You want to share your busy / free times with some people, but you’ve created multiple Google calendars. Maybe a personal calendar, a schedule for kids, your softball games…some people might have their appointments and events scattered across a half dozen or more Google calendars.
What if someone wants to check your calendar for free time? Do you expect them to add six calendars to their gCal? Murphy would prefer to let anyone who needs this information click a single link and view the consolidated free and busy time. That includes users without Google accounts. Click to see a sample shared calendar.
Here’s what to do:
First - For any calendar you want included click ‘Share this calendar’ from the dropdown list next to the calendar. Check the ‘Make this calendar public’ and ‘Share only my free / busy information’ boxes.
Second - Select the dropdown next to one of your calendars and click ‘Calendar settings’ from the list. Next to ‘Calendar address’ click the HTML icon. When the pop-up appears click “configuration tool”.
Third - The configuration tool page appears. Check the calendars in the list you need included in your free / busy time display. Make other selections for screen elements you’d like included. You can set colors and add a title too.
Fourth - Click the ‘Update HTML’ button and copy the html generated in the box. Paste it into an html file and place the file on a web server accessible by those you wish to share with. Done.
If you don’t have a web host try a free site. Google has one. Or you could send the code to a good friend with a web host. Who likes helping people.
Share the url of the page you’ve created with anyone who needs to see when you’ve got free time.
The downside? This doesn’t let your friends view your free or busy time from within their Google Calendar account. And anyone who gets the url can see the information. But there’s nothing stopping you from using ‘conventional’ calendar sharing to let certain people see your calendar.
On the plus side, people don’t need a Google account to see your free and busy times. You can share the same page with multiple people – so there’s nothing left to do after setting this up. The weekly view provides lots of information at a glance.
Other Google Stuff
Quick post to mention some useful stuff I’m using from Google Labs.
I use the Google calendar pretty extensively including shared calendars from another user’s account. One of the Gmail lab features (see Google Calendar Gadget) allows you to add a mini-calendar to the navigation bar down the left side of Gmail, where your Labels and Chat stuff are. Along with my shared calendars this tool includes a Quick Add field to pop appointments into my calendar without having to open the full calendar. Something I’ve wanted on the Gmail page for a l o n g time. But I can also see my upcoming events whenever I’m in Gmail, and past events are dimmed out. It’s quite useful.
From there I was about to use another Labs feature to move my Google chat stuff to the right side of the page. But further down the list I saw an option to reorder my Gmail widgets on the left side. My calendar is now just below the Gmail items so it’s above the fold on my laptop, right where I want it. (see Navbar Drag and Drop)
Lots of Google posts, I know. I’m also using Latitude on my iPhone and I’ve committed pretty much to using Google Voice for now. I might add a Google Voice number to Murphy Mac and experiment with a call-in show. What do you think?
No real issues with Voice yet, except that I can barely remember my number. Murphy is getting so old. On the other hand, Latitude is having some trouble loading at times, not sure what’s going on there.
Got some lab features you really like? Let me know below.
Murphy’s been wondering how Google would implement Latitude on the iPhone – since we all know background apps aren’t allowed. I was sort of expecting Latitude to be part of the native Google Maps application that ships with iPhone and iPod touch. Apple allows certain apps to run in the background, like their own Mail app. Maybe a built-in app could get special treatment.
But that’s not what’s happening. The app is running in Safari. HTML 5 on iPhone 3.0 allows Safari to access location information and publish it via Latitude. The downside: You have to open the page in Safari to share your location. Switch to a different page, close Safari, let your phone lock – any of those result in Latitude not sharing location information anymore.
“Because the iPhone and iPod touch don’t allow Safari windows or apps to run in the background or while your device is locked, your location will only be updated when Latitude is in the open, active Safari window.”
“Your location will continue to be detected and updated while Latitude is the open, active Safari window and will stop being updated if you switch browser windows, leave Safari, or allow your device screen to lock.”
Not the most useful implementation, not what I was hoping for. Sharing your location is a manual process.
The screenshot above is from this afternoon: Mrs. Murphy’s Blackberry reporting her location on a taxiway at Chicago O’Hare. I’m not a big fan of her particular Blackberry, but it does a decent job with Latitude.
Before this update to Latitude I could open iGoogle on the iPhone and see where Mrs. Murphy was. Roughly. The GPS on her Blackberry takes FOREVER to kick in. So here’s a plus: Now there’s a more convenient place to see Latitude on your iPhone. Without going into iGoogle. You can manage your privacy settings, add friends, etc. And there’s a nice overlay menu with other functions like traffic, directions, and search.
