All about calendar sharing

Christopher Breen
28 April, 2013
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Here, I’d like to delve into some of the details of Mountain Lion’s Calendar application. Specifically, getting calendars in and out of the application and how to use Calendar with services such as Google and Yahoo.

Export/import business

We’ll get to shared calendars in a bit, but now I’d like to discuss copying calendars and events out of Calendar as well as importing these things into the application.

Copying calendars

You’ve learned how to create calendars and the events within them. But suppose you want to send someone a copy of a calendar or event? It’s easily done.

To create a copy of a specific calendar, make sure the Calendars pane is exposed (click the leather bit’s Calendars button if it isn’t) and select the calendar you want to copy. Now choose File > Export > Export. Seemingly redundant though the command may be, it produces a sheet where you can choose a location for your saved calendar. (A slightly faster avenue is to Control-click, or right-click, on the calendar and choose Export from the resulting menu.) Click the Export button and you’ve saved your copy.

The resulting file will end with .ics. This indicates that the file is in the iCalendar format, which is a standard file format that most calendar clients can read.

Three exported Calendar files: Calendar backup, calendar and event.

Exporting an event is even easier. Just drag the one you want to copy to the desktop. This file is also in the .ics format, but  it bears a different icon, which hints that it’s a single event rather than a calendar.

You can also produce a copy of all your calendars, including their events and any attached notifications. To do this, choose File > Export > Calendar Archive. By default, when you click Save in the sheet that appears, you’ll produce a file called Calendars and Reminders date and time (where date and time is the date and time presented in this format: 4.25.13 3.45 PM).

This is not a file in the iCalendar format. Rather, it bears a .icbu extension (an extension is what we call the few letters that follow the period in a file’s name – .jpg, .doc. or .mov, for example). This extension tells us that it’s a Calendar backup file (or an iCal backup file if you’re using an earlier version of the Mac OS). These files can’t be imported by other calendar programs. Only Apple’s iCal and Calendar can import them directly. And while we’re on the subject of importing…

All roads lead to import

Your fellow coach has sent you a copy of the autumn-winter-spring-good-lord-doesn’t-this-season-ever-end soccer schedule. It’s a .ics file and you’d love to bring it into your copy of Calendar. Here’s how.

Launch Calendar, select File > Import > Import and, in the window that appears, navigate to the file. Click the Import button, and an Add Events window appears. From its pop-up menu you can choose to add the calendar’s events to any calendar already in Calendar’s pane. Or, you can choose to create a new calendar. If you opt for the latter, the calendar will bear its original name. Alternatively, you can drag the calendar file to the Calendar icon in the Dock. Calendar will launch and display the Add Events window. Or drag a calendar into an existing calendar. Or just double-click on the file. All roads lead to import.

You can’t incorporate calendar archive (.icbu) files into existing calendars. If you attempt to import one, you’ll be told that you must replace (and lose) all of your current calendars with the calendars stored in the archive. Why on earth would you choose to do that? If you want an exact copy of your current calendars on another Mac (say a new MacBook Air you’ve purchased for travel) or within another account on your computer, you could simply import a backup file.

Sharing and publishing

It’s hard to argue with the convenience of being able to send someone a copy of your calendar, but suppose you update that calendar. Do you really want to send updates each and every time you make a change to your calendar? Probably not. Thankfully, with the power of calendar sharing and publishing, you don’t have to. Let’s see what these two operations do and how they differ.

Sharing calendars with iCloud

If you’ve followed along with these lessons from the beginning (and if you haven’t, you can start here), you should have an iCloud account by now. One of the many benefits of iCloud is that you can use it to share calendars. And it’s not hard to do.

Add the email addresses of those you want to share a calendar with.

In Calendar choose File > New Calendar > iCloud. A new calendar will appear under the iCloud heading. Enter the events you’d like, and then choose Edit > Share Calendar. In the small window that appears, enter the email addresses of those you want to share the calendar with (separating each address with a comma). Click Done, and a link to your calendar will be sent to those you’ve chosen to share it with. Those sharing it will need an iCloud account to access your calendar.

By default when you share a calendar with someone in this way, they can edit the calendar – add and remove events. However, if you click on the triangle that appears next to their name in the Sharing window, you can choose View Only, which means they can see events added to the calendar, but they can’t create events of their own or delete existing events.

You’ll also notice the Public Calendar option in this window. If you enable it, a web address for that calendar appears below. (This is a calendar that can be viewed, but not edited.) If you click the Share button, and you can email a link to that calendar, send an iMessage that contains the link, or post the link to your Facebook page.

Just click the Add Calendar button within an email message to join a shared iCloud calendar.

When the recipient receives this message, all they need to do is click the link and Calendar will open, offering them the opportunity to subscribe to your calendar. If they click Subscribe, a sheet will appear, where they can configure their subscription settings. (Something we’ll get to shortly.)

