. I couldn’t figure out where the button that Val mentioned of “manage this domain”. Any help to get this figured out would be appreciated! It’s a great tool when it works! Thanks in advance.

        • Val Lusis says:

          You have to have the domain admin rights, or ask your admin to make the change.

  4. Rob young says:

    If I have four or more groups of people, to whom I want to show different availability, how can I do that?

    For example:

    Show group one that I am …available from 9::00 to 5:00 M-F

    Show group Two that I am…available from TU & TH from 9:00 too 5:00

    Show group Three that I am…available from 4:00 to 5:00 M-F

    Show group Four that I am…available from 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM M-T-W-T

    When anyone from any group scheduled themself for the appropriate time, that data would syn with a main calander, outlook or google for example, and then that time would show busy to all calenders.

    So, each of the calenders would show overlapping options to one or more of the other classes of calenders and as soon as someone books one of those time, it would show as busy in all those calenders or classifications.

    Thanks!

    Rob

  5. OggSync says:

    Your last image is deep linked to OggSync. Google Sync has been end of lifed, but OggSync Google to Outlook Calendar and Contact Sync (which is what the last image is showing) lives on. Thanks.

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