There's a ton of information on the Internet, and thanks to Outlook, you can access some of it locally. Using Outlook's Internet Calendars, you can synchronize special events stored on the Internet in your local copy of Outlook. Fortunately, the process of linking to these sources is easy.
About Internet Calendars
Before we launch into an example, here's an overview of these special calendars. Internet Calendars are calendars that we view on the Internet. They're based on a global standard that allows us to exchange information without consideration for the hosting application. These files use a format known as iCalendar and use an .ics extension.
Outlook supports two types of Internet Calendars: snapshots and subscriptions. You'll send snapshot calendars using email. This calendar is a one-time review that isn't linked to a source calendar, so it won't update when someone changes the source.
To send a snapshot, open a new email message and click the Insert tab. You'll find the Calendar option in the Include group. You can customize the calendar by deciding the amount of information that you send, as you can see in Figure A. For instance, you can specify a date range, busy status, and other appointment details.
The recipient can open the file as an Outlook calendar. In
addition, the recipient can drag events from the snapshot calendar and use Outlook's
overlay feature (which we'll learn about later) to visually merge the received
calendar with their own. Some people use this feature to quickly back up their
calendar(s). You can do so by selecting the calendar, and then clicking the File
tab and choosing Save Calendar.
Importing Internet events
Snapshot calendars are static, but Outlook's subscription calendars synchronize with the source calendar (stored on a web server). You download the calendar file to your local Outlook version. When the hosting site updates the calendar, those updates are downloaded to you.
Facebook is a great example because so many people have accounts. You can download two calendar files: your friends' birthdays and events. Let's download the birthday calendar.
1. Log in to your Facebook account.
2. Click the Events link on the left (in Favorites) (Figure B).
3. In the top-right corner, find the gear icon, and click its dropdown arrow.
4. Choose Export (Figure C).
5. Figure D shows the resulting dialog. You can click either of the circled links to begin the process. If you're following this example, click the birthday link.
6. If Outlook is your default client, Windows will select it for you (Figure E). In this case, click OK. If Outlook is not your default client, select Outlook from the list or click Choose (if necessary).
7. Click Yes to confirm that you're subscribing to Facebook's birthday Internet Calendar.
Outlook will import the birthdays into a new calendar. This new calendar will automatically synchronize with Facebook to add, delete, or modify birthdays as they're updating in Facebook. If you unfollow a friend in Facebook, Outlook will delete that friend's birthday from your local calendar.
If the above process doesn't work for you, follow these steps to add the calendar manually.
1. Repeat steps 1 through 4.
2. Right-click the appropriate link (see Figure D) and choose Copy Shortcut or Copy Link Location.
3. Open Outlook.
4. Open the Calendar window.
5. On the Home tab, click Open Calendar in the Manage Calendars group. If you're using Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2007, choose Account Settings from the Tools menu.
6. In the resulting dialog, paste the copied link (Figure F).
7. Click OK.
Outlook will display birthdays and events in separate calendars, separate from your Outlook calendar. I don't recommend combining them, but you can use Overlay to visually merge them.
1. Click the View tab.
2. Click the birthday calendar and then click Overlay in the Arrangement group; this will display the default calendar (yours) and the birthday calendar as one. In Outlook 2007, choose View In Overlay mode from the View menu. In Outlook 2003, use the Side-By-Side Calendars feature by checking individual calendars, accordingly.
Overlay is a visual enhancement; this feature won't actually combine calendar files. You can add several calendars to the overlay, adding each one at a time.
Stay in touch
Outlook's Internet Calendars are a flexible tool. You can share static appointments via email or download interactive calendars from the Internet into your local version of Outlook. Either way, you'll have the information you need at your fingertips.
Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.