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Working with Windows Communication Features (part 4) - Using Windows Calendar

7/5/2011 4:10:45 PM

Using Windows Calendar

Computers are useful for tracking all kinds of personal information, and keeping track of appointments and events is no exception. Windows Vista includes Windows Calendar, which uses a simple, intuitive user interface for recording information about upcoming meetings, tasks, and related details. Windows Calendar also provides a feature that makes it easy to share calendar appointments with other people. Figure 22 shows an example of a daily view in the application. In this section, you’ll learn how to work with Windows Calendar.

Figure 22. Using Windows Calendar to view daily appointments

Managing Calendars and Groups

In its simplest configuration, you can use a single Windows Calendar file for all of your appointments. This is useful if, for example, you just want to keep track of a single type of event. More commonly, users want to keep different types of events separate for organizational purposes. For example, a small-business user might have separate calendars for personal and social events, another for business appointments and meetings, and a third for keeping track of details such as tax filings.

The process of creating a new calendar is simple: just click the New Calendar item on the File menu. A new calendar appears in the Calendars section. Windows Calendar gives each calendar a separate color to help keep events visually separate.

Another useful feature for organizing calendars is the ability to create groups. This enables you to manage similar types of calendars together for administrative purposes (you’ll see examples later in this lesson). To create a new group for calendars, click New Group on the File menu. After you have created a new group, you can drag and drop the calendars into and out of them.

Creating Tasks and Appointments

Appointments are events that occur at a specific date and time. To create a new appointment, place the cursor on the date or time of the event in the calendar view. Then, click the New Appointment button in the toolbar, or choose New Appointment on the File menu. You can type the text of the appointment either directly in the calendar (if the current view is large enough) or in the details pane. This section enables you to specify additional information, including the following:

  • A description of the appointment.

  • Location.

  • On which calendar the item should appear.

  • A URL for reference to a Web site or other online location.

  • Details about the start and end time for the appointment. (Optionally, you can choose for it to be an all-day appointment and configure the appointment to recur.)

  • An amount of time before the event that a reminder should be displayed.

  • A list of participants that you would like to invite to the meeting. You can enter e-mail addresses manually, or you can click Attendees to choose them from the list stored in Windows Contacts.

Windows Calendar also enables you to create and track tasks. The primary difference between a task and an appointment is that tasks generally have a start date and due date (rather than specific beginning and end times), and they are not necessarily placed at a certain time of the day. Tasks also don’t have attendees. To create a new task, click New Task on the toolbar or select New Task on the File menu. The list of tasks appears in the bottom left section of the user interface. Users can place a check mark next to a task to signify that it is complete. Figure 23 shows an example of Windows Calendar in which there are multiple appointments and task items.

Figure 23. Viewing multiple appointments and tasks in Windows Calendar

Viewing Calendar Information

You can view calendar events by using several different view options. The first option is to choose the time span shown in the calendar portion of the user interface. The options are as follows:

  • Day

  • Work Week

  • Week

  • Month

To change the view, click the drop-down arrow next to the View button on the toolbar or select the appropriate item from the View menu. Note that there are convenient keyboard shortcuts that can make it easier to switch between views. If you choose to show information for many days on the display, then summary text is shown for each event. You can always click Today to return to the current date.

In addition to controlling the date range that is shown, you can manage which events and tasks are shown in the calendar view by selecting the check box for the associated calendar or calendar group. This enables you to view information from multiple calendars in a single view or to view just one type of information. For example, when at work, you might be most interested in details about meetings. At other times, you might want to view all of the types of upcoming events.

Sending Calendar Information

Although calendars are certainly helpful when used on an individual basis, they can be even more useful when shared with other people. A common example in a home-based environment is for parents to be able to keep track of their children’s after-school activities. You can share calendar information in several different ways. The simplest method is to send appointments through e-mail. The iCalendar format enables users to send appointment-related data in a standard format. These files usually have an .ics extension and can easily be attached to an e-mail message (see Figure 24).

Figure 24. Sending appointment information through e-mail

Note that the message is being sent using Windows Mail. If you are using a different e-mail program, Windows Calendar uses your default program. The message has an attachment that includes the .ics file for a group of appointments. To send a new appointment or group of appointments, select the specific item, and then click Send Via E-mail on the Share menu. A new e-mail message is generated. The recipient can open the attachment to have the event added to his or her calendar. Because the iCalendar format is a standard, programs other than Windows Calendar can use it.

Publishing a Calendar

Although sending individual appointments through e-mail can be useful, it can quickly become difficult to manage when there are many different users who need to stay up to date with their friends, family members, and coworkers. An easier way to do this is to use the Windows Calendar publishing feature. Publishing calendar information also relies on the iCalendar format, but the data can be stored in a central location that is accessible to many people. The options include local file folders and shared network folders. In addition, you can publish calendar data to a compatible Web server on the Internet.

To enable publishing, on the Share menu, select Publish. Figure 25 shows the options that are available. The first option is the Calendar Name text box. It is usually helpful to include the name of the individual and the types of events that are included. The Location To Publish Calendar text box specifies where the calendar data is published. This can be a local folder path, a network folder path, or the URL of a compatible Web host. The link opens a Web site that provides more details for available services. A very useful option is the Automatically Publish Changes Made To This Calendar check box. When selected, this setting ensures that the published information is updated whenever you add or change appointments. Finally, you can determine whether you want to publish notes, reminders, or tasks.

Figure 25. Publishing calendar-related information

The publishing process also enables you to generate an e-mail message to inform others of the location of your shared calendar. When other users connect to and download the .ics file, they can add the events and other details to their own calendars (see Figure 26).

Figure 26. Importing new calendar information by using an .ics file

You can choose to stop publishing calendar information from the Share menu by choosing Stop Publishing.

Subscribing to Calendars

Although manually connecting to and downloading iCalendar files is an option, it does take time and effort for people to obtain that data. To make this process easier, Windows Calendar includes a Subscribe command on the Share menu. The only configuration option is to specify the path to the shared calendar files. This might be in a local folder, but it is more commonly stored on a shared network folder or on a compatible Internet server.

Windows Calendar provides a great deal of functionality for tracking tasks and appointments in a simple and easy-to-learn user interface.

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