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Never Be Late or Forget a Task Again with “Take Control of Calendar and Reminders”

[Tonya Engst here. Little is more embarrassing than showing up late for a meeting or missing an important deadline due to forgetfulness. The go-to solution for Apple users is to offload your fallible human memory to Apple’s Calendar and Reminders apps, which are built into macOS and iOS. But even worse than forgetting a meeting or task is messing up due to a misconfiguration or misunderstanding in Calendar and Reminders. Been there, done that.

These apps are the focus of the first Take Control book to be published since we sold the series: Scholle McFarland’s $10 “Take Control of Calendar and Reminders.” It’s a classic Take Control title that explains all you need to know about real-world usage of these heavily used but under-documented apps. I helped Scholle develop and edit the book, learning a lot about Calendar and Reminders that I didn’t know along the way.

To give you a taste of her advice, here’s a slightly modified excerpt from the troubleshooting chapter, which addresses a few common problems that can prevent you from using Calendar and Reminders successfully. Whether you’re suffering from one of these problems now, suspect that a family member is, or want to avoid future mishaps, read on for Scholle’s solutions to some common conundrums!]

How Can I Change the Default Calendar for New Events on My Mac? -- If new events are showing up in the wrong calendar, choose Calendar > Preferences > General and then pick a calendar from the Default Calendar pop-up menu at the bottom of the preference pane. Now, whenever you create a new event, it will appear in this calendar automatically. Note that the default, Selected Calendar, adds new events to whatever calendar you last selected, which can produce some unexpected results.

Why Do Events I Add with My iPhone End Up on the Wrong Calendar on My Mac? -- When you add events with an iPhone, you can use Siri or do it in the Calendar app. Either way, events are placed in your iPhone’s default calendar, so make sure you’ve designated the one you want to use. On your iPhone, tap Settings > Calendar > Default Calendar and choose the calendar you want from the list.

How Do I Prevent Calendar Spam? -- It started in November 2016. Suddenly, Mac users were inundated with calendar spam — bogus event invitations from counterfeit companies hawking cut-rate Ray Bans, Ugg boots, and other supposed bargains, often in Chinese (see “How to Stop iCloud Calendar Spam,” 29 November 2016). Calendar spammers take advantage of the macOS and iOS feature that scans Mail messages for calendar invitations and then sends you a notification. What’s worse, if you click Accept, Decline, or Maybe, you notify the spammer that your account is real and ready for more.

To prevent calendar spam, log in to iCloud.com, click Calendar, click the Settings icon (it’s a red gear), and choose Preferences > Advanced. Then, change the Receive Event Invitations radio button to Email To email address. Now, instead of appearing as notifications, calendar invitations will run through your email account, which undoubtedly checks for spam. You can also safely delete messages there without alerting the spammer.

How Do I Remove Duplicate Events? -- If you open the Calendar app and your calendar is littered with duplicate events, try this:

  1. On the Mac, choose View > Refresh Calendars (or press Command-R). Or, on your iOS device, tap Calendars to see your list of calendars. Swipe down to refresh.

  2. If that doesn’t work, check whether you have an On My Mac calendar that is identical to one of your iCloud calendars. Hide it by deselecting it in the Calendars list and see if duplicates disappear. If they do, you can either keep this calendar hidden or delete the calendar altogether by Control-clicking its name in the Calendars list and choosing Delete.

How Do I Delete Duplicate Birthdays? -- If Calendar’s special Birthdays calendar shows a birthday more than once, you can remove the extras.

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First, on the Mac, choose Calendar > Preferences > General. Deselect the Show Birthdays Calendar checkbox and select it again. If that doesn’t work, duplicate contacts are probably to blame. Open the Contacts app and choose Card > Look for Duplicates. If the app finds them, choose Merge. You may need to repeat this step.


If some duplicate birthdays still appear in Calendar, go into Contacts and manually delete the stubborn duplicates that the app is unable to detect. Your duplicate birthdays should disappear.

How Do I Get Rid of Duplicate iCloud Calendars? -- If identical iCloud calendars appear to be multiplying like bunnies, first try launching Calendar and choosing View > Refresh Calendars.

If you are having trouble verifying whether two calendars have completely duplicated events, try making them different colors (Control-click a calendar in the Calendars list to pick a color). Deselect all other calendars in your Calendars list besides these two. Now you can scan more easily to check for non-duplicated events. If you find a non-duplicated event, move it to the calendar you want to keep.

If you are sure you need to de-duplicate, log in to iCloud.com, click Calendar, and see if the duplicate calendars appear in the list there:

  • If duplicates appear on the iCloud Web site: To be safe, go back to your Calendar app and make a backup of each of the affected calendars by selecting them in turn and choosing File > Export > Export to create calendar (.ics) files labeled with their names. Once that’s done, go to iCloud.com and delete the duplicate calendar(s) from the Web site, by clicking Edit at the bottom of the calendar list and then clicking the Remove button next to a calendar. A warning asks you if you’re sure. If you are, click Delete. Now, return to the app and refresh your calendars by pressing Command-R. Duplicates should disappear.

