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It’s not unusual to have more than one calendar in Outlook. Most of us have at least two: one for work and one for play, and comparing them is a visual adventure sometimes. Unfortunately, it’s easy to schedule time on one calendar without realizing you’ve already scheduled something on another! In this article, I’ll show you how to avoid scheduling pitfalls by using two different ways to view all of your calendars at the same time: side-by-side and overlay.

SEE: 83 Excel tips every user should master (TechRepublic)

I’m using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use an earlier version. I recommend that you hold off on upgrading to Windows 11 until all the kinks are worked out. There’s no demonstration file; you won’t need one.

How to view Outlook calendars side-by-side

In the same way that you can view Word and Excel documents side-by-side, you can view your Outlook calendars side-by-side. The good news is that Outlook makes it very easy. To begin, open the Calendar window, which displays My Calendars and Other Calendars in the Navigation pane. Outlook usually displays Calendar by default. You might use this for work or play—I use it for work. My play calendar is in Other Calendars.

If there’s no calendar visible, click one—any one, it doesn’t matter—to display it. Now, to display a second calendar, simply check it in the Navigation pane, as shown in Figure A. Each calendar is a different color, making them easy to distinguish.

Figure A

Display two Outlook calendars side-by-side.
Display two Outlook calendars side-by-side.

You can easily change a calendar’s color. Simply right-click it in the Navigation pane, choose Color and then select a color from the resulting palette. By default, the color option is set to automatic, and Outlook assigns a color when you create the calendar.

Using side-to-side view is a great way to catch scheduling errors. If a play event shows up on your work calendar, simply drag it from the work calendar to the play calendar and vice versa.

You can continue to add calendars to this display. Simply check them in the Navigation pane. However, too many aren’t a good thing. A better option, when wanting to compare events and appointments might be to overlay the calendars.

How to overlay calendars in Outlook

Word’s side-by-side display gives you an interesting view, but overlaying the calendars might be more productive, depending on why you’re viewing multiple calendars. For most of us, it’s a great way to get the complete picture in, seemingly, one calendar. However, the calendars retain their individual colors, which is helpful for discerning the different calendars.

To enable this view, you need to open at least two calendars in side-by-side view (Figure A). Click the View menu and choose Overlay in the Arrangement group. If your calendars aren’t already open, you can right-click the calendar you want to add and choose Overlay.

Doing so will display events and appointments for both calendars, as shown in Figure B. You can continue to add calendars to the stack by checking them in the Navigation pane.

Figure B

View your Outlook calendars in overlay mode.
View your Outlook calendars in overlay mode.

How to use tab shortcuts in Outlook

You might have noticed the left arrow on the calendar tab to the right. In addition, both tabs have an X to the right. These are shortcuts:

  • Click the left arrow on the calendar to the right in side-by-side view to overlay the two calendars.
  • With the calendars in overlay mode, the arrow points to the right. Click it to return to side-by-side mode.
  • Both calendars can be closed by clicking the Close X to the right of the tab, as shown in Figure C. Or uncheck the calendar in the Navigation pane. That’s it!

Figure C

Close a calendar in Outlook.
Close a calendar in Outlook.

Depending on how many calendars you work with at one time, you might find yourself closing a lot of calendars when you’re done. Fortunately, you can close them all at once. Click the View tab and click Close All Items in the Window group, and you’re done.

How to add calendars that aren’t yours in Outlook

If you’re using Outlook as part of a larger organization, you can view other people’s calendars, if you have the right permissions. We won’t go into much detail about permissions: You have them or you don’t, and if you don’t, you’ll need to talk with your Outlook administrator.

To view calendars from others, click the Home tab and then click Open Calendar in the Manage Calendars group. In the resulting dropdown, shown in Figure D, are several options for accessing calendars that aren’t yours. They’re self-explanatory for the most part, and depending on your organizational permissions will be available to you, or not. But doing so can help you find an open slot when everyone on your team is available.

Figure D

View Outlook calendars that aren’t yours.
View Outlook calendars that aren’t yours.

Most likely, you’ll find yourself using both side-by-side and overlay for different reasons. Regardless of how you use them, these two views for multiple calendars will definitely help you work more productively.