Tips for Using the Google Calendar Mobile App

As a long-time Google user, I was thrilled when the company released a dedicated mobile app for iPhone earlier this year. Finally, I could delete the shortcut to the Google Calendar mobile Web app and have a much-better experience managing my schedule.

Learning how to use the app to its fullest, however, is something that took a few weeks. Here are some tips from what I learned for others who are still getting up to speed.

Get Visual
Graphics are the distinguishing feature of Google Calendar's mobile app. To see more graphics, Google needs details, and the more you add, the more you'll see.
If you have an exact address for the event or appointment, for example, you'll see a map. If you use a keyword that Google Calendar has preprogrammed to recognize as you type it, such as "lunch" or "golf lesson," a graphic might appear, though it doesn't always. These graphics appear in the Schedule view and in each individual event when you open it.

You might also see graphics for events that were added to your calendar automatically from Gmail. Any time Gmail recognizes an event from an email, such as a flight confirmation message, it will add the events to your calendar (as long as you never disabled this automatic importing of event information). I have an upcoming flight to Sri Lanka, for example, and Google layered in a picture of the capital city Colombo behind my flight details.

Customize Notifications
Whenever you create an event, Google Calendar adds notifications by default, but the defaults aren't likely to be what you need. Who wants a push notification, SMS message, and email 30 minutes before every single event?

The page to change them is buried. That's because notifications are set per calendar, not for the app as a whole. So you have to change your default notifications for each calendar.
For example, you might have a personal calendar, work calendar, and birthday calendar. You can see below that in my app, I have an Events calendar, a "Jill Duffy" calendar, and a few others.

Customize notifications by tapping on any one of your calendars and adjusting them under Default notifications and Default notifications for all day events.
Unfortunately, you can't necessarily customize notifications for some calendars, namely, calendars that someone else created and to which you subscribe. (I think that limitation is short-sighted, quite frankly. Notification should be at the user level rather than the calendar level.)

Change the Default Event Duration
How annoyed are you that every calendar event you create is an hour long? You can change the default in the Google Calendar app. Go to Settings > General > Default event duration.
The options are:
No end time (which is a lie because this option is really one hour)
15 minutes
30 minutes
60 minutes
90 minutes
120 minutes.

Install Google Maps
If you're going to use the Google Calendar app, especially on iPhone, I recommend installing Google Map. Android users often have the app installed by default.

When you can tap on a map in Google Calendar for an upcoming appointment address, Google Maps opens to give you directions and a time estimate for driving or walking there. That's really helpful, although it's features like this one that make me wish there were a more centralized Google mobile app so I didn't have to jump to a second app to get directions and travel times.

Use Your Views
Scroll Through Your Day, and Yesterday, The Google Calendar app gives you a few ways to view your calendar, and if you want to increase your productivity and plan for your days better, it helps to use them.

When you tap on the menu button, the top few options that appear are all different ways to view your calendar: Schedule, Day, 3 Day, and Week. It's a really good habit to always glance at your calendar first thing in the morning, and also take a look at the snapshot of your week so you can remember anything important that's in the near future.

Scroll Through Your Day, and Yesterday, and Tomorrow
If you don't like the weekly view, there's another way to scroll through your upcoming appointments. Select the Schedule view, and start scrolling backward and forward in time.

Return to Today
If you get a little scroll-crazy, you can jump back to today quickly by tapping the calendar icon in the upper right corner of the screen.

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