Recently we took a look at how you can take Gmail further by enabling some of the extra features that are available in the experimental Labs section. If you use Google Calendar to manage your schedule, there are numerous tools and options that can be added through the use of Calendar-specific Labs. Today, we will take a look to see just what’s available.
Just as with Gmail, Google Calendar Labs can be accessed through Settings. Unlike Gmail, you can jump straight to Labs rather than have to navigate through other settings first. Click the gear icon to the upper right of the Calendar page and select Labs from the menu before browsing through the list of what’s available.
There are far fewer Labs to explore for Calendar, but that does not diminish their value – there are some real gems to be found here. Out of the box Calendar is easy enough to use and a valuable addition to your time management, but there is always room for improvement.
Google Calendar is a great way to receive reminders about things you need to do, but the way notifications work can be annoying. If you are working in your web browser and a reminder notification appears, you will be moved away from the tab you were working.
It could be that you were in the middle of typing something, and if you happen to press Enter as the reminder appears you not only lose track of where you were, but also hide the reminder. This is where Gentle Reminders can help. Locate it in the Labs list, select Enable and then click Save at the top or bottom of the page.
To configure options for the Lab feature, click the gear icon to the upper right of the calendar, select Settings and then scroll down the page to the ‘Gentle reminders (labs)’ section.
By default the Google Calendar tab will flash in your browser with the feature enabled, but if you use Chrome you have the option to enable desktop notifications. Click the ‘Allow Chrome desktop notifications’ and then click Allow.
If you are the sort of person who plans events long into the future, the way Calendar forces you to navigate through dates can be quite irksome. Enable the ‘Jump to date’ feature and you will gain an extra panel to the right hand side of the page which can be used to quickly, well, jump to any date.
Equally useful is the Year View add-on which can be accessed through the same sidebar. You may find that the default day, week and month views are too restrictive but here you can see the year at a glance. Type a year, hit Go and you can check what day it is on November 3rd 2015 (it’s a Tuesday, by the way) and also jump quickly to that date.
Taking a couple of weeks off and don’t want to have to spend time declining and invitations sent to you that fall within this period? Enable ‘Automatically declining events’ and when you add your vacation to the calendar you will find that you have now set your availability to ‘Busy (decline invitations)’.
There is no need to wait until your configured reminders are triggered, or to trawl through your calendar, to find out how long you have until your next appointment. Enable the appropriately named ‘Next meeting’ feature and you can see a countdown in the right-hand pane.
Other Noteworthy Tools
It is a shame there are not more Labs add-ons available for Google Calendar. But while there are far fewer than there are for Gmail, there are still plenty that are likely to be of interest.
For anyone who works across multiple time zones, ‘World clock’ is a must. It adds to the side of the screen a customizable list of cities around the world complete with the local time. To make it even faster to see how a particular country’s time compares to yours, when it is night time a dark background is used.
When you are collaborating on a project, ‘Event attachments’ enables you to attach files you have stored in Google Docs to your calendar events. ‘Free or busy’ lets you see if contacts who have shared their calendar with you are free at any given time.
There are other add-ons for you to try as well, but these are some of the highlights. Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Mark Wilson is a software fiend and a fan of the new, shiny and intriguing. Never afraid to get his hands dirty with some full-scale geekery, he’s always trying out the latest apps, hacks and tweaks. He can be found on Twitter.
- Published 02/12/13