Software and webapps rock at being calendars: You can update them from any computer or your phone, they don't have to triple-check when Easter is, and they never get coffee stains on them. But your online or desktop calendar can do a lot more than just hold dates and tell you about them. Free programs and tweaks can integrate appointments into your email app, embed a whole-month view into your wallpaper, schedule birthdays without a single phone call, and improve your faulty memory for everything. Take a look at 10 free and customisable hacks you can apply to your own appointment-keeping system. Photo by Joe Lanman.
10. Share and schedule rooms and objects automatically.
Google Calendar offers a subtle, tucked-away little feature that can make renting out a projector or booking a conference room deadly simple. You can set up a calendar to auto-accept invitations that don't conflict with others. Even if you're just sharing a grill with some neighbours, it's a simple way to ensure everybody's on the level.
9. Carry your schedule on a compact calendar.
Unless you want to be that person, the one who interrupts conversation and distracts everyone by pulling out and pecking at a PDA, you're not going to have your calendar on you at all times. That doesn't mean you can't commit to dates, scope how long a project might take, and remind yourself of important dates with a compact calendar from designer David Seah. It fits in a wallet or on the edge of a notebook, and does what you need a calendar to do when you're not at your desk.
8. Add custom content with subscriptions.
You don't have to make all the content on a useful, productive calendar. In fact, you can automatically number your weeks, get daily weather forecasts, and embed your Remember the Milk tasks. It's helpful scheduling that you don't have to lift a finger to benefit from.
7. Find the best time for everyone in a big group to meet.
The Web 2.0 social-site explosion has created a wealth of scheduling services, but we've always liked the simplicity of tools like Doodle, where you just ask folks via email what times work for them, and the site returns the most compatible matches. Need more than just a time slot? fasterPlan creates web-based, customisable billboards, so you can ask which park works best for a reunion, who's a vegetarian, and so on. If nothing else, your over-burdened inbox will thank you.
6. Keep your calendar in plain text.
It's no secret we're fans of the command line around these parts, especially apps that let you add and control information as fast as you can type. That's exactly what Remind is. The app takes in simple text commands to add or display appointments, either in line-by-line text or ASCII-formatted grids. As shown in our guide to plain text calendar management, Remind is based on an old Unix tool, so Linux, OS X, and Windows users (using Cygwin) have equal access to it.
5. Keep up on Facebook friends' birthdays.
Prepare to have social networking service Facebook actually save you time you would've spent typing and clicking. The site already keeps track of all your friends' birthdays, but free plug-in fbCal makes them accessible to iCal-compliant calendar client. It might take a bit to get working, but once it does, you'll be seen as a gracious friend, one who's on top of even the most obscure third-cousin birthdays.
4. Embed Google Calendar into Gmail.
Gmail and Google Calendar already go well together, with Gmail able to detect and add appointments to GCal, and having them on the same page can serve as an Outlook-like "Today" page. Two Greasemonkey scripts for Firefox make it easy to embed GCal directly into your email: Gmail Addons pops your calendar (or any other web applet, really) in and out of any corner of Gmail, while GMailAgenda throws a vertical calendar rail into a right-hand rail. Want to add Remember the Milk's advanced task-management to your all-in-one start page? You can easily do that too.
3. Set your calendar to email your future self.
The "tickler" file is an idea that reporters, creative executives, and other old-school, productivity-minded types have been using for decades to stash away to-dos and ideas that don't come into play until later on. While modern calendar tools are great for accessibility and ease of use, they lack that ability to make you encounter things whether you want to or not—everything is, after all, dismiss-able with a mouse click. Gina wrote up a guide to setting Yahoo Calendar to tickle you automatically back in Lifehacker's earliest days, but the concepts and instructions are still relevant for Google Calendar, Outlook, or any system that can remind you.
2. Embed your calendar onto your desktop.
Whether you were the type to order one of those gigundo desktop calendars and use it as your ambient appointment reminder, or you just don't have a need for flashy desktop wallpaper, an embedded computer desktop calendar can do wonders for your memory. And you've got more than a few implementation options. Mac users can incorporate a text calendar and any other files onto their backdrop using GeekTool, Outlook devotees can use the appropriately-titled Outlook on the Desktop or text-based DeskTask, Windows (and Linux) workers can try the excellent Rainlendar widget, and Gina wrote up a guide to embedding any text on your desktop with Windows tool Samurize.
1. Sync Google Calendar to any desktop client.
There are, shockingly, times when computers aren't connected to the internet, and also times when heading to Google Calendar in a browser isn't as convenient as your on-demand calendar program. With the introduction of CalDAV support, Google Calendar can now perform two-way syncs with any desktop client, and Adam has taken the time to show us how. Even if you use a calendar site or app not described in the how-to, hooking up a publicly-accessible feed in the widely-supported GCal is usually a first step to taking your scheduling information anywhere you go.
Of course, these are just our own favourite calendar tricks, and each person has their own schedule-and-remember style. What calendar add-ons or third-party tools can't you live and work without? Which calendar features go unheralded? Share the good stuff in the comments.