Shared Google Calendars, where have you been all my life…

If Google calendars, and smart phones, had been around while I was in high school I could have avoided having to pick up rubbish at lunchtimes.

<skip all this rubbish and just find out how to do it!>

I have never been good at keeping a diary. In high school we had to have one on us at all times and put all our homework in it. Not only would I forget to write in it but I would always leave it behind and consequently I got in trouble.

Now that I’m all “growed” up I don’t have homework to keep track of but I do have:

  • Birthdays,
  • Anniversaries,
  • Work appointments,
  • Activities for the kids,
  • Volunteering with the Scouts,
  • Events with my motorcycle club
  • etc.

…and then on top of that I need to keep track of my wife’s appointments so that we don’t clash… or forget to pick up the kids or something 😉

After a few failed attempts of coordinating calendars I discovered that you can share Google Calendars. I had recently acquired a Samsung Galaxy S, my wife’s work had given her an iPhone so in no time at all I had her calendar shared with me and mine with hers.

It is a great system. As soon as she adds something to her calendar it appears on my phone and vice versa. Additionally you can import public holidays (I even added Chinese holidays for one of my suppliers) and facebook events.

Each calendar appears in the phone as a separate calendar. It has it’s own colour and you can view them separately if you wish. On my phone I have a calendar widget on the home screen and I can scroll through colour coded entries and see who is busy, when I have to be somewhere and when I have to be home/work.

As I mentioned above I volunteer with the Scouts, specifically the Rover section (18-26yr olds). Practically all of them have smart phones so I thought we could run their Activity Program on another shared google calendar. That way if an activity changes can all see the change (and it makes my life easier).

I set up a Rover calendar to share but then problems arose when members didn’t have Google accounts. I thought that was the end of it but then I had an idea. I signed up a separate Google account for the program and then set it up on all their phones.

This had the same effect as sharing a calendar but they didn’t need to have their own Google account.

How do you do it?

If you just want one calendar to share with multiple people you could create a separate Google account and set it up on each person’s phone.

Separate Google Account

Step one, click here and sign up for a Google account.

Step two, add the account to your smart phone…

  • Android
    • Go to Settings
    • Go to “Accounts and sync”
    • Click on “Add account”
    • Select “Google” and follow the prompts
  • iPhone/iPod
    • Go to Settings
    • Go to “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”
    • Click “Add account”
    • Select “GMail” and follow the prompts

Once the account has been added you can deselect Contacts and Mail and just use the Calendar.

A separate account works well for an activity calendar because it will be a “second” calendar on your phone, you won’t put personal appointments in it. If you want to share a calendar with your spouse or family it is better to each have your own account. This way you can see at a glance who the appointment belongs to.

Sharing your Calendar

There are plenty of resources available online for sharing Google calendars, for example…

…however it all boils down to you logging in to your Google account from a computer (or view the “Full Desktop Site” from a mobile device), selecting your calendar and clicking share.

  • Log in to your calendar
  • Hover your mouse over your calendar (on the left under “My Calendars”)
  • Click on the arrow to the right of the calendar name (usually your name)
  • Select “Share this Calendar” (you can also choose the colour that your calendar will be on your phone)

In the “Share this Calendar” screen you can select who will see your calendar and what level of access they will have. The access levels are:

  • “Make Changes AND Manage Sharing” – the user can add, delete and change calendar entries and they can share your calendar with more people.
  • “Make Changes to Events” – the user can add, delete and change calendar entries.
  • “See Event Details” – Read only, users cannot change the calendar in any way
  • “See only Free/Busy (hide details)” – every event/appointment on your calendar will appear to users as times when you are busy. Users cannot see what you are doing at those times.

To share your calendar enter an email address/es, select the access level and click save. If the email address belongs to a Google account your calendar will automatically be added to their calendars. If the email address is not associated with a Google account the user will be sent an email instructing them to create a Google account.

If you have been granted full access to a calendar you can add events to it by selecting the calendar when you create a new event. Be careful not to put something in the wrong calendar. I once accidentally put in a Rover activity “Pick up Daughter from Child Care”. It is easy enough to delete the entry but it can be embarrassing if someone else notices before you do.

Sync your Facebook Events

Again, plenty of resources for this one…

…but it is pretty easy.

  • From the Facebook main page (click “Facebook” top left of page) click on “Events”
  • At the top right of the Events page click on the “cog”/settings icon and select “Export”
  • A window will pop up saying…

“You can export your friends’ birthdays or upcoming events into Apple iCal, Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar.”

  • …right-click on “upcoming events” and copy the link location
  • Log in to your Google calendar
  • Click on the arrow to the right of “Other Calendars” and select “Add by URL”
  • Paste in the link you copied from “upcoming events”
  • click “Add Calendar”

Now every time you accept or “Maybe” a Facebook event it will be synced to your Google Calendar.

The only difference with the Facebook calendar is that you can only add events to it from Facebook, you can’t do it directly from Google calendar.

How did I go?

I hope I have helped you to take advantage of Google Calendars. If I have made a mistake above or if my instructions are a bit confusing please let me know either via my contact form or my facebook page and I’ll do my best to fix it.

Thanks for reading this guide.