Free online calendar publishing, part 1: Outlook

This post is part one of a series in which I’ll summarize what I know about publishing calendars openly on the web, for free, using popular calendar applications including Outlook, Google Calendar, and Apple iCal.

Outlook 2007

With Outlook 2007, you can publish for free to calendars.office.microsoft.com. You’ll need a Live ID account. If you don’t already have one, a Live ID is useful for many other services too. To get one, start at login.live.com and click the “Sign up for an account” link.

To start publishing, right-click the name of your Outlook calendar as it appears under My Calendars in Outlook’s navigation pane, select Publish to Internet, and select Publish to Office Online as shown here:

You’ll land on this screen, where — for an open public calendar — you can just click OK and take the defaults.

Now you’ll be prompted for your Live ID credentials.

Enter the email address and password of your Live ID account. And check “Remember my password” so that Outlook can send calendar updates to the server automatically.

Here’s the confirmation:

Even though you likely won’t want to send individual invitations, click Yes anyway. That’s the easiest way to discover what the web address of your published calendar will be. Here’s the email message:

You don’t need to send it anyone, you just need to capture the calendar’s web address. Which, in this case, is:

webcals://calendars.office.microsoft.com/pubcalstorage/
j447ytlz27542/test_Calendar.ics
.

If you publish that link on a web page (more realistically, with a label like Subscribe to calendar), visitors who click the link will be invited to launch one or another calendar program (such as Outlook, or Apple iCal) to view the calendar and subscribe to updates. That same address can be used by online services like http://elmcity.info/events which combine calendars from multiple sources.

The .ics in test_Calendar.ics stands for Internet Calendar Standard. The ICS file is useful for exchanging calendar information among calendar programs that run on personal computers, and among calendar services that live online. But it’s not something people can view directly on the web. For that, you’ll want to use a variant of the address that produces a web page people can see and interact with. Here’s the variant:

http://calendars.office.microsoft.com/en-us/pubcal/viewer.aspx?path=
/pubcalstorage/j447ytlz27542/test_Calendar.ics

To form your version of this link, copy the initial part of the above link — the part that isn’t bold — and then replace the part that is bold with the corresponding part from the invitation email shown above.

If you then publish that link on your website, it will lead visitors to a page like this:

Visitors to that page can view the calendar in several ways. And they can subscribe to the calendar by clicking the Subscribe link.

Earlier versions of Outlook

I’m still researching the options. Comments welcome.

33 thoughts on “Free online calendar publishing, part 1: Outlook

  1. Tomasz Tarchala

    I have been able to set up a three-way calendar synchronization between Outlook 2003, Google Calendar and Samsung Blackjack running Windows Mobile. The vehicle enabling all this is http://scheduleworld.com, with open source Funambol plugins for Outlook and the phone.

    While there are some pains during setup and use (you need to carefully avoid some fields which don’t synch right), all in all it’s almost fully automatic for me now.

    Reply
  2. Jon Udell Post author

    Yes, Outlook -> GCal is one way to push a personal calendar to a public space that supports both interactive viewing and ICS subscription.

    Does the Plaxo plugin offer a similar push solution?

    Reply
  3. Sylvia Paull

    Jon,

    You might include a look at Airset — new launch — for your survey of digital calendars. Airset’s advantage is that it can be used for both professional and personal uses, with seamless integration. It’s available on cell phone (iPhone version on the way), and in addition to a calendar, it includes a wiki, functions for blogging and wikis, lists for people, music, and chores. Its most enthusiastic supporters are teachers, soccer moms, small business owners, and nerds otherwise too preoccupied to take note of family matters.

    Reply
  4. Tim

    Outlook 2003 has ‘Save As Web Page’ – which just produces a picture of the calendar as HTML, it isn’t really shareable like .ics files are.

    Outlook 2007 also lets you ‘Save As’ an .ics file which means you can save the file, put it where you want it (on your own web server for example). Why it’s not part of Import/Export I don’t know.

    What would be great would be “Publish this set of events as iCalendar” that would create an .ics file for each event, and one file with all the events – and which would create a web page with references to all of them. This would allow a page with links that “automagically” open the event in .ics-capable products.

    Reply
  5. RicK L Hamlet

    Another vote here for Airset… I have a scout troop set up it, along with syncing my Outlook 2003 to it. The merging of the two (actually three) group calendars into a single calendar is extremely helpful with flagging potential conflicts.

    Rick

    Reply
  6. Bob Erb

    Um, apropos of nothing, I’m still wondering if that was you at the Town Hall Theatre this weekend. “I just recognized a former Infoworld columnist in the popcorn line,” I told my wife. Possibly the most absurd thing I’ve said since college.

    Reply
  7. Bob Erb

    Ah, wise of me not to want to disturb “you” (and embarrass myself) by introducing myself. :-)

    Town Hall Theatre is in Wilton — old fashioned, real popcorn with real butter, usually good films, and in the Town Hall. I figured it would be quite a drive for you, but “Young at Heart” must not be playing in Keene yet. ;-)

    Reply
  8. Jiri Ludvik

    Plaxo allows you to either push the calendar data out there on demand (press of the button, which the plugin installs in Outlook). I think the default functionality is more the automatic uni-directional or automatic synch.

    How usable it is probably depend on your target scenario. If all you want just to publish your calendar out somewhere, google is probably simpler (it also allows you to select whom you want to share the calendar with which is something Plaxo does not do). But if your aim is to synchronise calendars between various machines (running on different platforms) Plaxo is excellent and extremely easy to use.

    Hope it’s not too late as a response.

    Reply
  9. Jon Udell Post author

    > But if your aim is to synchronise calendars
    > between various machines

    It isn’t that, really. Instead it’s to form a network of syndicated feeds, where the feeds are of the ICS rather than the RSS flavor.

    Reply
  10. Jiri Ludvik

    Considering your use case and assuming you are targeting non-experts, I would probably stick to Google or Live as the data repository. Plaxo is great but at the end of the day, it is a social networking site signing up to which is a bit like getting a Facebook account. It is not necessarily a big problem, but why make it more complicated for people than it needs to be.

    Reply
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  16. Kerri

    Anyone know of a solution that allows my Outlook 2007 categories to be viewable via either a stand alone app to read the .ics file(XP compatible) or on the web? When accessing my published calendar, all of my category info is gone and that’s how I can tell the difference between an evaluation, training consult, boarding or daycare appt. (without restructuring my entire calendar.)
    & No I don’t want to upgrade to outlook 2007 on my client machine

    Reply
  17. Robert Evans

    This appears to be broken now.

    A link such as “http://calendars.office.microsoft.com/en-us/pubcal/viewer.aspx?path=
    /pubcalstorage/j447ytlz27542/test_Calendar.ics” is now a secure link (https://calendars.etc…) which live calendar states cannot be subscribed to.

    Or am I missing something?

    -Robert

    Reply
  18. Robert Evans

    I believe it is a permissions problem.

    I only used your link as an example for the comment rather than publishing my calendar address.

    When I create a new calendar in office online, it is only accessible via an HTTPS connection and so can’t be accessed via Live Calendar. If I remove the “S” to create an unsecure connection to my office online calendar, Live Calendar throws an error when it tries to subscribe.

    -Robert

    Reply
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  21. Dawn

    In the past I could create an ICS invitation in Outlook and drop and drag it into a word document. I can’t do this now in Outlook 2007. Has the functionality changed? I want to create an ICS invitation from my calendar that individuals can accept and put on their calendar….if they are interested and want to attend.

    Reply
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