Still, it doesn’t make sense to Murphy as to why it wasn’t implemented as part of Maps. Maybe in a firmware update? iPhone 3.1 must be well underway at this point. TechCrunch reported that Apple leaned on Google and had them go the web app route. Maybe Apple was worried about battery usage for a native app. Maybe a constantly updating app using the GPS would be a much larger drain than something like Pandora. Who knows?
My solution: I pushed the Safari icon back to my last page of apps and added Latitude to my Dock. That will at least update my location now and then without me giving it much thought.
Not sure what all the fuss is about Latitude and privacy. Don’t like Latitude? Don’t use it.
If you’re using Google Voice you may have realized getting people to use your new number could be tricky. Lifehacker has a post covering steps you can take to make your friends update their contacts. But the most important factor in getting people to use your new number could easily be CallerID.
If you call someone without going through Google Voice they’ll see the number of the phone you’re using: home landline, cell, or work. The extra steps to initiate the call through Google Voice might be a barrier for users otherwise interested in the service.
But there’s a way to direct dial your contacts and have them see your Google Voice number in the Caller ID. When one of your friends sends an SMS to your Google Voice number it needs to go through a legit mobile number as the intermediary. Google has taken control of a block of area code 406 numbers in Montana for this purpose. The 406 number you (GV user) see when Wendy sends you a text is a permanent mapping between you and Wendy. In other words, Your Google Voice Account + 406 123 4567 = Wendy’s Mobile Phone. But you can’t tell your sister who uses Google Voice to use that same 406 number to call Wendy. For your sister’s Google Voice account there will be a different 406 number assigned to Wendy. The mapping allows one 406 number to be used by many Google Voice customers.
Here’s what happens when you dial the 406 number from one of your Google Voice associated phones: By dialing the 406 number in the first place you’re calling straight into Google Voice. Google sees it’s your home landline from the CallerID and knows you are a Google Voice user. Then Google joins your Google Voice account with the 406 number you’ve dialed which maps to Wendy’s mobile. Your call is completed to Wendy with your Google Voice number inserted into the CallerID instead of the number of the phone you’re calling from.
Downside? From a home landline it would be a long distance call for those of us outside 406. But from many mobile phones long distance is included, so there’s no extra charge.
Keep in mind that another Google Voice user will have a different 406 number for Wendy. Another catch: You can’t use the 406 number from a phone you haven’t tied into your Google Voice account. That would result in Google only having half the equation – they wouldn’t know what Google Voice account to pair with the 406 number to see who should be called. A call to the 406 number from a non-Google Voice phone won’t be completed.
Google hasn’t provided tons of information on the 406 numbers but it’s been reported that the mappings are permanent. For many people, using the 406 numbers to call your contacts will be the most direct way to dial through Google Voice. And it’ll help get people switched over to your new Google Voice number.
Murphy has a few random Google things to pass along: Using Quick Add with Google Calendar on your iPhone or iPod touch. An alternative to the default iPhone Google Reader page. And a Google Calendar shortcut he hadn’t noticed until recently.
Quick Add – Google Calendar – iPhone
If for some reason you’re not using Google Sync to update the native calendar application on your iPhone this might be of interest. You can’t use Google Sync if you’re already using MS ActiveSync for something else, like connecting to Exchange at your office. And even if you do use Google Sync with your iPhone, the native Apple calendar application doesn’t have a feature like Google’s Quick Add.
Chances are you end up at http://www.google.com/m when you access Google on your iPhone. If you access the calendar from this site there’s an option to create new appointments, but no Quick Add. So where is it?
Amazon iPod Nano: $133
Just point your iPhone to http://www.google.com/calendar/m where you’ll get a list view of your upcoming appointments. And at the bottom – a Quick Add field. Bookmark the page and you’re all set.
Google Reader on iPhone
Murphy finds the http://www.google.com/m page a little slow to load. Especially if you’ve bookmarked it on its Reader tab. Like the calendar, there’s an alternative view for the Reader that makes it easy to focus in on particular feeds and quickly mark them as read. It seems to load faster for Murphy. Open http://www.google.com/reader/m on your iPhone. You’ll get a list of items to read, and links to specific subscriptions and tags. The link http://www.google.com/reader/m/subscriptions will show you all the feeds you’re subscribed to along with an unread-count. Dig down into any feed and bookmark it for fast access in the future. The Mark All As Read link is easy to tap, and helps you keep up with your feeds.
Murphy uses the built-in Safari feed display too, but it doesn’t provide a mechanism to mark items as read.
Google Calendar Shortcut
While looking at monthly view in a Google Calendar on a Macbook Murphy dragged two fingers across the main calendar and found it scrolled through the months. Dragging on the mini-navigation calendar scrolled very quickly. Very convenient.
More on Google from Murphy Mac
Amazon iPod Nano: $133