Software

How to tweak your Google Calendar to make it easier to read

These four small changes to your Google Calendar can make it easier for you to focus on the details of your events.

Multiple Google Calendars, with few details, and in different colors (left), a red arrow in the middle, and a detailed, calendar showing only events in one color (right)
Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

Shared Google Calendars give people much-needed visibility into upcoming events. If your colleagues can see your calendar, they can avoid scheduling conflicts. Shared Google Calendars reduce the need for email: instead of emailing to ask to set up a meeting time, you can just look at shared calendars to see when a person is available. Or use the "find a time" feature to auto-discover open times across several Google Calendars.

However, shared calendars can also cause visual clutter. Ever tried looking at a week-view in the calendar of two or three busy people? In a desktop browser, the screen can get crammed full of information quickly. And on mobile it can be a challenge to discern your events from others.

The following four tips make it easier to see — and act — on calendar events that matter to you.

1. Customize Calendar Colors

You can assign a different color to each Google Calendar. That's likely not news: each Google Calendar defaults to a different color when you first set it up. All the events in red are related to one calendar, while all the events in green are associated with another calendar.

You can also assign the same color to multiple calendars. In other words, you can choose one color for your calendar, and another contrasting color for other peoples' calendars. For example, I make my calendars a shade of blue, and all the calendars shared with me a shade of orange. This makes it easier to spot my events at a glance: anything in orange isn't my event.

Color options available in desktop browser, Google Calendar app, and native iOS Calendar app.

Different apps offer different calendar color options. You can assign almost any color to a calendar in a desktop browser (left), while fewer options are available in the Google Calendar apps (middle), and fewer if you've connected your Google Calendar to the native iOS app (right).

2. Hide Calendars

You don't need to view all calendars at all times. You can temporarily turn off the display of the Google Calendars you don't need to see. In the desktop Google Calendar view, uncheck a calendar to remove it from view temporarily. In the Google Calendar mobile app, it works similarly: go to the menu (upper left), then uncheck each Google Calendar you no longer need to see. If you use the native iOS app, tap Calendars (at the bottom), then check or uncheck to display or hide each Calendar.

Screenshot of multiple calendars, with checkboxes to toggle calendar display.

To temporarily turn off display of calendars you don't need to see, uncheck calendars on your desktop (left), in the Google Calendar app (middle), or in the native iOS Calendar app (right).

3. Fill in the location field

Put a street address, phone number, or link in the location field for Google Calendar events. The information in the location field displays along with the event title, in both your browser and in mobile apps. And on an Android or iOS smartphone, tapping on the location will start a map app, offer to make a call, or open the link.

You'll need to format your location information to make tap-to-act links work. For example, I enter phone numbers with the full ten-digits separated by a dash, e.g., 555-555-1234, to make sure that tap-to-call works. If address links don't auto-populate properly, go to your maps app, search for the address, share the address link, copy it, and paste it into the location field in your event.

Screenshot of Google Calendar event detail form, with emoji in title and phone number in location field.

When you add a calendar event: a) fill out the location field (bottom circle) with an address, phone number, or link to enable one-tap actions on smartphones b) put an emoji at the front of event titles (top circle) as a visual aid.

4. Put emoji first in event titles

The Google Calendar mobile apps add visual cues to some of your meetings when you view your calendar as a long list of events, also known as "Schedule" view. Include a meal-related word, like breakfast, lunch, or dinner in your event title and you will see meal-related images. Schedule a haircut, dentist appointment, or sporting event and you'll see event-related illustrations, such as a hairdryer, toothbrushes, or sports equipment.

But those images don't appear elsewhere. When you look at a few days, a week view, or month view, you'll see less and less information displayed. The event titles get truncated — shortened so much that you only see one word or a few letters.

Try adding one (or more) emoji at the start of your event titles. Have a phone call? Add the phone emoji. Traveling somewhere? Put in a car or plane emoji. For tech troubleshooting, I use the sprocket emoji, combined with things like the laptop or phone emoji.

Not every emoji displays properly on all devices. For example, the printer emoji looks OK on iOS, but doesn't display in Google Calendar in Chrome on Windows. Experiment a bit to find the emoji that work for your needs — and on the devices and systems you use.

Your Google Calendar tips?

If you work with shared Google Calendars, what techniques do you use to make sure you can see schedules that matter — without losing focus on your own events? And if you've tried the emoji-first trick, let me know (@awolber on Twitter) which emojis you use.

Also see

About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox