Get more from iCal

This time we take a look at both basic operation and extending the possible uses of Apple’s iCal scheduling software (available free as a 10.4MB download from www.apple.com.au/ical).

iCal can be operated using the controls at the bottom of the program, where you can elect to view your schedule by day, week or month. When you create a new calendar (by clicking the + button and typing in a theme name) you’ll have the option of sorting your appointments by colour code. Tick the calendars you want to see, in order to view certain types of appointments (home or work, etc.) — or see if you’ve double-booked yourself by ticking them all.

Make an entry by double-clicking a field and typing in the details. You can also click and drag on your entry to quickly shuffle your schedule. You can create clickable URLs in your event details by using brackets, for example . Pressing -I then clicking the alarm bell allows you to schedule a reminder pop-up, an e-mail to yourself or a sound to play at a given interval to remind you of that event.

More calendars

You can download calendars created by other users that cover everything from schedules for TV shows to sports and public holidays (including some for Australia). We’ve provided a list of some sites for you to try.

iCal saves calendars as a .ics file. If you know the URL of a .ics file, go to Calendar-Subscribe within iCal and enter its name. Once a calendar is found, just click Subscribe to add it (see here for a screenshot).

Sharing calendars

Just as you can use other calendars, iCal also gives you the ability to publish calendars online to share with other users. One quick and easy way is to go to File-Export, save your calendar as a .ics file and upload that to a Web site or FTP for other iCal users to download.

The free iCal2html utility takes this one step farther by turning your .ics files into Web pages. If Web logs (‘blogs’) interest you, you could use iBlogiCal, available as a 1MB download from www.visualnewt.com, to automatically convert iCal calendars to blogs, complete with themes and templates. The best part is that you still only need a Web site to which you can upload via FTP.

The drawback of these methods is that you have to save and upload files manually every time you make changes to your calendar. For this reason, iCal supports the webDAV (www.webdav.org) protocol by which iCal automatically updates changes, although this can be done a few different ways.

One option is to use a WebDAV server. You’ll find various tutorials on configuring webDAV support for Apache at sites like www.shawnwall.com/teach/webdav-ical.php if you need help.

Another (and far less technical) option is to use a free service such as www.icalx.com that allows you to share your calendars using iCal’s ‘publish to a web server’ option. Visitors can download the .ics file or view your calendar through a Web browser. Last but not least is the option to use Apple’s .Mac online service (see the box ‘Useful information’) to publish your calendars. Using a .Mac account, select the calendar to publish, pull down the Calendar menu and choose Publish. Next, create a ‘publish name’ and decide whether you want to automatically publish any changes you might make to the calendar. Next, make sure you’ve selected Publish on .Mac then click the Publish button. Your contacts can now view (but not change) your calendar using iCal or even through a Web browser.

Useful information

Calendar downloads
www.apple.com.au/ical/library
www.icalshare.com
www.icalworld.com

iCal services
www.icalx.com
www.mac.com

iCal utilities
EntiCal 1.0: convert Entourage X calendars to iCal iCal: make it Happen 1.0 – Use iCal to schedule tasks (Both available for download at http://blog.saalmann.de/categories/ical) iCal2html: turns .ics files into standard Web pages (www.hearsay.demon.co.uk/mac/ical2html)

Requirements: to use iCal you’ll need at least OS X 10.2.2. You may want to download the latest point release by pulling down the Apple menu and selecting System preferences-Software Update. Click Check Now and then select the components you wish to update. Be aware that this can take some time, especially if you’re stuck using a standard 56Kbps modem. OS X 10.2.6 was current at the time of writing and freely available to existing 10.2.x users. More information can be found at www.apple.com.au/macosx.

Mac accounts: the easiest way to share calendars is to use an Apple .Mac (www.mac.com) account. Upon subscribing, you also receive a 15MB premium e-mail account, 100MB of online storage space and use of a backup facility (iDisk), a Web page builder (HomePage), an antivirus utility (McAfee Virex) and technical support. A one-year subscription to .Mac costs $189; a free 60-day trial is also available which includes 5MB e-mail, 20MB iDisk storage and backup use, plus use of HomePage to create a Web site.

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Danny Allen

PC World

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