iCal Subscriptions on Your iPhone

Posted on this Wednesday, August 26, 2009 19:58 by caw
Filed Under Technology | Leave a Comment

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I found a new trick today: how to get iCal calendars on your iPhone without a lot of hoop-jumping. Macworld magazine had a method that allowed you to add subscribed calendars via the iPhone itself. (See the article iPhone 3.0 Software Update in the September 2009 issue. On page 48, under "Save the Date" they tell you how to add an iCal or CalDAV subscription. IMHO, it’s a painful way to go.)

Disclaimers: For the moment, I’ll assume you are running a Mac with OS X 10.5 Leopard and using iCal 3 for you scheduling. I’m also assuming you are using MobileMe and that you’ve no objections to publishing calendars where every one can see them.1 I ‘m also doing some experimenting with Microsoft Live and Outlook to see what kind of support they offer Windows-based users.

We have six (6) people’s calendars to manage: four family and two extended family. And somebody was always asking "Where is X?" or "What time is Y?" Given that we all have iPhones and to make things a bit easier for everyone, I came up with a plan that, unlike the Pirate’s Code 2, is rules rather than guidelines.

  1. Everyone has a Home calendar. It gets used for things like doctor’s appointments, the Snow Leopard release, massage appointments, sleep overs, in short, anything that a person is doing that could be of interest or impact others in the house.
  2. Everyone has a School and/or Work calendar. Your normal school or work schedule gets tracked here, including major events.
  3. Everyone is responsible for publishing their calendars to MobileMe and to send a publish email to everyone else in our tribe. Everyone then subscribes to everyone else’s calendars via iCal. I’ve been setting refresh rates to once an hour or one a day, which ever makes sense.
  4. Everyone is responsible to sink their iPhone to their respective computer at least once a day. Some, like me, leave it in the dock when I’m at my desk. The once-a-day rule ensures everyone has more or less up-to-date info to work from.
  5. Use a single color for all a person’s calendars. (This is a guideline, really.) I use blue, my wife is orange, my daughter is pink, etc. This makes it easy when you are looking at a week or month view to know whose calendar something came from.

And that’s it. Everyone has around a dozen calendars on their iPhones but we know where each other is going to be and when. And to make things even simpler, the iPhone let’s you look at all calendars at once, or all the ones you sink via iTunes, or all the ones that come through MobileMe. And if that doesn’t do it, you can always select a single calendar.

Hopefully, Apple will fix this little itch and let you sink everything through MobileMe but for the moment, this works just fine.

1. The security engineer in me just shivers at the though of publishing your calendar data on the web. It’s simplified social engineering and could lead to all kinds of nastiness. And to those who say you have to know what the web address is to find the calendar I’d say security by obscurity isn’t security!

2. From the movie the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, wherein Captain Barbossa says, "…, and secondly you must be a pirate for the Pirate’s Code to apply and your not, and thirdly the Code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules."

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