iCal on Mac OS X Lion is an amazing and easy-to-use software on the Mac. It incorporates the stunning looks of its iPad equal with mind blowing simplicity and convenience.
The majority of Mac Users, including me, have never really used iCal on a day to day basis. Unfortunately, I simply do not have the time or patience to spend several minutes in simply setting a reminder or an alarm. The process which included naming the event, prioritizing it, setting a due date, duration for the event, an alarm, choosing an account and performing several other moronic tasks was far too time consuming and tedious for me to find useful.
But with some changes in Lion and a little digging around the app, I discovered the tricks of the trade ( or rather, tricks of the app ) -
1. iCal Year View ( Lion Only )
OS X Lion added a very nifty and useful "year" view into the iCal application. The year view allows you to see your entire calendar for the year at a glance complete with color-coding based on how busy your schedule for the day is. You can even see numbered weeks in this view. To see the events of a day, single-click the day and a small list containing your events of the day will pop up ( shown below ). To edit the events of a day, simply double-click the day.
2. Create Quick Event
This is by far, the best thing Apple has added to iCal 5 ( in Lion ). "Create Quick Event" allow you to create a detailed calendar event by typing in a few keywords in fairly informal language. For example, you can type "Movie on friday at 7pm" or "Buy groceries tomorrow at noon" and iCal will do exactly that. To create a Quick Event, click on the plus ( + ) button on the top left on your iCal window and start typing.
3. Heat Map
Year view has a new feature in OS X Lion: Heat Maps. Heat Maps in Year View shows you how busy your day is by coloring it. ( The busier the hotter ).
However if, for whatever reason, you're not a fan of the heat maps in year view, you can always disable it by going to Preferences --> Advanced and unchecking the box labelled "Show heap map in Year view"
4. Default Calendar
You can change your default calendar by going into iCal Preferences --> General and Change Default Calendar. I keep my default calendar to "Mail" so that I receive calendar alerts by email. ( See #5 )
5. Email Reminders
iCal can remind you of your events by sending you an email. This is particularly useful if you have email setup on your phone. To add an email reminder for iCal events, select the event and then press Command-E to edit the event properties. Then under the alert section, select email and choose an email address to receive reminders at.
6. Day View ( List View )
The day view in iCal is almost identical to that on the iPad. There's a list view of all your events on the left side and all the day's events on the right hand side. On the top of the right hand side are your "all-day events". There's even a mini-month calendar on the top.
7. Swiping in iCal
In iCal 5, you can swipe left or right in Month view and Year view and iCal simulates a page turning ( similar to that in iBooks ) which takes you to the next month or year.
8. Change Calendar Colors
Change the color of calendars by right-clicking ( or control-clicking ) the calendars name in the left pop-down sidebar and clicking get info. Then change the color of the Calendar next to its name.
9. Turn off all Alerts
If you're sick of email alerts or regular alerts bugging you constantly, you can turn off all alerts by going into iCal Preferences --> Advanced and check the box at the bottom marked "Turn off all alarms"
Quite useful if you're going on holiday or don't want to clutter up your inbox.
In iCal 5, events can be created by "Creating a Quick Event" or by double-clicking in Day, Week or Month view. However, by default the event duration is 1 hour. Unfortunately, changing this isn't a simple matter of editing your preferences. Nevertheless, there is a way. To change the default duration of an event, open Terminal ( either from Launchpad or through Applications --> Utilities ) and enter
defaults write com.apple.iCal 'Default duration in minutes for new event' 30
Quit and relaunch iCal for it to take effect. Replace '30' with the number of minutes to be set as the default duration for a new event.