  • If duplicates don’t appear on the iCloud Web site: That means the problem is on your end. Choose Calendar > Accounts, click iCloud, and deselect Calendars. Your iCloud calendars disappear from the Calendars list. Then, choose Calendar > Accounts, click iCloud, and select Calendars. As iCloud re-populates your calendar data, this time it should get it right.

How Do I Move a Calendar to Another Computer? -- Here’s the beauty of cloud accounts such as iCloud or Google: your calendars show up on any other device that’s connected to that account, no effort required. If you use local On My Mac calendars, though, and want to move one to another computer, you must export a copy and then import it elsewhere.

To export a calendar so you can move it to another computer, share it with someone else, or make a local backup:

  1. Select the calendar’s name in the Calendars list.
  2. Choose File > Export > Export.
  3. Choose a location and then click Export. The events are exported to a calendar (.ics) file.

Here’s how to import a calendar (.ics) file:

  1. Create a new calendar that will hold this file’s events, or choose an existing calendar you want to add its events to. Make sure your choice is selected in the Calendars list.

  2. Choose File > Import. (You can import a calendar archive (.icbu) file with the File > Import command, but when you do, it replaces all of your current calendar and reminders information, so make sure you get a .ics file here.)

  3. Select the calendar file and then click Import.

Alternatively, drag a calendar file from the Finder to the Calendar window to add its events to whichever calendar is selected in the Calendars list.

How Can I Merge Calendars? -- If you were over-enthusiastic about making calendars, so long as they are stored in the same account (or are all in On My Mac), you can merge them after the fact. Select one of the calendars in the Calendars list and choose Edit > Merge Calendar. Calendars that you can add events to appear in the submenu.


If you can’t merge the two calendars you want, instead consolidate them by exporting the contents of one and then importing it into another, as described earlier in this excerpt.

Why Won’t My Calendar Show Maps or Travel Time? -- To see travel time related to a calendar event, you must turn on Location Services on the device where you are working with the event:

  • Mac: Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy. Click Location Services, and then click the lock icon and enter your administrator name and password at the prompt. Click Location Services. Then, in the list to the right, select the checkbox next to Calendars.

  • iOS: Open the Settings app, tap Privacy > Location Services, and turn on the Location Services switch. Still on the Location Services screen, tap Calendar and ensure that Never is not selected.

With these settings on, Calendar can determine your approximate location using information from Wi-Fi networks, and if your device has cellular data turned on, from the cellular network. Apple asserts that this is collected in a way that won’t personally identify you.

Why Can’t I See Any of My Reminders on My iPhone? -- If you’re faced with a blank screen when you try to check reminders on your iPhone or another of your iOS devices, you may be saving them to iCloud elsewhere, but not be using iCloud on this one. Tap Settings > Your Name > iCloud. Now tap iCloud and make sure the Reminders switch is On.

How Can I Get an “On My Mac” Option? -- If you want to store a calendar or reminders list locally on your Mac, you need to choose On My Mac from the submenu when you create the calendar or list. If you don’t see that choice, and you don’t have an On My Mac heading in the app’s left-hand Calendars list or sidebar, you can solve the problem by turning off all accounts associated with calendars or reminders and then turning them back on.

To see an On My Mac option in Calendars:

  1. Go to Calendar > Preferences > Accounts.

  2. Select each account listed there in turn and uncheck the Enable This Account box. Your account-based calendars disappear from the Calendars list — do not be alarmed! In fact, if they don’t disappear, try quitting and relaunching Calendar.

  3. Choose File > New Calendar and a new calendar appears in your Calendars list under the header On My Mac.

  4. If you want to view your account-based calendars in addition to your On My Mac calendar, return to Calendar > Preferences > Accounts and select those accounts’ Enable This Account box.

To see an On My Mac option in Reminders:

  1. Choose Reminders > Accounts to open the Internet Accounts pane of System Preferences.

  2. For each account listed at the left, select it and then see whether the Reminders checkbox is selected. If it is, deselect it.

  3. Your account-based lists disappear from the Reminders sidebar — this is okay! An On My Mac option appears.

  4. Return to the Internet Accounts pane and for each account where you do want to view its reminders on your Mac, select its Reminders checkbox.

Solving any one or the above described problems may put your calendaring and remembering system back on track. For more help, the 129-page “Take Control of Calendar and Reminders” looks at creating alerts automatically or by hand, setting up a notification system that keeps you informed without driving you berserk, sharing calendars and to-do lists, and much more. Pick up a copy today to eliminate scheduling anxiety tomorrow!

 

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Comments about Never Be Late or Forget a Task Again with “Take Control of Calendar and Reminders”
(Comments are closed.)

