Five quick, useful Google Calendar tweaks

Keep events private, change your default view, add weather info, use keyboard shortcuts, and import specialty calendars.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
3 min read

I keep waiting for the day I can view my Google Calendar entries while I'm offline--without having to export the entries to Outlook or another standalone calendar program. Until that day, here are five ways to get make better use of Google's free calendar service.

Lock out unwanted viewers
To make sure your calendar entries are private, click the down arrow next to the calendar under My Calendars on the left side of the screen. Choose "Share this calendar" to open that tab in your settings. Uncheck "Make this calendar public," and be sure there are no names but your own listed under "Share with specific people." When you're done, click Save to return to your calendar.

Google Calendar's "Share this calendar" settings
Uncheck "Make this calendar public" in Google Calendar's "Share this calendar" settings. Google

You can also check the privacy of an individual calendar entry by clicking it and choosing "edit event details" in the pop-up window. Make sure that either Default or Private is selected on the left side of the window under Options, and click Save.

Google Calendar's event-details dialog box
Make sure that others can't view a calendar event by choosing either Default or Private in the event details dialog. Google

Lock in your favorite calendar view
Seeing only one day's worth or even one week's worth of events at a time doesn't give me the scheduling information I need at a glance. That's why I prefer Google Calendar's monthly view, which I made my default by clicking Settings > General, choosing "month" on the drop-down menu next to "Default view," and clicking Save.

Place a weather forecast in your calendar
One of my favorite iGoogle gadgets is the one that puts a four-day weather forecast on my home page. Now I get a mini-version of that forecast in my Google Calendar. To add a weather report to your calendar entries, click Settings > General, add your city and state or ZIP code in the text box next to Location, choose either Celsius or Fahrenheit next to "Show weather based on my location," and click Save.

Navigate your calendar via keyboard shortcuts
Make fast work of your calendar tasks by skipping the mouse and using Google Calendar's keyboard shortcuts instead. Among my favorites are C to create an event, M to change the view to monthly (see above to reset your default calendar view), W to change to the weekly view, D to see only that day's entries, and Q to open the Quick Add pop-up window. Google provides a complete list of keyboard shortcuts for calendars and for event details.

Add a specialty calendar
Football season is right around the corner, and now I'm ready with all my alma mater's games listed on my Google Calendar. And all I had to do to add them was download one of the public calendars that Google collects in its calendar gallery.

To view the gallery, click the down arrow next to Add on the left side of the screen and choose "Add a public calendar." You can either browse the categories on the left side of the window or enter a term in the search box at the top of the screen.

Along with calendars for TV shows, sports teams, presidential candidates, and movie and DVD releases are entries listing celebrity birthdays, phases of the moon, and the holidays celebrated in various countries. What's missing is a calendar of events for the upcoming Beijing Olympics. C'mon, NBC! I don't want to miss the rhythmic gymnastics finals!