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The Power of the Calendar App on your iPhone by Sean Randall – Autumn 2017

(Note: This article first appeared in the BCAB Newsletter of Autumn 2017 and introduces the complexities and benefits of the iPhone Calendar app.)


If used well, the calendar on your iPhone can be of real help. Integrating with other parts of the operating system like Siri and the lock screen, it can truly act as a modern, accessible, accurate and reliable paper diary.

Viewing Events In The Calendar Directly

List And Month Views

I spend most of my time in month or list view. If I have drilled down into a specific day, list view takes the calendar part of things out of the way and simply gives me a list of events through which I can flick. Each subsequent date with an event on it is a heading, so I have the choice of flicking through my events, or the days on which those events happen (by rotating to headings.) If I have not chosen a day, but still want to use list, I am presented with the month as a grid at the top of my screen, and a complete list of events at the bottom. So I can use list on the month view to see a list of events on the same page without going any deeper into the calendar, or turn list off to open up that day in more detail. It really is a very clever system. In portrait orientation, The month view is arranged traditionally, that is Mondays are positioned down the left-hand edge of the screen and the Sundays nearer the right edge. From my own experience, I would say it is quite important to be able to touch part of the screen rather than flicking to the bit you need, as potentially you’d have to flick a long way to get near the end of the month. One of the main reasons for flicking is because we don’t know the layout of the screen and where things are. Of course, in a calendar, this is not so bad because we can pick up the layout fairly quickly.

In month view:

  • Double-tapping on a day without list view active opens Day view” to view events on that particular day.
  • Double-tapping on a day with list view active puts the events for the selected date at the bottom of the same screen whilst keeping you in the same view.
  • Flicking up or down with three fingers moves to the next or previous month.

Day View

As mentioned earlier, With list active, day view is simply a list of events, separated by headings. You don’t get to see a day, as you would on a printed daily diary. Flicking with three fingers performs the typical action of moving more content onto the screen, and of course the day you’ve chosen is focused onscreen initially.

If you turn list view off, then you get your hourly slots. There is also a button for each day of the week above the hours. Your events are interspersed between these hours, and it’s possible to drag events physically up and down the screen to change their start times.

In Day View:

  • With list mode on, each day with events happening is a heading, and each event is a singular item onscreen between those headings. By flicking you can move through the dates as you would content in any other app.
  • With list mode off, events is an item in the rotor. On the screen part of the day is displayed at a time. A three-finger flick up or down will bring more of the day into view. A three-finger flick left or right moves to the next or previous day. Buttons above the day display allow for navigation to any other day in the current week.

Week View

On the iPhone, the only way to get to week view is to turn the phone into landscape orientation. With your phone held this way, the entire week is laid out across the screen (Monday at the left edge, and Sunday at the right.) You can see part of all of the days at a time, for example, you could see each of your mornings for the week. You can also drag events to new start times from this screen.

In Week View:

  • A three-finger flick left and right moves to the next or previous week
  • A three-finger flick up or down moves by time – that is, 7.00 pm to 1.00 pm, 1.00 am to 6.00 pm etc.

Other ways of seeing events

The today screen on the iPhone has two widgets available, which you can turn on. Up next shows you your next appointment only, and the calendar widget gives you more detail. Remember this is available from both the home and lock screens.

Siri can tell you what’s next, what’s happening today, tomorrow, next week etc. You can also ask things like “When is my next meeting with Caroline,” “when is my next Board meeting” and so on for specific information.

Events can alert you at a predefined interval before they happen, or dynamically based on travel times if you’ve set a location for them.

And finally you can share calendars with other people and devices, so you can ask your Google Home or Amazon Echo for events, or see what your family members have added to the calendar.

Adding events

Events in the calendar can have:

  • A title,
  • A location (used for calculating travel time if you set that up,)
  • A start and end date,
  • A start and end time, the time zone if appropriate, (or an “all-day” option,)
  • A one-off or recurrence pattern,
  • A specific calendar to which it is assigned (useful if you have more than one,)
  • A set of alert times at which you should be reminded of the event,
  • A list of invitees (if the person you’re meeting with also uses a calendar on their device,)
  • A web page link,
  • And a free-form text box for “notes” to go along with the event.

To get to the new event screen, you’ve a number of options. Each calendar view has an add button. You can also tap on a free time in the views that show the times to bring up the new event screen, or you can tap on a date/time in other apps, such as in an Email or on the web. AS well as all the items mentioned above, if you tap a time in an Email message to set up an event, you’ll be able to get back to that Email from the event’s calendar entry if you need to.

Outside of the main calendar app, Siri can create events with verbal requests, you can tap on certain links in Emails and websites to automatically add entries to the calendar, and of course, if you have a shared calendar, other people can put things in that you’ll be able to see.

Rearranging events

The most obvious way to change the date and time of an event is to open it up, get back to the screen with all its details on, and adjust the start and end times. You can also drag events from one time slot to another on the calendar views that support this, or ask Siri “move my Board meeting” and it’ll ask you for the new date and time.

Recurring events

You can set events to happen in an extraordinary number of recurring situations. Options include the obvious such as daily, weekly, monthly or each year, but you can also set things up such as the first workday, second Thursday or last Saturday of each month, and so on.

Events and specific calendars

Some of the accounts you add to your iPhone (such as a Gmail or iCloud account, one at your workplace etc) will come with a calendar option. You can also add calendars manually and name them whatever you like. Calendars can be publically visible (if you host events or performances you can link them to a blog, website or Facebook,) or shared with a select group (such as your family.) You can turn certain calendars off if you don’t want them (for instance, over the school holidays, I turn my work one off so as to not be pestered about student lessons which are set up as regular weekly events.)

In Conclusion

The calendar app on the iPhone is powerful and very useful. The sheer number of options and views can be off-putting, but hopefully here I’ve provided a useful summary of what it can offer.