Thanks to my calendar syndication project, I’ve gotten intimately familiar with how various calendar programs — including Outlook, Google Calendar, and Apple iCal — handle the entry of recurring events. They all make the task reasonably straightforward, but there’s one vexing problem. There isn’t a way to specify exceptions. My local YMCA, for example, is closed for maintenance during the last week of August. You could enter a “YMCA closed” event for that week, and hope that it gets rendered so that people will understand it to override all the recurring events shown for that week. But that’s not a great workaround.
Really, you’d like to be able to specify exceptions as part of the recurrence rule. To do that in a standard way, that capability would have to be part of the iCalendar standard. And sure enough, it is:
Property Name: EXRULE Purpose: This property defines a rule or repeating pattern for an exception to a recurrence set. Property Name: EXDATE Purpose: This property defines the list of date/time exceptions for a recurring calendar component.
But none of the calendar programs I’m familiar with seem to support these features as part of event data entry. Are there others that do? Even if there are, I couldn’t depend on the feature being ubiquitously available to folks who contribute to the calendar network I’m trying to assemble.
The service operates as an iCalendar intermediary, though, so it might be able to inject some exceptions — at least for global EXRULEs like “YMCA closed last week of August”. It’d be harder for event-specific EXRULEs like “Pool closed for maintenance July 22” which would affect a subset of events, or “Kickboxing class won’t be held Sept 14 or 18” which would affect a single event.
One of the questions this project has led me to ponder is: Why, after all these years, are calendar programs not used as extensively as it seems they should be? Maybe this is part of the answer. Exceptions to rules are part of the fabric of real life. If the software doesn’t enable people to specify those exceptions, that’s a problem.
Update: Thanks to commenters for pointing out that of course calendar programs enable people to specify exceptions. They just don’t do it the way I expected, i.e. as a continuation of the dialog used to specify the recurrence rule. Instead they do it by enabling you to edit or delete a single event in the series, after the series has been created.
Now I’m curious as to whether my expectation is a geeky aberration that hasn’t affected most people, who have been happily creating exceptions all along. Or whether it’s broadly undiscovered by civilians too.