Sharing Google and Yahoo calendars

iCloud presents a distinct advantage to those who want to share calendars with other people: It allows you to do everything in Calendar – create the calendars, choose recipients and send invitations all from within the Calendar application. In the case of Google calendars, you can view and edit them within Calendar, but you can’t create them. For this you must go to your Gmail page within a web browser. When you’ve done that, you can view your calendar. You can’t, however, share any of these calendars from within the Calendar application. Again, it’s back to the Gmail site to do that.

With a Yahoo account, you can create calendars within the Calendars application. But, as with Google calendars, you can’t share these calendars unless you do so from Yahoo’s site.

Calendar publishing

Calendar publishing sounds suspiciously like calendar sharing, but I assure you that they’re completely different things. Publishing, for example, starts with the letter P. There are other differences as well.

To publish a calendar with the Calendar application, that calendar must be created on your Mac rather than in iCloud, Google or any other service. This is a calendar that you want to share outside of these services.

You’ll need some kind of hosting service to do this. For example, allows you to publish calendars via its free plan. The process goes something like this.

The Publish sheet.

Sign up for a account. Create a new calendar on your Mac. (If you don’t have On My Mac as an option when you select File > New Calendar, go to the Accounts preference, disable the Enable This Account option for any iCloud, Yahoo or Google account you have, and then choose File > New Calendar.) Add a couple of events.

Now select that calendar and choose Edit > Publish Calendar. In the window that appears enter and then enter the email address and password associated with that account. Click Publish to publish the calendar. You’re then provided with the option to email that link to those you want to share the calendar with. They then receive the email and choose to subscribe, and they’re good to go.

Subscribing to calendars

As promised, we’ll now discuss subscribing to calendars. As you now know, you can subscribe to a calendar via an emailed invitation. You click on the subscription link in the email message, Calendar launches, you then click the Subscribe button and a sheet appears. Within this sheet you can configure the calendar’s options. You can change its colour, choose a location for it (in iCloud or on your Mac, for example), choose to remove any embedded alerts and attachments, and select the auto-refresh interval (every minute, every five minutes, every 15 minutes, every hour, every day or every week). Click OK and the calendar is added to the Calendars pane.

If you aren’t provided with a direct link to a calendar – which automatically starts this process – you can manually add calendar links that you’ve copied from your web browser or some other source. Choose File > New Calendar Subscription and, in the sheet that appears, paste the link. Click the Subscribe button and off you go.

As I pointed out in a recent Mac 911 entry, the advantage of adding such a calendar to iCloud is that it will be synced with all devices (iOS devices as well as other computers) that use your Apple ID. You can’t add subscribed calendars to a Google or Yahoo account within Calendar.

You'll see these options when subscribing to a calendar.

Calendars you subscribe to are read-only, meaning that others can’t add or remove events. And that makes sense, given that a lot of these calendars are used for publishing holidays, sports team schedules, concert dates and release dates for upcoming movies.

Where do you find such calendars? At one time, sites that held calendar repositories for a wide variety of events – holidays from around the world, team schedules, media release dates and band concert schedules – were all the rage. They no longer are. Most of these sites still exist ,but their calendars are wildly out of date. Instead you should determine what you’d like a schedule of and then use your web browser to search for it. Find a link to an ‘iCal’ calendar or a .ics file, and you should be able to easily subscribe to the calendar.

About account delegates

Google and Yahoo allow others to share their calendars with you. Let’s say, for example, your company uses Gmail’s calendars. Within your company Gmail account, you can create your own calendars – a project schedule, a days-off calendar for tracking your time off and a calendar for keeping track of work-based events that will require you to file an expense report for travel and entertainment. When you add that account to Calendars, these calendars will automatically appear under the Google heading in the Calendars pane.

At the same time, your company may choose to share some of its calendars with you – a ‘who’s taking the day off’ calendar, another for scheduling meetings and yet another for the company software team. These calendars don’t automatically appear in Calendar. But it takes little effort to add them.

Just choose Calendar > Preferences and click the Accounts tab. Select your company Gmail or Yahoo account and click the Delegation tab to the right. Here you’ll see listed any calendars shared with you, along with the privileges you have (read only or read and write). Tick the checkbox next to the calendars you want to view, and they’ll appear in the Calendars pane below a Delegates heading. As members of your company update these calendars, those changes will be pushed to your copy. Likewise, if you have write privileges, any changes you make will affect everyone else’s copy of the calendar. For this reason you want to be careful about adding any ‘Pie the boss, Friday 2pm’ events to this calendar. Save that kind of thing for unshared calendars.

And that wraps up just about everything you need to know about calendars.


By Christopher Breen, Macworld

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