What is the modern equivalent for the family calendar on the fridge? A Google shared calendar.

Shared calendars

In our growing family, we needed something that was more portable, easier to use and more up to date with our day-to-day lives. We had tried using meeting requests between separate email / calendar accounts… but that was pretty clunky, not at all collaborative and often out of sync. (It wasn’t really “work” related to have them stored in an Exchange account either.) We were quite often missing appointments and being frustrated that one calendar would have the appointment showing, the other calendar wouldn’t, or that edits to appointments hadn’t been synchronised.

The solution? A shared calendar! You can collaboratively edit a shared calendar via the web, via native iPhone, iPad & Android calendar apps or via iCal-based desktop apps. Plus you can view the calendar as an overlay in Microsoft Outlook. The shared calendar will update automatically to all connected devices. It works brilliantly.

I’m pretty much always tinkering with technology and gadgets of some description and the Google shared calendar is one of the things I’ve implemented in our home life that my wife thinks works well. (Basically this, Wunderlist and the Sonos are the only welcome additions to our day to day lives.)

When people ask me, what is a good practical example of connected devices… this is the one that I normally use and show people. I think that it is one of the best uses of digital technology for collaborating & connectivity. Quite honestly, it is used constantly in our family to keep us in sync with two careers plus two children. We use it for home but I’m sure that it would just as well for clubs, associations & small workgroups.

We have two versions of shared calendars in our house.
  • The Hallam Family calendar, which includes all of our events such as children drop offs / pickups, appointments, after work functions, dinners, friends, holidays, travel; and
  • The Hallam Birthday calendar, which includes all of our birthdays, anniversaries and yearly important events.

 Sounds great… so how do you set it up?

Create the shared calendar

1. If you don’t already have a Google account (huh?) for each person who wants to use the shared calendar, then you will need to set one up for each person. You can setup new Google accounts here. https://accounts.google.com/SignUp

2. Using one of your Google accounts, and it doesn’t really matter which account, setup a new calendar using the Google calendar website via https://www.google.com/calendarName it something meaningful for the group, such as Family Calendar.

Create Calendar
New calendar details

3. Invite others to use the Google calendar by Sharing the calendar (Share this Calendar) and inviting them to participate in the shared calendar via their Google email address. You should select the appropriate level of access.

Share calendar

4. You can now edit the calendar via any of the associated Google accounts (given the correct permissions). Any edits will be replicated to all other connected devices.

Access from connected devices

If you want to, you can use the Google Calendar website to edit and view appointments, however, the shared calendar becomes much more useful when you set it up on your mobile, tablets, or apps.

iOS

You can use the Mail, Contacts, Calendar settings to add a Google account. (You used to have to use the Exchange  option pointed to m.google.com here… but iOS now has an updated Google sync so that Shared Calendars now appear).

iOS Settings iOS Google

Under Calendar, wait for the replication to occur, and then select the shared calendar to appear.

iOS shared

Android

You can use the native Android calendar application to edit shared Google calendars. (I have a HTC One).

Under the calendar app, go to accounts under the settings menu.

Android calendar

Add a new Google account if you don’t already have your Google account added.

Android add calendar

Then select the calendars that you want to view / edit in the calendar app.

Android Google View

MacOS

You can add the Google calendar in a very similar way to iOS by using Interet Accounts under Settings. You add the Google account and then can set which calendars you edit under iCal.

Microsoft Outlook

You can only view (not edit) Internet calendars in Outlook. This is still a very handy feature if you use Outlook on your work PC so that you can see upcoming events. (If you want to edit them, I normally just use my iPad.)

To set this up, you paste the Private iCal calendar address into a Shared calendar. How to do this depends on the version of Outlook that you are using.
The private address can be found on the Google calendar details page by clicking the iCal private address button.

Private Address

You then enter this into Outlook under Open Calendar From Internet.

Outlook Internet Calendar

Bye, bye fridge calendar!

Well that’s pretty much about it. I hope that you find using a Google shared calendar replaces the (out of date) fridge calendar and means that you don’t miss an important event again (such as anniversaries!)
Let me know how you go.

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