How do I get declined meetings to show up on my iOS calendar the same way they do on my macOS calendar? I've found the iOS option to have them display, but they only show until the time of the event. Once the event has passed they mysteriously disappear from the iOS calendar. This inconsistency between iOS and macOS calendars is driving me crazy.
Scholle Sawyer-McFarland  2017-05-23 12:56
Hi Simon, Open Calendar on your iPhone, tap the word Calendars (in red) at the bottom of the screen. Then scroll all the way to the bottom. You'll see a Show Declined Events slider. Toggle that on. Declined events show up in your Inbox. (Which is a bit odd.) Go to Calendar's Year view, tap Inbox at the bottom of the screen, and then tap Replied. A list of events--Declined or not--should appear there. Does that work?
Thanks, but as I already mentioned I know how to get them to display. That's not the problem.

The problem is they only display in the calendar until the time of the event. However, once the event time passes, they mysteriously get removed from the calendar. So you have no way of going back and checking events in the past if you had declined them.

This is highly inconsistent. The macOS calendar does not do this. Events there don't just disappear oon their own.

To make matters worse, as far as I can tell there's no option to change this behavior. Apple just decided that nobody would ever need to know about a past event if they declined it. And we users are stuck that on iOS. Argh.
Scholle Sawyer-McFarland  2017-05-23 13:23
Do you still see them in the Inbox, though? I can see my older declined events there.
Scholle Sawyer-McFarland  2017-05-23 13:26
I do see older suggested events in my calendar (even from more than a year ago), but only if I didn't accept or decline them. (Once you tap Add To Calendar, they become a regular event.)
No, only future events are listed there. Both accepted and declined, but nothing from the past.
Scholle Sawyer-McFarland  2017-05-23 13:29
Actually, I see that the declined events in my Inbox are in the future (there's just no year with them). I'll research this some more.
Stan Hoffman  2017-05-23 12:32
I started using Reminders recently and was just getting into it when one day all my Reminders were gone. They weren't in iCloud and not on my computer. Just gone. Makes me hesitant to rely on it. Any idea what caused my reminders to disappear after working reliably for months?
Scholle Sawyer-McFarland  2017-05-23 13:00
There are a few things that might make this happen. Probably the most likely is that Reminders got turned off for an account. Go to Reminders > Accounts and click on the account the reminders belonged to (or take a look at all the accounts if you're not sure). Reminders should be selected in the account's list. If this is what happened, when you select Reminders for the account again, they will reappear.
Stan Hoffman  2017-05-23 13:36
I did what you said and checked Reminders. However, this did not cause the missing reminders to reappear, even after quitting and restarting Reminders. What else can I try?
Scholle Sawyer-McFarland  2017-05-23 13:40
A couple of questions: What kind of account were the missing reminders in (iCloud, On My Mac, etc)? Also, are they missing on a particular device or on all your devices (Mac, iPhone, etc.)?
Stan Hoffman  2017-05-23 14:11
I entered them into the Reminders app on my iMac. I never used them on iCloud or my iPhone. I have checked now and the iCloud and iPhone have similar lists (with no entries except a few completed items). On the iMac it's different--there's just nothing where there used to be several recurring reminders.
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-05-25 19:00
Stan, do you think the problem is that your _list_ disappeared or is the list still around but the entries in it have disappeared?
Stan Hoffman  2017-05-26 20:07
I believe it was the entries. I don't remember creating any new lists--just used the default.
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-05-30 18:31
Stan, I have to say that I am mystified. Even if you had checked off your reminders as done, they should still be available in the Completed section of the list (that section is available from the top, which you usually have to scroll up on the list to see). My only idea is that you have two lists with the same name, and one of them is in an account that isn't currently active, like Google or Yahoo.
Stan Hoffman  2017-05-31 14:09
Thanks for your response. No idea how I would have an account that's not active. Will poke around, but I'm a bit wary of entrusting reminders (especially ones several months out) to a program that makes them disappear so easily.
Peter U  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-05-23 21:17
Do you discuss time zones in Apple's Calendar app? I moved from Europe to the US 10 years ago and never managed to change the time zone in Calendar (still on Central European time). Changing to Eastern Time messes up all my future (and past) appointments, i.e. moves them to 6 hours earlier. When I am in a different time zone I like to use the LOCAL time in my calendar not the time zone I live in. Not sure why the damn app doesn't understand that. Thanks :)
Peter U  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-05-23 21:21
PS: I meant the macOS Calendar v7.0 (currently still in OS 10.9.5, sorry, different story).
I've had exactly the same problem.

It appears the problem is Calendar does not offer support for local time. It's hell bent on being smart so as soon as you move, either all your past or your future appointments will shift to weird times in your calendar. It's frustrating. Apparently it was designed by people who cannot imagine life beyond a single time zone.
Scholle Sawyer-McFarland  2017-05-24 12:06
Dealing with time zones is covered in the book. That can get confusing!