Five underappreciated iCal tricks

As these tricks demonstrate, iCal has the power to automate, communicate, and remind.

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by Christopher Breen, Macworld - All too often, people treat Apple's iCal exactly like a paper calendar--a place to scribble down appointments and little more. As these tricks demonstrate, iCal has the power to automate, communicate, and remind.

1. Quickly create events

Many Mac users neglect (or are unaware of) OS X's Data Detectors. This feature lets compatible applications like Apple's Mail identify embedded information-- addresses, phone numbers, days, dates, and times--and allows you to use that information in other applications. For example, hover your cursor over an address in an e-mail message and you have the option to create an Address Book contact based on that address or show the address in Google Maps.

iCal plays a part in this as well. Hover your cursor over something as innocuous as "lunch tomorrow with Paul‚" in an e-mail message and a small triangle appears next to "lunch tomorrow." Click that triangle and you have the option to create a new iCal event. That event will appear in iCal and be scheduled for the next day at noon.

2. Schedule your Automator workflows

You have better ways to spend your time in front of the Mac than performing tedious chores. Using Automator (/Applications), you can create workflows that automate some of these tasks. (Check out "Make Automator work for you" to learn the basics of creating Automator workflows.) Better yet, with iCal alarms you can trigger these workflows to happen when you're away from your Macs. For example, at the end of the day one might back up the files related to an ongoing project to another hard drive. To do so in Snow Leopard launch Automator. In the template sheet that appears, select iCal Alarm, and click the Choose button. Create your workflow and save it. When you save, you'll be prompted to name the iCal alarm. Do that, click Save, and a new Automator calendar appears along with an event that will trigger your workflow. Feel free to change the time and day of the event as well as configure it to repeat.

3. Easily transfer calendars and events

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