Use Windows Calendar as a supplemental calendaring application

As you may know, Microsoft finally decided to add a calendar application to Vista. However, most of us computer professionals have been using some sort of calendar application for years now and are probably not going to abandon our current tool just because the operating system now includes a native calendar application.

I know that I initially fell into that category. I've been using Microsoft Office Outlook for so long now that moving right into Outlook 2007 was a no brainer and it never really occurred to me that Windows Calendar might be a valuable asset. But I recently decided to investigate Windows Calendar and came upon the idea of using it as a supplemental calendaring application.

By supplemental, I mean that I still use Outlook for the majority of my main calendaring tasks and use Windows Calendar to keep track of other types of events such as those pertinent to organizations or people whose schedules regularly intersect with mine--clubs, committees, family members, friends, and co-workers. This allows me to keep my Outlook calendar free from clutter and focused on events revolving around work while using Windows Calendar to keep track of other peripheral events.

Windows Calendar provides all of the necessary features that you've come to expect in a full featured calendaring application. And while this makes it easy to use Windows Calendar, the main feature that I've found useful for my supplemental calendaring technique is the ability to create multiple calendars for different people and different event types using the group and category features.

In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll show you how to use Windows Calendar as a supplemental calendaring application. As I do, I'll show you how to take advantage of the group and category features to create multiple calendars.

An overview

To implement my supplemental calendaring technique you'll have to create groups for each organization or person whose schedule you want to track. Then, within each group you'll create one or more calendar categories--depending on your particular needs.

To see how this works, let's suppose that you're managing a team of four people and need to keep track of a series of events relating to each of your team's members. Therefore, you could create a group for each person and then create a single calendar or a group of calendar categories for each person. For that matter, you could skip the groups and just create a calendar category for each person on the team. The method you choose will depend on how granular you want to be able to get when tracking each person's schedule. You'll have a better idea of which method you want to use to organize your supplemental calendar once you see how you can use the filter and color coding capabilities that Windows Calendar provides to get different views.

For my example, I'm going to create a category for each team member. I'll then create separate calendar categories for various events: Meetings, Project Deadlines, and Vacation.

Creating your supplemental calendar

To begin using Windows Calendar as a supplemental calendaring application, you'll first need to reconfigure its default layout. To launch Windows Calendar, click Start, type Calendar in the Start Search text box, and press [Enter]. When Windows Calendar first launches it will show the default calendar prefaced by your account name. For example, mine shows Greg Shultz's Calendar and is ready for me to begin entering appointments.

To create your groups, simply pull down the File menu and select New Group. Once you've created your groups, select a group, pull down the File menu, and select New Calendar. Once you've created your groups and calendar categories, you can go back and delete the default calendar. For example, my example calendar configuration looks like the one shown in Figure A.

Figure A

You can use the grouping and calendar categories to create a calendar layout that suits your needs.

As you can see, I've prefaced each of the calendar categories with the person's first initial. I had to do that because Windows Calendar won't allow you to use the same name for more than one calendar. You can also see that I've color coded each of the calendar categories. I've created identical groups and calendar categories for the additional team members, but since the Navigation pane isn't adjustable, you can't see them without scrolling.

With this calendar structure in place, you can select any one of the calendars and begin entering appointments as you normally would. Keep in mind that when using multiple calendar categories for different types of events, you need to select that specific calendar before entering appointments. When you do so, the advantage of using color coding will begin to make sense, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

If you use color coding for each of your calendar categories, you'll see how using the Month view comes into play.


Once you've filled in all the calendars with the appropriate appointments, as shown in Figure C, you'll see that color coding each calendar category helps you to more easily identify the different types of events in a crowded calendar. However, you can use the filtering feature to isolate the different types of events and make quick work of analyzing your calendar.

Figure C

Color-coding also helps you identify different types of events.

For example, if you just wanted to find out when all your team members' meetings are scheduled, you can clear all the check boxes for all the other calendars, and you can easily see the meetings, as shown in Figure D. If you wanted to see how vacation plans correspond to project deadlines, select the Vacation and Project Deadline calendars for each of your team members.

Figure D

By clearing and selecting the check boxes next to each calendar category, you can filter out events to get a clearer picture of your calendar.

What's your take?

While the methodology that I've used to configure my example supplemental calendar might not be the best structure for your needs, it does highlight the possibilities that the grouping and calendar categories features along with color coding and filtering bring to the table. What's your take on Windows Calendar? Will you consider using Windows Calendar as a supplemental calendaring application?


Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.


"What???s your take on Windows Calendar?" A very good feature, even though worse than Office 2007 Calendar. "Will you consider using Windows Calendar as a supplemental calendaring application?" No, I prefer using my Nokia 6280 calendar, if I need to.

Jim Babay
Jim Babay

Too little too late. First, I think it was very good article that shows some plausible ways of using the Windows Vista Calendar. Like previous commentators, I have gone to an online calendar (Yahoo)(work calendar is Outlook). The online calendar that can be accessed from any computer and does not need to be moved to a new computer some day makes much more sense to me. If Microsoft would have provided the feature years ago to get us hooked on it, it would have made more sense for the Vista version.


Single Source of Data. I have seen over and over the problems with multiple clandars, sooner or latter you forget to check the right on at the right time and end up with a conflict. If I did not have OutLook I would love having a clandar but with OutLook available I would not use any other. I don't see why OutLook can't handle all of these filtered views. I use contacts, Lables and cagegories to enable me to achive all that you espouse with in OutLook. Doing it this way prevents me from scheduleing a Dr. Apt at the same time as an important work meeting. The more clandars that I have the more chace of missing somethign like that. -jeff


More than one calendar can lead to confusion, imho. I'd rather just filter on one calendar. I love Google Calendar, I can just uncheck the non-work stuff if I need that view, or unify everything at once. Plus it's available wherever I need it.


there are already too many calendars in vista if you have office outlook too. so what to use? my answer is the one you use daily and that is office outlook...


If Microsoft would have provided the feature years ago to get us hooked on it, by now they would have been already sued and forced to take out that feature from Windows and pay $200 billion for supposed anti-competitive pratises.


I agree that a single source of data is preferable, and certainly filtering and labels should be able to keep work views separate from personal views. The big problem with Outlook is it's inability to synchronize properly with other calendar sources. Being able to synchronize with Google Calendar is an obvious feature that would benefit users. By preference I would use Outlook at work, Google Calendar from web cafe's and Thunderbird with the Calendar extension at home. (When they finish it). But Outlook's inability to play nice with others kills this.


Even when you have no Internet connection?


Seriously, what is that? Secondly, while I know it IS possible to cobble together a solution to synchronize an Outlook calendar, it isn't an elegant solution. (Read, it's a royal pain). A third party solution that costs more money like the one you're advertising and trying to benefit from isn't what people are looking for. Synchronization is like file format conversion. It's an expected part of the software. Lacking the ability to synchronize properly is a liability to Microsoft Outlook.

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